This piece was originally published as part of an entry on February 10, 2008, on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog.
As part of some blog catch-up this Sunday, I wanted to pick back up on a story I wrote about last month about fan response to the firing of actor Scott Bryce on As the World Turns. Fan campaigns have launched Web sites, petitions, and mailing campaigns, as soap fans are so quick to do when they dislike a decisions made by soap opera producers.
Now, with Bryce doing a fairly candid interview with well-known soap opera columnist Michael Logan about the situation for TV Guide, fans have had much of their sentiment confirmed by the actor himself.
In my post last month, I wrote:
With no word coming forward on why he was let go, other than rumors that he was fired over the phone during the holidays, the usually-divisive online ATWT fan culture has largely come together in their stance on Bryce's firing (although there are still a few fans out there who, because of the fan wars between characters Craig Montgomery and Paul Ryan, are happy to see the Craig character leave Oakdale).
One of the reasons for this fan response is due to the fact that Bryce was let go mid-contract, rather than he and the show not coming to terms, as is the case with several other recent and upcoming departures for the show.
The fan petition, available here, has garnered a few hundred more signatures in the past couple of weeks, and the campaign includes their main site, a MySpace page, and a YouTube video, as well as dozens if not hundreds of fan threads like this one from Procter & Gamble Productions' own discussion boards. The campaign has been written about in Soap Opera Digest, among other places, and although the outrage has died down some after a few weeks have passed, there are still a number of viewers trying to show their support for Scott.
One of the things that particularly excited fans was that Bryce mentioned the nickname the online fan community had given to one of his recent storylines, which had been called "The Quad from Hell" by fans.
I've had dozens of relationships with executive producers and this one, with Chris Goutman, was odd and very disconnected. I think we had an inherent disagreement or a different vision of who Craig is. The plots on the show are so much darker than they used to be -- dead babies, pornography, methamphetamines -- and maybe I didn't fit into that vision. It's not the ATWT I remember from those many years ago. Chris would say to me, "This is your character, run with it." But when I did he never seemed pleased. Craig, as I understood him, has a need for family and love and fulfillment, and at all costs, which is what creates all the mayhem and madness in his life. Yes, he's a villain but he doesn't know that.
For fans of soaps, where there is often a black box around the industry and only unofficial anonymous "insider" posts online to provide context for these issues, an interview like this is rare to come by, especially since many fans feel the soap opera press rarely provides the type of deep insight into the industry that fans want to know.
That Bryce was so candid about the situation after the fan fervor has only served to deepen fan support for him, even as it probably made it even more unlikely he will return to the show anytime soon.
By the way, see this post from back in 2006 for another situation from As the World Turns where an actor was candid to fans. In this case, actress Ellen Dolan wrote to fans to rally them together about the treatment of female characters on the show, saying she believed the show belonged to the fans and that they should demand better writing for stronger female characters.