or the actor. In this case, it's As the World Turn's, Jon Hensley, who's been dodging bullets on the boards since last Thursday's (17 July) big reveal. (For those not up-to-date on this fakakta Carly-Holden storyline, look here and follow the links within.)
It's not that bad acting and bad writing are mutually exclusive; in combination, it's not a pretty picture. It's just that sometimes it can be easy to mistake bad writing for bad acting.
Re Hensley's acting, most of the on-line complaints are variations on a single theme: "He can't emote." I don't that know he can't emote, but he doesn't emote; he listens, in fact, some of his strongest acting is when he's not speaking, but listening and reacting silently. For those of us who appreciate subtlety and subtext, that's a good thing. But it does make Hensely something of an anomaly among soap actors. In a recent Soap Opera Digest piece on the Daytime Emmys, critic, Michael Logan, pointed to Hensley as the kind of quality actor whose subtle style eludes those judging Emmy reels, on the rare occasions they actually get nominated.
In a lot of ways, Hensley reminds me of Kyle Chandler, who, once again, was not nominated for a primetime Emmy for his work in Friday Night Lights. A few weeks back I talked about Ginia Bellafante and her disdain for soap actors here. But this quote from that piece in the Times, "Kyle Chandler, an actor viscerally aware of his character's psychological limitations," very much applies to Hensely, and the current situation his character faces.
A little recap: Holden returns home from a supposed business trip. Before he sets his bags down, and apropos of absolutely nothing, he confesses to his wife Lily, not just that he's having an affair, but with whom, her best friend, Carly. Here's a typical board response from soapfan on Media Domain: "I just did not feel Thursday's show. Holdumb really is a cad and a half for giving up Carly's name so easily." She goes on to characterize Hensely as, "a crappy actor, he looked like he was just spitting out lines he memorized without putting any emotion or ‘acting' in it." The response from Bertha: "I thought Holden did an incredibly stupid thing. What was he thinking?"
The last line says it all. No one watching knew what Holden was thinking, and that includes Jon Hensley, which is why he seemed to be "just spitting out lines he memorized..." As I said at the beginning: "sometimes it can be easy to mistake bad writing for bad acting" This would be one of those times.
All actors need to be able to find the emotional beats in the script, especially actors who don't "emote." In the over 20 years Jon Hensley's been on ATWT, the writers have provided him with some wonderful material, in particular, his scenes with Liz Hubbard and Holden's children. So clearly, there are writers on the team who can write to his strengths. But, not this time. Setting aside the amphetamine-fueled pacing of this story, the Lily-Holden scenes in the 17 July episode were among the worst-written I've even seen. Filled with recap, the sole purpose of the scenes was to inform Lily of the affair, thereby moving the plot forward. But, the dialogue provided no opportunity to plumb the long emotional connection between these two characters.
There been a lot of talk about the fact that Lily is now played by Noelle Beck, who's barely been on the show two months. The recap-filled scenes did her a real disservice, as well, and as a poster on Television without Pity noted, "I think the reveal scenes regarding Holden and Carly would have played out much better if Jon Hensley had been given more time to adjust to NB's version of Lily."
The reason for all of this - I was wrong - you can't set aside the pacing. If writers had allowed this story the necessary time, everyone would know why Holden did what he did. (Actually, if this story wasn't so contrived, and there was some anticipation and all that other good soap opera stuff, Lily would have found out in a more dramatic, less obvious way, but that's another post.)
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