One aspect of the Standard TV Career we don’t discuss much is the soap opera. Frankly, soap opera acting isn’t much discussed in the column at all, mostly on the grounds of how my only really interest in soap operas (outside a deep and abiding love of Soap) is a brief fondness for General Hospital, I think it was, in junior high, when I was too young to be able to watch it outside of vacation. If your whole career is on soap operas, you’re going to slide under my radar, and if you’re really prominent on them, I’m still not going to have a whole heck of a lot to say.
Now, Constance Towers has not spent her whole career in soap operas. Not even close. For one, she’s done five episodes of Perry Mason, playing the murderer twice, and one of The Rockford Files, and if you have done either of those shows, I’ve seen you. She’s done a lot of the other Standard TV Career shows—Matlock, MacGyver, and Murder, She Wrote, and that’s just for starters. She’s done a ton of musical theatre, playing many of the most prominent roles in the genre. She’s worked under great directors such as John Ford, Samuel Fuller, and even Sidney Poitier. She has a career to be proud of.
But soap opera fans are yelling at me that she did a whopping 151 episodes of General Hospital. Oh, long after I stopped watching—she was a regular from 1997 to 2002 and recurring after that—but still. That is a lot of General Hospital. She was a villain, and apparently quite a popular one. The character was originally played by Elizabeth Taylor, of all people, and Towers had quite the shoes to fill. From what I’ve read, she did so ably, and more power to her. Her plotlines sound absolutely bonkers even by soap opera standards; her character’s late husband had a weather machine and a plot to freeze the world.
Now, though I definitely do not like watching soap operas, I do nonetheless have a great deal of respect for the work that goes into them. They are in my opinion the most exhausting form of acting possible. Even more so than live theatre, because you’re having to learn a new script every single day. You don’t know how much you’re going to have to do the next day. You don’t know where your story is going—how can you possibly know where your story is going when your story might involve something like a plot to freeze the world? It’s hard work.
I personally have seen perhaps a dozen hours of her career tops, and that’s a tiny fraction. I know that. As I’ve repeatedly said, it’s simply not possible to keep up this column’s production schedule and become really familiar with anyone’s career the way they properly deserve for more than a surface-level examination. So, yes, Constance Towers is getting the surface-level treatment, and perhaps it’s not fair to her to be in the same weekend as someone whose career I know considerably better. Still, we do understand the importance of these people to our entertainment landscape even when we don’t know them, right?