Cara making out with David? Griffin being bullied by Zach? If you feel like the Castillos are getting the short end of things as All My Children wraps its ABC run, you're not alone.
Before the network announced that it was pulling the home of La Lucci off the air after almost 42 years, Pine Valley's newest residents, a brother-sister team from Doctors Without Borders, were en route to love and happily ever after (for as long as that means on daytime TV). According to Jordi Vilasuso and Lindsay Hartley, who joined the cast as the Castillos last November, Cara was brought in as Jake's estranged wife and "soul mate" (not Tad's, and certainly not David's!), while Griffin was hatched as a love interest for Erica Kane's grieving daughter Kendall. But it was all so very short-lived!
Because of the axing — which spawned the resurrection of AMC superstars Dixie (Cady McClain) and Zach (Thorsten Kaye) — the Castillos have been reduced to being little more than appendages of resident villain David (Vincent Irizzary). What do Vilasuso and Hartley have to say about it? Plenty. The actors spoke with TVGuide.com Friday, just days before the series wrapped production entirely, about being hit with the cancellation curve ball, the Castillos' storyline switcheroo, and the online future of All My Children.
When you were brought into the show together, what did the producers tell you about the future for your Cara and Griffin?
Hartley: They brought me in for Jake. They said Jake is Cara's true love and her husband and she's coming to get him back. I mean, it was presented to Ricky [Paul Goldin, who plays Jake] and myself that Cara would be his soul mate. As you could feel, they were starting to go there, but Jake and Amanda were such a strong couple that they wanted to move it at a very slow pace. That's kind of why it went so slowly. They wanted to be tender with them.
Vilasuso: I was told that Griffin was going to have a sister and that together they were going to be this new medical family on the show, also helping to represent the Hispanic demographic. There wasn't necessarily a soul mate, because Griffin had no previous interaction with Kendall, but through all these events that took place, Griffin saving her life a couple of times and so forth, he was definitely her love interest. It took a long time for them to come together because Zach and Kendall were a huge couple, and there was a lot of Griffin denying his feelings -- I don't know how many times they beat that drum, but I feel like it was beaten a little too heavily. Still, it gave time for some fans to come around and accept the fact that Kendall would have to move on. Ultimately, when it did happen and they did get together, it was very short-lived.
So when the producers understood the show was ending, and plans were made to bring back Dixie for Tad and Zach for Kendall, did they have conversations about what that meant for your characters?
Hartley: Yeah, as you know Cara had gotten involved with [Jake's brother] Tad. They were going to try and incorporate me having feelings for Tad in a different way than I did for Jake. That was going to be another love triangle, or rather, an obstacle to keep Jake and Cara from being together too soon. The episode where Jake and Cara kissed, they were actually supposed to sleep together, but when the show got canceled the writers turned it into a kiss so it would be easier to make future adjustments. They switched me to Tad altogether when Dixie was coming back. They said to me that Tad and Dixie are the supercouple. I wasn't aware of David though! I thought that Tad going back to Dixie was the end of my story, and that Cara would just go back to Doctors Without Borders. I don't think the producers knew at the time either that I was going to have this relationship with David. I figure they would have told me.
Vilasuso: At first, I was weird about it. I had a kind of blasé attitude about it. That was probably a defensive thing. I guess when it really hit me I did get upset about the whole thing because there was nothing I could say or do about it. We had discussions with [executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers] about what we were going to do to wrap Griffin up, and I think they've done what they can do. They have so many people coming back, and they want to fulfill so much of what they believe the fan base really wants ... But I think it's become a little diluted in terms of what the real arc of Cara and Griffin should be.
Did you talk to Alicia Minshew, who plays Kendall, about any of this?
Vilasuso: Oh yeah. Listen, I guess Kendall had something like a seven-year relationship with Zach — she had like a two-day relationship with Griff. It was more a friendship, this thing that never really blossomed into anything. Alicia actually requested certain things that I haven't even asked for that she feels would be right for her character. You can't just dismiss ten months of what's happened between Kendall and Griff. There's been commitments and investments and emotions. (Sighs) I think Zach's just the man! I think everything just changes when Zach's in the room! What are you gonna do? He's got the magic, man! [Laughs]
And Griffin's had a couple of nice moments with Kendall since Zach's resurrection. A few what-might-have-been glances ...
