Remembering Roscoe Born a Year After His Passing: The Charisma, the Roles, the Future That Was Cut Far Too Short
Paul Skipper/JPI (3), ABC/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
When bipolar disorder prompted the actor to take his own life on March 3, 2020, a blindingly bright light was switched off.
I only met Roscoe Born once, at a photo shoot in (if I’m not mistaken) the late 1990s, early 2000s. But I had been a fan since he made his daytime debut in the ’80s as Ryan’s Hope mobster Joe Novak (a character to whom General Hospital godfather Sonny Corinthos owes an un-repayable debt of gratitude).
By the time our paths crossed in person, Born had already made the leap to primetime — in 1984’s Paper Dolls opposite his future The City leading lady Morgan Fairchild — and come back to daytime, reprising his role of One Life to Live’s Machiavellian Mitch Laurence. That the former cult leader is probably the character for which Born is best known isn’t surprising in the least. Not because Mitch kept cheating death, returning over and over again to wreak havoc, but because it played to one of Born’s greatest strengths: his charisma.
The man could sell salt to a slug. In his presence, you wanted to nod and agree. You didn’t want to think or second-guess, you wanted to be on his side. Period. You wanted his approval.
The dude had a presence and a power to him. And it served him supremely well over the course of his career, in roles as varied as The Young and the Restless’ aptly-named “Terrible Tom” Fisher and Santa Barbara’s semi-good and semi-evil twins Robert Barr and Quinn Armitage. Watching him in action, you were left breathless, wanting so to believe every line he uttered, even as you had to question the wisdom of doing so.
When I hung out with Born, he was delightful. Game for anything. Full of creative ideas to make the shoot, promoting his return to One Life to Live, not just successful but inspiring. He was cool — and, at the same time, intimidating as [bleep].
I mentioned that he had a power to him, right? He wasn’t a tall guy, but he sure cast a long shadow. When he asked you a question and looked you right in the eye, you answered quickly, then had to go back and wonder if the noises you’d made had even been words, much less coherent ones.
By then, Born — as you’d expect — had already gone down in soap history as one of the genre’s greats. He was not someone to be dismissed, to be taken lightly, to be forgotten. So it makes sense, in a bittersweet way, that a year after his passing, we are still in a kind of mourning, shocked that he won’t turn up on General Hospital next month as the don who finally usurps Sonny’s power (or at least Cyrus Renault’s).
That Born won’t be doing that, not to put too fine a point on it, sucks. But rather than focus on what could have been and will never be, perhaps we can celebrate what actually was, via the below photo gallery of some of his most memorable roles.