On the Anniversary of the Weirdest Recast in Soap History, a Look Back With Eyes Wide and Jaws on the Floor
It shouldn’t have worked… and yet…
On December 17, 1991, One Life to Live did a whole lot more than change the actress that played the role of Blair Cramer, the much-missed ABC soap went and changed the character’s race, too.
We know — we were like, “WTH?!?” too. And this was before Twitter abbreviations were even a thing.
The Big Switch
Longtime viewers will recall that the part of Dorian Lord’s conniving niece was originated in 1991 by Mia Korf, who is of Japanese and Caucasian descent. And the role was virtually made for her; she and Blair shared the same birthplace, hobbies, even the same astrology sign. But when the newcomer left two years later to appear in a play, the show recast with… blonde Kentucky native Kassie Wesley, who’d previously appeared on Guiding Light as songbird Chelsea Reardon.
Even Wesley couldn’t believe it. As she told the Evansville Courier & Press in 2011, she was “a little bit shocked, because I didn’t think I looked the part.”
Why It Worked
Ah, but Wesley had the chutzpah to make it work. In fact, on her first day, she pulled off scene after scene that was nothing but double entendres. When a Speedo-clad rando warned Blair about the dangers of tanning for too long — it was, after all, a hot day in Miami Beach — her portrayer, without missing a beat, replied as Blair, “Well, that’s how I like most things — hot.”
From there, the One Life to Live newcomer set straight the audience about what Blair 2.0 would be like. She “only gets burned once,” intoned Wesley in character, letting a “Been there, done that” look cross her face. “There’ll never be a second time.”
At once, the audience could tell that Wesley could throw sparks with an inanimate object — which was pretty much what she had to do with this slab of beefcake. Long before she was paired on screen with future real-life husband James DePaiva’s Max Holden, she made it work with this vapid eye candy whose come-ons included, “I’ll show you my snorkel. Maybe you can teach me the breast stroke.”
Mrs. DePaiva reacted as Blair the same way that the audience did, with a virtual eye roll. The vixen liked a pastime that was, ahem, “a bit more active,” she said. So he offered to give her “a private lesson in water aerobics,” which honestly sounds odder than it does sexy, even as a cheesy double entendre.
You can watch the scenes play out in full above. And while you’re here, marveling at the fact that Days of Our Lives’ future Eve went on to become a soap icon owing to this, the most “Wait, whaaaat?” recast in soap history, peruse the below photos of daytime’s all-time best replacements.
<p>Justin Gaston (aka the husband of <em>The Young and the Restless</em>’ Abby, Melissa Ordway) had only played <em>Days of our Lives</em>’ Ben Weston for a short time in 2014 before the NBC soap replaced him with Wilson. Which turned out to be a genius move. Even after the character was turned into a serial killer, the powers that be couldn’t get out of their heads his charismatic portrayer, so ultimately, he was brought back, Ben was cured, and we all delightedly descended into, um, “Cin.”</p>
<p>When <em>General Hospital</em> decided in 2021 to transform Nikolas Cassadine’s son Spencer from a scheming tween into a complicated hunklet, it may have been less a recast than a reinvention of the legacy character. But that in no way diminishes the magnitude of Chavez’ accomplishment in the role, played by Nicolas Bechtel since he was 8 years old. The soap newcomer infused Spencer with a pathos that was as compelling as his charm was irresistible. Within weeks, we couldn’t even type his name without adding “fan favorite” before it. That’s how good he was — and is.</p>
<p>We know from ABC’s primetime soap <em>Queens</em> that Precious Way is a natural born scene stealer. But for our money, the character of <em>Days of Our Lives</em>’ Chanel Dupree didn’t really take flight until Bowens took over the role in 2021. She blended a sweetness and vivacity into the mischievous mix that makes up Paulina’s daughter that left us as enchanted as love interests Allie and Johnny. Ironically, Bowens originally auditioned for the part but was passed over in favor of Way. “I was pretty sad about it,” Bowens admitted to <a href="https://www.soapoperadigest.com/content/meet-dayss-raven-bowens/" target="_blank"><em>Soap Opera Digest</em></a>. Thankfully, all’s well that ends well.</p>
