It’s 2 p.m. on a weekday. Where are you? Your seat in Econ. 11 has been vacant all semester. Why? Because “Passions” is on, and you just have to know what is going to happen today to the denizens of Harmony. It’s your dirty little secret.
“Passions” is a soap opera for the 21st century. It takes the standard soap opera setting (an idyllic small town) and story lines (love affairs and evil twins) but with a twist – and a witch. While traditional soap operas focus on characters and their relationships, “Passions'” trademark is its imaginative, and often farfetched, story lines. It is “As the World Turns” meets “The X-Files.”
The Hatchet chatted with two of the show’s stars, Tracey Ross and Charles Divins, while they were in the District last week appearing at The Taste of D.C. food festival.
Both actors said they are happy to be working on such an unconventional soap opera, but Ross noted some disadvantages.
“I am jealous of the other shows sometimes because they deal with relationships more. And as actors they can deal with reality more,” she said. “We have to deal with how to respond to demons and such. We are in an alternate world that is kind of like Earth. You want to stay real, but there are times when you can’t.”
Ross plays Eve Russell, a doctor with a mysterious past. Divins plays Chad Harris, a newcomer who has an equally mysterious past. In fact, Eve might be Chad’s biological mother, even though Chad is in love with Eve’s daughter Whitney, and Eve’s other daughter, Simone, is in love with Chad. And Chad’s biological father might be Julian, who Eve’s husband T.C. hates because Julian ruined T.C.’s professional sports career. Got all of that? Good.
Before landing his role on “Passions,” Divins was a model most well-known for appearing in Tommy Hilfiger ads. He said there are challenges with every new job, but the cast has been great with helping him. While the plots are a little exaggerated, Divins views the characters and their relationships as important aspects of the show.
“The Russell family is part of Harmony. They are an integral part of the show,” Divins said. His character, Chad, is not part of the Russell family but is in a relationship (of sorts) with both Russell daughters.
“The Russells represent a strong African American family, and that’s refreshing. There’s no one really dysfunctional,” he said.
Ross agrees with the way her character, a doctor, is written in relation to the show’s multiethnic cast.
“If they wanted to make my character any other ethnicity they wouldn’t have to change a thing about her. I don’t know what else I could ask for,” Ross said. “She’s just a person.”
OK, let’s recap what we have learned so far. “Passions” has realistic characters but they live in an alternate reality where spells are cast and people jump down elevator shafts. So just how do the writers come up with this stuff?
“Our show is never, ever predictable,” Ross said. “I get scripts and say ‘Oh, I know where this is going.’ And I never get it right. It’s never going where you think it is. I don’t know how the writers’ brains work.”
“Passions” is the cult show for soap opera fans. It’s been praised by columnists for Time magazine, by Jeanne Garofalo in interviews and was even referenced in an episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Apparently Sarah Michelle Gellar is a big fan.
Despite its quirkiness and appeal to viewers, can an actor have a life after working on a soap opera such as “Passions?”
“You can’t do anything else when you are on a soap,” Ross said. “That’s why you hardly see soap people on anything else. It’s not because they aren’t ambitious, there really isn’t any other way to do it. The only way to do it is to leave.”