Life after Santa Barbara

 By Damon Romine, Soap Opera Update, 1992

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The Santa Barbara romance developing between Kelly (Eileen Davidson) and Connor (Charles Grant) promises to be a major storyline during the coming weeks. To get past her feelings for Cruz and distrust of Connor, Kelly sought the help of Eastern philosopher/therapist Skyler (Stephen Nichols). Little did she know that he would fall for her too. "From the very moment that Skyler met Kelly, they had a connection, like a past life thing," Nichols says. "He's been celibate for many years and she's the first woman to come along that's got his juices flowing again."

While Skyler is taking the path of least resistance to Kelly's heart, Connor will resort to any means to make her smile - including using her dog Winston as an icebreaker. "Kelly's feeling very lucky because she has one guy being sensitive and helping her let go of her feelings for Cruz," Davidson says, "and another guy trying to take care of her in her moment of need and cheer her up. She's getting the best of both worlds."

Unfortunately, the mythical world of Santa Barbara will come to a close on January 15 when NBC pulls the plug on the series that debuted during the summer of 1984. Headwriter Pam Long has said that she will be streamlining stories and tying up loose ends, so it is unlikely a full-blown Connor/Kelly/Skyler love triangle will have a chance to develop.

The three actors involved in this story are all soap opera veterans and have mixed reactions to the show's cancellation, a threat which has been looming for well over a year. Davidson (who played the role of Ashley on The Young and the Restless for six years) says that it was this threat that has kept the show in "disarray" since she joined a year ago. "I haven't felt like I had much of a story since I've been on the show, so I've felt frustrated," she admits. "I've had some terrific scenes, but I haven't had a great story."

Davidson's contract with Santa Barbara expires almost to the day that she tapes her last episode, and she may have decided to leave if the show had been renewed. "To tell you the honest to God truth, it really depended on what happened with the writing," she says. "If it was going to remain chaotic, then I wasn't too interested in re-signing." The actress was enticed to the series with promises of a strong story - something that she says never panned out. "I spent the whole year trying to get the man, then trying to get the man, then trying to get over the man. I would like to have seen Kelly getting a life, basically… and mature a little more."

Charles Grant has been happy with the way that Connor McCabe's taken shape, and the actor says that he jumped at the role because it was a departure from the "bad boys" that he previously played on The Edge of Night and Another World. "I was very fortunate to get this part because I've never played this kind of by-the-book, moral guy," Grant says. "I hate injustice in society and I see it every day, so it gives me a chance to incorporate that into my character."

Grant says that he was aware of the possibility of cancellation when he joined Santa Barbara in August, but is disappointed by NBC's decision to not stand by the show. "How could they let that type of talent go away ?" he wonders. "Why not do something with this kaleidoscope of talent that you can turn anytime and have it be so beautiful ? My fondest memory is when I walked into a courtroom scene one day," the actor recalls, "and everybody on the show was in the courtroom. I'm looking around at all of these talented and famous people and thinking how fortunate I was to be with them."

Davidson echoes Grant's feelings about the cast:  "I have been so lucky to work with A (Martinez, Cruz) - our work together was so much fun. And then to be able to work with Charlie and Stephen has just been terrific. I feel very blessed."

Stephen Nichols' much heralded return to soaps - he played the popular Patch on Days of our Lives - didn't prove to be the savior that Santa Barbara needed, but he's enjoyed being back on daytime. "This was a wonderful experience. I had the best actors and writers to work with. Every person that I worked with was a complete professional," the reserved actor says. "It's a crying shame that something this good is off the air now."

Nichols says that he was intrigued by the part of Skyler and persuaded to join Santa Barbara because the writers were willing to work with him on the character and instill some of his own Eastern philosophical beliefs. Although Skyler was just meant to be a temporary character, Nichols' presence and popularity led Pam Long to rethink the character's purpose and keep him around to pursue Kelly. Long admits that she's now backing off from that plan somewhat to secure Kelly and Connor as a couple by the show's end.

"It's definitely going to change now that the end is coming," Nichols admits. "There's no point in investing any more time into new characters such as myself if the show's not going to be on. I would like to take it through to the end with everyone here if they're going to work me. What I don't want to do is come in one day a week for the next two months. That just isn't worth it for me when I could be out pursuing other work." Nichols' original 13-week commitment is up in late November and he may leave at that time if his storyline has come to an end.

But he's already looking ahead to his next project - a presentation pilot that he produced and starred in called Wild Horses, that he'll shop around to the networks as a continuing drama, a.k.a. a primetime soap. "It's a contemporary western that takes place in a small town in California. I'm playing a local cowboy that has a dark past and has spent time in prison." But more than that, Nichols admits that it's a wrong-side-of-the-tracks love story - something that he's familiar with after spending so many years being part of the Patch/Kayla couple on Days of our Lives. With a change in writing staff going on at Days of our Lives, there is once again speculation that Nichols will be asked to return to the show.

All three actors will now be free to pursue the primetime pilot season which gears up in February, but none of them are discounting a return to daytime if the right role and contract terms were offered. "I'm philosophical," Davidson says about the show ending. "I figure that one door closes and another opens. It's just life saying that it's time to move on. It's been a very unique experience and I've made some terrific friends."

"It's been a very sweet, kind, wonderful place to work," says Grant, knowing that his last day there will be a sad one. "I think that if people can have more humility in our business and be egoless as all of the people are here, it's a perfect example of how everyone can get along and create a nice product."