Tuesday, June 30, 2009 12:46 AM ET | By Scotty Gore
(SoapOperaNetwork.com) — “One Life’s” gay stoyline claims its first victim.
“One Life to Live” never ceases to amaze me. For the past week, I have spent countless hours wrestling with what to write about in this edition of the column. I was to the point of just compiling another list of what makes me nauseous about the soap right now, when ‘it’ happened. The ‘it’ in this instance is, of course, the termination of Patricia Mauceri (Carlotta Vega) from “OLTL” because of her alleged refusal to play even a small role in the upcoming gay storyline between Kyle Lewis and Oliver Fish.
When I first saw the headline of another website over the weekend claiming that a “OLTL Actress Fired!,” I automatically assumed that the show had made the biggest mistake in its nearly 41-year history by firing the legendary Erika Slezak. Much to my amazement however, as I began reading the article, my sadness immediately turned to confusion. I realize that there are always two sides to every story, but something about this tale struck me as ‘fishy’ (no pun intended, by the way).
Why get rid of Patricia Mauceri, of all people on the cast, because of her apparent refusal for her character to be a ‘gay friendly Latina mom?’ After all, it’s not like Carlotta has carried, or even played an important role for that matter, in a storyline in years. Instead, quite the opposite is true. Carlotta has become the type of character that is only let out of the attack for special events such as birthdays, weddings, and funerals; it’s not usual for her not to even be seen on camera for several months at a time (guess she’s busy in the cooking flan). Carlotta is not Viki or Dorian, after all. It’s not like the show wouldn’t survive if the character went the way of Miles Laurence and simply just vanished and was never spoken of again.
But still, the news leaves more than a seed of doubt in my mind (and probably many of yours as well). After all, it’s not as if Mauceri has had a long history of refusing to go along with anything gay related. First, she was played a minor role in the gay-themed movie I Think I Do, works alongside gay co-stars (i.e., Tuc Watkins), and is even employed by a homosexual head writer and executive producer. Also, it’s not like she hasn’t been involved with controversial storylines on “One Life” in the past. Nearly a decade ago, Carlotta dated Llanview’s African-American DA Hank “The Cannon” Gannon, and took in a Eli, a young HIV positive boy whose mother had recently died of AIDS, and vowed to raise him on her own (although the character would eventually be dropped). So it’s not like Carlotta Vega hasn’t tackled diversity and social issues before.
While working on my own news article concerning the story, and re-reading quotes and statements again and again, I seem to get the impression that Maurceri’s apparent rejection of the upcoming plot was more so related to her character, and not to herself personally as an actress. I suppose it would seem somewhat out of character in a sense, for Carlotta to suddenly embrace a gay couple and agree with their lifestyle. Perhaps that is what she was trying to tell her superiors at “OLTL” and ABC. Somehow, it is just difficult for me to fathom that she was so outraged by the plot idea that flat out refused to have any part of it. Maybe that is exactly what happened…no one really knows for sure. But something just does not feel right about the side of the story that is currently being told.
For arguments sake, let’s suppose for a moment that the actress honestly felt that the proposed storyline conflicted with her personal and religious beliefs, and that she told the powers that be as much. Although she hasn’t been on contract with “OLTL” for years, she is an ABC employee in every episode she appears in, since she garners a paycheck for those shows. Furthermore, she is employed by a soap opera for pete’s sake. Can any soap star honestly say that they had no clue that being involved in controversial storylines was a possibility when they signed up for the job? That’s what daytime dramas try to do sometimes–push the envelope. It’s the name of the game. Mauceri should have been aware of that when she first signed on to the role on “OLTL” back in 1995.
Delving deeper, how many jobs let their employees choose not to do things, because they claim not to like them. Not very many that I can think of. Most bosses and administrators are all too eager to dismiss an employee if they complain about their job to them. It reminds me of when I used to work at my local Wal-Mart back in the day (before I considered the corporation to be evil). Even though I was (at the time) and Electronics associate, there were times I had to help out and do other tasks outside of my job description as an electronics department associate. For instance, if we were short-handed or a ‘stockman’ called in sick, I sometimes had to mop up vomit, clean the restrooms, or round up shopping carts from the parking lot. Those were not things that I enjoyed doing, especially being outside on the hot asphalt on sunny summer days, but I did them because it was my job. I was told to help out and do those tasks by my boss, the very person who signed my paycheck. If I complained, I knew the result. And it wasn’t pretty. How would I make my car payment, pay my insurance, or buy food? For me it was easier just to ‘grin and bare it’ and keep my job, then to be unemployed and unsure where my next paycheck would come from.
Soap actors do the same thing. I am reminded of two separate instances from “OLTL” where actors have hated particular storylines, but participated in them anyway because it was their job. Clint Richie, “One Life’s” original Clint Buchanan, absolutely despised the fact that the show’s brass had suddenly turned his character into a homophobe during the whole Billy Douglas gay teen storyline back in the 1990s. He later noted that, because of that one plot, he began receiving hate mail for the first time in his long career as an actor. Even Erika Slezak, the matriarch of “One Life to Live,” reportedly hated the storyline where Viki’s son Kevin was hypnotized and instructed to kill his own mother. But, here again, she played it anyway. My point is that we all sometimes have to do things we don’t like — regarding our jobs, families, friends, etc… — but we have to do them anyway. I hate to use the expression countless parents have told their children, but it I think it is appropriate in this sense — sometimes life just isn’t fair.
