On the set of Santa Barbara

 By Stella Bednarz, Soap Opera Digest, 1989

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Zany, bizarre, off-the-wall. Santa Barbara has earned those adjectives over the past five years with its unusual plot twists and turns. But when you enter the production office, everything looks... normal. Though cast and crew probably have their moments of unbridled insanity, the Santa Barbara setup resembles that of any daytime show : there’s a lot of work to be done - now. Santa Barbara is taped at a Burbank studio that is part of a large NBC complex. On an upper level, there are the production offices and dressing rooms. Around the corner and down the stairs is the soundstage as well as the prop and hair/makeup departments. There’s a lot of traffic in the hallways because everyone is on their own schedule.

The first thing you notice on the set of Santa Barbara is how chilly it is. Not the attitude of the people, but the temperature - it's cold. So, for reasons of comfort and warmth, many cast members wear layered outfits. "This is a place for insane people. They gather here," comments A Martinez (Cruz) with a grin as he surveys the hectic surroundings. He and Marcy Walker (Eden) are rehearsing in a hospital room set. Although her character has just given birth, Marcy is very pregnant in real life. (She has since given birth to a son, Taylor.) Fortunately for Marcy, all of her scenes take place in bed, so it's not too much of a strain. Unlike designer-clad Eden, Marcy favors black stretch pants, a blue sweat-shirt and a jean jacket; her mane of blonde hair is pulled back in a simple bun. A strolls about in red sweatpants, a white sweatshirt, sneakers, a cap - and a gold earring. As they quickly run through the scene, there is good-natured kidding and a give-and-take that comes through on camera. Afterward, Marcy lingers in bed and takes notes on a yellow pad.

A moves to the nursery, where Cruz visits his newborn daughter. Since real babies are only used during taping, a doll substitutes for Adriana. These toys often become the object of pranks during rehearsal; Godzilla has been known to turn up in various Santa Barbara cribs. Still, A performs the scene with the doll and tries not to laugh.

Over at the beach (which is actually next to Eden's hospital room), it's time for Lane Davies (Mason) and Nancy Grahn (Julia) to rehearse with another doll - a stand-in for their daughter, Samantha, who is supposed to be rocking back and forth in her swing set. Lane arrives munching an apple and toting his script. In black sweatpants and red-and-white high-top Reeboks, his attire is quite unlike Mason. After she grabs the doll by the hair, Nancy yanks it out of the swing set, which promptly fails down. She hands the doll to Lane, who tucks it under his arm. When the doll falls to the sand - face first - Lane lets lie there and then recites his lines, sort of his ode to a doll. The crew enjoys byplay and breaks into laughter.

Nancy moves to her character's beach-house for something rarely seen on soaps – house-cleaning. Her character, Julia, is aided and abetted by her well-meaning sister, Augusta, played by Louise Sorel. Since this is supposed to be a funny scene, the timing is carefully worked out, and the appropriate beats in between quips are determined. As the dusting commences and the actresses bond over, a cameraman yells out, "Cleavage !" Louise protests, "It's Nancy's." When it's time for Julia to wash one of her windows, a special plexiglass pane mounted on a wooden frame is carted in. During rehearsal and taping, a prop person holds it steady. The cameraman shoots directly through the glass at her, so when Julia sprays the window, the viewers feel like they're being sprayed, too.

The attention shifts to Dr. Zack's (Leigh McCloskey) apartment. He is the town's rapist/murderer/psycho. At this point, Detective Boswell (Russell Curry) is finally becoming suspicions of the not-so-good doctor. The blocking isn't working right. "It's never like it is in the rehearsal hall," sighs director Robert Schiller. He personally repositions his actors and adjusts the blocking so it comes off smoothly. When Zack tries to open the drawer of his desk, the knob falls off. Leigh notes, "Usually, they wait for tape for that to happen."

At the clinic, Signy Coleman (Celeste), Jane Rogers (Heather) and Frank Runyeon (Father Michael) assemble for their scene, but one person is missing. Where is Vincent Irizarry (Scott) ? "He's probably asleep in his room," someone calls out. In the meantime, a voice from the control booth (which kind of sounds like it's coming from heaven) intones, "You're all probably wondering why I called you here today." Suddenly, Vincent appears. "Are you awake enough to do this ?" someone jokes. He is.

It's time for lunch. On my way out, I pass the church set. At the altar, a book has been left open.  Unable to resist, I sneak a peek and discover that it's the real McCoy - an official Mass book. Since navigating downtown Burbank in the rain doesn't seem appealing, I leave the studio and walk over to the famed NBC commissary - the butt of countless Johnny Carson jibes. I reason that it can't be as bad as they say. It isn't.

The first half of the afternoon is reserved for dress rehearsal. By now, the actors are dressed, made up and coiffed. They're still working with dolls at this point, so the hi-jinks continue. A mugs with his "daughter" and stashes his script under her blanket in the bassinet.

At the beach, Lane announces, "The baby's not in this scene," and flings his doll onto the rocks, where she languishes. Nancy gels into the act, too. When Lane sits down to have a conversation with the doll, Nancy sneaks up behind the pair brandishing a rather large tree branch and threatens to bop them. Santa Barbara has been known to do the bizarre, but this is not in the script. Though everyone is serious about their work, a light-hearted atmosphere prevails. In between scenes, an extra confides that he really enjoys working at Santa Barbara, adding that it isn't this nice on some other sets.

At 3:15 there's a half-hour break. The actors receive final suggestions, or "notes" from the director. Trays of fresh fruits and vegetables are brought onto the set for cast and crew to nibble. Later, there's cake for the un-calorie conscious.

A and Marcy are up first when taping begins. There's a flurry of excitement because twin newborns, Katherine and Jaclyn Kostakes, are on hand to portray Cruz and Eden's daughter, Adriana. Since Marcy will soon give birth to her first child, she is genuinely moved when a baby is placed in her arms. Tender and protective, Marcy oohs, aahs and coos with joy at her little charge. In between takes, the child is whisked away from the lights or sheltered from them. A father in real life, A is an old pro when it comes to handling babies and expertly waltzes one around the hospital room in an impromptu dance.

Todd McKee (Ted) has fun manning a video camera. Uncle Ted will barge into Eden's room to capture some light moments. A few scenes later, he shoots footage from the window of the nursery and unwittingly captures a foot on tape - a clue toward identifying Zack as the culprit. The twins are transported to and from the set, depending upon who's awake, who's in a good mood, and who's hungry. Director Robert Schiller tries to keep the action moving - the babies can only work a certain amount of hours par day. Still, the baby bonanza is throwing the taping schedule off kilter. Actors not involved with the kiddie corps camp out in their dressing rooms and wait and wait as late afternoon becomes early evening.

Click on the photos to enlarge them
Lane Davies (Mason Capwell) and Louise Sorel (Augusta Lockridge), A Martinez (Cruz Castillo), Nancy Lee Grahn (Julia Wainwright) and Louise Sorel, Signy Coleman (Celeste DiNapoli), Andy Lee, Jane A. Rogers (Dr. Heather Donnelly) and Vincent Irizarry (Dr. Scott Clark), Todd McKee (Ted Capwell)