At this year’s 43rd Annual Daytime Emmys, attendees found in their official NATAS program, a very special feature on the soaps hightlighting over 21 performers who make up members of some of the most recognized core clans in the genre.
The piece by On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman entitled: The Royal Families Of Television: Where On-Screen And Backstage, Family Means Everything In The World Of Daytime Drama, is now being made available exclusively here for daytime fans in its full-length form.
Featuring cast members from: General Hospital’s Corinthos family, to The Young and the Restless Newman clan, to The Bold and the Beautiful’s Forresters, to Days of our Lives iconic Hortons, the actors share anecdotes, love, humor, and what it’s like to have a second family to come to every day as their home away from home. Here now is the extended version of the piece below!
Each week soap operas take their audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride through the lense of a loving, feuding, dysfunctional core family with assorted characters that directly, or indirectly affect them. This year’s Daytime Emmy-nominated dramas feature their own set of ‘royals’ that are unique, longstanding, and distinct … and who rule the throne in the afternoon.
On General Hospital, the Corinthos’ rule the town of Port Charles led by mobster Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard), his wife Carly (Laura Wright), and Sonny’s many children: Morgan (Bryan Craig), Michael (Chad Duell), Kristina (Lexi), and Dante (Dominic), and baby Avery (Ava and Grace Scarola).
In the mob, family allegiance is the name of the game, and backstage at the ABC soap the same holds true. “The story of the Corinthos family and how they have each other’s backs, I truly love,” Laura Wright explains. “The loyalty to each other, and the way we play it. When we go up on set, everybody just goes right into their places. The character of Morgan can tell his parents to go to hell, because he knows they are never going to leave him. Your parents are your safety net, and it’s what’s on the page.”
In 2015 on GH, Morgan was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the same mental illness suffered by his father Sonny, and in real life by Benard, which made the drama raw, riveting, and often overwhelming. Bryan Craig revealed: “I’m a pretty laid-back person, and to play those highs and lows … I rarely hit those in my day-to-day life. I told Laura, there were days that when I came to work that I am having a good day and I’m pretty happy, and the last thing I want to do is become miserable!” (Laughs) Wright added: “I definitely feel we have each other’s back as actors, too. After five days of Bryan hitting the wall playing manic, Maurice and I will say to him, because we have all been there, ‘Here’s a way to make it new again.’ Also, we always know Chad’s blocking for him! (Laughs) There isn’t a time when we are not taking care of each other. It’s about the work.”
No one has been more pleasantly surprised by how the Corinthos family has grown over the years than Maurice Benard, who has played the role of Sonny since 1993. Fact is, he never anticipated that he would even have a family built around his beloved character until one unforgettable moment with another GH icon, Tony Geary (Luke, GH). “He told me once after sitting me in his dressing room one day, ‘Do you want to keep being my Tonto to Lone Ranger?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘You deserve more. So go upstairs and tell them that you want family.’ I did that, and they brought on my father, and a father figure, and put me at the time with Brenda (Vanessa Marcil). I guess you could say the rest is history.”
With Benard as the centerpiece, the actors that came in to play key roles in the Corinthos family had to pass the muster, and had their own initiation with the guy. Chad Duell recalls his nerves: “I was freaking out when I first came on GH, and I was trying to minimize everything. Maurice and I actually talked to each other for the first time when we did this scene at Michael’s trial. He said to me, ‘The secret is just look at me in the eyes, and I will take you to the promise land!’ (Laughs) Benard admits, “Chad was a tough one for me, because they fired an actor that I loved. It took me a while to warm up to him. It wasn’t cool of me. But, Chad was excellent on his own, and didn’t need my guidance. Now, I love him like my own son. And after Bryan’s screen test, I actually picked a different actor for his role! But GH hired him, and from the first second I worked with him I knew he was special. We have a real father/son connection.” Craig countered, “I just thought he was a jerk, and he knows this! (Laughs) Maurice did scenes with me, and then walked out the door, and this was the first and second day of shooting. Maurice demands a certain level of respect from new people who are coming on to the show. He has been here for 23 years. I did not know he wasn’t like the dude he was playing! But after I started working with him more, Maurice and I got closer, and closer.”
