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Seven soap divas ready for primetime

by Allison Waldman, posted Mar 26th 2008 9:01AM
diva logoFor some actors, the soaps are a stepping stone to a career in features. That's how it was for Meg Ryan, who began as Betsy on As the World Turns. For others, like Eva Longoria Parker, the place she made her mark before becoming one of the Desperate Housewives was as Isabella on The Young & the Restless. Allison Janney is another one. She was a lowly -- but brilliant -- maid at the Spaulding mansion on Guiding Light before lighting up the screen as C.J. Cregg on The West Wing and winning four Emmys along the way. Looking at the current crop of actresses at work in daytime today, who are the women, the divas if you will, who are ready for primetime, nay silver screen, success? Here's a list of seven who have caught my eye.

Gallery: Soap Divas

Jennifer LandonMacKenzie MauzyChristel KhalilAlison SweeneyCarolyn HennesyOrlagh CassidyFarah Fath


1) Jennifer Landon, Gwen, As the World Turns
In daytime, there's usually one way to tell if an actress (or actor) really has the chops, the real skills and talent, for a major career. If she can play twins, or has a double that's nothing like her original character, she's someone to watch. Michelle Forbes proved her mettle on Guiding Light as Sonni and her evil twin Solita. On As the World Turns, Jennifer Landon has done the same. Playing both Gwen and Cleo. Jennifer's shown her range. The two characters are completely unique and that's a credit to her talent. But even before doing the twin thing, Jennifer had already impressed. She made her character, which could have easily been a soap opera cliché -- the troubled teen -- more than the words in the script. She made her real. She won the Daytime Emmy in 2006 as Outstanding Younger Actress, and repeated the feat in 2007. The daughter of the late actor Michael Landon, Jennifer has recently decided to leave ATWT, so she's already on her way to something better. She's definitely ready for primetime.

2) Orlagh Cassidy, Doris, Guiding Light
You know that cell phone commercial where the mother is frustrated because her daughter won't stop texting her BFF Jill? That commercial's been so successful, there's now a sequel in which she's playing Scrabble with the kid and complaining that she can't spell because she's using text abbreviations instead of words! Well, that exasperated parent is Orlagh Cassidy. On Guiding Light, she steals every scene she's in as ballbuster D.A. Doris Wolfe. You'd never imagine she's the same actress. Then a few weeks ago, I saw her in the feature Definitely, Maybe. Whatever the size of the role, Orlagh Cassidy stands out. Cast her on Law & Order and she'll give Sam Waterson all he can handle as an adversary!

3) Alison Sweeney, Sami, Days of Our Lives
As the host of The Biggest Loser, Alison Sweeney is already sorta in primetime. But she's an actress more than a hostess. She should be in a drama or comedy series because it's as an actress that Alison Sweeney is going to become a star. As Sami, she's shown many arrows in her quiver. She can be a bitch as well as a good girl. Unlike many young actresses on the soaps, Alison projects a personality as well as a character. That's star power and it would great to see her leave the security of NBC's daytime for NBC's primetime. She has a flair for comedy, and as Sami has shown her ability to do the most extreme type of storyline, so give her a shot on My Name Is Earl. She could be Joy's long-lost bitchy step-sister. That'd be a hoot!

4) MacKenzie Mauzy, Pheobe, The Bold & the Beautiful
If you didn't watch intently, you might think of MacKenzie Mauzy as just another sweet young thing. She is beautiful, no doubt about that, and she plays sweet great. As Phoebe, the child of privilege, born into a family immersed in the fashion business, she's had lots of chances to appear as a mannequin. But what I like about MacKenzie is that there seems to be something brimming beneath the surface. She's like a still water that runs deep. On an episode of Cold Case last year, she showed off her hidden depths as an Amish girl who goes off on Rumspringa and winds up falling in with the wrong crowd in south Philly. For much of that episode, I recall watching her as Anna, and not recalling that I'd been seeing her regularly on B&B. She was so completely submerged into this other character, that she appeared new to me. That opened my eyes to MacKenzie Mauzy and why I can see her very soon out of daytime and into primetime.

5) Farah Fath, Gigi, One Life to Live
There's something about Farah Fath. She's arresting. Not because she's a great beauty or a drama queen, but because she's interesting. You can't explain that indefinable quality she has, but when she's on screen, you want to watch her. There's a naturalness to her performances. As Gigi, a single mom who's been working as a waitress at a truckstop in Paris, Texas, she's been terrific. Playing opposite an actress as formidable as six-time Emmy winner Erika Slezak (Viki), Farah's more than held her own. When she was on Days of Our Lives -- as Mimi -- she rarely had a storyline. It was like the powers-that-be on that show never saw Farah as more than a graduated day player, because that's how she began on that show. On OLTL, she's been thrust into a main story and she's coming through like gangbusters. I hope she doesn't get too comfortable on daytime, though. She has a quirky style and she'd be a great support to America Ferrera on Ugly Betty, for instance, or perhaps another waitress at The Pie Hole on Pushing Daisies (but I may just be thinking of pies because of her playing a waitress on OLTL!).

