Soap veteran Stephen Schnetzer started out his daytime acting career on Days of our Lives as Steven Olson, Julie’s brother. After Steven moved away from Salem, the actor left Los Angeles and moved to New York City where he landed parts on One Life to Live and later, Another World. Soap Hub recently chatted with the actor about his career.
Stephen Schnetzer Shares Soap Opera Memories
The handsome star spoke to us about his recent role in the film A Case Of Blue, which asks the question — is it possible to relive a long-lost romance? And he certainly knows a lot about portraying romance, as he did that so memorably over his decades on soaps. The amicable actor chatted with us about his runs as good guy Marcello Salta on OLTL and his tenure as leading man/attorney Cass Winthrop on AW.
How did you come to join OLTL as Marcello, who dated ex-prostitute Katrina Karr (Nancy Snyder)?
Stephen Schnetzer: Mary Jo Slater [casting director] saw me in a play and had me in for Marcello — ‘the Italian Stallion’ beer truck driver. He was whatever [the word for] ‘mensch’ is in Italian. He was the last guy in Llanview to find out that Katrina had a past. What a life it was back then. It was fun to play all those storylines. It was a great time.
How much time was there between leaving OLTL and joining AW as Cass?
Stephen Schnetzer: About a month. Joe Stuart [OLTL executive producer] had me in his office and he wanted to renew my contract. I said, ‘I’d love to, but I need more of a challenge [story-wise].’ He said I could promise you that but it might end up being a hollow promise. I can’t make that guarantee and I don’t want a disgruntled actor six months from now.
That was honest! So you left?
Stephen Schnetzer: Yes. Within the week, I had tested for Paul Rauch [executive producer, Another World] and soon, I made my entry onto that show. Paul was the one who hired me…I had a lot of respect for Paul. A lot of the actors there — Victoria Wyndham [Rachel] and Connie Ford [Ada] didn’t suffer fools gladly but if you brought something to the game, they respected you.
Cass’s ‘family’ included Felicia (Linda Dano), Wallingford (Brent Collins), and Lily Mason (Jackée Harry, now Paulina, DAYS) — a great example of family sometimes being people you choose as opposed to being related by blood.
Stephen Schnetzer: Absolutely. From waltzing into town with Nancy Frangione [Cecile DePoulignac] and the show giving us all room to play…the show was not doctrinaire about the lines. The writing staff was always top-notch [even though] it went through permutations. They always brought their A-game and when they’d see an actor’s strengths, they’d write to them. Cass and Felicia started out where he had jilted her. Theirs transcended into more than a man/woman relationship. It became a friendship. It was unique — especially at that time.
Everybody was watching soaps then. The numbers were up. We had a ball. The audience loved us and we loved them. I was out to dinner recently and our wait staff person [recognized me as Cass]. I thought, ‘It’s been 20 years!’
You took a brief break from the show during the first part of 1987?
Stephen Schnetzer: Yes. I wanted to try to get into nighttime. This was back when pilot seasons were pilot seasons. I told John Whitesell [executive producer] I was going to go out to Hollywood. My son Max was six months old. Nancy [Snyder, my wife] and I drove to L.A. and we rented Denise Alexander’s [Mary, AW; Lesley Webber, General Hospital] house in Los Angeles. She’s a princess, just great.
Who do I meet at my first audition in L.A. but Peter Bergman [then on a break as Cliff from All My Children; now, Jack, The Young and the Restless]. We were full of piss and vinegar. And who do I see again at the end of pilot season? Peter. We look at each other. He said, ‘You?’ I said, ‘I can’t get arrested.’ ‘Me, either.’ I called John Whitesell and said, ‘I’d like to come back.’ John was gracious. I played a dual role [on AW] when I came back for five months and you didn’t even know I wasn’t Cass. I got to have a fistfight with myself!
Cass had many leading ladies over the years — Cecile, Kathleen (Julie Osburn), Frankie (Alice Barrett), and Lila (Lisa Peluso). Who was his OTP (One True Pairing)?
Stephen Schnetzer: That’s a tough one. I think the relationship that Cass had with Frankie was the longest-lived. The others ran for maybe three years. Frankie and Cass had a child together, they worked together. So, I’d say his ‘One True Pairing’ was Frankie but I’d put Cass and Felicia above that as their relationship was beyond a [traditional] romance.
Frankie’s death by a serial killer — her murder — was horrible. Fans hated it.
Stephen Schnetzer: It was immediately horrible. It was nasty. That was nasty. Whoever conceived that may have had an ax to grind or something.
The loss of AW in 1999 was tempered a bit when you and other cast members migrated over to As the World Turns and, briefly, to Guiding Light.
Stephen Schnetzer: I worked with Hunt Block [Craig, ATWT] for a year and a half. That was all Chris Goutman [ATWT’s executive producer, who also helmed AW]. I’ve had some good executive producers and Chris was terrific. We got along extremely well. Ellen [Wheeler, Marley/Vicky, AW; executive producer, GL] had me over on Guiding Light. I only did about five days there. Both experiences helped ease me away [from soaps] as I was on Another World for 17 years.
For info on downloading and viewing A Case of Blue, click here. Days of our Lives (DOOL) airs weekdays on NBC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Salem, check out all the latest that’s been posted on DAYS spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.