One Life to Live celebrates its 45th anniversary Monday, and is also celebrating a new beginning. New episodes will premiere as scheduled on Hulu and iTunes, and the show will also begin its limited 10-week run on OWN.
"I'm just glad that we can actually have an anniversary, that we're not having a funeral," star Kassie DePaiva, who plays Blair Cramer on the long-running soap, tells TVGuide.com. "Hopefully 45 years from now, somebody else will still be talking about One Life to Live."
The road to 45 years has certainly had its share of bumps — both on screen and off. After being canceled (along with All My Children) by ABC in 2012, One Life to Live reformatted to an online version, which premiered in April. Though the online endeavor has also been less than smooth sailing, the stars are confident that One Life to Live fans will be able to keep up with the goings-on in Llanview for several years to come.
"I feel very fortunate that I've been able to be a part of all of it for the last 20 years, and really proud to be a part of this reboot," DePaiva says. "It's very rewarding to know that you have a fan base, people that love these shows, and what you do every day matters enough to them that they would fight for it. It's just really nice."
Along with DePaiva, TVGuide.com chats with cast members Melissa Archer, Jerry verDorn, Erika Slezak and Tuc Watkins about their most beloved and most despised story lines over the course of the show's history. Here is a chronological breakdown of those moments:
Viki Goes to Heaven (1987, 2008, 2012): Victoria Lord (Slezak) has been to heaven and back no less than three times on One Life to Live. During her first out-of-body experience, she ascends during brain surgery and meets up with deceased friends and loved ones, including her ex-husband Joe Riley. "I love the heaven story line," says Slezak. "It was so different and so unusual." In 2008, show creator Agnes Nixon appears during Viki's celestial visit as "The Creator." And Viki's late daughter, Megan (Jessica Tuck), escorts Viki to the pearly gates one final time in 2012 before the show stopped airing on ABC.
The Old West (1988): Clint Buchanan (at the time played by Clint Ritchie) travels back 100 years in time to the Old West, where he encounters his modern-day wife Viki's great-grandmother, Ginny Fletcher. (Slezak played both women.) "I loved the Old West [story line], because as a child one of the things I wanted to do more than anything in the world was ride in a stagecoach," Slezak tells TVGuide.com. "I got to ride in a stagecoach, and I discovered it is probably the most uncomfortable way to travel on earth, because there are no shocks and no padding. You just bounce, bounce, bounce. It's pretty uncomfortable. But I got to do it, and that was brilliant." Clint also overcomes blindness in the process!
The Lost Underground City of Eterna (1989): In one of the show's more polarizing story lines, One Life to Live explores sci-fi territory when Viki, Tina (Andrea Evans), Cord (John Loprieno) and others find themselves trapped in a lost underground city — where Viki's high school sweetheart, Roger Gordon (Larry Pine), had been raised and eventually escaped. "I enjoyed Eterna," Slezak admits. "I know a lot of people went, oh my God." While there, Viki discovers she has a daughter whom she had forgotten about giving birth to (due to hypnosis), and also that her father was responsible for the construction of Eterna. But despite all her character's hardships, Slezak recalls working with the guest stars for those scenes as "the funniest time I've had ever in my life."
Max's Gambling Problem (1994): As Max (James DePaiva) sinks deeper into the throes of gambling addiction, Blair (DePaiva) exploits his problem to break up his relationship with Luna, most notably by spending a debaucherous weekend with him in Atlantic City. Max eventually kicks the habit, and kicks Blair to the curb as well. Though Max and Blair were never able to make their fictional relationship work, the actors found a happy ending in real life, marrying in 1996.
