To paraphrase Alfred Hitchcock, a story is only ever as good as its villain is bad. Whether you love them or simply love to hate them, Guiding Light‘s nastiest characters have always made things more exciting. In it’s long history, GL has had some very impressive villains. While many of its heroes and heroines have been morally dubious, most of its villains have been almost unrelentingly evil. It’s always been a remarkably human evil, however, which has rarely dipped into caricature. This is due in no small part to the nuanced acting displayed by many of the show’s finest villains. Their wonderful capacity to pull so many devilish gems from the writers’ words has been one of the greatest animating features on the show for the past thirty years.

In honor of Halloween, this years 70th anniversary and the return later this month of David Andrew MacDonald, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at Guiding Light‘s greatest villains. After running a little poll on the site about a month ago, I came up with four main contenders. Each week, for the rest of the month, I’ll be posting a little look back on their infamous lives and highlighting a bit of the unique nastiness of each character.

This week we conclude our look back on the show’s great villains by revisiting the notorious career of Roger Thorpe. Although Thorpe was a clearly despicable fellow, he also managed to be one of the most beloved characters in the show’s history. And it wasn’t simply that people loved to hate him; many viewers actually became almost sympathetic to him, in no small part due to the extraordinary talents of the actor who played him.

The Actor
Roger was played by the incomparable Michael Zaslow from 1971 until 1980 and then from 1989 until 1997. GL wasn’t his first soap. He already had experience working on Search For Tomorrow. In the interlude between his two stints as Roger, he appeared on OLTL as David Renaldi and worked behind-the-scenes as a writer for Another World. Although he worked on stage and screen for decades, he’ll always be best remembered for playing Roger, a part which earned him several Soap Opera Digest awards as well as a Daytime Emmy. He died of ALS in 1998. The charity group ZazAngels was set up in his memory.