Dominic Zamprogna added, “Maurice likes to help people. He wants to work with actors who want to work. I don’t think there is a wall up with him. I think he just needs to know you’re in it with him. But, one of the first things Maurice and I did when I first came to GH was get in his Maserati together! He joked about it because it was such a lemon, and whenever he did drive it he would crank the windows down and put Jay Z on, and cruise down the streets going, ‘Maurice Benard, General Hospital, biggest star on daytime!”’ (Laughs)
Laura Wright, who came over from Guiding Light to take on the role of Carly in 2005, had her own interesting start with Maurice: “I go into a meeting with the powers-that-be at GH, and Maurice. They are all sitting on a couch and I am sitting across from them in a chair. Maurice could not have wanted to be there less. I said to him, ‘Can we talk? Not with everyone else in the room, because I have a couple of questions?’ He wouldn’t talk to me! (Laughs) Later he tells me, ‘Well, I didn’t really want you to get the job, and I didn’t want to lie about it, but now I am so excited you got the job.’ Now Maurice and I are so close, and we adore each other. I always kid him with, ‘Even though Maurice didn’t want me to have this job ….’ That’s why it makes those moments so funny, because we are so not like that.” Craig points out, “Maurice is one of the funniest guys I know!”
Lexi Ainsworth, who recently returned to GH, is tackling one of the social issues of our time, that of sexual identity. Kristina was previously acknowledged as “straight”, but she may be bisexual, or gay. “Kristina isn’t quite sure which way she wants to go,” explains Lexi. “She doesn’t like the labels that are being put upon her, and she is kind of defining herself. She is in her 20’s, and she’s trying to figure out who she is. I am really lucky to have a storyline like this. I think it’s awesome.” Her on-screen dad is proud of the way Ainsworth is handling the material: “Lexi is truly like my 4th daughter,”says Maurice. “She just did some work that blew everyone’s mind, especially mine. I’m so proud of her. It’s an entire team of writers, actors, and of course, our executive producer Frank Valentini, that make this family work.”
For 29 years, the reining family of The Bold and the Beautiful is the Forresters. Against the backdrop of the world of high fashion and set in Los Angeles, these creatives are either having each other’s back, or turning their back on one another. “What I loved about it when we started was their wealth, notoriety, and celebrity is based on their design skills, and that they are artists,” notes series original cast member, and Forrester patriarch, John McCook (Eric). “They weren’t some crime family, or a family that were big into real estate. Their success was about competiting all over the world in the fashion business. The Forrester family is different from the other core families on daytime that are out there. Then, you come back to the soap opera element, and it’s all about love, and romance within that framework.”
Linsey Godfrey (Caroline) has been in the enviable position of any daytime actress to work with the actors that comprise the Forresters in romantic entanglements. Her character married two of them: Rick (Jacob Young) and Ridge (Thorsten Kaye), and gave birth to a child of another, Thomas (Pierson Fode’). “I am just making my way to Eric!” (Laughs) clowns Godfrey. “I am in such a fortunate position to work with not only extraordinary actors, but extraordinary men. With Jacob, it was my first time playing a love story on the soaps. He was so generous, patient, and understanding with me and the cadence of a soap. I had never done a love scene, or been in front of the camera in lingerie before. I love anytime I get to work with the Forrester men.”
The Forresters are complex. At any given time they will tear each other down, and are quick to build each other up. Jacob Young explains, “Families fight, but what I always love is that they always find time to make up and reconnect. I have been involved in other storylines where once you’re ousted, you’re ousted, and you are just the outsider, but I feel like it feels real because of that dynamic on B&B.” Godfrey added, “There was this scene where Caroline goes into labor, and meanwhile Rick and Ridge are fighting. Then Ridge gets the phone call that Caroline is in labor. Immediately, Rick switches gears and says, ‘No, go! Be with your wife!’ It is so indicative of this family!” McCook shares, “It’s a touchstone for all of us that no matter how fraught with anger these scenes are, that when somebody is hurt, or a baby is arriving, or a wedding is happening, everything gets pushed aside, and it’s about their support of one another.”
