Dan J Kroll
Inside AMC with Dan Kroll
Quite a character
by June 1998

Recently I've been receiving a lot of requests for additional information on various performers on All My Children. These requests have made me realize that many viewers are not completely familiar with certain aspects of contracts and casting on the show. The purpose of this Inside AMC commentary will tackle this topic and hopefully explain to you how the contract situations work.

There are three different areas into which an actor or actress might fall---and these apply to all soap operas, not just All My Children. These categories are contract roles, recurring status roles, an work as an extra.

The easiest one to tackle is the third category---extras. An extra is exactly what it sounds like someone who fills a new, or extra, role. In most situations these roles last for only one episode. An extra rarely has spoken lines, but on rare occasions an extra might be given a few words like, "Hello" or "Thank you." If an extra is given more than three lines, I believe it is, their pay for the day would have to bumped up to another level. So most extras are given non-speaking roles like customers in a restaurant scene or a hospital corridor.

A contract role is a role that was established to last at least thirteen weeks, the usual cycle for which contacts last. These performers are actually signed to contracts with specified pay amounts. It's not unlike a professional sports player. Some contracts are given for a thirteen week period while others last a year or two. A two year contract does not necessarily mean that a performer will remain on the show for two years. A few years back, Robin Mattson had just signed a long-term contract---and then the writers decided to write the character of Janet out of the show. Fans reacted and the writers reconsidered. Incidentally, the photos in the show's opening are in direct correlation with a performer's contract status. If an actor appears in the opening, he or she has a contract role. In most instances the opening is altered every thirteen weeks to coincide with the contract cycles (with new photos added for performers who signed a contract and photos removed for those performers who do not have contracts).

Recurring roles are quite misleading. It appears that certain performers are kept on recurring status as a way to keep the show's budget low. Ben Jorgensen (Kevin) has never been signed to a contract---even when his "conversion" storyline was on the front burner. This seems odd to say that he was not on contract because he was seen on the air more often than some contract players! In recent years several performers asked to be removed from contract status and placed on recurring status. William Christian (Derek) and Mary Fickett (the original Ruth) both come to mind. Christian asked to do so so that he would have more time to pursue other projects. Fickett simply wanted more time to herself. For Christian the writers obliged, but they opted to replace Mary Fickett with Lee Meriwether. On other programs, most notably The Bold and the Beautiful, a gaggle of performers were demoted to recurring status because the half-hour program didn't have enough time to focus on all of their contract characters! A side note is that ABC does not release promotional information or photographs of performers in recurring roles. Therefore you will see few---if any---photographs of non-contract roles in our online Photo Gallery.

Hopefully this will clarify some of your most frequent questions---why are there no photos of a particular character, why doesn't a particular character appear in the opening, and what's the difference between a recurring and contact role.

Dan J Kroll

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