By Sabrina Furminger
Soap star Michael Muhney almost skipped out on his audition for The Young & the Restless (Y&R).
“I U-turned my car on the way to CBS and started heading home,” said Muhney, who’d previously appeared as Sheriff Don Lamb on the cult classic television series Veronica Mars. The year was 2009, and the then 34-year-old Illinois native was up for the role of Adam, the cerebral and conflicted son of billionaire Victor Newman, on CBS’s top-rated soap. For Muhney, who’d starred in numerous television pilots (including NCIS) and independent films, the prospect of soap opera employment was less than appealing.
But Muhney swung his car around and showed up for his meeting without missing a beat. Luckily for soap fans, the character of Adam was complex enough to pique the interest of the card-carrying Mensa member. “I remember after I left this 90-minute session over at CBS, I was driving my car off the lot, and I think I might have actually said this out loud … ‘I can’t believe I’m seriously considering accepting an offer to star on a soap opera’,” said Muhney during a recent phone interview from his California home.
Since that long-ago U-turn, Muhney — who will appear at this weekend’s West Coast Women’s Show to chat and field questions about Adam, Y&R, and soaps in general —has emerged as one of daytime drama’s biggest stars and fiercest defenders. “I think [Muhney]’s made us all a little bit more optimistic about the future, and I think he raises the acting bar on daytime,” said Nelson Branco, a veteran soap journalist and editor of Soap Opera Uncensored. “He’s really become an advocate for the genre, and he’s seriously protective of it, and it really could have gone the other way.”
The American soap opera genre dates back to the pre-television age, when soap manufacturers sponsored highly dramatic daily radio serials aimed at housewives. With the advent of television, the popularity of soaps skyrocketed. But as women ventured into the workforce and the television dial expanded, soap opera ratings began to erode. In the late 1990s, 13 soaps populated the daytime schedule. Today, only four remain: Days of our Lives (NBC), General Hospital (ABC), Bold and the Beautiful (CBS), and Y&R (CBS).
But according to Muhney, the genre is in a healthier place than it’s been in years. “One of the things soaps needed to [do to] survive was they needed to be scaled down to the final three, four, five soaps, because, in my opinion, the daytime market and the primetime market, when it gets oversaturated with any one product, that product starts to get killed off because it’s so abundant that it loses its value,” he says “[Those] that have stayed I think are given a much better opportunity to stay around for a very, very long time just due to the fact that now they’re their own little niche.”
To ensure long-term success, Muhney suggests daytime look no further than primetime. Between PVRs and web streaming, Muhney contends that as much as half of Y&R’s audience watches their daytime drama in primetime hours. “I think the onus is on daytime to start realizing that they’re no longer being watched during the daytime, that they’re a primetime show and they should write up to an intelligent audience and the actors should play up to the scale and skills of primetime,” said Muhney, who noted that, unlike primetime dramas that receive more than a week to film one episode, Y&R films six episodes in every four-day work week.
Muhney will grace the stage at the 2012 West Coast Women’s Show at 1pm on Oct. 20. The event runs Oct. 19, 20 and 21 at the TRADEX in Abbotsford. Lisa Oz (bestselling author and Dr. Oz’s wife), Bachelorette Jillian Harris (and Bachelor Wes Hayden), and Ronnie Negus (Real Housewives of Vancouver) are also scheduled to appear. For more information, visit WestcoastWomen.net.WE Vancouver - Actor brings primetime edge to daytime drama