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SCOOP: Martha Byrne on Crisis and Her Lifelong Soap Fandom

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This Sunday, March 16, the new drama Crisis premieres on NBC. It stars primetime heavy hitters Gillian Anderson and Dermot Mulroney, but a trailer featuring daytime A-lister Martha Byrne wearing a suicide vest has garnered over 900,00 hits on YouTube. The As The World Turns and General Hospital )alum previewed her character's (Marie Wirth) arc on Crisis, shared her thoughts on why the serialized show is not a soap, and revealed which daytime characters keep her tuning in to all four soaps.


“The show is about a bus filled with the children of the elite of Washington D.C.,” explains Byrne. "They’re on a field trip and the kidnapper is there on the bus and all the kids get taken off the bus. One-by-one, they ask the parents of the children to do these terrible things to get their children back to get information for the kidnappers.” 

There is a method to the villains ‘madness. “Everything we’re doing as parents helps the kidnappers get what they need for the big picture, which takes place over the course of the season. As to why this is happening, what they need, you get pieces of information in every episode.”

Marie Wirth finds herself in one of the few situations Byrne’s famous As the World Turns character Lily Walsh Snyder never endured. “I’m married to a senator who gets the task to hold this suicide vest. It has a lot of twists and turns as to how I end up wearing that vest at the end of the episode and what our tasks are, which are many throughout the episode, many different locations, picking up certain pieces of information and dropping things off, and finding other parents.”

The parents provide Crisis with a procedural-style hook. “Every parent’s story leads to the next parent’s story.  Each week they really focus on one long story that leads to the next.”

Though Crisis is serialized, in Bryne’s opinion, it is not a soap. “I think it’s more a thriller than it is a soap opera. I know we’re up against Revenge, which I consider a soap opera, as far as the storytelling. It’s a serial drama. The emotional throughlines are a soap opera, but otherwise, it’s completely different.” 

Byrne has high praise for the rest of the Crisis cast. “I worked with Lance Gross and Rachael Taylor [who play FBI agents Marcus Finley and Susie Dunn] most of the time. They were not only welcoming but supportive.”

She shared one way primetime acting differs from daytime. “I think it’s important for people to understand something. When you go to do a primetime show, those actors can do their closeups first and be done and have someone read lines if they want to with you. That happens a lot in primetime, where the stars shoot their part of the scene and then stand-ins read the lines for the actor that’s on the other side of the camera.” 

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Gross and Taylor, however, stayed through every take. “I had this intense scene with [Taylor] and I’m talking most of the time. I had to give out all the information. It was one of those kind of scenes where they’re giving very specific information. It’s a lot of dialogue and she’s listening and kind of taking notes in her head and those lines shot first. They turned around and shot Rachael and all of a sudden these jackhammers start, like they’re building a set on the other side of the building, like a big saw and it’s really loud and it keeps interrupting her takes and so we finally got through it and she’s like, ‘I’m so glad we did your part of the scene first because you really have the most important emotional throughline for the scene.’ I thought that was just very great and unnecessary and genuine. It was really nice. She didn’t have to do that. She could have done her stuff first and then I would have been on the other side with a jackhammer and a saw.”

Gross was equally generous. “In that scene with the bomb, he was right there. He was right next to me in my face giving 100 percent of a performance. You never even saw him until they turned around. He gave me so much to play off of that.”

Photo credit: NBC 

When she’s not acting, Byrne is watching daytime. She is optimistic about the genre’s future. “I know the Prospect Park/ABC situation with One Life to Live and All My Children, I think those brands are timeless and I feel, this is my prediction, I may be completely off base, I feel that if ABC gets those brands back I their pocket, they’ll do something with them. I hope they do. I think it would be wise and the fans are obviously there. I do feel like there’s another wave coming where, yes, I do think there will be the potential for soaps to come in.”


Byrne keeps track of all four remaining daytime soaps, with a special interest in veteran characters. “I watch The Young and the Restless. Maybe I’m different than the average soap fan, because I’ve been watching for so long, but when I see Melody Thomas Scott in the prologue, I’m going to watch the show. I see Peter Bergman and Eric Braeden and Lauralee [Bell] and Christian [LeBlanc] and Tracey [Bregman], I know I’m going to see something good. I know that I’m going to be entertained in an hour. Something’s going to happen that I’m going to want to see.”

When it comes to Days of Our Lives, Byrne is all about the women of Salem. “Kristian Alfonso comes on and I know what show I’m watching… Alison Sweeney leaving DAYS is going to be a huge loss to the show. People really love her character and she had a wonderful run on the show. But I know that they have the ability to continue.”

As for General Hospital, Byrne has the same preferences as Laura Spencer. “When I turn it on and I see Kin Shriner on General Hospital, I don’t care how many shows he’s been on. He will always be Scotty Baldwin. I’ve got my Scotty and I’ve got my Luke. I’m happy.’

Byrne acknowledges she is so identified with daytime, especially the role of Lily, that it has been difficult for her to get cast in primetime roles. “If you’re playing that character for so long, people identify you with that character. I know for a fact  [casting directors] search for you [online] and see what you look like. I happened to do a film called Praying for Mercy right before [Crisis], where I don’t wear any makeup. I’m like a stay at home mom that takes care of the children and that helped, I think, with this role as far as seeing me in a different way for the producers, to see me physically in a different way from what they may have seen on the internet. I think it helped to see that, 'Yeah, you can dress up and look pretty and all that, but when it comes to playing a role, I can adopt to that character if necessary.”