No. 10: Cornelius Smith, JR - All My Children
Sexy, confident-yet-sensitive Cornelius Smith Jr. made quite the impressive debut in 2008 on All My Children. As Jesse and Angie's much recast son Frankie, Smith's ready chemistry with Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams — the actors who portray his iconic parents— and his ability to seamlessly fit onto the Pine Valley canvas secured his place on our Top 10 Newcomers of 2008 List. Let's hope in 2009, TPTB get over their desire to cash in on the popularity Beth Ehlers and Ricky Paull Goldin achieved on Guiding Light— sorry Fronsie, it ain't happening— and play up Frankie's organic chemistry with Ehler's Taylor. Now that would be something to "gush" about.
No. 9: Kevin Schmidt - The Young and Restless
Not since Jason Cook assumed the role of Days of Our Lives Shawn Douglas from Colin O'Donnell has there been such a perfect SORAS'ing match as Kevin Schmidt's take on Y&R's new Noah Newman. Schmidt thorougly embodies Hunter Allan's mix of brattiness and charm. Like Noah's mother Sharon (Sharon Case), one minute you want to slap the taste out of his smart mouth, then the next you want to hug him as he exhibits the pathos any child from a broken home can relate to. Now if they can just find him a suitable leading lady...
No. 8: JR Martinez - All My Children
All My Children was once known in large part for its socially relevant storylines. Unfortunately, AMC systematically destroyed much of that reputation in recent years by undoing Erica's abortion and up until recently, botching Bianca's lesbian several times over (Zarf anyone?). So when the soap announced they were bringing in a real-life Iraqi War Veteran as a past love for the recently-introduced Taylor (Beth Ehlers), we here at Daytime Confidential decided to take a wait and see attitude towards the story.
Thankfully, the storyline has yet to be botched and in the process AMC discovered a refreshing talent in JR Martinez. Martinez, who is new to acting, has proven a quick study, impressively sharing screen time with soap vets like Ehlers, Michael E. Knight, and Ricky Paull Goldin. Martinez has even helped pull up Brianne Moncrief's acting chops by the dainty straps of Colby's Manolo Blahniks. We no loner have any reservations about Martinez and hope he and Brot stick around for a long time, but about that name...Couldn't AMC have come up with a better moniker than Brot?
No. 7: Chris Engen - The Young and the Restless
Bringing to life a character who just happens to be the offspring of a soap supercouple is never easy, just ask One Life to Live'sJustis Bolding. Fan expectation for what the child of a Tina Lord (Andrea Evans) or a Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) should be would cause even the most skilled thespian a moment's pause. This past year Chris Engen had the daunting task of creating the role of Victor Newman Jr. to life on The Young and the Restless. Fans already had firmly held concepts as to who Victor Jr. should be and Engen struggled a bit at first to meet those expectations. Not that he was handed many favors early on from the writers. TPTB made a critical mistake in killing off Victor Jr.'s mother Hope (Signey Coleman), the beloved heroine whose Bridges of Madison Country-esque romance with Victor managed to even soften The Mustache himself.
Without Hope to help the audience "see" the good in Victor Jr., the character came off as emotionally stunted and bitter. Although, who could blame him? While his spoiled half-siblings grew up being fed with silver spoons by Miguel, the trusty Neman manservant, Adam was mucking stalls somewhere in God's Country. Despite the early plot holes and Engen's noticeably unsure approach to the character initially, the actor's unconventional sex appeal; organic, subtle acting choices; surprisingly-popular pairing with Heather (Vail Bloom); and his momentary ascension to power at the Tower of Newman, and later his deal with the Devil himself—Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman)—after Victor banished him, helped make Victor Jr./Adam one of the most fascinating character studies of 2008.
