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Guiding Light Articles

Farewell to Phillip
by Jenny 10/18/04

Like many Guiding Light fans, I was very sad when I heard that Grant Aleksander had been fired and his character Phillip will be killed off. Phillip has been an integral part of the show for years and has long been a fan favorite. I know that a lot of other fans will miss Phillip, too. So I decided to write my “Farewell to Phillip” – a tribute to this well-loved character and the gifted actor who has played him for years.

Aleksander first appeared as Phillip in December of 1982. He left the show in ’84 but returned in ’86 and stayed until ’91. Then he left for another five years, returning in April of ’96.

I first saw this character in the spring of 2000, when I started watching the show. I still remember the first episode of Guiding Light that I watched.

If you’ve watched Light in the last few years, you probably saw Phillip having panic attacks. As someone who’s suffered from anxiety attacks too, I can tell you Aleksander’s portrayal of those scenes was very realistic. The interesting thing is that my panic attacks were what lead me to start watching the show in the first place.

In 2000, I was going through a very stressful time in my life. I had a lot of anxiety attacks and all the doctors I went to basically told me I was wasting their time, so I quit going. When I tried to talk to my family about it, they just started yelling at each other about whose fault it was that I was a basket case. Needless to say, I quit talking to them too.

One day I was alone and very stressed out. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a panic attack, but here’s what it felt like for me. My heart would start racing and I would have sharp pains in my chest. It hurt more when I took a deep breath or coughed. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe or get enough air, even though I could.

I would look at the clock and wonder how so little time could have passed, because time always seemed to pass so slowly when I had these attacks. On this particular day, I remember feeling very lonely, and somehow that made me even more panicked. I remember looking at the clock and thinking that it was time for The Bold and the Beautiful. I wasn’t watching it regularly then, but it was often on at work so I followed the stories a little. I remember thinking that maybe if I turned the TV on, it would distract me from being freaked out.

I did, and it worked. By the first commercial break, I was so engrossed in the story that I had forgotten why I turned the TV on in the first place. I felt much calmer and closer to normal than I had a few minutes ago. I decided that whatever was on after B&B, I was going to watch that, too.

The next show was As the World Turns, which I quickly got wrapped up in. When it ended, I crossed my fingers that there would be another soap on after it.

I was in luck. The next show was Guiding Light and it was the most interesting show yet. I got wrapped up in it right away. For an hour, I didn’t think about my problems or the million things that were stressing me out, I just thought about the characters. By the time it was over, I felt calmer than I had in weeks. I had forgotten all about being panicky and stressed out. For the first time in weeks, I felt totally okay. I decided I was going to watch all three soaps every day from then on! However, Guiding Light was instantly my favorite and has remained so ever since.

When I think back to that first episode of Guiding Light that I watched, one thing sticks out: Phillip. I remember his storyline was the one I found the most engaging that day. In fact, it’s the only storyline from that day that I actually remember in detail. I remember generally what was going on in the other storylines at the time, but I remember exactly what happened with Phillip the first day I watched the show.

Phillip and Harley were sitting on the couch in Harley’s house (the one Phillip recently had wrecked). In case you don’t remember, Phillip and Harley were married at the time. Lizzie had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Phillip told Harley that he’d just gotten off the phone with the hospital. He said they’d mixed up the schedules and she wasn’t going to be able to start her chemotherapy today, after all. He said she’d have to start tomorrow instead. Then he started talking about how worried he was, and Harley tried to comfort him.

Susan, who was living with Pharley at the time, came downstairs. She said she wanted to have a party for Lizzie, as a show of support. Harley said she didn’t think they should be getting Lizzie all worked up the day before she started treatment. Susan said it could be something low-key and she thought it would make Lizzie feel better. Phillip and Harley finally agreed. They invited some friends over (remember Rick Bauer, anyone?) and rented a karoake machine. I remember Lizzie singing the Britney Spears song “Crazy”, which was popular at the time (isn’t it amazing the things that stick in your head?)

Phillip spent most of the party talking to Rick or Harley about how worried he was. These were some great scenes with Aleksander. Throughout the Lizzie/leukemia story, he never failed to deliver a powerful performance as the loving father of a seriously ill child. That’s the thing about Phillip – no matter how villainous they wrote him, he was always a loving father who made his children a priority.

Aleksander gave these scenes depth and feeling. His performances were riveting. You couldn’t miss the pain Phillip felt at seeing how sick his daughter was. Phillip, of course, was a rich and powerful man who could do anything – but he couldn’t fix his daughter’s illness. Thanks to Aleksander’s brilliant performances, you could always see just how tortured Phillip felt at being powerless to help his daughter.

