Growing up in Maryland and South Carolina, Crystal Chappell had a difficult childhood. By the time she was graduating high school, Chappell had attended 11 different schools. For a child that dealt with shyness and insecurities, this was problematic at best.
It was during high school that Chappell began doing drama and fell in love with acting.
“Acting was an escape for me. A chance to be someone else,” she said.
That led to acting classes and after her first marriage, she received a one day job on the former ABC soap opera, “All My Children.”
Having grown up loving soap operas, this was an experience she was excited about! Then a
a week-long part on the NBC soap, “Santa Barbara” came along.
“That week in Santa Barbara gave me a whole new respect for soap actors. The pace, the hours and the massive amount of dialogue to memorize daily was exhausting,” she stated.
In May of 1990, Chappell started her new role as Dr. Carly Manning on the NBC soap “Days of Our Lives.” She played the love interest for Peter Reckell’s character Bo Brady. The two characters quickly became a hit with the show’s fanbase and Bo and Carly became a soap “super-couple,” as they are known in that genre. Adjusting to the instant celebrity and notoriety of her new found fame wasn’t easy for the young actress.
“I don’t know if there’s a way you can be ready for that,” she explained. “Days became as Carly-and-Bo-centric as it could be,” she continued.
Combined with the long hours of working and memorizing all the material for each day of shooting, things quickly became overwhelming.
Chappell loved playing the character of Dr. Carly Manning on the show and the character still holds a special place for her.
“Carly was my first and the one I started with so I have a real soft spot for her. You put a little bit of yourself in every character. You do that to portray them well,” she said.
She would meet Michael Sabatino on the set of the show. Sabatino was cast as the suave, bad guy Lawrence Alamain who had a past with her character. The two would hit it off and go on to eventually marry in real life.
In 1999, Chappell auditioned for a role the writer had her in mind for when he created it. Guiding Light cast her as Olivia Spencer. The role was both fun and challenging for her to play.
“Her insecurity and nuttiness gave her fascinating range, depth and potential,” she stated.
During this ten year time period she was on the show Guiding Light, she would give birth to two sons.
While on the show, she would be approached with a storyline that would have lasting effects on her career and impact others. She was given a story with fellow actress Jessica Leccia that had the two female characters fall in love. They were assured the story would be explored with taste, compassion and dignity.
So, after both accepted the story idea, the couple known as “Otalia” to Guiding Light fans was born. At the same time, on As The World Turns, a gay male couple storyline had brought death threats to the cast of the show.
Although a couple on the series, the characters of Olivia and Natalia weren’t allowed to touch much.
“We asked why and of course, the answers we got in response was basically double-speak. I didn’t understand it then and I still don’t know,” she said.
As the story was being shown on the soap opera, letters began pouring in from fans around the world. The vast majority of these were written by girls and women who related to this story on a personal level.
“They would say thank you and would share their experiences. Young girls who were confused and frightened, older women who appreciated the story and felt like they were finally being represented,” she stated.
Chappell was very moved by the outpouring from fans. So much so that after Guiding Light went off the air, she began thinking of an idea to continue that story in a different way. She got in on the forefront of web based series. The idea for “Venice: The Series” was born, inspired by the guiding light characters she and Jessica Leccia portrayed.
“I had no idea what to expect. We just wanted to continue that type of story and allow the fans to see these two characters kiss and interact in a love story,” she said.
After some of her peers agreed to act on a volunteer basis and a successful fundraising campaign was done where fans and supporters contributed, the series got underway.
Soap Opera shows, once easily found all over the major networks, had seen the majority of their incarnations canceled.
“I think technology has had a lot to do with it. There’s so many more options now on things to see and do. Shows on YouTube contributed. The fanbase is also an older crowd now and I think soaps have aged out,” she stated.
Chappell would also return to the soap opera “Days of Our Lives” in 2009 as Dr. Carly Manning. Changing from playing the character of Olivia on “Guiding Light” to Carly again on “Days” was more difficult than she expected.
Chappell returned to the show after wanting a second chance to right some things from her first stint on the show. After two seasons back, the character was written off the show and Chappell said goodbye to her role as Carly Manning.
“Venice The Series” has currently completed season 6 with Chappell and Leccia’s characters getting married. Fans wanting another season has led to the announcement that there will be a season 7.
“After season 7 we will see what happens. If there is still interest in it for another season… one season at a time you know?” she said.
As far as the future, Chappell and Sabatino, still very much in love all these years later, have a lot to look forward to!
“We have never told the story of My character on Venice and my leading lady’s character meeting so we are writing a prequel to that and that will be published. Michael and I have a 17 year old son graduating soon and a grandchild on the way. So a lot to look forward to,” she stated.
Crystal Chappell has proven that talent, hard work and dedication will allow anyone to be whatever they want. For women, that’s a very timely and inspirational message.