Don’t think that I am dissing for Patricia Mauceri for apparently having a difference of opinion with her soap bosses, because I’m not. We are all entitled in our opinions on this and all issues and, while we may not always see eye-to-eye, we must learn to respect our own thoughts and feelings. “I may not agree with a thing you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” as the saying goes. In a way I admire her for standing up for her beliefs, if indeed that is truly what happened. Either way, I suspect it was mostly just a business decision. Call me crazy, but I just cannot picture Patricia Mauceri arguing herself out a job. Maybe she has a healthy bank account and can survive without the occasional call from “OLTL,” but given the current state of the economy and the sky-high unemployment rates across the U.S., I suspect that times must still be hard for Mauceri and her fellow soap stars.
While hesitant to get swept up in the messy debate on just how much input soap actors should have in the motivation and direction of the characters they portray, I will say this much. I am no ‘insider’ by any stretch of the imagination, however, I will agree that it is a two-way street. First and foremost, characters are created by a show’s writers, based upon their own conception of what they envision them to be like. But, as we all know, sometimes soap change writers like people change underwear, and that can create some serious issue. Since new scribes are often not aware of the original outline or personality of a character, they sometimes write things for them to say and do that our totally ‘out of character’ for that particular role. In those cases the actors, particually those who originated the character, would be the best source of information on how exactly the person they are portraying would react in a given situation, and sometimes make it known to the writers that their character isn’t acting like themselves. As you can probably tell, I’m not exactly picking sides on this issue, mostly because I can see both sides. I am relating it to the real world, however, in that when an employee complains too much, they are told to seek employment elsewhere.
All that being said, I am actually looking forward to “OLTL’s” latest gay storyline attempt. While I am not gay myself, I still hope the soap can get it right, and do the storyline justice for all the show’s gay fans. I pray that they will, but I feel that they won’t. I urge the Ron Carlivati and his team remember that “OLTL” built on diversity. Agnes Nixon’s original concept for “One Life to Live” was that it would be a true reflection of society. And it is nice to see that there are gay people in Llanview, and middle class blue collar workers, Latinos, African-Americans, fat, skinny, young, old, and characters from other parts of the country who speak and act differently. Not everyone in the world is rich, snooty, and white…and it is important to remember that. Hopefully the writers will as well. At least, the show is starting to return to at least as some of their diverse roots with minority characters in recent months.
In conclusion, I have to admit that “One Life to Live” has started peaking my interest again. I think that the show is gradually improving, although it still has a very long way to go until being able to return to its once former glory. And looking ahead at the next few weeks, I belive there is some good stuff coming up. Fans will just have to be patient however. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. And “OLTL” will not turn from a pile of steaming dog crap to a 10-karat diamond overnight. Change takes time, but it is always constant. And one day soon “One Life to Live” will be a great soap once more.
For those of you unable to figure out the answers to the trivia questions from my last column, here they are (correct answers in bold): Question #1: In 2008, a drunken Rex Balsom performed a striptease just before what musical guest was set to perform at Ultra Violet? a) Snoop Dogg, b) Timbaland, c) The Plain White T’s, or d) Willie Nelson. Question #2: In 1991, for what purpose did Carlo Hesser drug Viki to bring out Niki Smith? a) to kill Asa Buchanan, b) to kill Viki’s daughter Megan, c) to convince Renee to marry him, or d) to burn down The Banner. Question #3: When did Tina discover the entrance to Victor Lord’s secret room back in 1985? a) in the library at Llanfair, b) in the carriage house, c) in the basement of The Banner, or d) in his mausoleum. And Question #4: Back in 1977, how were Larry Wolek and Karen Wolek related before they got married? a) they were cousins, b) Karen was Larry’s stepmother, c) Karen had been Larry’s sister-in-law, or d) No relation. The last names were mere coincidence.
Hope you enjoyed those questions, and that they didn’t prove too difficult for you. Now time for this week’s trivia challenge: Question #1: Back in 1988, Ursula Blackwell rigged something to blow up on Tina Lord when she remarried Cord Roberts. But what was it? a) the church, b) the bouquet, c) the wedding cake, or d) the horse-drawn carriage. Question #2: What were the names of the two warring gangs in Angel Square in 1996? a) The Arrows and the Prides, b) The Bullets and the Hawks, c) The Cutters and the Wolves, or d) The Diehards and the Falcons. Question #3: How did Margaret Cochran blackmail Todd into sleeping with her back in 2005? a) She threatened to kill Blair, b) She had kidnapped his children, c) She threatened to set fire to the bed in which he was tied, and d) She threatened to turn evidence against him over to the police. And Question #4: In 1976, what sport was Brad Vernon a professional in? a) baseball, b) football, c) tennis, or d) golf. I’ll have the answers in the July 15th edition of the column. But if you are stumped and can’t wait, you may want to consult a copy of The One Life to Live 40th Anniversary Trivia Book by Gerry Waggett. Just a suggestion…. but one you might find useful (except when trying to figure out first question, which I came up with myself. However the answer to it can be found elsewhere in this column).
That concludes yet another installment of “My View of Llanview.” Hope you enjoyed reading my “OLTL” thoughts and ramblings, and that you will join me again in two weeks for more of the same. Keep the feedback coming; I love hearing from fellow fans. Enjoy your summer and have a safe and happy Independence Day! Celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks, cookouts, displaying the American flag, and remembering the freedom that we all so often take for granted in this country.
And until next time remember, we only have “One Life to Live”…
“One Life to Live” airs Weekdays on ABC. Weeknights on SOAPnet. Check local listings.
Discussion: My View of Llanview: June 30 Edition