Of course there were other things going on with his storyline at the time. On the same episode, Lillian was talking to Beth about how the baby was really Phillip’s, not Jim’s. (Beth slept with Phillip while they were stranded after a plane crash. She got pregnant and told Jim, her new hubby, that the baby was his.) Beth was assuring Lillian that everything was fine and no one would ever have to know. (Of course we know that NEVER works out on soaps!)

The different storylines were very well intertwined at the time. Phillip was worked into several storylines that were woven together really well. A lot of the storylines involved Phillip either directly or indirectly. Much of the show was focused on him, and for good reason.

From the first day that I watched the show, Phillip has always been captivating. You just can’t take your eyes off him when he’s on the screen. His intensity, his quirky facial expressions, his gestures, everything about his delivery holds your attention. Even when the writing was bad (and let’s face it, the show has been through some rough periods lately) Phillip always managed to hold my attention. Sometimes his performances saved some really terribly plotlines and dialogue.

For example, I think some of Aleksander’s best work was when Phillip was committed to Ravenwood earlier this year. The story itself was poorly written for a number of reasons. It didn’t seem to go anywhere from the time Phillip was admitted to the time he was released. It was also written inconsistently; they gave Phillip a new psychosis every week. Plus they never really explained what sent him into such a complete nervous breakdown in the first place. When he was admitted, they wrote it to look like he was just stressed out. But once he got into the hospital, he only got worse. If stress was his problem, he should have gotten better in the hospital, especially with all the medication they were giving him. Besides, people generally don’t become as deeply disturbed as Phillip was from stress alone. Although other causes were occasionally hinted at, none were ever really explored. In the end, the whole thing was left unexplained.

However, Aleksander’s performances during this time were top-notch. Aleksander really made you believe that he was a deeply troubled patient in a mental hospital. He portrayed Phillip’s mental illness with his usual depth and intensity. Even though the scenes were poorly written, Aleksander always made them riveting. When Olivia told Phillip that Emma was dead, Aleksander was absolutely convincing as a heartbroken, grieving father. In my opinion, that was one of his best performances.

His other scenes in the mental hospital were also amazing. Even when nothing much happened in a scene, Phillip’s portrayal of a lost, unstable, fragile man was perfectly convincing and made the scene worth watching. Even when Phillip was mute for awhile, he never failed to portray the character well.

As wonderful as Phillip is in dramatic scenes, he can actually be quite amusing in comic relief scenes as well. Phillip’s humor is that of the dry wit/sarcasm variety. The ironic comments he makes never fail to make me laugh. Aleksander is great at delivering a straight line or deadpan comment.

Another of my favorite Phillip scenes was quite recent. It was the 9/29 show when Ross told Phillip and Alan that Roger was dead. The comical banter between the three of them cracked me up. Phillip and Alan’s remarks were hilarious. Phillip delivered his funny remarks and insults about Roger with a perfectly straight face. (Ross: “I want you to promise me that you'll keep the gloating to a minimum. Everybody knows there was no love lost between the Spauldings and Roger Thorpe. I'm just asking you to behave for the sake of Blake and Holly.” Phillip: “A quick chorus of "ding-dong, the witch is dead." It'll be tasteful, though. “) Plus the elevator scene, with both Alan and Phillip being claustrophobic, was hilarious. Phillip had some funny lines that he managed to deliver without breaking his panicked-claustrophobic-stuck-in-an-elevator act.

So those are my favorite Phillip memories. But I’ve been watching the show for a relatively short time compared to many of the devoted fans I know from the chat boards. For that reason, it would be unfair to write this article from my perspective alone. So I asked my friends on the chat boards to tell me their favorite Phillip memories, too.
One of the most-mentioned favorite Phillip scenes was when he cried at Beth’s funeral. A lot of fans thought that was one of Aleksander’s best performances. Unfortunately, some people didn’t specify whether they meant the first or second time Beth “died”. Of those who did, most of them mentioned Phillip digging up Beth’s grave. (That must have been the first time, which was before I started watching, since Beth’s body was never found the second time so there would be no point in digging up the grave.)

Here are some quotes from fans about these scenes:

“There was a scene right before Phillip dug up the grave when, drunk, he went up into the Spaulding attic and trashed all of the supposedly dead Beth's belongings out of frustration that no one would believe she might still be alive. When he was finished, he realized he destroyed her things and started picking them up and apologizing to them as if they were her. It was incredibly sad and Grant nailed it.”