But what would happen to the family when B&B’s executive producer and head writer, Bradley Bell (the son of real-life soap royalty, William J. Bell and Lee Bell, creators of Y&R and B&B) made the decision to take the character of Maya Avant (Karla Mosley) and make her the first transgender leading lady of the soaps, and marry the character to Rick Forrester? “I wanted to really take it on as a topic and a story, and make it front and center,” Bell explains. “When I told Karla, tears came to her eyes. She was honored to portray this character. She just took it on so fully and completely, not only acting the role brilliantly, but becoming someone who speaks out on behalf of the transgender community.” Through this story, Bell explored themes of acceptance, and universal love with the turning point coming when Maya would disclose her truth to Rick: “The design of those scenes was that she would tell Rick, and we wouldn’t know his reaction at first. It would be a shock to anyone, and then to feel that the relationship is ending, but instead the twist is that he loves her for who she is. He still wants to marry her. Our writer, Patrick Mulchaey, did a great job with those scenes.”
Godfrey heaps praise on Bell, and his unwavering commitment to stories that are part of the conversation on the human condition: “I think the last four years B&B has been touching on social issues of our time. For me, it started with Caroline and her two moms. When my character came on it was like, “Yeah, she has two moms, but that doesn’t really make her it any different than having a mom and a dad, or being a single parent, or an adoptive parent. That is just our family dynamic. When we told Maya’s story, it was done beautifully. Brad is a pioneer in that way in that he addresses these issues that are prevalent in our society right now, and it’s told with love.”
With the daily grind of these emotional storylines, McCook says in the fast pace of daytime, the actors still find time to give each other a pat on the back as in any nurturing family: “There is a kind of professionalism that it is expected that really good work is going to happen, and it almost always does. I think if somebody came in from the outside and watched us they would go, ‘Where is all the applause everyday?’ We do take time and say to each other, ‘Good air show today’ or, ‘Wow that was good, ‘We did it’, or ‘Well done, and thank you.’”
On The Young and the Restless, the lives of Genoa City’s Newmans: led by the rich and powerful Victor (Eric Braeden) and his wife Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott), and Victor’s children; Nick (Joshua Morrow), Victoria (Amelia Heinle), Adam (Justin Hartley), Abby (Melissa Ordway) and his granddaughter Summer (Hunter King) give new meaning to the words: ‘sibling rivalries’, ‘family loyalty’, and ‘dysfunction’. But one thing is for sure; being a Newman is a title not to be taken likely. For Joshua Morrow, he had no idea when he came to Y&R 22 years ago what he was getting into. “I was just a numbskull in college, and I didn’t watch soaps,” Morrow revealed. “Once I had been here for a few months, I quickly realized this is where you want to be. It’s the best family I believe in daytime, and obviously I am biased, but it has been a hell of a run and I get to work with amazingly talented people … and Hunter. (Laughs) You know, Hunter is like my child. I make fun of her constantly, because that is what I do with my own children. I had scenes with her where Nick tells her that he essentially lied, and he is not her father. Hunter won a Daytime Emmy for that. She just slayed me. I was so proud of her.”
Morrow’s on-screen sister, Amelia Heinle, replaced Heather Tom (now Katie, B&B) in the pivotal role of Victoria Newman back in 2005, but at first had misgivings: “I couldn’t imagine walking into a role that the girl talked a lot and cried a lot. I thought this character is difficult to play. I almost chickened out in the audition. I was pretty terrified, and then I got the role. At that point I decided I would do my best, and that I would be let go within a year. (Laughs) I learned it was going to be a bigger deal then I thought. I knew Eric and Melody were kind of the king and queen of daytime, and they are icons. My first scenes were of course with them. I knew enough to lay low, and sort of watch them. I remember thinking it was hilarious, because they were so comical. I expected them to be serious. I did have the perception that I was in the presence of soap greatness. Then somehow they liked me, and I fit in, and now they are like my other mom and dad.” Morrow adds, “I remember the time when the show accepted Amelia. We had a scene with Kathy Foster, who was directing at the time. She gathers Amelia and me together and she says, “Listen, the sexual tension between the two of you is amazing, but you’re brother and sister!” Heinle recalls, “That was in the first week! I tried to look at Joshua like he is my brother, and it was kind of an involuntary thing. I couldn’t help it. Joshua is so handsome!” (Laughs)
