It's not the kind of news that ratings-and-financially challenged Guiding Light needed. Long-time GL veteran Beth Ehlers (Harley Cooper) will exit the show this month. The actress is the latest high-profile star to walk from the CBS soap and some are wondering if Ehlers' exit will ultimately extinguish Guiding Light's light.
"It is with mixed emotions that I announce my decision to leave GL," announced Ehlers in a statement. "I have been blessed to be a part of the show for over 20 years and ending my time here was something about which I thought long and hard. CBS and [Procter & Gamble Productions] have generously taken care of me and my family for half my life and made it very clear how much they value in their daytime line-up. I thank all of them for that."
Ehlers joined the cast of Guiding Light in September 1987 and remained with the show through September 1993. During that time, Ehlers earned two Daytime Emmy nominations in the Outstanding Younger Actress category.
During her four-year break from Guiding Light, Ehlers relocated to California from New York. Ehlers worked as a production assistant, but did not have much on-screen face time during that period. In January 1997, Ehlers agreed to return to Guiding Light to help the show celebrate its 60th anniversary. Viewers enjoyed seeing Ehlers again and the show soon extended the actress an offer of a new contract. Ehlers accepted and has been with the show ever since.
Since rejoining the show, Ehlers has added to her impressive tally of Emmy nominations. In 1999 and 2002 Ehlers scored nods in the Supporting Actress field. In 2006, Ehlers earned a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress.
"We are sad to see her leave and did everything in our power to keep her on the show," a spokesperson for Guiding Light states.
Exactly why Ehlers wanted out isn't known. A show source tells Soap Central that Ehlers was not pleased with the direction of the show, a reason offered by Ehlers' former co-star Ricky Paull Goldin (ex-Gus Aituro) when he exited the show earlier this year. That dissatisfaction stems from the show's continued budget crunch that has resulted in most of the show's performers having to accept significant pay cuts. Additionally, Guiding Light recently moved to a new production model that still hasn't had all of its kinks worked out.
Ehlers isn't expected to be out of work for long. The actress is reportedly joining the cast of All My Children, though ABC has repeatedly denied that Ehlers has signed on.
Ehlers last airs on Guiding Light on June 23rd. Show executives have recently backpedaled from a statement that the role of Harley would not be recast. The show's latest stance is that anything is possible, though no decision has been made at this time.