“When he was digging up Beth's grave, obsessed she was alive. Oh my gosh- how emotional. The guy was seriously in love.”

“My favorite was at Beth's memorial. And at the end of the show he and Lizzie were sitting on the floor and crying together.”

Other big favorites included the “Four Musketeers” storyline (most of which happened before I was born so unfortunately I never saw it), a lot of the Pharley scenes, and especially the sting scenes in New York City with Harley. Here are some more quotes from fans:

“My first favorite would have to be the big showdown at the SF prom. I just loved the Four Musketeers. Second, would be the NYC sting scenes with Harley. Hot, hot, hot. Of course, all his love scenes were hot. He and Liv sizzled. I also loved some of his scenes with Rick in the hospital before the heart surgery. Love all their scenes actually. Oh, and Beth's memorial service. I'm going to MISS him.”

“NYC Sting with Harley. Those were the best moments of their romance. Both GA and BE have managed to have wonderful chemistry with nearly all of their romantic counterparts, and although it’s hard to imagine now, Phillip and Harley were once an amazing pair. They combined humor, sweetness, sexiness, and drama seamlessly.
The scenes where Phillip realized that Justin was his father perfectly represent the acting talent that GA has always had and the complete control and understand he has of the character of Phillip. They also display the deep history of Phillip to the show. His anger (the clenched jaw was in full effect!) was both perfectly controlled and unpredictable. Through his tense mannerisms and well, the clenched jaw, he displayed Phillip's desire to control his incredible feelings of sadness and betrayal. However, the whole situation was simply TOO emotional and he completely boiled over.”

“He has a long history, but I liked him best with Harley, when they were getting close in that NYC hotel room. That was hot!!!! I used to love him with Hayden P when she played Lizzie, and I have always loved his relationship with Lillian and Beth too.Philip has always been one of my favorites. I sure don't want him to leave. I love GA's acting. I think they are making a huge mistake by doing this. At the same time, I don't think there could ever be another Philip than GA. He is a unique actor and makes Phillip unique too.”

“I loved Phillip and Harley too - the sting in NYC, the reveal scenes when she found out about his adultery, their picnic at County General. I thought GA was wonderful in the scenes where Zach was born and Alan was having a heart attack, and Phillip took his newborn son to meet his very sick father. Phillip felt so many clashing emotions - joy and fear and pride - and GA managed to convey them all.”

“I loved all of the 4 Musketeers, Phillip digging up Beth's grave, their wedding. Phillip and Lizzie, Phillip and Rick. The thing is, that Phillip is best shown in thousands of small moments, his friendship and sometimes deep rivalry with Rick, his relationship with his father, with his aunt, with his uncle Ross. Watching the internal struggle on his face, in his body language as he tried to do what was the right thing, even when he detested the methods he was using to do it. His quiet generosity, all the times he used Spaulding wealth to help people he loved.”

“Phillip at the hospital after Bert had her leg amputated. Phillip hadn’t gone to see Bert because he couldn’t take it, but he worked up the courage and he came in. Amputee Bert was the strong one for the hulking young man.”

All my friends on the chat boards were sad to see Phillip go. It’s hard to imagine Guiding Light without him. Phillip has been a fascinating character for years, and he has been portrayed by a fantastic actor, Grant Aleksander. To Grant – we wish you the best in your future endeavors. I’m sure this talented actor will do great work in the future and I look forward to seeing it. And to Phillip – well, saying goodbye to Phillip is like saying goodbye to an old friend, an old friend who has kept me company on many occasions.

But you know what’s wonderful about soap operas? No one is ever dead for good – or at least, they don’t have to be. A character can always be resuscitated and written back in. So, like many fans, I can only hope that one day, Phillip will be written back into the Light. In the meantime – farewell, Phillip. We’ll miss you!

Below I listed some Phillip Spaulding/Grant Aleksander web sites that fans might want to check out:

http://www.soapcity.com/gl/cast/cast_bio_detail_23700001.jhtml

http://pnb.proboards19.com/index.cgi?board=scenes3

http://pnb.proboards19.com/index.cgi?board=scenes

http://pnb.proboards19.com/index.cgi?board=scenes2

http://www.cbs.com/daytime/gl/about/bios/galeksander.shtml

The opinions in these articles are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The TV MegaSite or its other volunteers.

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Updated 2/6/07

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