<p>Maybe the bar was set a bit low where <em>The Young and the Restless</em>’ Kyle Abbott was concerned. When Mealor became the fourth adult version of Jack’s son with Diane Jenkins in 2018, the show had yet to cast a really successful one. But Mealor still deserves a truckload of credit. When he picked up where <em>Station 19</em>’s Lachlan Buchanan left off, he overcame writing that reintroduced the character as a snotty jerk, showed even the soap itself Kyle’s potential and struck supercouple pay dirt opposite Hunter King as Summer Newman.</p>
<p>Are you surprised to see Evans on this list? <em>Long</em>-longtime viewers of <em>Days of our Lives</em> won’t be; they’ll remember that before she brought her, um, sweetness to the role of Steve Johnson’s better half, the part was played, and quite successfully, by Catherine Mary Stewart, whose version of Kayla was smitten with Chris Kositchek (to the point that she even lost her virginity to him!). Three years after Stewart split to do movies like <em>Weekend at Bernie’s</em>, <em>Rituals</em> vet Evans stepped in and laid claim to the plum part.</p>
<p><em>The Young and the Restless</em>’ latest Chance Chancellor might have been fated to pick up where Donny Boaz left off. While he was waiting to audition, sitting in the CBS lobby “nervous and sweating,” future on-screen wife Melissa Ordway (Abby) approached him, he told <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/the-young-and-the-restless/news/615928/young-restless-new-chance-conner-floyd-first-interview/" target="_blank"><em>Soap Opera Digest</em></a>, and provided a crash course in the legacy character. And ever since he took over in 2021, we’ve had to scratch our heads to remember that there ever <em>was</em> another Chance — and no, not just because Floyd bears more than a passing resemblance to his predecessor. (<a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/soaps/news/584032/soap-opera-stars-real-life-lookalikes-pictures/" target="_blank">See here</a>.)</p>
<p>So, um, adequate a Blair Cramer was Mia Korf for <em>One Life to Live</em> that when she was replaced after two years by Kassie DePaiva (then Kassie Wesley, a veteran of <em>Guiding Light</em> as Chelsea Reardon), the character’s Asian heritage was dispatched. Overnight, the schemer became, er, vaguely Southern — and also a hit. DePaiva held the role for the next 20 years.</p>
<p><em>The Young and the Restless</em> scored the casting coup of the decade when it landed <em>Knots Landing</em> legend Joan Van Ark — you know, “poor pitiful Val” — to play Michael Baldwin and Kevin Fisher’s Mommie Dearest, Gloria, in 2004. So it was a total “Ack! WTH do we do now?!?” moment when she took a powder shortly after making her debut. What the soap did was call in daytime’s Bette Davis, Chapman. The rest, folks, is history. Delicious, delicious history.</p>
<p>Even now, Grossman strikes us as a smidgen youthful to be playing Victor Newman’s black-sheep son, Adam, on <em>The Young and the Restless</em>. Nonetheless, his charisma — <em>and</em> chemistry with leading ladies Melissa Claire Egan (Chelsea) and Sharon Case (Sharon) — have enticed us to accept him in the role played in bygone days by <em>This Is Us</em>’ Justin Hartley and <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/the-young-and-the-restless/news/572300/michael-muhney-demands-apology-tmz-young-restless-adam-newman/" target="_blank">headline-maker Michael Muhney</a>.</p>
<p>It’s a tall order, picking up where someone left off, especially when that someone is Emmy winner Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, <em>The Young and the Restless</em>). But Watros, an Emmy winner herself for her stellar work as Annie Dutton on <em>Guiding Light</em>, has pulled it off as <em>General Hospital</em>’s Nina Reeves. (If only Signy Coleman had managed to do the same when she took over for Watros on <em>Guiding Light</em> in 1998.)</p>
