BEYOND BREATHY 

Like Alicia Leigh Willisí Courtney, Kelly Monacoís Sam suffers from TPTBís inability (refusal?) to transfer actress charisma over to the blank slate of her character. 

Iíve only seen Kelly Monaco in interviews twice, the second time in a rerun of SOAPTALK. Both times (LOL) she appeared the livelier, edgier version of her on-screen alter-egos, including the ill-fated sex siren Livvie on the now-defunct, half-hour, GH spin-off PORT CHARLES. 

In print interviews, less of a rarity, Monaco freely gives of her thoughts, couching nothing with pleasantries, just another down-home chat with a girl who can curse like a sailor and laugh hearty like a child. 

The actress can be reserved with strangers, as many first-time fans can attest. But once warmed, sheís generous, real, open-minded, loyal and refreshingly clear of soap-industry-dictated, party-line-spewing restraint. This is a broad who tells it like it is, whether she cops to a hearing problem from a scuba diving accident, screwing around with her unhealthy vegetarian diet, messing with Maurice Benard (Sonny) on the set with her farting pregnancy suit, giving Ingo Rademacher (Jax) grief about his girly-man whining to her really socking him in an early GH scene and on many occasions with the accelerated production schedule of PC, phoning it in. 

I can relate to her, because she doesnít put on airs, as a beautiful, sexy former centerfold or a promising, Emmy-nominated soap actress. 

Which confounds me whenever her soap alter-egos do air. The producers and writers seem to want to squeeze her already diminutive frame into a confining sex kitten role, breathy, low-talking, bosom-heaving, passively reactionary, sub-consciously manipulative, slut for hire. 

So many JASAM/SAMSON fans favorably compare her pairing with Steve Burtonís Jason to an earlier, ground-breaking template forged with Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda), ala BRAZEN. A few of them dare declare Jason with Sam slightly superior, well, because Monaco is here, for one, but her Sam reciprocates in a simple way without histrionics. 

The two seem made for each other, compatible because theyíre a lot alike, amoral machines with a deeply held, deeply hidden capacity for great sacrifice over great love, usually for the weak and helpless. Both tend to bolt when the going gets rough, relationships require equal communication, give and take, personality flaws rear their ugly heads. Both, for all of Samís requisite complaints of Jasonís silent treatment (she doesnít sell the complaints as nearly as the writers would have her), donít talk much, preferring action every time. 

The one and only plot point I will regret missing (next to the fab New Yearís Eve gala) is Jason and Samís making love, because I can only imagine how powerful the two sexual creatures locked in a skin against skin, flesh melting into flesh fashion would be. 

As into JASAM as Iíve been, noticeably during their grieving process following the stillbirth of Lila Adele, and as easily as I can be talked into believing that they hold a rare form of realism thatís quieter, less LOOK AT ME HOW WACKY WE ARE! than the explosion that tore into town in the form of Vanessa Marcilís Brenda . . . a huge part of me holds back, not entirely convinced. 

The reasons are two-fold:

  1. It feels as if TPTB are pushing this forced, formulaic pairing as their second-best, since Marcil canít be lured back to finish what she started (Libra to the end). But feigning surprise in the innocence of accidental finds.
  2. And, I canít get a handle on Sam outside of the emotions she puts forth in reaction to cataclysmic events around her.

Sam suffers from the same fate as most soap ingťnues post-millennium, she comes at me with beauty, sex appeal, an unflinching adherence to the script, flubs, stammers and mistakes are very rare (hear that, Michael E. Knight?), and yet, thereís no personality to speak of. 

I donít know what makes her tick the way I did with Brenda and the original Carly (Sarah Brown), whose actresses were forever signaling the impossible, the inner conflicts based on childhood traumas superimposed upon current cliffhangers, in their inflection, hesitation, self-deprecating jokes, expressions, anything they could use. 

Oftentimes, Sam just sits or stands there, waiting to recite her lines with just the right amount of pathos as directed, but without the brilliant improv of interpretation found in so many of her veteran colleagues, Robin Christopher (Skye) as a leading example. Christopher was able to take a run-of-the-mill retread of a bad imitation of going crazy all of a sudden, ala AMCís Greenlee, and turn it into Emmy gold, DESPITE THE POWERS THAT BE. 

A lot of this could be attributed to Monacoís youth, inexperience, desire to do well on a show that isnít easy on newcomers. Sheís up there with Maurice Benard (Sonny), Steve Burton (Jason) and Tamara Braun (Carly), for Godís sakes, actors who donít take their material lightly and two of them donít suffer fools on the job lightly. 

If TPTB would just let up and let Monaco transfer one-tenth of her own gritty, outrageous, honest personality onto Sam, let it surface gradually, thus giving the inexperienced young actress an experience to hold onto and run with, maybe just maybe I can finally see WHY Jason is falling in love with Sam besides the fact that sheís beautiful, has a great set of jugs, leans on him as a god, and can cry movingly when upset. 

How about revealing some of Samís oddball habits the way they did with Brenda and her homeopathic herbal tea remedies? Maybe Jason can catch Sam in the middle of trying to learn yoga, toppling over and screeching with frustration, throwing a bowl of fruit at the TV, before turning around and laughing embarrassedly. Something to inform the uniqueness of the woman who supposedly out-attracts Courtney in Jasonís love department. 

Because just as it was a mistake to have Jason start noticing Courtney as a stripper (heís not the prurient type), itís a mistake to base his next interest in a former prostitute con woman on her ample physical wares. 

There HAS to be more to Sam McCall than that.

GRAPHICS BY SCOTT BILSTAD