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How Do You Define A Lead Actor or Lead Actress?

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In a recent post on his official blog

Trevor St. John

denied online rumors that he is/was leaving One Life to Live in April. In his statement he said he didn't know where these rumors come from.

Daytime Confidential podcast regular Tina told me that all these rumors started last fall when a spoiler leaked out that a "leading man" would be leaving One Life to Live in April. As she put it, online fans then on a variety of boards went through a process of elimination to try and identify who it was that might be leaving and came up with Trevor St. John or Michael Easton. Both of who are considered leading men by most people's standards.

Her and my discussion of Trevor St. John's denial led to the question. What defines a "lead" actor or "lead" actress? Is it air time? Is it their screentime guarantee? Is it how the category an actor or actress submits themselves in come Emmy nomination time?

As fans its often easy for us to consider one of our favorite actors or actresses to be a "lead" even though they may not really be. So with this in mind and to ensure that I don't inadvertently start any other One Life to Live rumors lets take a look at General Hospital to try and figure this out.

(If you watch an CBS or NBC soap think of the following in the context of your favorite show)

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Before I start, this is for discussion purposes only. This is not about me picking on anyone or bashing anyone or promoting anyone. 

"Lead" Actors:

I think it is safe to say that most General Hospital fans can agree (whether they like the characters or not) that Anthony Geary, Maurice Bernard, and Steve Burton are "lead" actors. But are they the only lead actors?  If one looks at it and tries to put all personal biases aside, are there other lead actors on General Hospital?

For example: Would you consider Tyler Christopher to be a "lead" actor? An argument could definitely be made. He's carried most of the non mob related "leading man" type storylines on the show for several years now. Would this or does this make him a leading man?

Another Example: What about Greg Vaughn? He's had the drug addiction storyline and he's been apart of the giant Jason/Liz/Lucky/Sam quadrangle? If you try to set your personal biases either pro or con about him aside based on what you've seen of him on screen and what he's been apart of do you consider him to be a "lead" or a "supporting" actor?

Final Example: What about Ric Hearst? Hearst is an Emmy winning actor who gets quite a bit of airtime. He has been paired with Nancy Lee Grahn, Rebecca Herbst, Kelly Monaco, and Robin Christopher. In many respects his character has been the counter balance to Sonny on the "scale" that is General Hospital. Does this make him a lead actor?

So taking these three talented actors into account. If you try to set your personal biases aside do you think that any or all of these three actors are or should be considered "lead" actors?

"Lead" Actress:

Then we come to the "lead" actress of General Hospital.  Without question, based soley on character heritage and screentime Laura Wright as Carly is a "lead" actress. On this I think we can all agree. After her things get a bit more complicated.

For Example: Nancy Lee Grahn is an amazingly talented actress who has been nominated for a Lead Actress Emmy on several occasions. A few years back was a part of or was the star of a variety of "front burner" storylines and has a fair amount of air time. Both of which could qualify her as a "lead" actress. However, more recently she's had hardly any air time? All personal biases aside is Nancy Lee Grahn a "lead" actress?

Another example: If one considered screen time to be the sole factor in "lead" actress status Julie Marie Berman would be considered a "lead" actress. However, she is the main actress of the teen storylines. Does this, or would this disqualify her from being a "lead" actress? By Emmy standards she would be nominated in the Younger Actress category. She doesn't or didn't qualify for Supporting Actress. Is Julie Marie Berman a "lead" actress?

Final Example: Kelly Monaco and Kimberly McCullough. Both have had lots of air time. Both are in popular pairings. Both actress' characters have played foil to the one "lead" actress character Carly over the years. Would either of these two, or should either of these two be considered "leads"?

So taking these four talented actresses into account. If you try to set your personal biases aside do you think that any or all of these three actors are or should be considered "lead" actors?

I guess what I am asking is if once we look past the obvious leads such as Susan Lucci, Eric Braden, Maurice Bernard, Anthony Geary, Erika Slezak, Alicia Minshew, Thorsten Kaye, etc, etc, etc, who do you consider to be "lead" actors and actresses and by what standard do you measure them to consider them as such?

For example: Is James Scott a "lead" actor? Is Allison Sweeney a "lead" actress? Do Austin Peck and Terri Colombino qualify as "leads"?

I would love to hear your thoughts.