Karen Millard, an All My Children fan and regular soapcentral.com visitor, recently had the opportunity to sit down with AMC star David Canary (Adam Chandler and Stuart Chandler) and discuss his career in television. The focus of the interview was to have been his work on Bonanza, but Millard couldn't help but slip in a few questions about the soaps. The entire eight-page interview -- including discussion about things other than All My Children -- along with photos will be published in the April issue of "Bonanza Gold" magazine.
It wasn't even supposed to be a conversation about soap operas. David Canary had agreed to talk to me about his days playing "Candy" on Bonanza, and for an hour he had reminisced about his time as a cowboy, and a variety of other experiences. But some fans had sent in a couple of questions about All My Children, and I hesitantly asked if he would mind answering them. They were fairly basic -- "What are the differences between the two shows?" "Do you like playing two characters?" -- and he was gracious. Then, being a big fan of Stuart Chandler, I slipped in a question of my own, and things began to get interesting.
Karen Millard: "I have noticed that we haven't seen much of Stuart recently. Is there a reason for that?"
David Canary: "I don't know. There could be."
KM: "So it isn't your choice?"
DC: "No. No, no, no. I'd much rather do both. But it kind of comes and goes. Now Stuart's wife, Jennifer is the actor's name, hasn't done the show at all. In fact, I think she's off contract. She hasn't worked much at all. But neither has Stuart. They brought in a lot of new, younger, and we all know that on a soap opera they can't let the cast get too old."
Suddenly the interviewer in me, who asked questions and guided the subject to tell his story, left the room. This was personal, something I, as a feminist and a 42-year-old woman, had a stake in.
|"[Soap fans] know 40 isn't the end of life, and they don't want to see it portrayed that way on television."|
-- David Canary
Many soap viewers have noticed, and some complained to networks and their advertisers, that women over forty are not fairly represented in daytime anymore. Gone are the days of Phoebe Tyler as a vital and sexy lady. And ABC, under the hand of Brian Frons, has been particularly bad. But I didn't expect to hear this from one of the actors -- and a man, at that!
Surprised, I ignored my question sheet completely:
: "You know, I'm glad you brought that up. Because I've been watching All My Children, and they've gotten rid of Marian, they've gotten rid of Liza. They've gotten rid of all the women who are basically the same age as the audience members."
: "Which to me, it sounds like you're saying, I mean, let's face it; your average audience for soap operas is middle-aged women, and to me it' s like saying to your audience that "You're no good", which I really don't understand."
: "That's good to hear, because from where I sit I see them - and they're bringing in good actors - and it's wonderful to have new young talent around, but particularly Marcy Walker - Liza - was such a wonderful actor. I couldn't believe it when she suddenly went off contract. I think Marcy was part of that contract time came up, and they made us all take a small cut, some of us not so small. Some of us they just said "no, we don't need you anymore", but I can't believe they said that to Marcy."
So the audience wasn't alone. Somehow it was a relief to hear that it wasn't only me, a woman who could be accused of having a mid-life crisis, who was seeing these things. I decided to go all the way - and ask about Julia Barr.
For those who have not watched AMC since its inception, the 56-year-old Barr has been with the show since 1976 in the role of the indomitable Brooke English. As I write this, it is rumoured that her job hangs by a thread. Canary wasn't spilling much, if he had anything to spill, but his respect for Barr was obvious.
: "And a friend told me that Julia Barr may be getting cut ..."
: "Well Julia is still there, of course, but she's been underused for years. I love working with her."
: "And it looked like Adam and Brooke were going to get back together, and then that just fizzled."
: "Adam married Bobbie -- Krystal."
: "Yes, but just before that ..."
: "Yeah, I know. I love working with Julia, and she's -- again, they're so good at what they do."
Canary did do some defending of his bosses, but I, having already shed my interviewer persona, was having none of it.
: "There's no question that they've sort of done what Joe Torre -- the manager of the Yankees -- has done: bringing in young people, young pitchers and letting his older people go. You have to keep turning around and turning around. You gotta bring these young people in and let the older people go."
: "Sports is a little different than acting."
: "But if you're going to keep going for a long time you gotta bring new young faces in. But it seems that they think their audience is all 20 - 30, and that's not the case."
And therein lies much of the problem. The executives at the networks still seem to believe that their audience, or at least the part of the audience that counts - the section that will buy the advertisers' wares - is very young. This despite polls, studies, and their own ratings to the contrary. Most daytime viewers, and most of the people with money to spend, are baby-boomers, and they aren't twenty-something anymore. Sure, they want to see some young people, but they also want to see their parents, and their grandparents. They know 40 isn't the end of life, and they don't want to see it portrayed that way on television.
The final word goes to David Canary:
: "I can see that you have to bring in new people, but a 40-year-old actor is not history."
: "I'm a 40-year-old actor, and then some! [Laughs] ... No comment?"
: "You're a man, that's different."
: "Well ... Today it shouldn't be."
NOTE: After this interview was completed, it was reported that Julia Barr will remain on All My Children for at least one more year.