When I was a little kid, I fell in love with soap operas. Yes, I watched the normal kid shows, like cartoons or dumb sitcoms. But around 10 years old soaps became my thing. I took a peek in at almost every show at that time. But my absolute favorite was One Life to Live. It was pure amazingness. The history, stories, and characters. I watched it from sometime in the 80s until it went off the air in 2012. This year OLTL would have celebrated its 51st anniversary. The show may be gone (damn you ABC), but my memories of it and the denizens of Llanview live on. So, to celebrate I’m making a list of my Top 10 OLTL characters.
10. Billy Douglas
Billy (Ryan Phillippe) has a special place in my heart. He was the first gay teen TV character. Like Billy, I was a young teen coming to terms with my sexuality. It helped so much to have a character like that on TV. On my favorite show no less. Representation in the media is very powerful. A young Phillippe made his acting debut in the part in 1992. He brought so much to the role, playing Billy’s vulnerability and ultimately his strength. It’s too bad the character was written out after only a year. But he still managed to make a huge impact at that time and years beyond.
9. Megan Gordon
Megan (Jessica Tuck) was brought on as Viki Buchanan’s long-lost daughter. Viki had a few of those. She had similar trials to her mother: love triangles, heartbreak, and multiple personalities. But she was her own person. Fiery, independent, and quick-witted. It was unfortunate when Tuck decided to leave the show and they wrote Megan out. Her soap death broke my 12-year-old heart. So many tears. But at least she came back as an angel from time to time.
8. Max Holden
Sexy, charming, and sometimes dangerous. Max (James DePaiva) was the bad boy that people loved. Even when he was doing wrong, you still rooted for him. And nothing was better than his toxic romance with Gabrielle Medina. Or his equally explosive one with Blair. In later years, he got a bit watered down. But Max was always a pleasure to see onscreen.
7. Tea Delgado
Tea (Florencia Lozano) came to town as a ruthless lawyer, ready to decimate any opponent. She was ridiculously smart and cunning. Everyone’s go-to lawyer. Especially Todd Manning. That was a delightfully dark client/attorney/husband/wife relationship. But she had a softer side at times. She cared about her community and her loved ones. And she had the best frenemy relationship (this side of Viki & Dorian) with Blair. A truly multi-faceted, rich character.
6. Blair Cramer
Two actresses played Blair over the course of the show. One Asian and one white. Yeah, that really happened. It was the 90s. Mia Korf was first. She was the scheming ice princess; ready to take down anyone or use them for her own gain. After Korf left the show Kassie DePaiva came on as Blair. I was reluctant to accept her in the role, but over time I grew to love her portrayal. She softened some of Blair’s edges while still remaining razor sharp. Fighting for (or with) her family and working her way to the top. And pushing a bitch out a window, if necessary. You didn’t want to mess with Blair.
5. Natalie Buchanan
Natalie (Melissa Archer) was one of the most polarizing characters on OLTL. You either hated her or loved her. I fell in the latter category, always ride or die for my girl. She was the bad girl turned heroine, suffering through several kidnappings, lost loves, and that dolt John McBain. Ugh Jolie. She was always getting involved in some tragedy, much like her mother, Viki. I loved their relationship, btw. But through it all Natalie kept going. Always the fighter.
4. Dorian Lord
It’s easy to call Dorian (Robin Strasser) a villain. Yes, she was treacherous, devious, and a pathological liar at times. And she kinda killed a man. Only kinda because of the retcon. But underneath that armor of bitchery was a huge heart. She loved her family and some of her husbands. And even Viki at times. Strasser was one of the best actresses on the show and in daytime in general. Dorian’s death row storyline really stands out as a winning moment. Strasser could turn any plot, no matter how small, into gold.
3. Viki Lord
All roads lead back to Viki (Erika Slezak). She was the heart of the show from the very beginning. It was her life to live. For years we saw drama swirl around her. A horrendous father, a career in journalism, a long line of husbands (many who died on her), dissociative identity disorder, numerous Dorian schemes, and enough maladies to kill the average man (well she actually did go to heaven…twice). Slezak deserved all six of the Emmys she won, if not more. There’s no better actress in daytime.
2. Gabrielle Medina
Coming in at a VERY close 2nd is Gabrielle (Fiona Hutchison). Usually female characters go from bad to good in some dumb redemptive arc. But Gabrielle went from virginal ingenue to one of the baddest bitches in Llanview. I grew to love her during a twisty baby switch storyline. So, she swapped a few brats? She had her reasons. I could excuse any Gabrielle scheme. And I wanted her to be with Max. Even though they were horrible for one another. You can’t deny the heat they had. But whether she was entrenched in a bad romance or on her own, Hutchison always shined in the role. And she did it with great hair. Can’t say enough about that hair!
1. Tina Lord Roberts
Tina, Tina, Tina (Andrea Evans)! There is no better character, in my opinion, in soap opera history. Sorry Erica Kane. Tina was everything for me. Most importantly she was the reason why I started watching One Life. One of the first scenes I remember watching was when she accidentally killed her wicked mother-in-law, Maria, by spilling poison on her. Of course, Maria was trying to kill Tina, so she had it coming. Tina was always getting involved in crazy stuff like that. This is the same woman who went over a waterfall (while pregnant) and lived to tell the tale. Typically, her own schemes put her in these precarious positions. She always wanted more. More love, money, jewels! And she never went about getting these things in the right way. How boring would that be? Unfortunately, Tina got derailed when Evans had to leave the show because of a crazed real-life stalker. She made a return years later, but was bogged down by bad writing. Luckily, before the show ended, she came back one more time and had a happy (and zany Tina-like) ending with her long-time love (and four-time husband) Cord.
Even though the show has ended and these characters are out of sight, they’ll always be in my heart (sorry for the cheesiness). And on YouTube. Cause you only have One Life to Live! Dun, dun, dun!