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Before Barbie, Scott Evans Starred in a Landmark Gay Soap Storyline

He's playing a Ken this summer, but 14 years ago, Evans was one half of One Life to Live's first gay romance.
  • Scott Evans in Barbie (photo: Warner Bros.)
    Scott Evans in Barbie (photo: Warner Bros.)

    On a day when a not inconsiderable amount of news is happening (some kind of arraignment happening in New York City?), social media was naturally inundated with Barbie posters. Warner Bros. released a slew of character posters for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film starring Margot Robbie as Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken. But they're not the only exciting cast members. The movie features upwards of a dozen additional Barbies and Kens, played by the likes of Kate McKinnon, Issa Rae, Simu Liu, Emma Mackey, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Ncuti Gatwa, Nicola Coughlan, Emerald Fennell, Dua Lipa, and more.

    What exactly Gerwig has up her sleeve with this Barbie movie remains tantalizingly uncertain, but one thing that may have stood out to soap opera fans was the character poster for Scott Evans, who plays, you guessed it, a Ken. Evans has appeared on TV shows like Grace and Frankie (he's also the younger brother of Chris Evans), but for fans of daytime TV, his best-known and most-beloved role is probably still gay police officer Oliver Fish on the late, lamented One Life to Live.

    Soap operas have long been training ground for actors and actresses with big-screen aspirations. Before she became America's rom-com queen, Meg Ryan played romantic heroine Betsy Stewart on As the World Turns. Alec Baldwin's earliest TV role was on The Doctors. Robin Wright was a teenage soap ingenue on Santa Barbara. Judith Light was a Daytime Emmy winner for her highly dramatic work on One Life to Live. Michael B. Jordan and Amanda Seyfried were caught up in the teen storylines on All My Children. Morgan Freeman, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan — the list goes on. Soap fans are incredibly loyal, even well after their shows have left the air, so these performances tend to linger in fans' memories for a very long time.

    Scott Evans debuted on One Life to Live in 2008, but it was the next year that kicked off his big storyline, as the heretofore closeted Fish began a romance with shady lab tech (and former fraternity brother) Kyle Lewis (Brett Claywell). Kyle and Fish were a landmark gay relationship for One Life to Live. While the show had broken ground in the 1990s with the gay teen character Billy Douglas (played by Ryan Phillippe), and had dabbled in a darker storyline about the closeted, murderous Daniel Colson (Mark Dobies) in the mid-aughts, Kyle and Fish were the first romantic gay storyline in OLTL history. They featured in what was daytime's first sex scene between two men, and when later on their relationship was complicated by a rival for Kyle's attentions, they became daytime's first gay love triangle. At the time, daytime TV in general did not feature many gay relationships or characters, in part due to industry inertia and in part due to the more conservative demographics of the daytime audience.

    Kyle and Fish were a hit, especially with younger, more diverse, and more online segments of the One Life to Live audience. It was one of the show's best-developed romantic stories of that era, navigating the tricky waters of Fish's reluctance to come out to himself and his relationship with then-girlfriend Layla (played by Tika Sumpter, who'd go on to star in TV shows like Mixed-ish and played Michelle Obama in the film Southside with You). And the chemistry between both actors had fans invested in where their story would go. They were popular enough to have earned their own portmanteau "shipper" nickname ("Kish," of course), and YouTube still has plenty of fan-made compilations of Kish scenes from 2009 and 2010.

    Unfortunately, the Kish storyline coincided with the waning years of One Life to Live. Ratings were down across the board for daytime, but the numbers were especially dire at OLTL. In March of 2010, it was announced that the Kyle and Fish storyline would be ending and that Evans and Claywell had been let go by the show. At the time, an ABC representative told TV Guide Magazine, "The Kish story did not have the appeal we hoped it would. We are going to spend our time on stories that have a more favorable reaction from our audience."

    Things didn't ever really improve for One Life to Live in the ratings department. The show was canceled a year later and aired its final episode on ABC in January 2012. The Fish and Kyle love story remains a fondly remembered one, and soap fans hold on tightly to their memories. No matter how many awards Julianne Moore wins, she'll still be most fondly remembered by As the World Turns fans for her dual role as twins on that show. All My Children fans will still make a point of telling you Sarah Michelle Gellar played Erica Kane's underhanded daughter long before she was Buffy. So when Scott Evans shows up on the big screen playing one of Greta Gerwig's many Kens, One Life fans will likely be cheering inside that their Oliver Fish is getting a big break.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Scott Evans, One Life to Live, Barbie