David Claims to be Victor Lord's Son (1994): When Todd's (Roger Howarth) adoptive father, Peter Manning (Nicholas Wyman), dies, it's revealed that Todd is actually a descendant of Victor Lord. With the help of Todd's sister Tina, David (Watkins) and Dorian (Robin Strasser) try to prove that it's actually David who's the long-lost son. "One of the things I like best is when Dorian and David are working together against the other inhabitants of Llanview, as opposed to working against one another," Watkins says. "One [scheme] in particular that she and I did together that sort of forged our relationship was, we had to get information from the young Todd Manning in the '90s to try to convince Llanview that David Vickers was actually Todd Manning. So we were on a bit of a scavenger hunt. It was a bit of a mystery thriller, and she and I were in it together. That was a lot of fun."
Viki Nearly Kills Kevin (1996): "There was a story line years ago where I was being hypnotized by some evil guys to kill my son," Slezak recalls of one of her least-favorite story lines. In 1996, Carlo Hesser (Thom Christopher) is out for revenge against Viki, so Carlo hires a hypnotist to brainwash Viki into killing her own son Kevin (Kevin Stapleton). Fortunately, at the last second, Kevin is able to convince his mother not to pull the trigger. Slezak wasn't a fan. "They had me going all the way to the end with it, just pointing the gun at him and almost pulling the trigger," she recalls. "And I said, 'This is just dumb, dumb, dumb.' But we did it, and I was just very glad when it was over." (She also won a Daytime Emmy Award that year for the role.)
Kelly Kills Blair's Baby (1997): "I love the drama," DePaiva says of her 20-year (and counting) run as Blair on One Life to Live. "I've had so many great stories. Blair's just been front-burner for so many things." In one of the juicier plot lines in the late '90s, Blair and her cousin Kelly (Gina Tognoni) clash after Blair discovers that Kelly was the one behind the wheel of a car that crashed into her, killing her unborn baby — who was also a match to donate much-needed bone marrow to Blair's other daughter, Starr.
"Bad Natalie" (early 2000s): Archer joins the cast of OLTL in 2001 as Natalie Balsom (later Buchanan), a "bad girl" character who claimed to be Viki and Clint's daughter — and whom viewers loved to hate because of the means she used to con her way into the Buchanan family. But, like any good redemption story, Natalie soon grows to love her newfound relatives. "One of my favorite story lines was in the very beginning, how Natalie discovered who she was and how she behaved," Archer tells TVGuide.com. "And then she did a 180, after hating her family because of the feelings of abandonment, and then turning around and deciding that it was the best thing that had happened to her." In the online version, Natalie still maintains a somewhat rebellious streak, but has matured into a (mostly) responsible single mother raising her son, Liam.
Natalie vs. Mitch (2000s): Arguably the show's biggest villain, rapist/murderer/cult leader Mitch Laurence (Roscoe Born) becomes entwined with Natalie when he comes back from the dead under an alias and convinces her to marry him. They divorce when Natalie discovers his true identity and learns that he had raped her mother Viki years earlier. In later years, Mitch kills Natalie's husband Jared (John Brotherton), kidnaps Natalie and nearly rapes her, and is finally killed by Natalie's on-again, off-again love John McBain (Michael Easton). Or is he? "All the Mitch story lines were always so fun," Archer tells TVGuide.com. "There's just so many."
John and Natalie (2000s): In 2003, FBI agent John McBain arrives in Llanview and falls in love with Natalie Buchanan while investigating her presumed-dead husband Cristian (David Fumero). The subsequent years provide plenty of will-they-or-won't-they drama. Highlights include John allegedly being killed in a car crash and later brought back to life in a case of mistaken identity, Natalie giving birth to their son Liam, and John proposing to Natalie. "One of the most interesting [story lines] from my perspective was the John and Natalie saga," Archer tells TVGuide.com. "Only because it was so many years in the works and the off and on — more off than on. Yet we had so much fan adoration, even when nothing was happening. It was an interesting experience because I had never experienced anything like that before." At present, John has yet to make an appearance in the online reboot, and Natalie is enraged to learn that her father, Clint, filed a restraining order against him in her name.
