10. MACKENZIE MAUZY (Phoebe Forrester, The Bold and the Beautiful)
She may not be ready to tackle Romeo and Juliet on Broadway yet, but MacKenzie Mauzy has undoubtedly improved leaps and bounds since her summer showmance with Constantine Maroulis last year. You don’t have to look any further than last week’s impressive performances when Phoebe caught her mother and former stepbrother/boyfriend in the throes of passion. Mauzy’s disgusted and shocked reaction was so natural and utterly heartbreaking it was hard not to root for and sympathize with the former lightweight. Let’s hope Mauzy continues to hone her craft when Phoebe’s on-screen twin sister, Steffi materializes.

9. ADRIENNE FRANTZ (Amber Moore, The Young and the Restless)
I’ve always respected Adrienne Frantz’s tenacity and spirit. Her inconsistent performances, however, have been a bone of contention with me for a long time mainly because I know Frantz has the potential to be a great actor. Yes, she’s had her scene-stealing moments throughout the years, but for the most part Frantz has relied on shrieking, crocodile tears, and posturing to get through her scenes. Lately, however, the Daytime Emmy Award winner has displayed a quiet confidence that has added more depth to her role and performances. Working opposite soap vet, Jeanne Cooper (Katherine) — and finally being paired with a suitable love interest for the first time, Michael Graziadei (Daniel) — has clearly paid off. These days, I find myself demanding more Amber Moore!

8. BRADFORD ANDERSON (Spinelli, General Hospital)
It’s no secret I have found the Spinelli character annoying since his introduction a few years ago, due in large part to Bradford Anderson’s unpolished and stereotypical take on the larger-than-life character. After Georgie’s murder, however, Anderson impressively tapped into an arsenal of emotions and has finally made the once awkward, yet loyal Spinelli feel like a three-dimensional human being I can relate to. Working with the always fierce and infectious, Kirsten Storms (Maxie) hasn’t hurt Anderson either.
General Hospital, ABC

7. EMILY O’BRIEN (Jana Hawkes, Y&R)
Originally written as a one-note psycho murderer obsessed with hunting down priceless religious reliquaries, 2008 Daytime Emmy Award nominee for outstanding younger actress, Emily O’Brien was probably more miscast in the one-note role than anything else. Now that Y&R has a talented writing team penning the character, the soap has fleshed out the role of Jana and made Kevin’s girlfriend a quirky free spirit intent on helping others.

6. AMBYR CHILDERS (ex-Colby Chandler, All My Children)
Is Ambyr Childers the new Sabine Singh (ex-Greenlee)? Earlier this spring, Childers was unceremoniously fired in favour of a clone that left the majority of soap pundits scratching their heads.  Too bad too, because the promising younger actress was able to go head-to-head with many Pine Valley vets as Adam’s spoiled offspring. Hopefully, the starlet will land another soap gig soon.

5. MELISSA ARCHER (Natalie Buchanan, OLTL)
While I don’t expect Melissa Archer to win a Daytime Emmy Award anytime soon (though it is certainly possible), I’d be remiss in not mentioning the flame-haired actress’ stunning progress. Since the new year, Archer, like Frantz, seems to be more focused, relaxed, and in-the-zone in her scenes. And dare I say it — a joy to watch.

Days of Our Lives, NBC 4. RACHEL MELVIN (Chelsea Brady, Days of our Lives)
Not since Charlotte Ross (ex-Eve) and Alison Sweeney (Sami) has Days employed a formidable younger actress as Rachel Melvin, who is one of the few welcomed surprises on the 2008 Daytime Emmy ballot. This past year, Melvin delivered a thoughtful and nuanced performance as Chelsea saved her father’s life with a pancreatic transplant, which unfortunately rendered her barren. Add a scandalous love affair with older man, Dr. Daniel Jonas and there’s no denying that the sexy whippersnapper has grown into a fierce, beautiful adult actress right before our eyes.

3. HUNTER TYLO (Taylor Hayes Marone, B&B)
Two years ago, Hunter Tylo proved to critics she was more than just a hair model after Taylor killed Darla during a hit-and-run car accident on the Pacific Coast Highway. Delivering a surprisingly earnest performance, critics hailed Tylo’s work as impressive. But nothing could have prepared us for the sensational, tour-de-force acting turn she delivered after Taylor learned that the baby she carried in her womb was the biological child of her sworn enemy, Brooke Logan! Tylo elevated to new acting heights with a toil-and-suffering encore that has allowed her to play in the big leagues now. Kudos are in order for the former AMC and Days actress who had to unfairly scream, “I want my son back,” as Taylor, after losing her offspring, Michael Tylo in a real-life drowning accident. Artists use their work to heal their pain, and Tylo is no exception. Brava!