<p>Given that James Scott wasn’t just liked by <em>Days of Our Lives</em> fans as EJ DiMera, he was freakin’ adored, his successor, it seemed, had been set up to fail when he stepped into the role in 2021. However, it only seemed so because, at the time, we didn’t yet realize just how sharp an actor Feuerriegel is. Without trying to replicate his predecessor in any way, the native of Australia wore his new character like a pair of expensive shoes until the fit became so good that it dawned on even us — you know how slow we are! — that he wasn’t merely talking the talk, he was walking the walk.</p>
<p>If you’re stepping into shoes left empty by Buffy the Freakin’ Vampire Slayer, you’d better be prepared to bring it. Luckily, Minshew was. Though the role of <em>All My Children</em>’s Kendall Hart was her big break, the relative newcomer managed to make the most of it, convincing us all to forget Sarah Michelle Gellar and invest wholeheartedly (or whatever comes after wholeheartedly) in the romance of Zendall — to the uninitiated, that’s Kendall and her true love, Zach Slater.</p>
<p>Don’t even start with us about how it turned out that St. John wasn’t <em>really</em> a recast of <em>One Life to Live</em>’s Todd Manning, he was the character’s brother, Victor Lord Jr. St. John did such a bang-up job of making his own the infamous role for which Roger Howarth had won a Daytime Emmy that when the o.g. returned to the ABC soap, a whole <em>new</em> part was created for his successor. Don’t buy it? When was the last time you saw backstory massively upended and rewritten to keep an <em>unsuccessful</em> recast in the mix? Mm-hmm. St. John wasn’t just a hit, he was a megahit.</p>
<p>The fact that you’re probably at this moment asking yourself, “Wait, why is Wally Kurth on this list?” is exactly the reason that he is. Before he assumed the role of <em>General Hospital</em>’s Ned Ashton in 1991, the part had been played — and to great success — by Kurt McKinney (who’s better known now as Matt Reardon on <em>Guiding Light</em>); in fact, it was McKinney’s Ned who embarked on that infamous, pseudo-incestuous affair with the strumpet played by the actress at No. 2!</p>
<p>Admittedly, <em>As the World Turns</em>’ Lucy Deakins didn’t last long enough in the role of power monger Lucinda’s daughter Lily to really blossom. Yet her successor still earned a hundred times over her place on this list — so much so that, whenever the CBS soap tried to replace <em>her</em>, viewers scrunched up their faces and wished for the return of the “real” Lily.</p>
<p>The third time was <em>definitely</em> the charm for <em>The Young and the Restless</em>’ Sharon Collins. Future <em>Parenthood</em> star Monica Potter was cast first but, as she put it 2010, “I was fired because <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/the-young-and-the-restless/news/577323/young-restless-sharon-newman-timeline-photos/" target="_blank">I was terrible</a>.” Not a whole lot better was Sharon No. 2, <em>Playboy</em>’s Miss July 1995, Heidi Mark. But then in came Case, already a soap vet, thanks to roles on <em>As the World Turns</em> and <em>General Hospital</em>, and suddenly, we could not only see the potential in the character, we could see it being realized.</p>
<p>Truth be told, we don’t consider Thomson, best known for his work as Adam Carrington on <em>Dynasty</em>, a replacement for Terry Lester, who played <em>Santa Barbara</em>’s Mason Capwell with a cheesy flair after Lane Davies called it a day. We consider the actor a recast of Davies, in that he brought to the role an altogether necessary wit and intelligence that, were the soap gods fair, would have him standing in the spotlight to this day.</p>
<p>We know. We know that Ellen Wheeler, who first played Vicky and Marley on <em>Another World</em>, eventually returned to play the good twin (leaving Jensen Buchanan to continue on as the more twisted sister). But that does a total of nothing to detract from the superlative work that Wheeler’s replacement, Anne Heche, did in the roles. She, like her predecessor, waltzed straight into the Daytime Emmys’ winner’s circle. Can Buchanan say that? Didn’t think so.</p>
<p>When <em>Ryan’s Hope</em> debuted in 1975, force of nature Ilene Kristen didn’t just <em>request</em> viewers’ attention, she <em>commanded</em> it. So it was a terrible blow to the new soap on the block when she exited stage left as manipulative mantrap Delia Reid four years later. That is, it was a terrible blow <em>until</em> the powers that be discovered Randall Edwards and dropped <em>her</em> into the role. Suddenly, Delia was as daffy as she was devious, and fans ate it up as readily as Ryan’s Bar customers did matriarch Maeve’s corned beef and cabbage.</p>