No. 6: Mark Lawson - One Life to Live
Brody showed up in Llanview on Gigi's (Farah Fath) heels, and from day one the Ryan Phillipe look-a-like gave the ladies plenty to stare at. Mark Lawson's character came onboard with a carefully-crafted , character-driven storyline, playing fake daddy to Gigi's son Shane, as his ex-girlfriend hid the boy's true paternity from the real love of her life Rex (John Paul Lavoisier). Even as Brody came undone, kidnapping Shane and almost killing Rex, Lawson's stellar performances made us empathize with the troubled war veteran's battle with PTSD. As the chemistry between Brody and Jess (Or is it Tess? Bess?) (Bree Williamson) continues to crackle, we can't wait to see what kind of ride Lawson will take us on in the new year.
No. 5: Meredith Hagner - As the World Turns
Liberty (Meredith Hagner) blew into Oakdale as the unknown daughter of Brad Snyder (Austin Peck). She was quickly compared to fan favorite Maddie Coleman (Alexadra Chando). Hagner however, quickly proved she was no Maddie-bot, by adding poignance and realism to the storyline that saw Carly and Jack's son Parker (Mick Hazen) experiencing first sexual experience—before his college age stepcousin Luke (Van Hansis) no less. Hagner showed she was more than capable of carving a niche for herself in Oakdale on her own terms. The ready mother/daughter bond she forged with Janet (Julie Pinson) and her ability to fit nicely into Brad and Katie (Terri Colombino)'s storyline made her one of the most enjoyable newmcomers to watch in 2008.
No. 4: Yaya Da Costa - All My Children
Cornelius Smith Jr.'s Frankie (No. 10) wasn't the only offspring of Dr. Angela Hubbard (Debbi Morgan) to make soap fans take notice of Pine Valley in 2008. Yaya DaCosta joined the ranks of Renee Goldsberry, Victoria Rowell, Nia Long, Tamara Tunie and Morgan herself by embodying a breakout African-American character for daytime as All My Children's Cassandra. On AMC DaCosta was the textbook example of how you can be a top model (she placed second during Cycile 3 of America's Top Model) without being a hair model. Too bad she was only on our screens for four short months.
No. 3: Adam Grimes - General Hospital: Night Shift
Thankfully there was no kissing ban going on at SOAPnet as same sex supercouple Adam Grimes and Chad Allen caught our late night screens on fire as Kyle and Eric. Grimes settled nicely into the groundbreaking role of Kyle on General Hospital: Night Shift, tackling complex stories that saw him dealing with the inflated ego of his older brother Leo (Ethan Rains), to falling in love with his sick patient and playing Will to his quirky, scatter-brained roommate Claire (Carrie Southworth)'s Grace. What we wouldn't give to see Grimes bring Kyle over to the parent ship.
No. 2: Claire Coffee - General Hospital
What a breath of gunsmoke-free air Claire Coffee was for General Hospital in 2008 as Nurse Nadine. While the writers could tone down the quirk just a tad bit, Coffee's infectious smile, knack for comedy and ability to make the often times uptight Prince Nikolas (Tyler Christopher) smile landed her at No. 2 on our list.
No. 1: Billy Magnussen - As the World Turns
Billy Magnussenwas the dark horse newcomer of 2008. After an uneven debut as the paroled Casey Hughes many fans wondered why As the World Turns had chosen to recast the character with someone so unlike the popular Zack Roerig. However, an unexpected May/December romance with Emily Stewart (Kelley Menighan Hensley) quickly erased any questions as to why Magnussen had been cast in the role. Few newcomers are capable of jumping into scenes with veterans like Menighan Hensley and hold their own, Magnussen did just that and more. The breakout young actor matched Menighan-Hensley scene-for-scene, helping to create one of the hottest storylines in daytime this past year. Even after the head-scratching move to scrap the liquid hot pairing of Casey and Emily in favor of sending their characters down ridiculous, plot-driven paths, Magnussen contineus to be one of the few reasons to keep tuning in to ATWT. Magnussen joins the ranks of Y&R's Billy Miller and GL's Jeff Branson as one of the top three recasts of 2008.