Santa Barbara goes over the edge

 By Roberta Caploe, Soap Opera Digest, 1991

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Most people go to Hawaii to honeymoon, but danger - not love - was on the agenda when Santa Barbara set up shop there. For the climax of the Eden/Lisa/Suzanne triple personality storyline, Santa Barbara decided to treat viewers to a dramatic, sweeping location shoot on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Kauai. It was there that Eden/Lisa (played by Marcy Walker) met her demise, and we saw the emergence of Suzanne - another facet of Eden's perpetually confused identity. In the process, both Eden and her courageous husband Cruz (A Martinez) took terrifying dives off a mountain precipice.

Steve Kent, Santa Barbara's senior supervising producer, explains that the reason the show chose to shoot in Hawaii was simple : "We needed a place that had warm water," Kent says, "because the bulk of the shoot was Eden falling off a cliff into the water, and Cruz trying to rescue her. The temperature of the Pacific (off the California coast) is fifty-five degrees. Hypothermia sets in after about twenty seconds in that kind of water." In Hawaii, on the other hand, the ocean temperature hovers close to seventy-five degrees year round.

Santa Barbara first considered and rejected the Caribbean, which didn't look enough like the California coastline, and Mexico, where just the threat of water poisoning made everyone nervous. Kent and Eric Preven (Santa Barbara's associate producer) then set off to scout possible location sites in Hawaii. "Originally," says Kent, "we were hoping to do it on Oahu, where they're all set up for film and tape production. We drove around the entire island looking for the right spot. We couldn't find it. So we went to Maui. We found a spot that was sort of okay, but not that great. We were starting to feel desperate. On our test morning, we got on the plane and went over to Kauai. We drove up, saw the spot, and knew instantly that we had the right place. You always know when you've found it. It sings to you."

Kent and his crew had three weeks to arrange all the details. Kauai, they soon learned, has no facilities for television production, so they had to establish a lifeline with Oahu, where Honolulu is located. "Everything - generators, lights, mobile homes for the actors, portable toilets had to be put on a barge for the hundred miles from Honolulu to Kauai," Kent recalls. "One week before the shoot, we set up a production office. We hired local people to drive the trucks and run errands. We also had to do casting of an Eden look-alike." Kent and Preven found her when they went swimming at their hotel - she was the lifeguard at the water slide.

As production got under way, only one problem arose. Marcy Walker's son, Taylor, was still in the hospital. (He'd fallen ill in Mexico, while his mother was on location there, shooting the pilot for her new prime-time series Palace Guard). Understandably, Walker wouldn't leave him. "We had to completely throw out our shooting schedule when we found she wasn't coming," Kent admits. "We had to quickly scramble and talk with NBC on how to handle this. The guy in charge of production for our show, Jerry Ament (happened to be) in Europe (vacationing). There's a twelve-hour time difference. So I was on the phone with him at four in the morning his time, which was four in the afternoon our time. There were a couple of sleepless nights. But we worked it out. We shot all the stuff with Jed Allan (C.C.) and Judith McConnell (Sophia) the first weekend, and the Marcy and A Martinez stuff the second weekend."

Marcy Walker remarks that the shooting wasn't as disrupted as it could have been, since she was rarely in a scene with Allan and McConnell. Martinez, however, did wind up making two trips to Kauai. Let's face it - worse things could happen. "The only thing it did," says Walker, "was probably incur a little bit more expense and give everybody who was already there a nice, big vacation."

Despite their breathtaking, isolated look, the cliff scenes were actually taped right in front of the hotel and Walker's underwater scenes were shot in the lagoon of the hotel pool. Like a trouper, the actress performed the underwater stunts herself. "I had to get out of my shirt, swim toward the scuba gear, get into it, and swim off. (Walker wore the scuba gear for Suzanne's secret escape after Eden's fatal plunge.) They had a stunt person present, but I said to Rick Bennewitz (the director), "It's going to look pretty bogus, you're doing an insert of me in two-foot deep water." The first time I did the stunt, I hit myself on the head with the gear, trying to get it over my head. The second time, it was a piece of cake. The guy who teaches people scuba diving was really surprised that I never done before."

As Suzanne, Walker had to don a dark wig and grasses. Santa Barbara's hairstylist, Valerie Scott, was apparently somewhat concerned because the wig hadn't been given much rehearsal. The actress had tried it on only once before traveling to Kauai. But it wasn't a problem. In fact, A Martinez didn't even recognize his co-star as a brunette. "I was walking toward A," recalls Walker, "and he turned to Carlos Yeaggy (Santa Barbara's makeup artist), and went, "Who is this ?" - Carlos started laughing and A goes, "Oh my God, this is a good sign." It worked extremely well."

Valerie Scott reports that the process of putting Marcy's wig on took nearly twenty five minutes. "First, I wrapped Marcy's hair to get it as flat as possible around her head," says Scott. "Then I put a stocking cap on, of course, and the wig on top of that. I tried not to glue it, because with the facial movement, the skin might get wrinkled and that would cause a ripple effect. That would obviously make it look like there was a wig there."

When the taping was completed, Santa Barbara was left with an hour's worth of footage, to be used in at least fifteen shows. Steve Kent estimates that the location shoot cost Santa Barbara "a couple hundred thousand dollars". While that's quite expensive, he is quick to point out the all-important payoff : "The ratings went up when the stuff aired, so that made it worthwhile."

Read also : Eden's fall
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