<p>When an actor has played a part for as long as Hunter Tylo did Taylor Hayes on <em><a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/wp-admin/_wp_link_placeholder">The Bold and the Beautiful</a></em>, the chances of her being successfully replaced are about as slim as the chances of Tylo taking a bad photo — and recast Krista Allen knew it. “I feel like I’m about to be introduced to my fiancé’s mom,” <a href="https://twitter.com/KristaAllenXO/status/1468790970393128962" target="_blank">she tweeted</a> ahead of her 2021 debut, “but she’s made it very clear that his ex is the only one for him.” Yet as quickly as you could say, “The part of Taylor Hayes is now being played by… ” the <em>Days of Our Lives</em> vet hadn’t just gotten us to <em>accept</em> but <em>embrace</em> her in her new role.</p>
<p>When the <em>Another World</em> alum (as Sam Fowler) joined <em>Days of Our Lives</em> as Bo Brady, he famously <a href="https://soaps.sheknows.com/gallery/real-life-soap-scandals-photos/" target="_blank">failed to make a fan of leading lady</a> Lisa Rinna (ex-Billie). The rest of us, however, bought what he was selling in the role that Peter Reckell originated. In fact, after Kelker-Kelly’s first stint as Bo ended, he “negotiated a second contract,” he told <a href="https://www.welovesoaps.net/2013/09/robert-kelker-kelly-interview.html" target="_blank">We Love Soaps</a>, “and then that one fell apart” (paving the way for Reckell’s return).</p>
<p>Back in 2018, when the primetime vet was tapped to take over for Eileen Davidson as <em>Days of Our Lives</em>’ Kristen DiMera (<em>and</em> Susan Banks), the world was like, “Mmkay, good luck with <em>that</em>.” Not us, though. Having been blown away by Haiduk’s work as <em>The Young and the Restless</em>’ poor, crazy Patty Williams and her empathetic shrink, Emily Peterson, we knew that she wouldn’t need luck. And she hasn’t. With a blindingly bright flair, she’s brought a method to the look-not-at-all-alikes’ madness that has only made us wonder ever more loudly how she doesn’t have a trophy case full of Emmys.</p>
<p>“Give it up already,” you could just hear <em>Young & Restless</em> viewers saying in 1987 when the soap tried, tried again to recast Brenda Dickson as camptastic gold digger Jill Abbott. “It can’t be done,” we thought. And yet not only was it done, it was done brilliantly when future two-time Emmy winner Walton was recruited straight off her comeback role of Kelly Harper on <em>Capitol</em> to put a brain beneath the character’s big hair.</p>
<p>The accent is an issue, it’s true. But you also can’t deny that when this soap-hopper (who’d previously played Patrick Thornhart on <em>One Life to Live</em>, Ian Thornhart on <em>Port Charles</em> and Zach Slater on <em>All My Children</em>) was tapped to succeed Ronn Moss as <em>The Bold and the Beautiful</em>’s Ridge Forrester in 2013, “the dressmaker” plumbed depths of emotion that had been previously out of reach.</p>
<p>You can argue all you like that no way, no how was Miller’s Jake Doe in any way, shape or form <em>General Hospital</em>’s Jason Morgan (and, in fact, he turned out not to be Stone Cold but his heretofore-unknown twin brother, so you’d technically be right). However, the passionate fan base that for ages was committed to the connection that Drew Cain formed with Kelly Monaco’s Sam McCall would beg to differ, despite the 2017 return of Steve Burton as the real McCoy, the preppy-turned-hitman that he’d played since 1991.</p>
<p>All these years later, of course we know that <em>Days of our Lives</em>’ amnesiac John Black was never Roman Brady, as was initially believed. However, that doesn’t in the slightest diminish Hogestyn’s accomplishment, in making fans obsessed with Wayne Northrop as Marlena Evans’ one and only accept someone new in the role. Heck, even after Northrop was reintroduced in 1991 as the real Roman, he wound up being jettisoned in favor of Hogestyn, whoever it was he was playing!</p>
