An open casting call for “All My Children” is far from business as usual: The soap opera is seeking an Iraq war veteran to play an injured veteran.
The ABC daytime show has created a romantic story line to combine entertainment and a window into the challenges faced after combat, says executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers.
“All My Children” has launched a broad search to fill the role, inviting veterans to contact its New York casting director. The series also is working with a veterans support group, USA Cares, as well as the military.
“It will make it such a heightened experience for the audience and for us … to cast a real-life soldier, a veteran, and bring him into our created drama,” Miss Carruthers says.
The veteran-turned-actor will play Brot, a key figure in a plot that’s already under way and involves a visitor to fictional Pine Valley, Army Lt. Taylor Thompson (Beth Ehlers).
Thompson, who was stationed in Iraq and is on medical leave, has come to town to deliver medals to fellow soldier Dr. Frankie Hubbard (Cornelius Smith Jr.). However, Brot - the soldier and lover she thinks died in combat - is who’s really on her mind.
Turns out Brot survived. Unwilling to involve Taylor in his suffering, he has allowed her to think he’s dead.
Their story will begin unfolding when the right veteran is found for the part, Miss Carruthers says. The casting call isn’t limited to those who were wounded in the war, an ABC spokesman adds.
Yet the role will be shaped around a veteran’s experience, possibly including a war-caused disability, Miss Carruthers says.
“It’s a very delicate subject to begin with. There’s so much about the individual person that’s going to help us create the character, and whatever they bring and whatever their challenge is will be fit into the story,” she says.
The show has woven potentially controversial events and themes into its drama before - from the Vietnam War to, in recent years, a plot involving a lesbian mother who was forced to give up her daughter.
Also figuring in the “All My Children” wartime story is Jake Martin (Ricky Paull Goldin), an antiwar physician who provides differing social and political points of view.
Viewers accept tough issues in TV shows when they are presented on a personal rather than a political basis, Miss Carruthers says.
“The audience embraces it because they relate to the people involved, who they care about,” she says. That enables viewers to “surpass personal biases.”
USA Cares, a nonprofit group that provides financial and other support to wounded soldiers and their families, is helping the show’s writers assess the accuracy of medical and military details, says spokesman John Revell.
“They’re great at drama, but there are many nuances that can be left out without getting the reality from the troops themselves,” Mr. Revell says.
The show also has sought help from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Miss Carruthers says.
Interested veterans can contact “All My Children” casting director Judy Blye Wilson, 320 W. 66th St., New York, NY 10023.