|Nothing clouds Crystal Chappell's vision when it comes to knowing what she wants|
By Janet Di Lauro, Soap Opera Weekly, 1990
Crystal Chappell doesn't have any misguided notions about replacing Days of our Lives darling Kristian Alfonso (ex-Hope Brady) in viewer's hearts. Nor does she expect to be welcomed with open arms as Peter Reckell's (Bo) new leading lady. "I've watch soap before, and I've had my (favorite) couple. Then, all of sudden, they're broken apart and somebody else is brought. Well, you just don't want that to happen, "says Chappell. "One Life to Live was my favorite soap for a long time. And Bo and Didi were my favorite couple. When they killed her off, I was so upset I cried. So I understand how the fans feel."
As Salem newcomer Dr Carly Manning, Chappell faces with the formidable task of winning over the legions of devout Bo and Hope fans. It won't be easy. "I think Kristian's wonderful actress and a terrific person. I didn't want so see her go, either", says Chappell.
But, of course, Alfonso's departure was instrumental in Chappell's introduction. Chappell is, after all, being groomed as Peter Reckell's next on-screen love. Yet, surprisingly, she's not the least nervous. "As a actress, all I really want to do is my best," she says. "And any opportunity is a good one. Especially coming from the bottom line like I did. I'm just starting out. Peter and I have a great working relationship. We run our lines and try to find moments where we can do different things. We work off what we give each other. I hate to use the word chemistry, but there's certainly something there that makes it easier for us."
Chappell was discovered by Days of our Lives casting director Doris Sabbagh in March 1990, while appearing briefly on Santa Barbara. "I played a high-class drug dealer and old school friend of Eden's," she notes. "It was my first professional thing. I don't think I untended my shoulders the entire week I was there. It was so nerve-racking because I was coming right out acting class. Doris saw me working over there and called me in for Carly," she continues. "I went through the whole (audition) process and lucked out. I got the part. I started on Days of our Lives May 24, 1990."
Considering that Chappell only began seriously pursuing an acting career in January 1989, landing such a prominent role was a major accomplishment. "I don't even know if I have an answer to that," she admits when asked how she did it. "It took a lot of my energy. And my husband (computer analyst Scott Fanjoy) was always very understanding about that. Maybe it was the right part of being seen at the right time. I think I just got lucky".
But don't let Chappell's modesty fool you. Drive and talent have had a lot to do with her success. The actress, who hails from Baltimore, switched career goals in midstream while attending the University of South Carolina. "I was a journalism major my first two years of college," she notes. "I wanted to go into broadcasting, but I have this situation with my eyes where each eye works independently of the other. I see two different pictures rather than one. So I could never read anything head on." (As of course, all TV anchorpersons must do.)
She found journalism history "a little boring" and was bogged down with tedious assignments, like writing obituaries. "I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do. I think I was substituting, instead of taking a chance and going into theater. I knew it was difficult getting acting work, so I went the safe route. Finally, I just decided I was going to go for it", she says.
So Chappell transferred to the drama department at the University of Maryland. "I did some theater and really like it," she continues. Upon graduations, she headed for New York. "I decided I might as well travel the next hundred miles to see where it would take me." There was only one catch - moving meant being separated from her husband. "That was hard," Chappell admits. "I was 33, and he was 23. I think we both sort of needed to be our own, do what we could, and grow. The separation was difficult. I would not recommend it to anyone. We were just very lucky that we were able to get through it. Now we're much better off having done what we did."
Chappell remained in New York for eight months. "I started hanging out in circles where I could gather information. I started showcasing, taking (acting) seminars... the whole bit." Ultimately, Chappell and her husband realized they weren't too keen on the distance between them and wanted to live together again. Then, things began falling into place beautifully for them. Chappell explains : "Scott started working for a new company. He had to put a lot of time and energy into (his job). That gave me the time I needed to do what I had to do." The couple's relationship remained strong and steady throughout it all, perhaps because they know each other so well. "We've been together since I was 14," explains Chappell, whose family moved from Maryland to South Carolina at the time. "We met in Spanish class during my freshman year in high school. He was Paco," she laughs, explaining that "Scott" doesn't translate into Spanish. "I was Crystal. I don't know much Spanish, though. There were just too many distractions in class."
When Chappell's family moved back to Maryland, "Scott and I stayed in touch," says Chappell. "We wrote back and forth and took turns visiting one another. In fact, he came to Maryland and took me to my high school prom. After graduation we drove back to South Carolina. A lot was going on my family at the time. My parents were breaking up, and I needed to get away. So, I moved in with Scott's family. They took me under their wing and sort of became my second family. It was only right that I marry their son," she jokes.
They were married June 7, 1986, and have been living happily ever after since. "Scott and I are great friends, and we have a great relationship. We like simply little things. We like to laugh and have a good time. And we love playing Nintendo. We play each other at light. Right now, I'm up on him by two levels. But that's because Scott's been working a lot, and I've spent all my free time practicing," she laughs. "We have neighbors come over to play different games, too. That's sort of how we live. We enjoy relaxing at home. Every now and then, we like to go out. Parties are fun." They enjoy the company of their pet family, which consists of two cats, Beau and Jessie, and a 17 year old basset hound named Chain Saw. "My husband named him, which means he'll never name any of our children, or we'll wind up with a Hacksaw and a Jackknife," Chappell says. "Actually her name really fits, because she eats everything, including the carpet."
Another favorite pastime for Chappell and her husband, is tuning in to her daily performances on Days of our Lives. "Scott enjoys that," she says. "So, we tape the show and watch it in the evening a lot." So far, Carly Manning's escapades have kept them amply entertained. Take Chappell's first episodes, for example. Clad only in an itsy-bitsy bikini, she had to shed her top halfway through the scene. "Everyone on the set was telling me that any new person has to do something like that - take a shower, wear a bathing suit... Fortunately, the people (on Days of our Lives) have some taste. So the jokes were kept to a minimum. I had pasties on, so you really couldn't see anything. Still, it was enough to get me nervous."
A couple of months after that, Chappell's storyline took a new turn. Carly the sex symbol turned into Carly the heroine, and Chappell found her self lowered into a hole to rescue Bo's son Shawn Douglas (Scott Groff). "It was very strange having walls all around me and close to my face," she says. Aside from that, Chappell's stay in Salem has been pretty run-of-the-mill. Although she does find it a bit of an irony that she's portraying a doctor. "I don't like blood," she says emphatically. "I had a scene where I had to bandage Peter. The expression on my face was just awful !"
Chappell's onscreen medico status, however, isn't nearly as hard for her to believe as is her other Days of our Lives alias - being the long, lost heiress Katerina Von Leuschner. "It amazes me how she's managed to evade her ancestors all these years," she laughs. But then again, that is the stuff of which soap-opera is made. Fortunately, Chappell lives a much simpler existence off-camera. "I don't worry as much as Carly," she says. "I'm a much happier person. Carly's a little stiffer than I am, too. She takes things a lot more seriously than I would. And she drives herself too hard. Carly needs to laugh a little. Maybe she ought to go out to a comedy club or something and just loosen up." Now, that's a twist Chappell and her husband might really enjoy watching.