‘Days’ Delivers Shocking Casting Switcheroo

Tamara Braun (ABC)

Tamara Braun (ABC)

Latest Casting Shenanigans: Tamara Braun Replaces Natalia Livingtson on DOOL

A mere few weeks after she debuted as Taylor, “Days of Our Lives” is replacing Daytime Emmy winning “General Hospital” alumna Natalia Livingston with Daytime Emmy winning “General Hospital” alumna Tamara Braun. Here’s where it gets really strange.  Braun, best known as GH’s Carly #2, won her Emmy for playing the character of Crazy Ava Vitali on DOOL just two years ago.

I have mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, I have not been impressed by Livingston in this role. (Nor, for that matter, did I like her as Emily on GH. It still chaps my hide that Livingston won a Daytime Emmy for the tole when the original Emily, Amber Tamblyn, was never even nominated.) She has given me no sense of Taylor’s personality, other than that she is a nice person. The character was only on the canvas for a short time in the 1990s when she was played by another actress, so I had little prior impression of who she was. All I remember about Taylor is that she was the saintly opposite of her sister Nicole, so saintly that she was shown attending bible study. According to this interview with Livingston, Taylor is supposed to be a savvy woman with an MBA, which seems to be the opposite of the impoverished damsel in distress that Livingston — and the writers – have shown us.

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I was mystified by Taylor’s initial end of show cliffhanger scene with E.J. (James Scott) — in which they bumped into each other and stared at each other. I thought that there was supposed to be a flash of recognition, and that perhaps Taylor was only pretending to be a sweet girl who was down on her luck, and had actually spent the past few years attempting to fleece wealthy men.  Instead, the dialogue in the next episode revealed that they were supposed to be experiencing love at first sight – though that seems jarringly out of character for dark, complicated E.J. Lust and intrigue I’d buy, but not the Disney fairytale that the show seems to be concocting. Given that Livingston seems to be the only actress on the show not to have instant chemistry with Scott – including not only the actresses who play E.J’s two major love interests Alison Sweeney and Arianne Zucker but his former fling/stepmother Lauren Koslow, I suspect that when DOOL’s producers saw the way that those scenes played out on air they may have decided to make a change.

Braun knows how to give characters an edge. In fact, both Ava and her “All My Children” character of Reese were villains. She has a proven ability to generate chemistry with both male and female romantic partners. From an acting perspective, this will definitely be an upgrade. On the other hand, Braun played an unrelated character on DOOL two years ago.  Though Braun is a terrific actress who pulled off the daunting task of replacing Sarah Brown and winning over the vast majority of GH fans and managed to make the most of an underwritten psycho role during her last visit to Salem, this is going to be strange. Given how little the show gains from bringing back the insignificant character of Taylor, why not send her out of town again, then have a rehabilitated Ava fall head over heels for E.J.?

However, casting an actor who used to play another role on the show is not unprecedented in daytime, particularly on DOOL. Josh Taylor played Chris on the show during the 1980s before taking over the role of Roman in the late 1990s.  Judi Evans played Adrienne during the 1980s, then became Bonnie in the 2000s, before again assuming the role of Adrienne a couple years ago. I find it jarring, and never bought Evans as Bonnie, but I understand why the show assumes the audience will accept it, particularly if Braun dyes her hair or otherwise alters her appearance from her last stint on DOOL. I’m sure the thinking is that her fan following is more important than whatever credibility problems bringing her back causes. I simultaneously applaud DOOL for quickly recasting an actor who was not gelling in a role and wonder why they didn’t cast one of the thousands of talented actors who have never appeared on the show.

Least Surprising Surprise Ever

Oh my — “General Hospital’s” Suzanne (Adrienne Barbeau) is married to the Balkan (Daniel Benzali)! This would be shocking if the majority of fans had not figured out they were connected weeks ago simply because there was no other reason for Suzanne to stick around. Brenda has plenty of friends in Port Charles that viewers actually care about who can act as her sounding board.  GH even stepped on the shocking reveal moment itself by having Sonny (Maurice Benard) figure out earlier in Tuesday’s episode that Suzanne was the one who destroyed Brenda’s wedding dress and stole Sonny’s wedding ring in an incredibly lame attempt to stop the wedding from happening. Was the next phase of her evil plan telling the caterers to cancel the vegetarian option at the reception?  The only thing lamer was that Sonny, not Brenda, was the one who put the pieces together. Apparently, in the nine years she was away from Port Charles Brenda lost 75% of her I.Q.

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Once it was established that Suzanne was out to get Brenda, it was no surprise whatsoever to see her locking lips with the Balkan. The show undercut itself the same way when Theo first sued GH then popped up as the new lawyer at Diane and Alexis’s firm shortly before being revealed to be the Balkan. It would have been a much bigger moment if he had gone straight from curmudgeon hypochondriac to organized crime boss.

Now that it has been established that Theo and Suzanne are the Boris and Natasha of Port Charles, I hope GH will address some seeming plotholes. If Suzanne wants to make Brenda pay, why not just kill her during one of the numerous times she was alone with her? Is the plan to kill the person Brenda loves the most — Sonny — just as she killed their son? Why did Suzanne pretend to have a crush on Jason when they first met? Why was Suzanne encouraging Brenda to marry Murphy? Is the movie star also on the Balkan’s payroll? Why attempt to frame Carly as the wedding saboteur? How did Suzanne manage to create or get herself hired at a legitimate charity and work with Brenda for years? I’ve heard of the long con, but that’s ridiculous.  Is Theo really a lawyer at a major New York law firm — and if so did he go to law school to further his convoluted revenge plot — or is the Balkan impersonating an actual lawyer named Theo Hoffman that he killed or kidnapped? Most annoying, why is Jason (Steve Burton) the only person who has figured out that Theo has something to do with the Balkan and come up with a way to trap him? The Balkan’s behavior has been so weird that everyone who spent more than a few minutes with him would know something was wrong. If there turns out to be a logical explanation for everything that has happened, I will metaphorically kiss headwriter Bob Guza’s feet and admit that I was wrong about this storyline.  I really want to be wrong, especially after watching an extended promo that, though a little heavy on the spoilers, makes Sonny and Brenda’s wedding look like crackling good entertainment.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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