Sydney Mikayla leaves a legacy unseen in the already storied history of ‘General Hospital’. The impact of that legacy is apparent onscreen and will be felt for years to come.
The talented young actress did what many actresses try and few succeed at by breaking through as a recurring character. Daytime television is filled with roles that were filled by talented young women that fulfilled a simple function. Trina Robinson began as “the best friend” and quickly became a close friend to the audience.
The fact that Sydney Mikayla did that as the second actress in the role of Trina was remarkable. Sure, recasts are common on soaps even for the most high profile of roles. Before Sydney joined the cast in 2019, character appeared in just five episodes over the course of two years. Flash forward to today: Trina’s appeared in five episodes in the last two weeks alone.
Sydney’s talent caused both the producers and the audience to take notice
The fact that Sydney was taking off in a big way was evident to the audience. The show’s producers took notice as well. Within four months, the actress had taken what was for years a sporadic, under-five line part into a contract role. This would be enough to cement herself among the most successful actresses to join the show in years.
The break-out role, the contract and even the Daytime Emmy that followed two years later- none of these things are a big deal. Sydney’s true legacy runs much deeper for her fans. And the impact of that legacy will be felt on ‘General Hospital’ for years to come.
Women on ‘General Hospital’ have been treated unfairly- making it even harder for a young Black actress to succeed
As a young woman in the daytime television industry the stakes are high and the competition is fierce. As a young Black woman in the daytime television industry, the stakes are higher and the deck is stacked against your success. ‘General Hospital’ was especially treacherous ground for a young black woman.
The ABC soap, despite its reputation as the standard bearer for quality in the genre and iconic status in popular culture has also been known for its shortcomings. Woman may be the desired demographic for the soap, but many an actress can share stories about being made to be disposable by the show’s producers.
Such icons as Finola Hughes, Genie Francis, Vanessa Marcil, Sarah Joy Brown and Vinessa Antoine can all attest to that. All were let go when they made a request or demand for accommodations that was balked at by producers- but would have been a no-brainer for their higher paid male counterparts on the show.
The soap opera’s history with Black characters was uneven at best
The show also had a very limited history of Black characters. The show had the first Black doctor on television in Dr. Tracy Adams in 1968. The role was masterfully played by award winning actress Kim Hamilton. But the character was onscreen for only a year before her storyline tackling racial discrimination was resolved with a happy ending.
As Claudia Johnston-Phillips, Bianca Ferguson was a fixture on GH during the 70s and 80s. While she was involved with equally long-running character in husband Bryan Phillips, her fate was tied to his story. Outside of her husband, who had few storylines of his own, we rarely saw Claudia outside of the ‘best friend role’.
Dr. Simone Revelle was the first Black character to break through in a substantial way. She was apart of the first interracial marriage in daytime television history, marrying into the iconic Hardy family. The character was deemed important enough on the show to survive two cast changes, with three actresses playing the role over the course of a decade.
Prior to Sydney, the last time Black characters had prominence was the 90s
Then came the Ward Family in the 90s, the product of Wendy Riche/Claire Labine’s regime at the soap opera. This era, often considered the golden age of the soap by many involved a substantial effort for the shows producers to include Black characters.
The writing of the Ward family was inspired as they were given deep roots meant to last decades. Unfortunately, regimes change in soaps and by 2006 that legacy ended with the death of Justus Ward. The character of Justus that had survived through three different actors was the only contract role for a Black performer when it was written off the show.
While the past decade showed improvement, Sydney’s arrival was a turning point for the show
The show’s producers made headway in the past decade, with the characters of Curtis and Jordan as well as Jordan’s son TJ and Aunt Stella creating a core Black family on the soap. That alone was an achievement for a show that struggled with diversity and likely would not had gone further than that without some impetus. That nudge forward came in the form of Sydney Mikayla.
Sydney brought her minor character to the forefront, breaking through the ‘Black Best Friend’ archetype in the process. Her performance as Trina spurred the producer’s to add an additional Black family to the canvas. Trina’s parents were written into the show, first with the return of a classic character.
Sydney’s success as Trina led to the addition of a new core Black family
The return of Real Andrews after a 17 year absence as the edgy Marcus Taggert gave Sydney’s character legacy status. Taggert was also the enemy of Sonny, who happened to be the stepfather of Trina’s best friend opened up a door to storylines that would raise the stakes for the character.
Sydney’s success in the role leading into the revival of a classic character was an achievement for sure. Even more astounding was the addition of Dr. Portia Robinson as her mother. Played by daytime veteran, Brook Kerr, Sydney was able to display the first prominent Black mother-daughter relationship on GH. Their relationship was not a fraught one with the soap breaking more ground by shaking off conventional mother-daughter feuds by showcasing a healthy supportive connection between the two women.
Just as Trina’s family grew because of Sydney, more roles were added in addition to the Robinson family
Sydney was on contract up until this past October as she turned her focus to school and went to recurring by choice. Just as she made the choice herself to focus on school entirely and leave the show. She leaves the show’s landscape forever changed.
When Sydney joined the cast there was a total of two Black contract roles in Curtis and Jordan 2 recurring roles in TJ and Epiphany Johnson, and guest appearances by Vernee Watson Johnson as Aunt Stella. She leaves the show in a much different place for Black characters and their performers.
