Santa Barbara lets four actors go

 By Roberta Caploe, Soap Opera Digest, 1990

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Despite the recent Emmys won by the critically acclaimed Santa Barbara, the show continues to see actors filing out of all available exits. Characters from various storylines are seeing the show refuse to pick up their contracts for renewal. According to one of the show's producers, it's simply business as usual.

But is it really ? Viewers were told that they'd be treated to an intriguing story starring four of Santa Barbara's most eligible men : Craig Hunt, Ethan Asher, Stephen Slade and Derek Griffin. A few months later, both James Healy (Derek) and Leigh McCloskey (Ethan) are leaving. "It was a surprise, but it wasn't a shock", says McCloskey. "I didn't feel that my character was really developing." As for the plot revolving around the male quartet, McCloskey says, "that was an interesting idea that was poorly developed. By the time it got into the story, I felt the dialogue was interchangeable, everything became blurred." Yet in the face of being let go, Leigh remains realistic. "There were a lot of decisions being made to try to centralize the show and increase viewership. I think, in that case, everyone's expendable."

Another expendable character, apparently, was Ric Castillo, portrayed by Peter Love. Brought on as a love interest for Kelly Capwell, Ric's storyline deteriorated into mere commentary on the action.

On the heels of Love's departure was that of Christopher Norris, who played loony Laura Asher. Norris says that Santa Barbara was a wonderful chance to spread her acting wings, although she knew where the role was headed. "In the past several months," she comments, "the character went away from where she was in her glory. I know they tried to figure out a way to help Laura, but it had gone too far."

Surely, however, the audience will notice so many actors leaving at once. At a time when ratings are crucial to the show's existence, why would the show do anything to alienate its viewers ? According to Supervising Producers Steve Kent, these changes are part of "the ebb and flow. Because of the actors union," he explains, "where contracts run in a twenty-six-weeks cycle, there are only certain times when characters can come and go. It's because we're at that time of year that there seem to be a number (of actor leaving). There was only so far you could go with the Laura storyline. The boys' storyline wrapped up, too. Despite the changes, there's a lot that's the same. We still have Cruz and Eden, and Mason and Julia. (Senior Executive Producer) Joh Conboy is just trying to increase the size of the canvas."