When Melissa Ordway joined Y&R she had to convince her own family that she was actually becoming a Newman! “My mom watched Y&R every day. I called to tell her I received a call about playing Abby. She said, ‘No, no, no. You are not playing Abby. Someone else already plays that part,” Ordway shares. “I say, ‘I think that is what my manager said. I am pretty sure she said Abby.” So I met with Jill Farren Phelps (executive producer, Y&R) and Josh Griffith (former head writer) and I said, ‘Is the character really Abby? They said, ‘Yes.’ I went home and called my mom and said, “Mom, the character is Abby.” She goes, ‘Well, I don’t know about this! What are they going to do with the other one?’” (Laughs)
A year and a half ago, Justin Hartley returned to daytime in one of the soaps most sought-after and coveted roles, Adam Newman, something he relishes portraying: “I get to play with all these guys, and play a jerk sometimes, and be the hero sometimes, and get under everyone’s skin. It’s fun!” When he arrived at the Y&R soundstages Hartley did receive some ‘brotherly’ advice: “Joshua was great to me right away. I went up to him and said, ‘This is what they told me about the character.’ And he goes, ‘Well, did they tell you this … and this?’ Joshua gave me five bullet-points and told me, ‘This is where the bathroom is.’ It was great. (Laughs) I was also trying to find my character, and I am a very visual person. I knew the history between Adam and his brother, but being around Joshua and just looking at him, and trying to get a feel for him, and being in the same room with him, it changes the way that I do things. One of the first things I did to find the character occurred when Nick was stuck in a bear trap. I made up my mind earlier on about Nick: ‘This guy is a moron. Who gets stuck in a bear trap?’ Immediately, I was like: ‘This is what the problem is! This is why I don’t get him. I would never get caught in a bear trap, but now I’ve got to fix him!’ I’ve got blood all over my hands after helping him out of the bear trap, and so I was just so disgusted with him. I just wiped the blood on him … and he is dying! That is when I thought, “This is who this guy is.”
Hunter King also had some opening day jitters when she arrived to work as part of the prestigious Newmans: “Working with Eric and Melody was so nerve-wracking at first, but they are so much fun. Eric is very playful, and a lot of fun to work with. I have made lifelong friendships from this show that I will have forever for a lifetime. The one person who always says something funny and has us laughing is Joshua!”
Fun at Y&R can be contagious, yet these pros can turn it into drama. Morrow recalls one scene that had him, and Heinle in stitches. “We were doing the reliquary storyline about this old ancient artifact. Then out of nowhere, and overnight, Victoria becomes an art expert, and not only that, but she was able to make a replica of the reliquary to fool everyone,” Joshua recalls. “I wish I had it on in a loop in my house, when Victoria says: ‘I’m going to make a reliquary that is going to fool these gangsters and art people.’ They go to what is essentially Aaron Brothers, and take out a table and pour out paper mache.
There were all of these weird art items, and then Amelia wearing these odd glasses, comes out with this amazing replica. As Nick I had to say, ‘Victoria … you just made this?’ We had to be so serious, but there were tears. When you look at those scenes, I have giant red eyes from crying from laughter. Amelia and I are coming apart at the seams, just trying to get through the taping. We got in so much trouble over and over again.” Heinle admits, “I love it when we have to make something so unrealistic work, and we pull it off, and when we watch it back we say, ‘That didn’t look as stupid as it felt when we were playing it.’” (Laughs)
So why is it always a good day to come to Y&R and be a Newman? Justin Harley sums it up best: “I get to work with people who are enthusiastic, want to come to work and care, and I get to live in L.A!”
The longest running soap opera clan still on the air is the first family of Salem, the Hortons. When Days of our Lives premiered back in 1965, the show introduced viewers to Tom and Alice Horton, the matriarch and patriarch, (played by the late MacDonald Carey and Frances Reid) and the perils of their children. That legacy is still carried on today almost 51 years later through their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Longest running original cast member, Susan Seaforth Hayes, who plays the Hortons eldest grandchild Julie, recalls fondly how it all began: “What became quite clear when I joined the show was that this was a family that was not tainted with many of the classic problems of other soap opera families – great wealth and a desire for more power. The Hortons were above reproach. They were doctors, lawyers, there were three sons: two of them doctors, one of them a lawyer, and two daughters. The stories at that time were not about revenge, greed, murder, conspiracy. Generally, the stories were about being in love with the wrong guy. One of the big conflicts for several years was that the character of Mickey Horton was in love with the same woman that his brother was in love with, and this woman was a psychiatrist, and she married the less interesting guy. The chaos that came out of that, supplied stories for years.”