2. DRAKE HOGESTYN (John Black, Days)
Is Drake Hogestyn’s (John) critical resurgence due to the soap’s decision to reinvent the character or is the actor’s renewed passion for his craft to blame? Of course, both scenarios played a part in John Black’s deconstruction into an emotionless, straight-talking mercenary who is finally resonating with fans and critics. Hogestyn is clearly in charge of his darkly comic and tortured performance which often teeters on brilliant. There’s a rumour making the industry rounds that Hogestyn enrolled in acting classes during his brief hiatus from Days. Good move.

1. MELISSA FUMERO (Adriana Cramer Balsom, OLTL)
The artist formally known as Melissa Gallo is unrecognizable, thanks largely in part to head writer Ron Carlivati’s re-imagining of the benign character. I hope OLTL registers Fumero with the Guinness Book of Records because her ascent from overpaid prop to complex anti-heroine and burgeoning vixen has been one of the fastest on record. In each scene, the inspiring starlet delivers the goods effortlessly making “Bitchy Bangs” both vulnerable and desperate. Most recently, Fumero’s visceral performance during Adriana and Rex’s wedding-from-hell has catapulted the actress to the top of the 2009 Daytime Emmy Award front-runner list. My only gripe is, like Guiding Light’s Sherry Stringfield (ex-Blake), GH’s Shell Danielson (ex-Dominque), and Another World’s Alice Barret-Mitchell (ex-Frankie) before her, Fumero is sadly leaving the daytime airwaves just when we’ve fallen in love with her.

14 seasoned pros, who are only getting better with age!
What do Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke, B&B), Jeanne Cooper (Katherine, Y&R), Kirsten Storms (Maxie, GH), Kathy Brier (Marcie, OLTL), John-Paul Lavoisier (Rex, OLTL), Joshua Morrow (Nick, Y&R), Farah Fath (Gigi, OLTL), Kassie DePaiva (Blair, OLTL), Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL), Alison Sweeney (Sami, Days), Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R), Jon Hensley (Holden, As The World Turns), Judith Chapman (Gloria, Y&R), and Michael Graziadei (Daniel, Y&R) all have in common? These underrated thespians never rest on their laurels, and raise their A-game each and every episode they’re in! Sadly, none of them have Emmys on their mantle — well, Cooper was awarded a lifetime achievement Emmy Award — and only seven out of the fourteen performers have earned nominations. As Big Brother’s Danielle would say, “Scandalous!”

Behind-the-scenes improvements of the year!
Most Improved Soap: Days of Our Lives
Most Improved Writer: Days’ Dena Higley
Most Improved Love Story: ATWT’s Luke and Noah
Most Improved Network: ABC
Most Improved Magazine: Soap Opera Weekly
Most Improved Website: soapnet.com
Most Improved Direction: One Life to Live
Most Improved Casting: One Life to Live
Most Improved Producer: Christopher Goutman, ATWT
Most Improved Hair, Set Design, Lighting and Costume: Days of Our Lives — The Ed Scott influence
Most Improved Opening: Guiding Light
Most Improved Soap Coverage: EntertainmentWeekly.com (Abby West’s SoapWatch column)




Nelson Branco is a Toronto freelance entertainment journalist, who regularly contributes to Hello! Canada, The National Post, The Los Angeles Times' theenvelope.com, TV Guide USA, tvguide.com, Inside Entertainment, OUT, and fab magazine, along with spearheading the soap coverage for TVGuide.ca's popular daytime TV hub. After graduating from Ryerson University in 1997, he moved from Toronto to New York in 1998 to take on the roles as senior news editor at Soap Opera Update. Branco first freelanced for Soap Opera Weekly as an intern in 1994, and after leaving Soap Update to help create and launch Bauer Publishing's In Touch Weekly in 2003, Branco continued to freelance occasionally for its sister publication, Soaps In Depth. Most recently, he helped create and launch Canada's first celebrity magazine, Weekly Scoop in 2005 as its news and entertainment director. Branco is also a contributor to a new TV show titled Planet Soap to air in Canada and America.