'One Life to Live' Welcomes 'Soap Star'
That episode of the enduring soap opera will introduce a new character played by the winner of a reality competition that has been airing this summer on ABC's cable sibling SOAPnet, highlights from which are featured in "Soap Star: Guess Who's Coming to Llanview?" a one-hour special hosted by "All My Children" star Cameron Mathison and airing during the ABC daytime lineup on Thursday, Aug. 10 (check local listings).
The winning performer will be announced Thursday night on the season finale of "I Wanna Be a Soap Star," the SOAPnet series in which 10 hopefuls were put through their paces by casting directors, talent managers and veteran daytime actors who dropped by to offer tips and suggestions to the soap opera rookies, all of whom are eager to win the big prize.
"This is not just a walk-on role," executive producer Eric Schotz says. "This is an actual role that is created and written for the winner, and the character is actually incorporated into the show. It's a 13-week contract role versus what is often called a day part."
The writing staff of "One Life to Live" is prepared to write for either a male or female winner, having watched the players closely as the competition gets into its final rounds and the players have been winnowed down over the run of the show.
"Guess Who's Coming to Llanview?" will present highlights from the first nine episodes of the SOAPnet series, including appearances from such daytime favorites as Wally Kurth, Corbin Bernsen, Julie Pinson, Catherine Hickland and many others.
The main emphasis of the program, however, is on the challenges put to the soap newbies, ranging from a melodramatic scene involving an exploding bus to unexpected wardrobe malfunctions to that staple of daytime television, the torrid love scene.
"I think the reality of their situation has caught nearly everyone by surprise," says Mathison, back for his third season as host of "Soap Star."
"They're happy to be picked and life is great and they're thinking, 'Woo hoo, I'm going to be on a show!' As the competition goes on, regardless of the curveballs thrown at them and the things they are asked to do, I think it's the actual stress and intensity of the experience that throws them the most. And it only gets more intense as they get closer and closer to this unbelievable opportunity."
With the right combination of luck, looks and talent, a "Soap Star" winner can parlay his or her 13-week contract into something more extensive, especially if they connect with viewers. Connecting too intensely can be a double-edged sword, however, as Mathison discovered early in his "All My Children" career when his character, Ryan Lavery, was cleared of a rape charge and released from jail.
"It was the holiday season in New York City in a very busy department store here, and the escalators were jam-packed with people," Mathison recalls. "A woman going up the escalator spotted me and screamed at the top of her lungs. I smiled and waved and, just as she was disappearing from sight, she yelled, 'I'm so glad they let you out of jail! I knew you didn't rape her!' Then she was gone, while I was stuck there with my hand in the air and silence on the floor all around me."