It's the news that many Guiding Light fans have been waiting to hear for over four years. Grant Aleksander (Phillip Spaulding) will return to Guiding Light in the weeks ahead. A Guiding Light spokesperson shares fans' enthusiasm.
"Grant Aleksander will return to Guiding Light and his role of Phillip Spaulding in early 2009," a spokesperson tells Soap Central. "Needless to say - we are very excited!"
Backtracking a few years, Aleksander made an abrupt exit from Guiding Light when his on-screen alter ego, Phillip Spaulding, was murdered in November 2004. Fans were stunned that the CBS soap had made the decision to kill off such a major character -- a character from one of the show's core families. On top of that, Aleksander's work on Guiding Light had earned him critical acclaim. Between 2003 and 2005, Aleksander earned three consecutive Daytime Emmy nominations in the Outstanding Lead Actor field.
As the news of Aleksander's exit from Guiding Light broke, the Internet was soon awash with various rumors about why he was no longer with the show. Some gossip sites reported that Aleksander was fired because he was "difficult to work with." Aleksander's co-stars quickly dispelled those rumors. Other postings claimed that the actor's employment had been terminated for budgetary reasons. The explanation seemed credible, especially when several months later, Guiding Light executives made massive across-the-board budget cuts to help keep the show afloat.
Two years later, in May 2006, it was revealed that Phillip wasn't really dead. Though it looked certain that Aleksander would return to reprise the role of Phillip, the show instead opted never to show the supposedly dead man's face on-screen.
Since exiting the show, Aleksander's name has repeatedly come up when fans have discussed which former star they'd most like to see return to Guiding Light. Some viewers go so far as to chalk up the long-running soap's ratings decline to the firing of Aleksander. Through it all, Aleksander says that he's never harbored any ill-will towards Guiding Light. In fact, the actor stepped behind the camera to direct a few episode of GL's sister soap, As the World Turns, in 2006 and 2007.
"I love the show very much. I always have, and when I left [in 2004], I tried to make it clear that there were no hard feelings," Aleksander said in an interview with Soap Opera Weekly.
Aleksander is not the only actor to portray Phillip, though he has put in the most years in the role. The two other Phillips are Jarrod Ross, who appeared from 1977 to 1981, and John Bolger, who stepped in from 1985 to 1986 when Aleksander took a break from the show.
A first airdate for Aleksander is scheduled for February 9.
Photo: Bleacher & Everard/PGP