Wowser! In Part III of We Love Soaps' bombshell interview with Timothy D. Stickney (ex-RJ) the actor goes in about how soap operas allow the racist, bigoted segments of their viewing audience to basically dictate storytelling.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In 12 years I don’t remember R.J. Gannon ever having one hot and heavy love scene. The other men that started in 1994-95 were constantly taking their clothes off. How much of that was racially motivated?
Timothy D. Stickney: I often had opportunities squashed. They will never, ever say it this way, but I had opportunities squashed because of the racist population in their audience. It wasn't even people who consider themselves “racist,” but people who become very uncomfortable with stories that mixed different races.
There was a crime-based story that could have put the Gannon family in the forefront. The bad guy was not going to belong to any specific group, but he was a racist who didn’t like all the mixing of friends and romantic partners in Llanview. They decided to cut that part out. They also had the false realization that the same viewers weren’t as disturbed by Latino characters because they didn’t think of them as “black” or whatever. They were almost “white” which meant they didn’t get the same amount of letters. So a lot of opportunity went away from us and then was rewritten to involve the Vega family and their friends. And we were out. That was that.
One of the last quiet fears in America is still the “Mandingo Syndrome,” the fear of the black man’s sexuality. Generally, when he is depicted in mainstream media, he is either a bookworm, awkward, or with no sexual attraction at all, so that he can be brilliant and rich. Or, he’s all sexual drive and physical attraction with very little intellect. So as R.J., if I flirted with someone and they noticed or responded, then it had to be with my brother’s girlfriend or his ex or whatever. I thought, “I could try to fight them on this. But R.J. is intelligent, he is frequently wealthy, so I’ll at least get two out of three. If I also go for sexually viable I might cut my own throat.” So I decided never to fight them on that. I let them do what they were going to do with that. There simply were no characters of color that were intelligent, wealthy, and sexually viable.
Photo credit: ABC