Published April 15, 2011
They found out on text message and through phone calls from reporters.
Despite what ABC claims were their best efforts to tell the cast and crew of “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” some of the actors and crew of the two canceled soap operas say they felt blindsided by the cancellation of the long running daytime dramas on Thursday.
“If you weren’t there for the morning meeting, you found out through a third party,” one cast member of “All My Children” told FOX411. Several members of the cast were called at 10am for a meeting announcing the cancellation, but were told so late they couldn't get there in time. Network execs claim a program-wide message was sent to the staff of both shows earlier in the week telling them a big announcement was coming on Thursday at 11 am Pacific time.
“Brian Frons, the president of daytime, went physically in person to that set to tell the cast the news and had it set up as a video link to ‘One Life to Live’ in New York and he personally informed the cast and crew,” said ABC spokeswoman Jori Petersen. “We took great effort to tell the cast crew and production staff.”
Still, being fired over video simulcast feels a little like being broken up with over text message, and no one was happy.
“As far as we knew everything was status quo,” another cast member of “One Life to Live” told FOX411 about heading into the meeting.
Catherine Hickland, who portrayed the character Lindsay Rappaport for 11 years on “One Life to Live” wasn’t surprised by how the network showed to the cast and crew. She said it mirrors what happened to her two years ago when she was let go by the show.
“I found out I was off the show by reading it on a magazine cover,” Hickland told FOX411. “You don’t get into this business for the security, I know that, but what I am shocked by was the lack of respect in this situation. I just feel horrible for the viewers and for the lack of respect.”
Soap Opera Digest and Soap Opera Weekly editorial director Lynn Leahey, who makes her living as an industry insider, was just as shocked.
“These cancellations had been rumored for a few weeks, but the real stunner was that it was both of them,” Leahey told FOX411 hours after hearing the news about both shows being cancelled. “That was really hard to believe. Two is such a cut to the whole genre.”
The reality now, with only four soaps left out of a pool that used to include 20, Leahey says, is that there is nowhere else for these actors and actresses to turn for work.
“There is a heightened anxiety,” she said. “If you are a serious actor and want to make a living in television it will be very difficult to live without these two shows.”
When “All My Children” ends in September and “One Life to Live” next January, hundreds of salaried workers and thousands of freelancers will be out of work. ABC plans to replace the shows with reality programming, a genre that has become the bane of serious working actors’ existence.
“If you’re not an over-tanned guido who gets drunk and punches someone in the face where do you fit into television any more,” one soon-to-be fired soap actor told us.
Morning talk show host and actress Kelly Ripa got her start on “All My Children” and met her husband Mark Consuelos on the series. Thursday afternoon Ripa compared the cancellation to losing a member of her family.
"’All My Children' was more than a job.-- it was my family. It was there that I met my husband; it was there when my first two children were born; it was there where I met many of my life-long friends. It was the greatest training ground ever. I feel heart sick," Ripa said in a statement.
Longtime cast member Susan Lucci has been with “All My Children” since 1970. For the past month she has been paraded around by the network touting the line that everything was fine and dandy.
"The rumors are not coming from ABC. I just have been very enthusiastically told how much they love my story line that I just begun working on, and I just was given my schedule into next year," the actress said earlier this month.
And yesterday, following the cancellation, she released the very diplomatic statement.
“It's been a fantastic journey," Lucci said in a statement Thursday. "I loved playing Erica Kane and working with [show creator] Agnes Nixon and all the incredible people involved with All My Children. I'm looking forward to all kinds of new and exciting opportunities."
But agents and managers in Hollywood say those opportunities are few and far between for actor’s below Lucci’s level of fame. These days, with the growth of reality television, evidenced by the show’s replacements of lower-cost reality shows as well as by the exodus of movie stars like Kiefer Sutherland, Christian Slater and Glenn Close into the kinds of roles long-held by television actors, opportunities for soap actors are few and far between.
“If you look at the deal Snooki just got on the ‘Jersey Shore,’ it is more lucrative to sign reality stars,” longtime Hollywood agent Jeff Danis, President of DPN Talent Agency in Beverly Hills, who has long had a stable of soap client, told FOX 411. “It is getting harder and harder in television for actors. The job possibilities for actors who are not big stars like Lucci is getting less and less.”