Santa Barbara Alum Reveals the Plan to Bring the Soap Back: ‘I Have the Writer, I Have the Producer, I Have a Lot of the Actors’
Are we going to get another online soap?
After an incredible 27 years on General Hospital, it’s hard to remember a time when Nancy Lee Grahn wasn’t playing one of Port Charles’ most formidable lawyers, Alexis Davis. But before she found her home on ABC, the actress actually spent nine years over on NBC’s Santa Barbara playing another attorney, Julia Wainwright.
She’d spent a while as Marco Dane’s assistant on One Life to Live, and after that was over, she joined the NBC sudser thinking she’d maybe do a year or two. Instead, Grahn ended up staying until the soap was cancelled in 1993.
“Santa Barbara came to me,” she noted during her recent Facebook Live Q&A, “and it was such a great experience. So I stayed longer than I ever expected.”
Even now, nearly 30 years after it was cancelled, it’s clear it still holds a special place in her heart. In fact, it’s so special, she’s begun planning to bring it back. “I checked on that,” she explained, “because it actually made sense to go to Hulu. I have the writer, I have the producer, I have a lot of the actors.”
And why not? Another one of NBC’s former soaps seems to be doing just fine streaming. We’re a couple of months into Days of Our Lives’ Peacock move and it’s chugging along nicely. When folks asked her thoughts about that online drama, Grahn just shrugged. “It found a home,” she explained. Peacock “keeps it going, keeps people employed, keeps crew members employed, actors employed.
“Listen, you can act anywhere,” she added. “You can act in a barn, in a theatre, on streaming. These people are still working. So, yay! Go, Peacock!”
Credit: New World Releasing/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
Could Santa Barbara do just as well on Hulu? Grahn doesn’t seem to be the only one who thinks so. She even named a few folks she’s talked to about it like Harley Jane Kozak, who played ingenue Mary Duvall, Joe Marinelli, who played cross-dressing mobster Bunny Tagliatti, Leigh J. McCloskey, who played D.A. Ethan Asher, and Louise Sorel, who played the wonderfully vain Augusta Wainwright before she headed over to Days of Our Lives to tackle the role of villainous Vivian Alamain.
Still, Santa Barbara isn’t like Days of Our Lives crossing over from one “network” to another. This soap hasn’t been on the air in almost 30 years. So Grahn was initially planning to start small. “I thought, ‘Oh, that seems like kind of a good idea to just do 10 episodes and see where it goes,’” she explained, “since you have all of those original players.”
But in order to sell folks on the idea, she knew it couldn’t just be a fun project, but also had to be financially sound. “It made sense because it was really so popular internationally,” she said of her proposal. “It did so well, made a lot of money for NBC internationally.”
More: Look back at the glory days of Santa Barbara
Unfortunately, her plan ran into a few snags. First off, Grahn noted, “Hulu is not international. And I don’t know that Disney+ is either. I’m limited to go to those places because 20th Century Fox has the rights to Santa Barbara. And they merged with Disney, so that’s where Santa Barbara is. If it’s not international, I don’t know that anyone is all that interested.”
But, she noted, she’s not done exploring it, and a Santa Barbara return is not dead in the water. We may just have to wait a bit longer to find out where it ends up. But hey, maybe we’ll get some good news by its 40th because that is coming up real fast!
To get an idea of how the cast may end up looking, take a look at our then-and-now photo gallery of Santa Barbara actors.