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Dish on daytime TV casting

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Action-packed storylines, scenes with intrigue and suspense, character-based fiction all fall into the world of soap operas. Never a dull moment for daytime drama, allowing some actors to pursue that path and have a long run with it. If writers and viewers adore your character and performance, it might metamorphose into a recurring role as it did for General Hospital’s Anthony Geary, who portrays Luke Spencer.

The AFTRA Los Angeles Education Department recently invited casting directors from two successful soaps to share their secrets about landing that lead role. For almost 22 years, New York native Mark Teschner has been head casting director for ABC’s General Hospital. He’s a three-time Emmy winner for "Outstanding Achievement in Casting". “It's been a real luxury and blessing. Even on busy and crazy days, I never complain,” said Teschner. “I’m appreciative and grateful.”

CBS’s The Young and the Restless casting director Camille St. Cyr was part of the panel discussing how she’s been discovering new talent for nearly three years for daytime’s number one drama. “I learned from the best,” she joked referring to Teschner, who she previously worked with on the now defunct soap Port Charles.

Casting director Patrick Baca, C.S.A. moderated the panel asking hard-hitting questions to aid actors in their quest to conquer roles on daytime serials and understand the challenges.

Both Teschner and St. Cyr spoke about the “It-factor”, referring to actors and actresses whose performance is something special, almost magical. They agreed that it is an indefinable combination of sex appeal, charisma and an engaging aura. “The character on the page and the actor transcends the expectation and takes a life of its own,” said Teschner. “We move quickly and there’s not so much direction on the set, so the actor gets to create the character,” added St. Cyr.

Skill and talent are critical to bring to the audition room. Being off book, which means knowing every bit of text on the script, is not as important as making concrete choices with regards to the character. Teschner explained, “It’s a job interview so you have to come in with a point of view.”

Regardless of the outcome of auditions, Baca and his panel said they are always cheering for the actors to get the job. “We are definitely on your side,” said St. Cyr, who will only bring in a handful of top choice talent to producers to get final approval. “I want the best actor for each role.” She's always present in casting sessions for every single speaking role. Teschner commented that he concentrates auditioning leading men and women, while his long-time assistant Gwen Hillier casts other roles.

With diversity being a hot topic, both say they continue to search for talented ethnic actors to add to their roster. For those thinking about soaps, know that the daytime lineup is shrinking. ABC's All My Children and One Life to Live are exiting the airwaves this fall and next January. For now, General Hospital and The Young and the Restless are standing strong with opportunities for those destined to be on soaps.

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