Tina Sloan, Guiding Light
After 72 years on radio and television, Guiding Light is going dim.
Veteran cast member Tina Sloan sympathizes with viewers she expects to be devastated by the show's airing of its final episode Friday. But she thinks fans will share her thrill about how the show told its final stories.
Check out photos of the Guiding Light cast
"I think the fans are going to be ecstatic," Sloan tells TVGuide.com. Sloan uses the same word to describe her feelings about the marriage of her character, Lillian Raines, who somehow remained single for nearly all of her 26 years on the show.
"She fell in love with Buzz (Justin Deas) two years ago and started having fun," Sloan says. "It was a different note for her; she's always been the caregiver, the generous nurse, the loving mother and grandmother. When she met Buzz, he just made her laugh, and there was a different note in her personality. And she embraced it, and I think they celebrated that in the wedding.
"These marriages were just lovely," she continues. "We're all having these happily-ever-after, Cinderella endings, which is a real treat for everybody, including the actors. We're all going off happy to be happy, and I would hate to go off not happy."
Head writer Jill Lorie Hurst says the writing staff's major goal was to wrap up the show's immense history in a way that gave closure, but not too much. "We knew right away that we couldn't — and shouldn't — wrap everything up too tightly. We didn't want to tie it with a bow and not leave any room for the audience to wonder. But [the audience] was our top priority. We wanted them to be as satisfied as possible. We had some reunions, some new couples — we tried to have a little something for everyone."
Watch free, full episodes of Guiding Light online
Hurst said it was also "extraordinarily important" to honor the history of the show within the present storylines. Sloan's character, for example, visited the grave of her friend Maureen (Ellen Parker) in one of the final episodes. Maureen died in a car accident after learning her husband had an affair with Lillian.
"We tried to touch on history as often as was appropriate without hitting our audience over the head with it," Hurst says. "We can just mention a place or a time or a character name, and as long as they know that we remember where these people come from, they know we're all aware of how the past affects how we move forward."
Sloan says the final episodes also paid tribute to the previous generations of actors on the show. "[Maureen] was a very important character on the show, and a lot of the old fans loved her. So it was a way to give her back at the end. I think the writers tried to give everyone their old favorites, for a glimpse at least."
One of the toughest parts of ending the show is saying goodbye to some characters for good, including Alan Spaulding (Ron Raines). He died, perhaps as a result of giving his bone marrow to his son, Phillip (Grant Aleksander).
"Alan died, and that's a really sad thing, but he died making a sacrifice, which is a beautiful thing," Sloan says. "He had hurt a lot of people in his heyday, so in a sense, if anyone had to die, it sort of had to be him. There had to be a sacrifice of some kind."
"That was hard," Hurst adds, noting that Alan's death was on their must-do list before the show wrapped up. "We talked a lot about everyone's love stories, and what issue or relationship a lot of these characters had to resolve," Hurst says. "Phillip and Alan, in our minds, was a big story, and ... that was one of the first things we talked about. It was very important to us to find some redemption for Alan and to get that relationship to a good place."
Hurst says the happiness that Lillian finds is a nice balance to Alan's death. "It was very important to me that Lillian get to be a bride," she says. "She never had that fairy tale moment that a lot of women get to have, with all the hope of starting a new life. But it's never too late, so we really felt she deserved it."
Sloan says Guiding Light's cancellation reflects the turbulent daytime television industry.
"We are the emotional consciousness of our country, and I think we also stand for generational family values," Sloan says. "And the fact that those family values are being taken off the air worries me for our country. Our show has so much history, and I think it's something you treasure. I don't think it's something you throw over for a game show." (CBS announced in August that a new version of Let's Make a Deal will fill Guiding Light's timeslot.)
News: Let's Make a Deal Will Replace Guiding Light
Hurst, however, remains optimistic about daytime's future. "I think there'll be changes — maybe we'll go back to half-hour soaps or maybe cable will branch out and take on daytime storytelling," she says. "Then there's the Internet. There are so many places to tell stories, and I believe we will continue to tell them. I believe the audience counts on us, the daytime community, to do that. We're going through a rocky period, but I really believe that we'll survive. It will be different, but there will be storytelling."
It's those stories and the characters in them that Hurst hope fans take with them once the show is gone. "I hope we brought the audience some joy and some comfort more than anything else," Hurst says. "I hope they'll remember Tom Pelphrey's laugh, Buzz and Lillian, the Cooper family poker games. I hope they will carry some sort of comfort with them. I grew up as a viewer, and I understand what that means to tune in during the day and have company. Sometimes you just need the company of people you like and care about during the day."
Sloan says she's just happy to be a part of Guiding Light's place in history. "It is soap opera," she says. "It's the first, the longest, and nobody will ever outlive it.
"We believe in love," Sloan says. "We're going to have bad, naughty things going on, but that's the spice of life. Of course we're going to have all these things — we're a soap opera. But we also, underneath it all, had this core value system that was quite extraordinary. I know it's a soap opera, but we were extraordinary."
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