Acting vs writing vs. Charisma

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by Jimmy Todd, May 13, 2019.

  1. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I've just joined the forum and I'm impressed by the many intelligent comments you all have made about acting and writing. Those comments and James from London's great thread has inspired me to start this one.
    In your opinion which served the actor best in delivering their performance: actual acting talent, personality/charisma, or the writing.
    For example, Claudia Lonow played what many consider an unlikable character and I've read she was not popular with the audience. Was she doing too good an acting job? Could another equally talented actor have been more acceptable to the audience just by dint her her personality, or was the way the character was written ultimately determine how she was received?
    I'm not trying to bash any actor's ability because the vast majority of them were wonderful actors. I'm just curious about the craft of acting.
    Let's start with two: Claudia Lonow
    and Ted Shackleford.
    Regarding the former, I say he had all three. Whenever the writing lagged in later seasons, he was able to rise above that. Ms.Lonow had the acting skills, but maybe lacked the experience to know how to make the character a little easier to take. The writing was good, but she was not written to be likable.
    I'd like to hear your thoughts
     
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  2. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    I guess it depends on how much of that likeable charisma serves the story. Would a lovelier version of Diana have enhanced the story or the chemistry between the characters?
    Maybe I secretly enjoyed the fact that Perfect Mother Karen had to deal with a difficult daughter.
    And let's not forget experience. He had been playing Gary Ewing for more than 10 years, so I would expect him to know how to do it (and he did).
    The Knots actors never had to overcome seriously awful writing, season 12 was a low point and especially Valene, Ann and Mack suffered from this re-vamp, but at least Valene had her OTT camp moments whereas Ann and Mack were downright insufferable. Was it lack of charisma or acting skills that allowed these characters to derail so painfully?
    To be honest I have no idea.
     
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  3. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    That's a good point about how much an unlikable Diana served the story. Also very true that KL never, from what I recall, had absolutely dreadful writing.
    It took a downturn in the second to last season, but it wasn't as bad as some other soaps in their later years.
     
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  4. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Star

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    I dunno
    I'd also say directing plays a big part of this - a lot of actors tend to add their own characteristics to characters after a while and while sometimes it works, other times it falls flat or just simply goes too far especially if there's no one there to tell them to pull it in or outright stop it. It especially becomes an issue with veterans where no one really dares to tell them or they just ignore it because they have seniority on the show. I'd say Michele Lee is definitively guilty of pushing the Karen is Pollyanna fantasy too far at times, even if it didn't reach the levels of Larry Hagman pushing comedy on Dallas (though him being executive producer meant he had more influence over what storylines JR had).
     
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  5. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree with you on ML. I think she's a great actress, but her best work is when she reins it in a bit.
    Directing must be a very stressful job
     
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  6. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    -This must be what a director looks like
    after directing difficult actors.
     
  7. bmasters9

    bmasters9 Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Its parent (O-R CBS Dallas) seemed to go way out in left field in its declining years!
     
  8. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    It sure did, unfortunately!
     
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  9. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    And in the later years of Knots, the producers actually allowed many of the vets to direct episodes. Luckily, they didn't indulge themselves onscreen too much while they were directing; their screen-time actually diminished somewhat when they were spending so much time behind the scenes. This is in opposition to how the actors fare when they're allowed to write an episode, because their character tends to have lots of screentime when that happens.

    I'm reminded of some remarks Joan Van Ark made in an interview years after the show had ended. Someone asked her what she thought Val would be up to at that point, and she gave this involved reply about how she pictured Val running a film studio. Of course my first reaction was :confuse:, but then it occurred to me that JvA was more likely stating something she would like to play, and not a logical progression of what had already happened with Val Ewing. It's not always a good thing to let the actors have too much say in storylines, since they may have "wishes" as an actor that clash with what their character should be doing "in character".
     
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  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    I guess that's somewhat similar to Joan Collins' defence of Alexis being a role model for women in the 80s.
    Ha!
    Don't forget the camera man - he can make or break a scene.
     
  11. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    That's interesting. It's fascinating how many factors go into creating a show, and it makes it more impressive when you think how KL maintained its high quality for so long.

    Now I'm trying to think of some great scenes and how they were shot.
     
  12. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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  13. Julia's Gun

    Julia's Gun Soap Chat Member

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    To return to Diana/Claudia and Gary/Ted, I don't think the actress is to blame for Claudia's annoying traits in Season 5.
    I think the storyline demanded her hatred towards her mother so it would help to turn Karen into a pill addict. This was stretched a bit far for dramatic reasons - if she hadn't played up that irrational hatred and blaming of Karen for going to the police, the story wouldn't have been so convincing, so Diana had little choice but to become a pain in the ar.....sssseee. The show and the storyline's sheer drama at this point in its run demanded more excess. I felt the writers went a bit too far with Diana at Chip's funeral. I remember a scene where she goes off on one to Abby about how she has devoted her life to her dead 'husband' and wants the pain to keep hurting her and never wants it to stop - she turned into some shrieking harpy and it was very hard to be sympathetic to her here - but what else could Claudia do with lines and scenes like that?

    Gary from season 5 onwards was always so reasonable and quietly charming; I think the writing complemented the actor who seemed to just effortlessly bring himself to that role, it was a nice synergy where the 3 attributes you mention - acting / charisma / writing just flowing together most of the time. I loved it that Karen confided in him first when she thought she was dying and he told her straight out what he thought about what she was doing - just playing the martyr rather than putting Mac first. That was a wonderfully direct scene between the two that cemented the honesty and integrity of their relationship - the writers complemented the characters' traits, and this closeness was strengthened because Karen and Gary had fallen out so dramatically in season 3-4 after Sid died and then Gary started his affair with Abby. Their prior history and frailties complemented each other (Gary's drinking and Karen's drug addiction) and this only made their relationship stronger in the long run.

