Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with the late Benjamin Hendrickson many years ago. He was telling me about his early days playing Hal Munson on As the World Turns. Since he came on the show for what was supposed to be a one-day gig, there wasn’t much for his character to do other than hang around the police station with fellow cop, Margo Hughes. So he and Hillary Smith, who played Margo at the time, decided to have some fun. The fans noticed the chemistry. So did headwriter Doug Marland, who went on to write one of the great triangles in soap history – Tom-Margo-Hal – actually Barbara made it a rectangle.
For a while, I thought that’s what was happening on Guiding Light, as the relationship between Olivia and Natalia developed. That perhaps Crystal Chappell and Jessica Leccia, like Benji and Hillary before them, had decided to have some fun with their characters and fans noticed, and TPTB decided to have Olivia and Natalia fall in love. Pleased as I would have been had that been the case, I’m even more pleased at the actual events.
Last week, Chappell was interviewed on Buzzworthy Radio, and both actors spoke with AfterEllen. According to Chappell, the story has been in the works since January ’08 – apparently before Ricky Paul Goldin (Gus) announced he was leaving GL – which is interesting since it was Gus’s death that brought the two women together. That aside, what has really set the story apart from most current soap opera storytelling in general, and gay stories in particular, is how it’s been told. No spoilers in the soap media about a “gay story” or “lesbian story” coming up; no interviews about the story before it’s begun. Viewers were able to figure out for themselves that what they’ve been watching is two women fall in love.
It’s such a marked contrast from As the World Turn and All my Children, where rather than allowing viewers to see the relationships between Luke and Noah and Bianca and Reese evolve organically, TPTB made sure that viewers knew pretty much everything about the who, what, when, where and hows of those insta-relationships before they even began.
And it’s how the Otlia story’s being told, not that it’s a “lesbian story” that’s attracting the most attention on the boards. Here are a few examples from AfterEllen:
An old school soap story with a slow, romantic build.
I love that this relationship has had such a slow build and allowed viewers to get used to the idea of these two women being close.
…genuinely passionate about telling this slow-building love story. and telling it in a manner that is pure and right and true.
Watching them navigate the waters of their feelings for each other and raising Emma together, it almost feels like you're looking into someone's living room. It's...real and true to life and so many viewers can relate on so many levels.
I am so so so tired of the instant couples...whether they be straight or gay. I love to see the relationship develop between the characters...I want to be invested in the characters...GL is simply doing this story right...and I do not want to rush one moment of it.
It's just a refreshing change to see a seemingly fated relationship form between two characters who would've never been friends in any other circumstances. Even if it doesn't develop into a romantic relationship, it's still worth watching, IMO. You can tell these two characters love each other, are each other's support system, they are a family in every sense of the word. That's pretty empowering within itself.
Yes it is, which is pretty much how I felt back in January when I wrote,
Will Olivia and Natalia eventually wind up together? Maybe, or maybe not, but on soaps, it's getting to the outcome, not necessarily the outcome itself that keeps us watching.
I have no idea how Ellen Wheeler, et al, originally planned for Olivia and Natalia’s story to turn out. I expect some adjustments have been made to accommodate Jessica Leccia’s pregnancy and maternity leave; she’s due in June and her pregnancy’s not being written into the story. But however things turn out for Otalia, there are a couple of shows mentioned earlier in this piece that might want to take a lesson from fans’ reaction to this story. Just a thought…
© 2009 Lynn Liccardo
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