Watching Days of our Lives this week, the highlight was Friday’s episode as Stephanie told her father about her rape. MaryPickford’s recently talked about this episode, and she brought up a point I hadn’t considered…that Shelley Hennig’s scenes with her onscreen parents are compelling to watch not because of the talent she brings, but her natural chemistry with Mary Beth Evans and Stephen Nichols. Now SN and MBE are whom I consider to be legends in the industry, having had successful runs playing different type characters on General Hospital, As the World Turns and Santa Barbara. Having chemistry opposite them is probably easier than other lesser charismatic actors, oh, like Marcus Patrick. However, looking over SH’s scenes with other people in her character’s social circle, the actress does have a good rapport with Rachel Melvin, Blake Berris and Darrin Brooks (though I am not really a fan of her coupling with Max). She even had chemistry in the beginning with Trevor Donovan after they got over the initial poor introductions .
Sadly, I do think SH’s talent is limited and unfortunately when put frequently opposite superior actors such as SN, MBE and RM (who is becoming quite a powerhouse lately) those limitations are notably emphasized. One basic problem she could probably easily fix is to stop relying on obvious techniques to get through a difficult scene (gasping, staring at the ceiling, etc.) because it becomes repetitive thus distracting the audience. However, I can easily overlook such weaknesses not because I think the other actors are carrying her but because she just…fits in so well with them. It isn’t easy for her, she looks nothing like her onscreen parents (though she at least looks like a Brady, I never understand why people seem to want Shayna Rose back who looked like NO ONE, much less her parents.) as well as being unfortunately given an attitude that didn’t sit well with the extreme Steve and Kayla fans out there. (I had no issue with her being disrespectful to her parents who were withholding important information at the time, if anything, that makes her closer to Steve Johnson personality-wise easily rather than introducing her as a race car driver) Then you add in that “know it all” ego which she quickly used to lecture others on everything ranging from job security to their love life (if there is on thing I try to overlook with Stephanie, is that Jett-pimping she did with Chelsea) and many viewers have closed the book on her, and refuse to open it back up again.
So getting back to chemistry, let’s take a look at Martha Madison. Lately MM has been really impressing me, starting from the death of her beloved father to now Claire missing while she sits bed-ridden at the hospital. It actually shocked me, Martha can act so why haven’t I seen it before? Oh, because when you watch her opposite her that twu luv of hers, Shawn Brady, there is such an absence of chemistry it makes you zone them out instantly. Well, that and some of the bad writing (Tinda Lao anyone?) It’s not just her lack of appeal with Brandon Beemer, but opposite Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn, I don’t get much out of their scenes. Even when Marlena charges into Belle’s hospital room with such disregard over her daughter’s mental state because dearest John is finally back (except he has no memory of her, he is threatening to kill anyone within arm’s reach and he is missing emotion.) It’s amazing what natural chemistry can add to a moment, and until she started acting opposite Jay Kenneth Johnson (though Phillip deserves so much better than Belle), her scenes just came out very bland to me, unless there was some largescale dramatic event going on (such as John’s death).
So here we are, the show is letting people go left and right. Some people I’m happy to hear about (like Shawn and Belle) while others such as Julie Pinson, Judi Evans and possibly Lauren Koslow who had talent AND chemistry makes me slightly angry, until I remember the show wasn’t using them to begin with. I’m hoping SH manages to ride through the latest hatchet chopping to safety, because you can teach someone acting but not chemistry.