6) Carolyn Hennesy, Diane, General Hospital
Amid the mob action in Port Charles, with the Corleone organization going up against the Zacchara family, you'll find that Carolyn Hennesy is giving the best performance of the year as Sonny's lawyer, Diane Miller. Arch, sharp, biting and brilliant, Carolyn's made a character that on paper was strictly one-dimensional into a flesh and blood, dynamic powerhouse. For the longest time, the role of the lawyer on this show has been nothing more than a device to get Sonny and/or Jason -- Sonny's enforcer -- out of trouble with the authorities. But the way Carolyn has played Diane, she's not a tool. She's a fashionista, ogling over a pair of Jimmy Choos like Carrie Bradshaw's big sister. She can also handle an automatic weapon if necessary, as it was in one show when she and fellow legal eagle Alexis Davis, were waylaid at a biker bar on the way to a Litagator of the Year award ceremony. The bottom line about Carolyn Hennesy is this: she's better than the work she's being given to do. She's a star ready to explode. No actress on daytime now has shown that Allison Janney-potential as much as Hennesy. She would make mincemeat out of Alan Shore on Boston Legal.

7) Christel Khalil, Lily, The Young & the Restless
It may seem like hyperbole perhaps, but a young actress like Christel Khalil could be another Merle Oberon or Ava Gardner. Even though she's still very young, only 21, there's an exotic quality and ethereal presence that she possesses. She's currently playing a young girl, Lily, who's being thrust into a modeling career with all the inherent, potential problems. A bulimia story seems to be on the horizon, and I'm sure she'll bring the requisite emotional turmoil to the role. But for an actress with her look, she deserves something more challenging. Maybe a mini-series or TV movie set in another country or a faraway kind of story would suit her.

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11 Comments

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Andy

woah woah...where is lindsey hartley?! lol i know Passions is a big joke, but she's probably one of the few actresses on the show with real talent.

April 30 2008 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
khm1219

What about Kelly Monaco she is soooo ready!'
JMO

April 03 2008 at 8:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Barbara

Carolyn Hennesy as Diane on GH is the best thing to happen to that show in 5 years. I love her relationship with Alexis and want more focus on this incredible character and actress. I am so bored with the mob storyline I could scream but at least we got this fantastic character and actress as a result of it. Please give her something more to do than just be Sonny's mouthpiece or Alexis' pal/competitor. She has totally created a wonderful woman - the type this show desperately needs more of.

April 02 2008 at 1:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
turtlechelle

Jennifer Landon is fabulous. While I'm sad to see her leave ATWT, I can't wait to see what she does next.

I agree about Kahlil, though. She's stunningly beautiful, and definitely a decent actress, but I wouldn't put her in the same class with Orlagh Cassidy or Jennifer Landon quite yet.

As for Mauzy . . . meh. To be fair, though, I've only seen her on B&B.

March 27 2008 at 3:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maya

I think Christel Khalil is a pretty good actress, but the article seems to be speaking of her look and her presence, more so than acting chops. I have to admit that when she's on camera, the eye does kind of automatically go to her.

March 26 2008 at 8:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elizabeth

Yeah, can't say that I agree with the Kahil pick either, she's gorgeous no doubt, but there have been times I've wondered if she even has the chops to be in *daytime* - for me her slot would have been better filled by Kirsten Storms, or maybe Julie Berman.

Love the other picks, though. And Carolyn Hennesy has to go somewhere besides soaps and ice cream (yogurt?) commercials. She's brilliant on GH.

March 26 2008 at 6:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Justin

Farah Fath has shown she's got talent since moving to OLTL but don't push it--she doesn't have the chops to be a prime time or film actress. She's young, however, so she should keep learning and getting better at her craft.

I think I just admitted that I watch OLTL.

March 26 2008 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LightHouse

I agree, Orlagh Cassidy is amazing and she would rock on primetime. Finally GL is giving her some airtime after too many years in which she was only onscreen once o twice in a year!!

March 26 2008 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kat

Alexa Havins, AMC- I think she could take off...or maybe already is?

March 26 2008 at 10:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to kat's comment
orimental

Alexa's already done appearances on Reno 911 and Rescue Me.

March 26 2008 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Erica

I agree with all your picks but Christel Khalil. I just don't think she's that great of an actress

March 26 2008 at 10:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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