Blair Accuses Todd of Rape (2004): After Blair divorces Todd and sleeps with Kevin Buchanan (Dan Gauthier), Todd flies into a jealous rage and becomes violent with his ex-wife, who later charges him with raping her and files for custody of their daughter, Starr. Though Todd is initially convicted, he's later granted a retrial, and Blair, suffering from a brain tumor, recants her story. The two later reconcile and get back together. "The [story line] that I probably liked the least was when Blair had a brain tumor and she accused Todd of rape," DePaiva says. "To me, he was physically violent with her and because of her brain tumor, she [thinks she] remembered it wrong. Which I found to be a little BS, because it was one of those he said/she said stories. I just didn't feel that it was very responsible, and I didn't like it."
David's Brother Spencer Visits Llanview (2005): David Vickers' older brother, Dr. Spencer Truman (Paul Satterfield), arrives in town seeking vengeance against the Buchanan family and eventually setting his sights on Todd and Blair, before he's killed off in 2007."I really enjoyed the story line where David's brother came to town," Watkins says. "It humanized David, because Spencer was a bully of an older brother, who was really a malevolent guy. And David learned a little bit about who he was."
Viki Goes to Paris, Texas (2007): With her on-again, off-again relationship with Clint falling apart, Viki hops in a car after her father-in-law Asa Buchanan's (Philip Carey) funeral in 2007 and drives to Paris, Texas. (A miscommunication in her farewell note leaves her family members thinking she's in Paris, France, however.) There, she takes a job as a waitress in a diner and begins dating Charlie Banks (Brian Kerwin). Though Viki eventually returns to Llanview, Slezak has fond memories of the change of scenery. "The Paris, Texas story was one of my all-time favorites," she tells TVGuide.com. "I just adored that. I adored everything about that. The actors, everybody that they brought in. I was so happy there."
Clint Goes Off the Rails (late 2000s — early 2010s): After his father Asa's death in 2007, Clint goes on a steady downward spiral and adopts Asa's lying, cheating ways while seeking to exact revenge on all of his perceived enemies in Llanview. In the process, he orchestrates kidnappings, has David Vickers thrown in a foreign jail and alters paternity test results, to name a few. And verDorn loved every minute of it. "The story line I loved best involved a lot of people," verDorn says. "Clint sort of became his father, Asa Buchanan, and Asa wasn't always such a good boy. I think that happens to a lot of men in real life. They sometimes visit the sins of their fathers. They certainly start to look and sound like their father. So it was a story line that made a lot of sense to me. Clint went a bit bonkers and it was fun to do that."
Are Jared and Natalie Related? (2008): Natalie begins dating Jared Banks shortly after his arrival in Llanview, but the sparks between them are quickly doused when Natalie discovers they may be related. In actuality, Jared had conned Nigel (Peter Bartlett), the butler to Natalie's grandfather Asa Buchanan, into forging a letter saying that Jared was one of Asa's heirs (and the brother of Natalie's father, Clint). Though the truth emerges several years later and Natalie and Jared rekindle their romance, the story line still left an unpleasant taste in Archer's mouth. "The hardest [story line] to swallow was the Jared story line where Natalie thought he was her uncle," she admits. "That was probably the hardest."
David Finds Out He's Bo's Son (2009): After originally thinking Bo Buchanan (Robert S. Woods) was his brother, David Vickers discovers that Bo is actually his father, having had a one-night stand with his mother years prior. The two eventually form a close bond. Watkins says he appreciated the opportunity the story line afforded him to work with Woods. "We have a lot of laughs," he says. "It was nice for two actors who had been on the same show for a long time who had one kind of relationship, which was acrimonious — because he was basically a good guy and I was a bad guy, and I was always trying to get away with stuff, and he was always trying to prevent me from getting away with stuff. And then all of a sudden, we found out we're father and son, so it completely changes the dynamic between us. It's really been fun to play that second part."