<p>OK, this one’s a no-brainer. In the late 1980s, when <em>The Bold and the Beautiful</em> debuted, Katie Logan was a secondary character, the sort of (in her own mind!) Plain Jane whose dramas played out in the background of her gorgeous older sisters’ affairs. But when Nancy Sloan was finally replaced by Emmy winner Tom (previously Victoria Newman on <em>The Young and the Restless</em>), Katie moved front and center, shining as brightly as either of her blonde-bombshell siblings could’ve ever hoped to!</p>
<p>Somewhere, Erica Hope has kinda-sorta gotta be gnashing her teeth — because in 1979, grown-up child actress Scott left <em>The Waltons</em> — <em>The Waltons</em>, for John Boy’s sake! — to step into Hope’s former role of <em>The Young and the Restless</em>’ troubled Nikki Reed. Scott — then just plain ol’ Melody Thomas — had options, too; she reportedly joined the soap instead of signing with a sitcom pilot (which, as luck would have it, didn’t get picked up). The rest, as we well know, is history — more than 40 years of it at last count!</p>
<p>We don’t need to tell you what a hard act to follow is Robin Strasser (Dorian, <em>One Life to Live</em>). So it will come as no surprise that her original replacement as Rachel Davis on <em>Another World</em> was such a flop that the Daytime Emmy winner had to come back for a few months while the show <em>re</em>-recast. Thankfully, the powers that be discovered Wyndham — a veteran of <em>Guiding Light</em> as Charlotte Bauer — and once she took on the role in 1972, she made it so definitively her own that she played it until the NBC soap was cancelled in 1999.</p>
<p>You could have argued — and credibly — that after three-time Emmy winner Sarah Brown split from <em>General Hospital</em> and her role of Carly Roberts, no one could possibly hold a candle to her. But then Tamara Braun (who later played Kim Nero on the show) did just that, so brightly did she burn. And, ultimately, Wright, by then a veteran of <em>Loving</em>, <em>The City</em> and <em>Guiding Light</em>, did the unthinkable: put yet <em>another</em> unique stamp on the part. So, as she put it after signing a new contract in 2009, “you guys are <a href="https://www.soapcentral.com/gh/news/2009/1109-wright.php" target="_blank">stuck with me.</a>” And happily so!</p>
<p>If you <em>really</em> want to gauge how successful a recast this record-holding six-time Daytime Emmy winner was as <em>One Life to Live</em>’s embattled Viki Buchanan, all you have to do is ask yourself, “Hmm… who played the part before her?” No idea? Exactly! But the role of the sometime Niki Smith was actually originated by the well-liked Gillian Spencer (later Daisy Cortlandt on <em>All My Children</em>). When she left in 1970, someone no one remembers tried and failed to fit the bill before Slezak stepped in and brought Viki to life for the next four-plus decades.</p>
<p>When the soap vet, who’d already paid her dues on <em>A Flame in the Wind</em>, <em>As the World Turns</em> and <em>Love Is a Many Splendored Thing</em>, was tapped to play <em>General Hospital</em>’s Dr. Monica Webber, “I walked into something that I would never want to do again — replacing Patsy Rahn, who played [the character] before me and was rudely let go,” she told <a href="https://www.soapoperadigest.com/content/tbt-leslie-charleson-3/" target="_blank"><em>Soap Opera Digest</em></a> in 1981. “It was done in a very tactless way.” Nonetheless, Charleson rose to the challenge and has become one of the longest-serving actors in daytime history.</p>
<p>When in 1989 the late Terry Lester not only left behind <em>The Young and the Restless</em> but Jack Abbott, the popular playboy he’d portrayed for almost a decade, the soap worked itself into a real lather trying to find a suitable substitute. Thankfully, Bergman had just been canned by <em>All My Children</em>, where he’d played Dr. Cliff Warner for two decades. “I think <a href="https://www.tvinsider.com/834711/peter-bergman-young-and-the-restless-jack-abbott-30th-anniversary/" target="_blank">my firing was on the cover</a> of every soap magazine,” he told TV Insider in 2019. “Melody [Thomas Scott, Nikki] had one with her and said, ‘<em>That’s</em> Jack Abbott.’ Isn’t that just crazy?” Mm-hmm. Crazy-<em>brilliant</em>!</p>
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