Melissa Reeves, who has plays granddaughter Jennifer added: “The running theme for the family is that they can overcome, and that was woven into our fabric beginning with Tom and Alice. It’s always to fight for your family, fight to survive, and overcome obstacles. I think they have been so good over the years about keeping that common thread. So even with Jennifer currently being addicted to pain pills, I still believe as a Horton she is okay with going down, because she knows she’s going to be able to come back up. That’s the hope that was instilled in this Horton family as they created it.”
But while on-camera a family legacy was built, behind the scenes a soap family dynasty continued through Days of our Lives executive producer Ken Corday, who has steered the ship since his parents passing, (‘Days ‘creators Ted and Betty Corday): “There is a parallel in that my mother and father’s values, morals, and outlook on life were very much like those of Tom and Alice Horton,” Corday shares. “That’s something that I try to keep alive and vibrant today through Tom and Alice’s children, as well as with all of us in front of the cameras and behind the cameras.”
One of ‘Days’ most popular long-running stars, Kristian Alfonso (Hope) says that portraying a Horton granddaughter, and getting to share the experience with her on-screen cast mates has been a professional joy: “We laugh all the time. In group scenes we’re so excited and so happy that we’re all together, that we can get carried away catching up, and get in a little trouble. There’s never a shortage of laughter and love on set. I cannot stress enough that being a part of ‘Days’ is definitely not a job/work. It really is being part of a family. I leave my family at home and come to my family at work every day that I’m here.” One of the newer members of the Hortons, Casey Moss (JJ), believes he was lucky to have joined this on-screen family, and play Jennifer’s son: “I’ll tell you that as a new actor coming into this, and this being my first show, it’s nerve-wracking! They made it really special, especially Melissa Reeves. She is so mothering. There’s no weird tension between her real kids and her TV screen kids, you know what I mean? We all call her ‘mom.”’ Reeves confessed she keeps on eye on her on-screen son: “I will joke with Casey: ‘You are grounded! What are you doing right now?’ It’s kind of fun, and it is that way in our relationship.”
The Hortons are steeped in tradition, but none more so than come Christmastime when the family gathers in Tom and Alice’s living room to decorate the tree with handmade ornaments containing the names of each of the family members, past and present. The episode has been a touchstone, and a tearjerker, not only for the show’s enduring fans, but the cast. Suzanne Rogers, who has played Maggie since 1973, acknowledges what a special day it is: “I think Susan and I both get very emotional. We both have so many memories that flash before our eyes every Christmas. Every time we open the box of ornaments, they just all come flooding back like it was yesterday. I don’t think that will ever change.” Susan recalls, “I had the interesting experience of walking into Canter’s Delicatessen in L.A, a couple of months ago with a friend who had been a head writer on the show. The cashier looked at us, and this is Canter’s mind you, this is not the Midwest. She recognized me and burst into tears. The first thing that she mentioned was the ornament hanging, and how much it meant to her. She was a big city gal, and I think that a family that is sanctified by love and endurance means an awful lot to the American soap opera public, it really does.”
For Reeves and Alfonso, the Christmas episode reminds them of the unbreakable bond they share: “We hug each other and reminisce about the past, and how far we’ve come, and where we’ve been,” explains Kristian. “We both squeeze into Gran’s chair and flip through the photo albums. We still feel Mac and Frances’ presence so strongly every day that we’re on set.”
Reeves adds, “It’s really a big day for our show, and everyone is really respectful of it. We joke a little bit, but we all know we’re going to get in big trouble if anyone drops one of those ornaments (laughs) because some of them are the originals! It’s always sentimental, and I just love it.”
Perhaps no one is more affected at seeing the continuum of tradition and life for the Hortons of Salem than Ken Corday: “Of course, I get choked up – it’s been 51 years! It’s my life and for many of the people on the show it’s a look back at their lives, too. The Hortons are the cornerstone of Days of our Lives.”
Melissa Reeves imagines that if the day would come where she would be sitting in Alice’s chair as the eldest and wisest Horton, it would be the honor of lifetime: “I would love to be Frances! Come full circle, and just be there for all of her kids. I’m kind of old fashioned in that way. I’ll stay at the Horton house, and make those famous donuts.”
Tune in tomorrow …
What did you think about what the actors shared on working with each other, and creating their on-screen family dynamic? What was your favorite story shared in the piece? Which is your favorite royal family from daytime? Share your thoughts in the comment secton below!