Viki and The Banner (ongoing): Not all of Viki's plot lines have had to do with her personal life. She's also had plenty of trials and tribulations as the editor of Llanview's main newspaper, The Banner, which was founded by her father, Victor Lord. In the online reboot, The Banner (like real-life newspapers) is trying to find a healthy balance between its print edition and online news coverage. Slezak and her on-screen husband, verDorn, say they're thrilled the online version has revived the Banner story line. "Viki's tie to The Banner has so much to do with her past, with her father," Slezak says. "Yes, he was a horrible man and she hated him and he was cruel and awful and wicked and did awful things to her. But at the same time, she loved him. She adored him. The whole years she was growing up, where she blocked it all out what he did to her, she worshiped that man. [But] no matter what he did, his lifeblood's in this paper. ... And I really get it. This struggle to save the print edition, it's deathly important to her."
Viki and Clint (ongoing): Clint and Viki meet when Viki's at-the-time husband Joe Riley appoints Clint as his successor to work at The Banner newspaper, and fall in love after Joe's death. Throughout the show's run, they've been married and divorced twice and are engaged again at the start of the online reboot. But fans shouldn't assume that the power couple's ups and downs are over. "I adore working with Erika," verDorn tells TVGuide.com. "When the audience thinks you're going to take a right turn, it's always fun to go straight or take a left." Says Slezak of her on-screen husband: "Clint came in as a really decent human being who was the antithesis of his father Asa, who was a manipulator and a liar and a cheat and a charmer. Clint was such an honest, hardworking good man. And Viki just fell madly in love with that. ... Over the years, he has become [like] Asa, but I think she's desperately looking for that man that she fell in love with, who was so honest and sincere and decent, and kind of a simple guy."
Todd and Blair (ongoing): Though Blair initially becomes involved with Todd because she has her sights set on his inheritance, they eventually end up falling in love. "I love all of Todd and Blair's on-and-off heated drama and romance and comedy," DePaiva says. "Todd and Blair are unbelievably connected, and they have kind of a cult following. They are two soulmates. ... I think that there is something so powerful that they can not walk away from it, otherwise they would. It's just one of those things that no matter what, they can be in a room full of people, and they will always sense each other." But, DePaiva adds, "There's something so sad about these two people. You love them so much but you know that they're kind of doomed because of who they are. ... He had such dark demons, and she had such a sad past that they completely understood each other. [Blair] never wanted to change Todd. She never wanted him to be anything other than who he was, and that was enough for her. And she always understood him, and he always understood her."
David and Dorian (ongoing): Another star-crossed romance on the show is that of Dorian Lord (Robin Strasser) and David Vickers, whose marriage tally is currently at three. "Dorian Lord is the love of David Vickers life," Watkins says. "David really admires Dorian for being the kind of woman that she is, and as successful and domineering and powerful as she's been for so many years. ... David, while he attempts to create scams and plots and ideas to get rich, they don't often work out too well. But he is a big supporter of Dorian. In a way, he's kind of the First Husband of the house and she is the president." Watkins' fantasy plot line for David and Dorian down the road? "We hatch a plan that will bring Llanview to its knees, and we become somehow the monarchy of the town. That would be great. Llanview would no longer be a democracy. It would be a dictatorship, and I think it would be a lot of fun and funny to watch."
Viki vs. Dorian (ongoing): From the show's early episodes, the central story line pitted Viki against her stepmother, Dorian — and their frequent clashes have carried on right up to the present. Over 40 years of affairs, blackmail and betrayals, the two might be considered the original frenemies. Their latest dustup? Dorian, now a senator, is involved in a CIA cover-up scandal, which was brought to light by none other than The Banner, Viki's newspaper. "Everything Dorian does, as evil and horrible as it is, she does because she believes it is the right thing to do," Slezak tells TVGuide.com. Adds Watkins: "I think in a nutshell One Life to Live is good versus evil. And it all stems from Viki versus Dorian. And I believe that there is no One Life to Live without Viki versus Dorian."
What are some of your favorite moments from One Life to Live's 45-year history? Sound off in the comments!