    I think Knots was a show that benefited most from the quality of its writing first and foremost, then combined with the acting and charisma of stars like Devane, Lee & Mills. On other shows it was the charisma of the main stars that helped their longevity and had to made up for the weaknesses in their writing and plotting. Here i'm thinking of Dynasty and FC (particularly Falcon Crest where its classy stars Wyman/Selby/Sullivan - really kept that show going with their convincing screen presence and quirky personalities much longer than the show itself really deserved.)
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
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  14. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Shelby, Wyman, and Sullivan are good examples of actors who had both the talent and personal charm to transcend the writing.
    I think William Devane was a superb actor who was also blessed with the charisma to overcome sub par writing. On KL he very rarely had to deal with poor writing.
    Has anyone ever seen him in a role completely different from Greg Summer? I know he played RFK, but that has similarities to Greg. I don't remember what his character was like in Family Plot, having only seen bits and pieces of that movie.
    I'm curious if his raw talent could have him play a character like Gary or Richard Avery.
     
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  15. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Here's something to consider: Donna Mills' acting ability. She oozes charisma and the writing for her was wonderful. For the record I think she is a talented actress and delivered excellent work. However, I might have a little bias in me because I noticed some hesitancy in saying I think she's a great actress. Is the fact that not only is she very beautiful but her beauty was played up.in her role something that might make some people dismiss her acting abilities? Do beautiful women who play. blonde "vixens"(although Mills made her so much more than that, as did the writers) get taken much, much less seriously?
     
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  16. Knots Blogger

    Knots Blogger Soap Chat Active Member

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    This is such an interesting topic because, mich as I enjoy and love Knots, some characters (Val) are forced into some very absurd situations and then they just have to roll with it. I think JVA suffers during probably the entire L&L portion of the series (seasons 8-12). If she’s not running around like a maniac trying to get guns from 7-11 cashiers, then she’s marrying crazy abusive rapists or falling off horses and getting stupid brain viruses. It’s no wonder JVA eventually left the show. My opinion, as stated by others here, is that Shack is the most consistently solid actor, he’s always strong and stable and he could handle pretty much any story. Yes, Tidal Energy is stupid, but I never thought his acting was bad.
     
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  17. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you for such an interesting topic. Let's see I think in order to make a successful show you need likable characters that the audience wants to follow from one year to the next. In order to create a character you need both a talented actor/actresses who has charisma but the writing also has to be there.

    I think it starts with the writing actually since even the most talented actors can't do much if the writing doesn't back them up. A prime example of this is Dallas TNT. It has some of the same actors/actresses as on the original show and the new show was also well cast. But the writing failed the show so it didn't last and even the fans tuned out and stopped caring what happened to to the characters. The treatment of Cliff Barnes character is the most glaring example. I hate what they did to him. :(

    Anyway if we go back to our Knots discussion, I originally liked Diana when I watched the show. I found the character likable until the Chip plot where Diana turned into an idiot. When I rewatched the show I already knew about the Chip plot from the get-go and unfortuantely it ruined my enjoyment of her character since now I found her annoying from the start. A part of it might also be that I've gotten older. Since the first time I saw the episodes I was 17. Now I am in my 30s. So my perspective has changed some. I don't think this was the actress fault.

    I think Ted is consistently good. I am especially impressed with how he portrayed drunk Gary. :hat:
    Also he works really well together with Joan and also Donna. I think a part of the reason for that is that they are friends behind the scenes. But yes they do have great chemistry and are great together since they can make the most of their material and bring out the best acting in each other.

    Donna's charisma and looks definitely works for her. But she is a talented actress too. I noticed this especially when I watched her live in "Driving Miss Daisy" where she looked older in a wig. Even without her youthful looks she shone. :clap:
     
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  18. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I completely agree with you. JVA is a great actress but that period of writing did not serve the character well at all. TS is also very talented but ill conceived as the Tidal Energy arc was I don't feel.the writing abused his character the way the writing abused Valene's character.
    I think this is where natural charisma comes in handy. William Devane and Donna Mills had it in a way that it may have helped them transcend the writing.
    I can't think.of any scene where they weren't able to nudge past any sub par writing at the very least a bit. I do want to add, by sub par, I mean by KL's standards.
     
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  19. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    Karin. your point about likeable characters is important because even in its penultimate season, the nadir of KL's writing in my opinion, I kept watching because the characters were such that you wanted to give an hour of your time.
    The other soaps I stopped watching. KL I stayed with through thick and thin.
     
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  20. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks. A friend and I discussed what draw us into specific TV shows the other week and we both agreed that likable characters was number one. With number two being, interesting relationships. Both romantic couples but also friendships and parent-child relationships etc.
    So I think those are the two most important aspects of getting me hooked on any show.

    Then as for Knots, I think it was a really well written show over all. So I am sure that helped make it as successful as it was. :)

    But I agree that the writer's came up with some ridiculous stuff for JVA to work with. I mean the brain virus. Yet I think she excelled in that plot. She did the best she could with the material she was given. Also the marriage to Danny should never have happened. It was ridiculous how Val claimed she'd never felt that way before when she had all that history with Gary.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
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