Susan Haskell - Click to enlarge

Star of the Week

OLTL's Susan Haskell & Hillary B. Smith

Soap Opera Magazine


 By Sheila Steinbach

Throughout OLTL’s shocking rape storyline and its surprising aftermath, Susan Haskell and Hillary B. Smith have dramatically brought to life their characters’ pain and inner turmoil.

Susan’s character Marty Saybrooke, the rape victim, and Hillary’s alter ego Nora Gannon, defense attorney for the rapists, started out on opposite sides of the courtroom.

But after both women experienced the wrath of Todd, they became close friends. After the bizarre turn of events that culminated in Todd’s release from prison, Susan and Hillary gave tremendous performances, showing why each actress won a Daytime Emmy.

Unaware that Todd was granted a pardon by the governor, Marty is shocked when she comes face-to-face with him at the hospital. He tells her he’s out of jail and working at the hospital on a work-release program.

Marty frantically rushes to find Nora. Nora sadly confirms Todd’s free, adding that he has to wear an electronic monitor at all times. That’s small comfort t either woman.

Marty insists Todd shouldn’t be allowed to work in the hospital. But even a visit to Grace Atherton, the hospital administrator, does no good. Marty rushes past Sheila and tells her she can’t work at the hospital anymore.

Meanwhile, Nora is shaken to see Todd at the hospital. Todd tries to tell her he’s sorry for what he’s done, that he’s trying to make a new life. Hillary dramatically displays Nora’s strength and determination when she looks Todd in the eye and says she doesn’t believe him.

Later, Susan brilliantly showed Marty’s anxieties as she raced around her house packing her belongings, doing anything she could to try to keep her mind off Todd.

“Marty basically thinks the rug has been pulled out from under her,” explains Susan. “The bottom of her world has dropped off. She’s lost her house so she has no real security. She enjoyed her work at the hospital and now she can’t have that anymore. Marty feels the last year of her life has been wasted because everything she’s done to keep Todd locked up has been fruitless. She’s shocked, she’s in disbelief. She feels, “What’s the point anymore? Everything I do comes back in my face.’”

Then Nora arrives. Fresh from her own run-in with Todd, she tries to help Marty. Hillary convincingly showed Nora’s understanding, strength, and concern as she calmly tried to explain to Marty that running away wouldn’t solve the problem. Hillary’s performance gave us the feeling that she was the kind of friend any woman would want to have in a time of crisis.

Susan says, “Nora tells her that she too had the feeling of ‘Let’s run away from the problem,’ but she’d decided to face things head-on. She feels Nora’s a smart woman, and she’ll listen to her.”

Marty and Nora talk about their fears, now that Todd’s out of prison, and how it will affect their lives.

“They understand this guy and no one else seems to, so they are are there for each other and they are going to stick by each other and they’ll manage,” Susan explains. “They’re both very strong characters, so it’s kind of nice to have one step I when the other one needs it.”

As the two women hugged and held on to each other, the looks on their faces showed their fear, but it left no doubt that whatever lay ahead, they’d stick together and face it.

“I don’t think anyone can forget the fear. He’s out there walking around, but Nora reminds Marty that she can’t let him run her life. It’s like when you have to walk into a dark room alone, but if you walk in with a friend holding your hand it’s just that much easier,” says Susan.

Susan can’t stop praising her co-star, who was in Los Angeles where she’s been dividing her time between OLTL and her starring role in the new prime-time TV show Something Wilder. “Hillary’s wonderful. She cracks me up, but when the cameras go she’s there. It’s a great combination. I like the two characters together. The most scenes we had together were when we were at odds with each other in the courtroom, but hopefully we’ll do more now.”

OLTL’s executive producer Susan Bedsow Horgan has nothing but the highest praise for her two stars.

“Hillary and Susan, each in their separate ways, masterfully portray the various levels of complexity in their characters’ reaction to Todd.”

We couldn’t agree more. Bravo to both actresses.