Sue Kerr

Soap Actress Joanna Johnson Comes Out Before Lesbian Storyline

Filed By Sue Kerr | May 15, 2012 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality
Tags: As the World Turns, CBS, Crystal Chappell, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital, Guiding Light, Joanna Johnson, The Bold and the Beautiful

For weeks, the Internet has been abuzz with the news that much-beloved Crystal Chappell had been cast in yet another lesbian de630314-joanna-johnson-getty-1.jpegdaytime storyline, this time on CBS' The Bold and The Beautiful.

Chappell will make her B&B debut as Danielle, domestic partner to recurring character Karen Spencer. Danielle and Karen's daughter, Caroline, is currently involved in an "alleged" love triangle with Thomas Forrester and his uncle, Rick Forrester.

In an interesting twist, today we learned that the actress portraying Karen Spencer, Joanna Johnson, is a lesbian. She's married and has two children. She is also apparently "lesbian pals" with Melissa Etheridge and Ellen DeGeneres.

While Karen and Danielle are the only lesbian couple currently on daytime television, Johnson is not the first real life LGBT person to play one on TV.

In 2009, actor Thom Bierdz, long known for portraying Phillip Chancellor II on The Young & The Restless, came out as did his character. Y&R is the sister soap to Bold & Beautiful. Phillip had multiple traditional storylines in his younger years, including marriage to Tricia and the birth of his son, Phillip III ("Chance") before being presumed dead in a car accident.

Turns out he was actually living out in the Outback. It was a plotline twist silly enough to deserve that line, folks. However, Y&R did a great job integrating a core family character as a member of the LGBT community and Phillip ended up being supported and forgiven by his family, including his ex-wife. Phillip has not had an on-screen relationship, but has been mentioned in recent weeks as coping with a health crisis which sent his mother, Jill, off-screen to be at his side. Y&R also has an openly gay minor character, Rafe Torres, who had a fling with Adam Newman - its never been explained if Adam was simply using Rafe or is indeed bisexual, queer or gay. He's got so much juicy plot...

Spoilers suggest that Karen Spencer is trying to hide her sexual orientation from her distant former in-laws, the Forresters and, perhaps, her little known brother, Bill Spencer. Fans of Guiding Light and Days of Our Lives are probably chomping at the bit to see the incredibly talented Chappell take on Wild Bill Spencer.

The introduction of these characters to the Bell family soapscapes differ greatly. Phillip's return from the dead, imposter Cane and the "Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome" of his son Chance made for great soap drama. The revelation that he is gay was probably the most realistic thing about the plot, but they pulled it off.

Why Karen would hide the fact that she's a lesbian from her extended surrogate family in the fashion industry is puzzling, especially as she's encouraging her young adult daughter to lie. I guess only time will tell, but it was mad genius to recruit Chappell - whose storyline as late blooming lesbian Olivia on Guiding Light was enlightening.

This means that all four current soaps have LGBTQ characters - somewhere. The Young and the Restless has Rafe somewhere playing second or third chair to the other lawyers. General Hospital sent young openly gay Lucas Spencer - somewhere? Maybe he has Robin? Anyway, he does exist.

Days of Our Lives, as noted in a previous post, has the frontburner story of Will Horton and his friend/distant relation Sonny Kiriakis.

Why is this relevant to an LGBTQ blog? Well, Bianca Montgomery (All My Children) and Luke Snyder (As The World Turns) have demonstrated that relationships with beloved characters who happen to be gay can open hearts & minds. Remember, Vice President Biden claimed that Will & Grace did more to advance LGBTQ rights than anything else. I might suggest that soaps have had gay characters since the late 1970s and played a pretty important role in changing public perception of what it means to be gay.

Crystal Chappell is coming back. In time for the Presidential Election, no less.

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