I DONíT SEE BLACK PEOPLE
GH hired a second recast of Justus the other year and added reality-TV winner Mykel Shannon Jenkins as Officer Murphy a couple of months ago. Both are fairly decent black actors without much of a shot of making it on the frontburner any time soon.
Granted, Iím not at home watching my soaps religiously, Iím on the road clear across the other side of the country helping my husband tend to his late parentsí estate in Florida. Except for five minutes at the tail-end of AMC and five minutes at the beginning of OLTL (donít kill Mrs. Bigelow!), I havenít been able to catch up since December 24.
But what I HAVE caught up on till then doesnít bode well for the cause of diversity, a cause that should be as normal as going to the supermarket for milk, brushing oneís teeth after every meal and taking a dump after Taco Bell.
GH honchos are forever bragging about their acquisitions, Emmy-, beauty-, primetime- and diversity-worthy, at every opportunity. ABC Daytime president B.S. Frons and his peeps all up through the last two years would brag on the diversity resplendent on his prized youth demo show, what with the half-Hispanic Natalia Livingston re-playing Emily, Spanish-American Maurice Benard does the star of the show, Sonny, exemplary, native American Tyler Christopherís Nikolas is Greek/Russian, and there might be an Oriental rug somewhere on the Quartermaine estate.
When SOAPNET gave in to its own reality-TV series this past fall, following the successful primetime footsteps of FOX-TVís ďAmerican Idol,Ē a new daytime star seemingly was born when black actor Mykel Shannon Jenkins out-performed 11 other finalists in ďI Wanna Be A Soap Star.Ē Jenkins would appear as a contract player on GH for 13 weeks. Jenkins himself hinted at a major story to come following the new year, with GH fans providing the rest in speculation that his Officer Murphy would pair up with Officer Spencer in a Starsky & Hutch version for daytime, and that more of Murphy would come out, befitting a lead character.
Who was he kidding? Who was I?
I believed him, believed GH would honor its commitment to promoting a flagging daytime genre through the latest reality-TV trend and give Jenkins a real story to prove himself with.
Instead, GH sight unseen and based merely on February Sweeps info, thereís not hide nor hair of Officer Murphy, just a whole lot more of Sonny and his latest travails involving his brood, Carly and her male suitors, Emily and her rape case; the only newcomer to receive much publicity at this juncture is Kari Wuhrer as FBI agent Reece and Sonnyís next lover.
Either last year or the year before, Mífundo Morrison Ė the South African import Benard took under his wing, so youíd think the guy would be featured more Ė came on as Justus Ward, a cursed recast role that did no black man any good after Joseph C. Phillips was booted out unceremoniously by people he viewed as family. Itís hard to tell how long Morrisonís been floundering as Sonny and Jasonís flunky, and Faithís sometime bed partner, the questionable moral voice in the mob crowd . . . he seems to have hung around the set for ages since time began, serving his non-black bosses discreetly, popping up on rare occasions as the hired attorney, then popping back out.
I almost ate crow when Morrison hit paydirt in an unexpected pairing of good with evil when his character revisited his shady past with Cynthia Prestonís Faith. Both actor and actress have spoken with the press about each otherís inspirational qualities, how they work hard to focus solely on their characters as a pair from the outside, in a world unto themselves before every scene, how itís, according to Preston, just about them, their feelings, their breathing in sync, like magic.
Itís too bad theyíre doing all this hard work truly from the outside, in a vacuum, without TPTBís support or approval. How else to explain Faithís monthsí long disappearance after bolting on a getaway plane, leaving Justus behind to pop in and out of his mobster and henchmanís summons?
Faith and Justus, their names and predicaments, couldíve become the magic their portrayers worked so hard on on their own, had the plot- and beauty-driven images of Nikolas and Emily, the fetishist obsession with the love lives of Carly, Sonny and Jason, and keeping Tony Gearyís Luke from utter boredom with another Laura chaser and Skye on the rocks not taken over.
Strong speculation returns Faith back to her evil ways (no real motivation given), taking vengeance on Sonny and Co. by taking his children. Add the stronger rumor of Sonny and Co. taking justice into their own hands to exact final payback upon Faith once and for all after retrieving the kids, with the combined help of enemies and friends, and . . . there goes another chance at true diversity.
Justus was never given a home, a past, a soul to match the face and symbol of racial empowerment, not since Claire Labine left her role as head writer. I doubt he ever will.
The sad part of this is, I agree with Maurice Benard (Sonny). Mífundo Morrison does possess skills. Iíve a sneaky feeling his later counterpart, Mykel Shannon Jenkins Ė despite the circus freak show he came from Ė could surprise me with his own innate charisma, strength of character and ferocious power.
But skill means nothing on the GH of the new millennium, as ratings have taken a nosedive from the Ď80s-Ď90s heyday, soaps themselves havenít yet recovered from the O.J. news interruptions, black characters (Dara?) quietly fade into the background, used as props or gone altogether, executives desperately scramble to throw together yet another quick-fix to a deeper-growing problem (itís the familiar characters, stupid) and syrupy, silly schlock such as NEm is allowed to thrive. . .
Skill? Donít make me laugh.
Justus will most assuredly end. And he always does, with a whimper.