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TV Squad Ten: Guiding Light's greatest characters of the last 25 years

by Allison Waldman, posted Sep 18th 2009 11:08AM
Kim_Zimmer_Guiding_LightWhen Guiding Light airs its final episode today, it won't just be the end of a remarkable television success story -- one that has endured on radio and TV for 72 years -- it will also lower the curtain on some of the most memorable characters ever. In the past 25 years that I've been watching Guiding Light, I've had the pleasure of watching the likes of Michael Zaslow, Justin Deas, Michelle Forbes and Kim Zimmer portray some of those characters.

So, in honor of what Guiding Light has achieved, the fabulous writers who have created these stories and characters, and in salute of all the wonderful actors who've brought them to life, here's Guiding Light's 10 greatest characters from the past 25 years.

10. Josh Lewis (played by Robert Newman)
With the creation of Joshua, the Lewis family became a foundation in Springfield, as integral as the Bauers and the Spauldings, and Josh was the key. He started as a young, upstart oilman with a romantic streak and over time has morphed from a business tycoon to a minister. And through all the years, he's had one great love, Reva Shayne.

9. Jonathan Randall (played by Tom Pelphrey)
When it was revealed that Reva had had a child during her missing years in San Cristobel, it was a leap of faith for fans to accept the angry young man named Jonathan who turned up seeking revenge. He was ruthless and hard, having sex with his cousin Tammy just to get back at Reva. That he would fall in love with Tammy and tragically lose her when she was killed by a hit and run driver was the kind of soap opera twist that made the character great.

8. Beth Raines (played by Judi Evans and Beth Chamberlin)
Beth was part of the four musketeers -- along with Rick Bauer, Philip Spaulding and Mindy Lewis -- who was the most vulnerable and scarred by her past. The trauma of her being raped by her stepfather led to catatonia, but also was the basis of the romance that grew between her and Philip. In the years gone by, Beth had other romances, but her heart was always Philip's and his hers...like Romeo and Juliet.

7. Alexandra Spaulding (played by Beverlee McKinsey and Marj Dusay)
Regal and elegant, Alexandra Spaulding was the matriarch of the clan, but more than that she was the family's heart and soul. Alex could be a conniver, a cunning opponent in business dealings, but always, always true to those she loved. When played by Beverlee McKinsey, Alex was a reason to watch each and every day just to see what she would do.

6. Sonni Carrerra (played by Michelle Forbes)
There have been other twins on Guiding Light, but the story of Sonni Carrera -- Josh's first wife -- was unique. Was Sonni really Sonni or was she her twin sister Solita? Even Josh wasn't sure whom he had married, and when Sonni was revealed not to be dead after all, she upset his life in Springfield by breaking up his relationship with Reva. Even though she was only around for a few years, Michelle Forbes' performance remains an indelible memory.

5. Olivia and Natalia (played by Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia)
This entry covers two characters played by two actresses, but separately, neither Olivia nor Natalia were as memorable as they were when their unexpected romance came to life. Guiding Light stumbled upon a lesbian love story when Natalia chose to care for Olivia after she had a heart transplant, the heart having belonged to Gus, the father of Nat's child and her high school love. The story was slow to reveal and gently told, so that when Olivia and Natalia finally realized what they were experiencing, the audience was with them 100 percent.

4. Ross Marler (played by Jerry ver Dorn)
At first, Ross was a traditional soap staple -- the necessary lawyer. However, when Ross ran for U.S. senator, he became a different kind of character. His ambition, coupled with his hot romance with Blake, turned Ross from dull to fascinating. And unlike so many politicians depicted on soaps, Ross had integrity and class. He was in it to serve the public, not serve himself.

3. Buzz Cooper (played by Justin Deas)

When Frank and Harley Cooper discovered that their father, Buzz, had not died in Viet Nam, it was a revelation. Harley visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington and discovered her father's name was missing. When Buzz was found, he turned out to be a flawed man who had abandoned his family and let to world believe he was dead. He reconciled with his children and rebuilt his life. As played by Justin Deas, Buzz became one of Springfield's best characters.

2. Roger Thorpe (played by Michael Zaslow)
The best soap opera villains are the ones who are not all bad or all evil or all anything. Roger Thorpe epitomized villainy. He made cogent points to explain his actions, so that even while he was the man you wanted to hate, you understood him. He was Darth Vader. Even Holly, whom he debased and raped when they were married, never got over him. In his years in Springfield, Roger created a lot of trouble and hurt people, so that when he died, few mourned him. The same could not be said for actor Michael Zaslow who played the character, won an Emmy for the role, and died of ALS in 1998.

1. Reva Shayne (played by Kim Zimmer)
Some characters transcend soap opera and become part of pop culture. All My Children's Erica Kane is one, so is Luke Spencer on General Hospital. Reva Shayne on Guiding Light belongs in that company. Created by head writer Pamela Long and brought to life by Kim Zimmer -- who won four Emmys for the role -- Reva was the kind of woman other women admire and most men want. She was headstrong and intense, sensual and fiery, determined and defiant...the ultimate diva of Springfield. From 1984 to the present, no other character has captured the magic of Guiding Light quite like Reva Shayne.

Episodes of Guiding Light can be found at SlashControl.

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Joanna

Harley and Phillip should be on that list! Love 'em or hate them, they made the show in the 80's.

September 19 2009 at 2:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Sassone

Come on, no Phillip??

September 18 2009 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joyce N.

I still remember Bert's husband and who can forget Papa Bauer?

September 18 2009 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Europa

Yeah, how could you not include Bert Bauer? I realize younger generations might not have a clue but, come on! You leave out Bert Bauer?!?! That's like not listing Queen Victoria as a member of the British Royal family. Even if you don't remember her persnally she has to be on the list.

September 18 2009 at 3:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dwight

Okay ... you've got to be kidding me with leaving out Annie Dutton!!!! And to a slightly lesser degree: Brent Lawrence/Marion.

September 18 2009 at 2:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Daune Calovini

Wow. Interesting, Allison. My list would have been totally different. Near the top would be Phillip. I started watching the show again, when he returned. Grant Aleksander is so brilliant. One of my indelible characters from the past is Lujack. And, no Nola Reardon? She was Reva before Reva. Harley would be on my list too. And, I detested the Sonni/Solita storyline.

So, it's cool that there have been so many great characters in Springfield. And, different people come away with such different feelings about what's transpired. I mean, look at Alan. Everything we knew about the man for decades changed in a few months, and he was even reconciled with Buzz and Phillip.

So sad that continuing dramas are a thing of the past. It's comforting to spend time in Springfield. Thanks for the fun list!

September 18 2009 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pat

You cannot distill GL down to 10 characters only. While I agree with your list you missed: Bert Bauer,the true matriarch and the rest of the Bauer clan: Mike, Ed and Rick especially. Alan Sapulding! They've even caused us to shed a tear or tow at his passing though he was evilly flawed from the get go. I will miss these characters but I am happy that they will live on in the imaginations of their fans.

September 18 2009 at 12:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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