Nelson Branco: Laura Wright, "General Hospital"
As always, this is a (very beautiful) horse race. The competition changed drastically after several pre-nominees changed their reels for final judging. Most notably, Erika Slezak made a costly error by switching her pre-Emmy nom reel (Viki finding her husband Charlie and her nemesis, Echo, in bed culminating with Slezak slapping Kim Zimmer) to the veteran’s 40th anniversary episode where Viki encountered all of her multiple personality alters.
Yes, the Emmys love multiple roles -- and Erika winning six Emmys in this category single-handedly proves why -- but it was an outlandish and, dare I say it, horrifyingly over-the-top performance with equally disappointing, clichéd writing. One Emmy voter, who is new to the industry, told me: “She has six Emmys?! How’d that happen?” Out of context, I can see why voters would think Slezak’s reel was a "Saturday Night Live" spoof and not one of daytime’s most stellar acting moments. However, this is Slezak, and the industry could see the poetic beauty of honouring daytime’s best actors, Slezak and Geary, in the same year especially since "One Life to Live" was cancelled. If "OLTL" will get any gold on June 23, it will be Slezak.
Before this round of judging, I was certain "The Bold and the Beautiful"’s Heather Tom, who has earned two Younger Actress trophies and one Supporting Actress Emmy for her roles on "Y&R" and "B&B," respectively, would win the most coveted trophy at the Daytime Emmys. If she wins this year, Tom will be the first performer in history to win all three acting categories (I always thought AMC’s Michael Knight would be the first).
Unfortunately, Tom changed gears. What I don’t understand -- since "B&B" is allowed to submit two episodes, because it’s a half-hour sudser -- is why she didn’t include her pre-Emmy reel episode; which earned her a high ranking in this competition early on, in addition to the show where her character, who is a heart transplant patient, survived a heart attack while her marriage was falling apart. Instead, Ms. Tom submitted two back-to-back post-heart attack episodes instead of a fierce, on-point confrontation with her husband Bill over his emotional affair with Steffy before her romantic organ gave out. Her final Emmy reel was super-boring and repetitive; however, her pre-nom reel was assaulting -- both acted extremely well, but the change in tone may cost Tom this potentially historic win. Her reels also had so much expository dialogue that voters will tune out fast. However, she could still take this race because two voters told me they rated her number-one.
The winner? I think it will be Laura Wright, last year’s winner as Outstanding Lead Actress. She won on her first nomination (after decades of failing to earn a nod for her myriad soap roles). I’m the only critic to predict Wright will win, but the Academy loves to honour overlooked performers who finally win consecutively ("ATWT"’s Michael Park being the most recent; I call it the Tom Hanks Effect); and Wright’s reel was by far the most non-soapy reel -- and voters love that kind of acting.
Wright delivered all the right moves without relying on over-the-top histrionics and dehydration tactics. In story, Carly begged her best friend Jason to donate his dead child Jake’s organs to save her own daughter Josslyn. It was harrowingly gripping yet quietly compelling at the same time but never out of control. Wright’s reel last year pales in comparison to this year’s — and the business will see the growth in Wright’s acting and they’re all suckers for artistic progress. A couple of voters placed Wright as number two, but I’m taking a chance that Wright won this bitch once again. And if she does, she’ll be two for two. Not bad for a former hair model (a term I use for actors who can’t act).
Superstar and soap icon Crystal Chappell’s reel as Carly was sobering and intoxicating as her drugged-out character detoxed in a series of quickly edited, uncomfortable scenes without much dialogue ripped from a Dr. Drew episode. Think "Nurse Jackie" but on a shoestring budget. The Emmy winner was ah-mazing as usual but "Days of Our Live#"'ss shabby, cartoonish production (or lack thereof) will cost her.
Meanwhile, Debbi Morgan’s "AMC" reel made her look like a soap opera cliché as a wailing Angie learned her baby had died. Morgan, like many past Emmy winners, cannot pick a winning reel to save her life these days (last year’s was a mess; and she deserved the statue that year). Morgan’s Supporting Actress Emmy Reel for Y&R was much better as her character, Harmony, went to an AA meeting. Morgan could, however, benefit by having two shows voting for her. Regardless, it doesn’t matter because two of last year’s best actresses, Melody Thomas Scott and Florencia Lozano, were not nominated.
Dan J. Kroll: Debbi Morgan, "All My Children"
Crystal Chappell's Emmy reel was the shortest of all this year's submissions -- just 5 minutes and 43 seconds. So there are probably a lot of people wondering how someone can submit such a short clip and consider themselves suited for a Lead category. Somehow, Crystal smooshed 20 minutes of material into that five minutes. The bulk of the submission involved Carly going through withdrawal. The film work -- a black-and-white security camera style thing -- really made me feel like I was watching a real patient. It was actually kind of uncomfortable at times. That's due entirely to Crystal's acting chops. Still, there may be some voters that feel the clip is just too short. But if I am not mistaken, someone won an Oscar a few years back and they were only in about six minutes of the film.
I've always been a huge fan of Debbi Morgan -- and I have to say that it was a bit overwhelming to finally get a chance to her at All My Children's final press junket last year. I picked Debbi to win the Emmy a couple of years back when Angie and Jesse reunited after 20some years. There's such a powerful connection between Debbi and Darnell Williams (Jesse Hubbard) that you can't help but feel what they're conveying on-screen. Nothing is more emotional than the death of a child. For months, AMC fans watched as Angie, blind because she stopped taking medication that could have harmed or killed her unborn child, was unaware that her child had been stillborn. When she finally learned what had happened, Angie went to her child's unmarked grave and grieved. The imagery and screams of anguish are still ingrained in my mind.
Erika Slezak is the Queen of the Daytime Emmys. Oprah may be a little upset that I called someone else that, but all good things come to an end... and for all intents and purposes, perhaps her time has come. Erika submitted the big hour-long tribute that "One Life to Live" crafted to mark her 40th anniversary with the show. It was a brilliant homage to Slezak's television legacy -- a battle of the alters Viki, Niki, and Jean. Erika was in top form, and it was a treat to fans everywhere. Not to mention that Erika was on-screen for just about the entire episode: 30 minutes. It was by far the longest acting reel this year. My concern is that there is a certain level of campiness involved. It was perfect for fans because we "got" what was taking place. For voters, it may have been a little too goofy to earn their vote. Interestingly, this was not what Erika wanted to submit; the material she wanted to submit (Viki walking in on Echo and Charlie) played out over two separate episodes, which meant she could not enter it for consideration.
With an Emmy win this year, Heather Tom would become the first actress to win all three acting categories -- Lead, Supporting, and Younger. She has a really good chance at it, too. Heather portrayed vulnerable and ballsy all at the same time. Her character had recently suffered a heart attack, but rather than pleading for Bill, the man that cheated on her, to come back, she let it be known that Bill would have to be the one who begged her for another chance. The drawback is that a lot of the great material is loaded on the front side of the clip, and some of the latter part was repetitious. Still, Heather made it look easy... which is why she's a three-time Emmy winner already.
I had an usual reaction to Laura Wright's entry. I saw this episode of "General Hospital" "live" when it aired, and I remember being blown away. When I watched it again, the entire episode didn't hold up for me. You'll see more of my reasons why above in the Drama Series category. Most of it was pacing because the key scenes were edited out because Carly wasn't involved in them -- which may or may not impact voting. What I loved was how Laura was able to go from portraying Carly as a worried mom in one scene, to feeling like a bit of a jerk for having to ask a friend to donate a kidney from their just-deceased child.