By Nicole Walker
Many soap fans look at these three men as villains you love, villains you hate, or villains you love to hate.
Me? I adored these dastardly men as my true soap heroes. They were the ones I wanted to see get their happily ever after, get the girl (which often meant stealing them from the so called ‘good’ guys), have strapping sons and adorable daughters, and smite their enemies (who often considered themselves victims of these men) to become the alpha males of their small Illinois towns. Or, in Edmund’s case, the principality of San Cristobel.
No, I don’t have a thing for the 'bad boy.' I have a thing for complex, flawed, vulnerable men, which yes, Craig, Grant, and Edmund were. Sure, they’ve done not so good things, things that could be considered heinous or downright evil.
Everyone on soaps has lied, cheated, misplaced a baby, stolen a little money, blackmailed, and/or issued death threats at one point or another, and come close to following through on them. And yet these three men, heroic anti-heroes in my view, have been unfairly saddled with the label of villain for reasons that simply leave me baffled.
Why? Because when you examine the facts, how could one not side with Craig Montgomery over the self-righteous Dusty Donovan? Or pray that Edmund ‘The Dark Prince’ Winslow finally toss Reva into a bottomless pit? Or wait for the day that Grant Harrison wrestled Kirkland from Vicky’s arms to finally be a father to the child that had been long denied him
What facts are these, you ask? Well, let me tell you-
Fact #1: They hired stellar actors. If you want me to truly hate the guy, you get the ugliest block of wood you can find to play your villain, not the likes of Scott Bryce, Hunt Block, Jeffrey Meeks, and Jon Lindstrom, David Andrew MacDonald, and Mark Pinter! Because you’ve lost half the battle when you give roles as fun as Craig Montgomery, Edmund Winslow, and Grant Harrison to actors who are not only going to run with them, but relish the challenge of making them rootable no matter what loathsome, eyebrow raising harebrained scheme they are asked to portray. You’d think that Craig kidnapping his own daughter or Edmund stealing a baby and leaving her mother passed out on the side of the road or Grant shooting himself and framing the mother of his child for his attempted murder would make me hate these men. But, you know what? I never did. Due in large part to the acting prowess of the characters' portrayers as well as -
Fact #2: Having your so-called heroes be, do, and act even worse than your supposed villains. Seriously, I’m supposed to side with Jennifer Munson over Craig when the woman endangered her own child to set Craig up so that he’d lose his paternal rights to a child that hadn’t even been born yet? Or, think that Vicky taking an abandoned kid and giving it to Grant to raise, while hiding their child with Jake and Paulina is cute and perfectly understandable when Grant’s only real crime was that he was Kirkland’s father and the guy Vicky wanted to be the father, Grant’s brother, Ryan, wasn’t? Or think it’s okay for Cassie, Reva, and Jeffrey to knowingly emotionally and psychologically manipulate a man with a recorded brain injury by using the memory of the man’s dead brother? In many cases where Craig, Grant, and Edmund did something ‘heinous’, the hero had provoked them into acting by doing something equally ‘heinous’. More often than not, Craig, Grant, Edmund were giving back as good as they got and their ‘victims’ were upset that these men just weren’t going to take being attacked lying down. And really? What person would?
Fact #3: Everyone in town and their cousins in the next town would tell everyone over and over again ‘[Insert Maligned Hero’s Name Here] is evil!’ Seriously, everyone! Including temporarily reformed underworld crime lords (I’m looking at you, Carl Hutchins!) who have yet to see any kind of justice brought down on their heads for their wrongdoings other than being drugged and taunted at a really weird costume party. You have an entire town pile on a character with gleeful sneering and you end up begging for the guy to be loved by the audience. You’re making him the underdog to be rooted for! Especially when his attackers are people with their own skeletons clattering against each other in the closet.
Fact #4: For evil men, Craig, Grant, and Edmund were made very vulnerable (i.e. human) through either their children or their tragic pasts. If you want me to buy the line that Craig is a bastard, then don’t give me his tragically losing his son in a car accident and this loss affecting him the rest of his life and then have everyone rub his nose in it. Because I’m going to side with Craig for wanting to knock everyone’s block off. If you want me to hate Edmund for his greed and quest for power and adulation, then don’t let me know that on top of being the scorned, unloved child of a philandering King, he suffered from a personality altering brain injury in his youth that left him unable to emotionally connect with people, most importantly his brother. You’re muddying up the waters with all that stuff and making me wonder why Richard (later Jeffrey) and Cassie and Reva don't realize that Edmund is less an evil monster to be mocked (and really how dumb are you to mock a ruthless monster?) and more a man with a severe mental affliction, who, oh I dunno, may need professional help to have it managed and possibly surgically fixed? I mean, was I supposed to think Jeffrey was right to psychologically manipulate/terrorize a man by playing the ghost of Richard, Edmund’s adored and resented dead brother?
When you take all this into consideration, it becomes obvious that, while not paragons of virtue, Craig Montgomery, Grant Harrison, and Edmund Winslow weren’t the Devil’s spawn, happy to unleash chaotic Hell upon the ‘innocent’ citizens of their small Illinois towns just for the fun of it. At least not most of the time.
Most of the time these men were like all the other men, i.e. heroes, in town. They were looking to get theirs- love, power, family, and acceptance.
Just because Craig, Grant, Edmund happened to play for keeps didn’t make them any less heroic than Jack Snyder or Jake McKinnon or Jeffrey O’Neill.
It just made them different.
And, let's be honest, more fun to watch.
Nicole Walker is the Associate Producer of Another World Today. She holds an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University.