|Hilarious, outrageous, unpredictable and totally unconventional...|
By Jeffrey Pearlstein, Soap Opera Update, 1990
Hilarious, outrageous, unpredictable and totally uncoventional are words synonymous with the love and relationship shared by Santa Barbara's eccentric Lionel and Augusta Lockridge. Based in part on the show's creators Bridget and Jerome Dobson, Lionel and Augusta were a couple that often practiced bizarre rituals to cement their affections for one another. Take, for instance, the "circle of truth", where both parties would enter an imaginary circle and tell the absolute truth to one another. Of course, since they knew each other so well, they knew that while poised in that circle, they would hear everything but the absolute truth !
Fidelity was not a strong suit in their relationship. Their love was put to the test when the long-gone Sophia Capwell resurfaced in Santa Barbara. Years earlier, Lionel and Sophia weathered a stormy relationship which ended in tragedy. Now that Sophia was back in town, she and Lionel had unfinished business. Augusta was not about to give up her husband, even though Lionel rather enjoyed being fought over by both ladies. Subsequently, Sophia and Lionel came to an understanding and amicably went their separate ways. While both Augusta and Lionel enjoyed the adventures that life offered, Augusta felt that these events meant more to Lionel than she did. Thus she made the choice of leaving Lionel for his own good. After several months away, Augusta phoned Lionel from an unknown location, informing him that they were no longer Mr. and Mrs. Lockridge. Lionel was deeply upset, but he eventually found someone else - Caroline Wilson. They married, but their love was short-lived when she died not long thereafter. With this tragedy and without Augusta, he just picked himself up and left Santa Barbara, hoping to find a new adventure somewhere else.
When Julia Wainwright was preparing to marry Mason Capwell, her sister Augusta returned for the big event, but she had another motive in mind as well - getting back together with her former husband. But much to her disappointment, Lionel was no longer there. Augusta left town a year later, only to hook up with infamous mobster Anthony Tonell, but her reasons for marrying this mobster had nothing to do with love. Augusta thought that once Tonell was dead and buried, she would inherit his fortune, and with that, she would gather the Lockridge family and reunite them. Her dreams were shattered, however, when she received a telegram informing her that Lionel had been killed in an automobile accident. But that grief was nothing compared to the shock of discovering that Lionel was alive and well... and chauffering her limousine as she left Lionel's memorial service !
The dubious honor of instilling life into Lionel and Augusta Lockridge belongs to soap opera veterans Nicolas Coster and Louise Sorel, who were a vital part of the show when it premiered in 1984. Their chemistry together enhanced the characters' appeal. When Louise returned to resume her portrayal of the haughty Augusta last year after departing in 1986, she made it clear that she felt a strong attachment to Augusta. "The reason why I left was because I felt that the character had lost its momentum and I was getting frustrated", she explains. "I think that she sort of got lost a bit and I think I got anxious."
And anxious was the way many fans felt when Augusta returned without Lionel. It was like Lucy without Rick, Scarlett without Rhett, Laurel without Hardy ! From the day she rejoined the show, Louise made it no secret that she was always in favor of Lionel and Augusta reuniting. Unfortunately, the decision wasn't hers... that is until John Conboy took over as senior executive producer. Much to Sorel's delight, Conboy shared her vision, and set the chain in motion to reunite the Lockridge family. He contacted Nicolas Coster and invited him to come home, which the actor was more than willing to do. And in keeping with the tradition of the character's eccentricity, the show wrote him an auspicious return to be sure. And nobody's happier than La Sorel ! "Isn't it exciting !" Louise cheers of Nick's return. "I think I always knew it, but it was just a question of time", she offers with a satisfied look. Nick's reaction to being back in familiar surroundings mirrors Louise's. "I couldn't be happier !" he says with a smile. For Sorel and Coster, their reunion, on-screen and off, has been a long time coming. Even though they haven't worked together for several years, they've remained great friends and genuinely care for one another. The relationship that they share is a special one tracing back to the time when they co-starred in an episode of the TV series, Hart To Hart. "That was the first time we ever worked together !" Nick remembers fondly.
Besides the genuine friendship that both actors share, there are other factors as well that contribute to the appeal of Lionel and Augusta. "I think it's a combination of things. I think it's the fact that we're both wonderful !" offers the candid Sorel with a good-humored laugh. More seriously, Louise suggests, "People always love to watch somebody who is unpredictable. They also have a sense of humor about themselves, which I think is one of the secrets to the characters. We were very lucky that the Dobsons created these two characters, so there are a lot of similarities between Lionel and Augusta and Jerry and Bridget Dobson." "That's right !" Nick agrees readily. "I think there are two major factors : the two characters were created by the Dobsons and we fleshed them out. Then John Conboy and this marvelous writer, Jim Lipton, brought us back. And they're not copying the Dobsons - they're simply taking up where they left off."
While it's true that you cannot recapture the past, the next best thing is to move forward and hopefully find something new that you can do equally as well. While there was some talk that the characters hopelessly fall back into each other's arms, the actors balked at that suggestion. According to Louise : "They (the writers) wanted that to happen, but we said "Absolutely not." After all, Lionel lets her think he's dead, which creates this very traumatic situation, and that's a horrible thing to do to someone. It's going to take a lot of time before the viewers ever see us really back together again, otherwise it won't be believable." Believability is certainly important, and so is finding new aspects to the characters. "The interesting thing is the rediscovery of a person", Nick offers. "Everybody in the country has a lost love someplace. Some people get to go back, some people even stay married, but something happens to their relationship. I think that's probably what this is going to be about", he adds, referring to Lionel and Augusta's storyline.
Both Nick and Louise feel a unique connection to the characters they've brought to life. "Augusta is a free spirit", exclaims the free-spirited actress who plays her. "She knows no rules nor boundaries. She was a zany character and a great character that was very multi-dimensional. She started out as a classic bitch, but now the character has since moved on to humor, which gives me a chance to provide some comedic input." And Lionel ? "He's a guy who lives life very, very fully", says Nicolas Coster thoughtfully. "He's a middle-aged man who is not trying to be young, but rather has the attitude that will keep him young. He's an adventurer, but sometimes his adventures go a little bit awry. Essentially he's a guy that loves life and loves the adventure of life", he smiles.
To recreate the magic that made these characters so distinguished requires a lot of effort and hard work, and depends on everybody pulling together as a team. "We were a team before here on Santa Barbara"; Nick admits. "There's no question about it. My ideal is to help make our contribution to recreate that terrific team we had before, and I think we can really get some good stuff going." Louise agrees with Nick. "Neither of us were really developed after we left, so there's been a lot of energy put into bringing back that Lockridge eccentricity, which is something that John Conboy felt very strongly about." So while Thomas Wolfe was correct when he wrote "You can't go home again !", he obviously wasn't familiar with soap operas and the likes of Nicolas Coster and Louise Sorel. They're home in Santa Barbara, and you can bet that they'll be making new fans with their hilarious, outrageous, unpredictable and totally unconventional ways !