Susan Haskell

Handle With Care

What happens when fans reach out to stars
Soap Opera Digest



Actors in daytime often find themselves in the middleman position. Unlike film actors, they aren't seen in a variety of roles; it's not as readily acknowledged that they're actors playing parts. Because a daytime actor plays a character who is seen daily, viewers are given a window into a life and sometimes, it's a life they'll seek to emulate. Actors try to live up to those expectations.

To counteract the helplessness they feel, actors take the offensive. When alerted that a tricky storyline is approaching, they do they do their research. Susan Haskell, whose OLTL character, Marty, was gang raped by a trio of frat boys, made sure that she did a lot of reading and talking to rape victims and crisis centers before tackling the scenes. "I had a major concern that the storyline was handled correctly so it would encourage women to [deal with] things the right way and feel better about themselves," says Haskell. "There is certainly a pressure to do that."

But Haskell did even more. At her direction, callers to the show's office who were moved by the rape storyline were given phone numbers of rape crisis centers; Haskell supplied similar information. "I can't pretend to counsel anyone, because I am not a counselor," says Haskell. "My responsibility is to direct [viewers] to the right people."

The need to reach out does become overwhelming. Fans who write to actors make them feel like they can make a difference, which often compels performers to try.

Many actors who reach out to their fans do find that they've indeed offered hope. Incest and rape survivors decide to confront their attackers. Addicts get help. Some viewers just find that having a problem in common with their daily "family" gives them strength. And that's what it's all about.