November 18, 2009By Mala Bhattacharjee Posted: Nov 18, 2009
So, GH has James Franco for sweeps, and Y&R, which has been teasing a recast of Malcolm Winters for months, brings in...Darius McCrary?! (Better known to most people as Eddie, the not-so-bright son on the '90s sitcom FAMILY MATTERS.) I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with the role, but still...huh?
This is hardly the first time the show has pulled from that era's sitcom lineup for its talent. There's THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR's Tatyana M. Ali as the woefully underused Roxanne (give this fabulous woman a real story!), McCrary's fellow FAMILY MATTERS alum Bryton McClure as the equally underused but at least critically acclaimed Devon, and BOY MEETS WORLD's William Russ as new character Tucker. I'd also almost count Yvonne Zima (Daisy) because her sister Madeline was Grace on THE NANNY and they look startlingly similar. And speaking of sisters, Y&R's sister soap B&B does boast the totally awesome Patrick Duffy (of STEP BY STEP fame) as Stephen — but he has soap background as well, having been on DALLAS.
So, color me confused. Why the influx of notable sitcom actors? I know Y&R has gotten all loony in recent months, but does this mean it is going to start filming in front of a live studio audience and adding a laugh track?
I'm not trying to knock the actors; I just think the association is so different. Stacy Haiduk did AMC before this and has a huge backlist of prime-time drama experience. Wilson Bethel (Ryder) came from the lauded mini-series GENERATION KILL. And powerhouse Ted Shackelford (Jeffrey, ex-Will), of course, hails from KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS. Plus, and this is a big one, they all came in with roles that are tied to the canvas but still essentially new! We didn't learn MJ was Patty until long after the character had been on the scene, so we didn't have a preconceived notion of how Haiduk should have played her.
I don't know how McCrary tracks as Malcolm, of all characters! Shemar Moore made an impact in that role, as both a "hunk" and Lily's biological father. And with this casting note, all I can think is that Steve Urkel's going to burst in any second asking Malcolm and Lily if they have any cheese!
That's not to say that I don't think familiar prime-time actors can make the crossover to soaps. Of course they can. McClure did, Ali did, ditto for Duffy. And Joseph C. Phillips went from being Denise's husband on THE COSBY SHOW to playing GH's Justus! It just has to make sense.
For instance, if we're doing wishful '90s sitcom casting...how about Jasmine Guy as Drucilla? (I'm going to ignore the fact that she's playing Bonnie's grandmother on THE VAMPIRE DIARIES. Oh my God, I feel so old.) She's gorgeous, she's a great actress, and she has enough distance from A DIFFERENT WORLD's Whitley Gilbert that no one would expect her to look at Neil and bust out with "Dwaaaaaynnnne" in Whit's trademark nasal whine. And how has Nicholle Tom (THE NANNY) not landed on the same soap that both her brother, David, and sister, Heather, cut their teeth on?
I think bringing in new actors from unexpected places is admirable and applaud Y&R for trying, but they might want to look back at some of the choices they made this year and ask Urkel's favorite question: "Did I do that?"