Vilasuso: The most we could really do was maybe share a look. Sometimes the writing is there, but I wish they would have put maybe a tenth of the time in wrapping up this relationship as they did into building it up ... instead of my helping David or not helping David or me dealing with David or seeing David deal with Cara. It's like I'm the Pine Valley tattletale. I don't wanna be that guy! I want to fight for someone, I want to fight for how I feel. Or maybe they could have dealt with Griffin talking about how he feels, or written a scene between him and Kendall just wrapping it up, saying this really sucks and that's that. Even the heartache I feel hasn't really been dealt with on the show.
You've both read the scripts for the final episodes. Without giving anything away, how do you think longtime fans will react? Will they be satisfied?
Hartley: We hope so. That's what they've been trying to accomplish. Hopefully that will be what happens.
Vilasuso: I hope so too, but it's out of our control at the end of the day. I think it's hard to wrap up 42 years in 40 minutes. Susan [Lucci] threw a lunch yesterday and she talked about how she did a interview for some Internet radio show and after she agreed to do it, the guy had 500,000 people write in, excited she was going to be on. I think the fans are part of the reason we're staying alive. I think a great number of them are going to come along.
Will Susan Lucci stay with All My Children when it moves online?
Before All My Children, both of you have been on soap operas that are no longer with us — Lindsay on Passions and Jordi on Guiding Light. How did you feel when you heard AMC was also going to be pulled off the air?
Vilasuso: It was a mixed bag. I was sad, angry, I felt like it was too soon. I signed a four-year contract in November and when you join a cast that's been together for so many years there's a transition, but I had already started feeling very familiar and friendly and part of this TV family. And then boom!
Hartley: Some of the cast members and the crew had moved across the U.S. to continue the show [after it moved from New York to Los Angeles in January 2010] because they thought it was going to go on. I felt really bad for the people who have been a part of this show for so long. As for myself, I really liked being here. I love the cast. It's just an amazing group of people and it's just really a shame that we can't continue.
But was it surprising given all the rumors leading up to the outcome?
Hartley: There were a ton of rumors swirling around for a while, and in my opinion, most rumors are accurate ... But you don't want to believe anything is ever going to end.
Vilasuso: No one wanted to believe or admit that there might be some truth to the rumors. I remember Ricky really was almost offended, got on the offense with some people about all the rumors. People took it very seriously when the rumors started. I had heard them when I started on the show, but at the time it was OK, because when I got going I got really excited, fell in love with the cast and crew and everyone ... It had left my mind.
Cara and Griffin were actually introduced in a series of webisodes. What are your thoughts about All My Children continuing online? Do you think that it can succeed?
Hartley: I think it's great. Prospect Park was looking for two projects, which means they're pretty serious about doing this. And the excitement from the fans? I think the possibility of it working is incredible. Let's just continue to hope and pray that it does go on and we can have a whole new life. We all say this is where it's all going anyway, right, online?
Vilasuso: The webisodes were an experimental thing, and I think the show online will stay true to how it is now on ABC. I really don't know, but that's what I'm guessing. They're going to try and keep the studio space from what I understand. If they want to go that route and really create the same experience, I think they could, but it will have to be produced with the same skill. The show's lasted for as long as it has because there are so many writers and talented people working on it. Those things take a lot of time to really develop. If the same team works online, with 40 years of experience behind them, the quality will be there. The storytelling will be there.
It sounds like both of you guys are seriously considering continuing with the show.
Hartley: Sure! We're open to anything.
Vilasuso: I think Lindsay and I realize we'll be among the first people who will be bringing real television to the Internet. It's gotta be done right with the unions and we have to protect the actors as well. But my answer is absolutely. I have people asking me if I'm going to go on with the show all the time — I'm open to that! We just have to see what the offers are.
ABC's last episode of All My Children airs Friday, Sept. 23. What do you think about what's happening to the Castillos? How do you think it should end for them in the finale?