The commitment to Black characters can be seen in the decisions to recast Jordan with Tanisha Harper and promote Tahj Bellow to contract
Briana Henry left the role as Jordan Ashford and the role was considered important enough to be recast for the second time with Tanisha Harper. Just as she has made her first appearances onscreen, Tajh Bellow has recurred as her son TJ Ashford since 2018 was given a contract. Trina Robinson’s popularity helped make that possible.
In the past year alone, Sean Blakemore returned in the contract role of Shawn Butler. The actor was given the foundation for storylines but chose to exit due to offers he had committed to- the show was unable to get him to recommit despite their best efforts.
The addition of new characters like Phyllis and Marshall, returns of Shawn, Epiphany and Stella can be attributed to Sydney’s success
The role of Phyllis Caulfield was originally slated for a one episode run for actress Joyce Guy. Her character became the keystone of a major plot involving Sonny Corinthos. That one episode turned into a recurring role in which the actress has appeared in 65 episodes and counting.
Curtis’s father Marshall Ashford has been added to the canvas, with Robert Gossett taking the role. The mystery behind his absence from his son’s life has led to with Vernee Watson returning in a more frequent capacity as Aunt Stella. The character has also pursued a romance with Epiphany Johnson, with sporadically seen veteran Sonia Eddy appearing more in recent months than in all of 2021.
Even with less screen-time, Sydney has been front and center with Trina and Spencer’s romance
Sydney’s screen-time has noticeably decreased in the last few months due to her commitment to school. But Trina is in the midst of a focal storyline confronting her feelings for Spencer Cassidine, struggling with the dynamics of her friendships and facing the machinations of Spencer’s unhinged girlfriend Esme.
Despite the lack of screen-time, Sydney has been able to work wonders with co-star Nicholas Chavez in those scenes. The chemistry between the actress and her male counterpart have been literally off the charts. Social media has been abuzz with interest in Spencer and Trina’s romance, with a growing fanbase assembling on various sites under the hashtag of #Sprina. Among the many viewers gravitating towards the couple are are those who never previously watched a soap opera.
Even before #Sprina Sydney helped revitalize the show’s younger set and leave the teen scene stronger than ever
In many ways, Sydney Mikayla has been responsible for another contribution that transcends race and may be the hardest achievement yet. Josslyn has been the only teenage character on-canvas to gain traction on the soap, with Cameron slowly gaining prominence. The addition of Josslyn’s love interest Oscar only made an impact after his death. Sydney joined the cast just prior to the Oscar’s exit. And the energy she brought was embraced by both viewers, but the producers as well.
Both Eden McCoy and William Lipton were very talented actors but the material seemed a bit aimless. Sydney Mikayla’s entrance to the show revitalized their story and the chemistry between all three was instant magic. The three performers became incredibly close and the trust between the performers translated onscreen.
Eden McCoy has thrived as Josslyn, with the actress able to access new layers thanks to the friendship with Trina. The two have offered viewers a friendship between two young women rarely seen on soaps. The same can be said about the platonic friendship between Trina and Cameron, as William Lipton’s emotional range has grown in the time Sydney has been apart of the cast.
Sydney has helped elevate performances in her scenes with Eden McCoy, William Lipton, Nicholas Chaves and Avery Kristen Pohl
Sydney has also been fortuitous for the two newest additions to the cast. The aforementioned chemistry with Nicholas Chavez couldn’t be overstated if I tried. Nicholas was given the difficult task of remaking a role popularized by Nicholas Betchel from an arrogant but lovable child into a brooding teen struggling to find his place in life. Nicholas has been a huge success and has given much of the credit to his screen partner Sydney. His support of the two being a full-fledged couple is well known. In fact, nearly every episode in which Sydney shared a scene with him, earned a personal tweet encouraging viewers to watch.
Avery Kristen Pohl was given the unenviable task of being the antagonist in the teen scene as Esme Prince. Sydney and Avery have been able to forge their own type of connection, as two play off each other incredibly well. Sydney has been able to show off a self-assured defensive presence onscreen that has added a whole new layer to the character. Avery has been able to shine as the love-to-hate Esme while their dynamic has allowed the newcomer to exhibit the nuances of that elevate the character from what has been a thinly written role.
Sydney’s choice to exit the show is sad for fans, but true to the quality of her character is actively supporting Tabyana Ali as she takes on the role
The decision by the actress to leave ‘General Hospital’ to focus on her education at UCLA is commendable. Just as ABC’s decision to recast the role is a positive one. Actress Tabyana Ali is set to air before the month’s end and while she has big shoes to fill, has been given the full support of Sydney. While fans may mourn the loss of the actress from the canvas, they are excited for the storyline moving forward. Sydney laid the groundwork for #Sprina romance, and so much more.
Sydney has been a force to be reckoned with on ‘General Hospital’ and will likely be a force in whatever she does next. While Sydney is no longer on ‘General Hospital’, she helped make a vital space in the show for another young Black women to thrive in. Tabyana has been set up for success as Trina- but that is not the end of Sydney’s contributions to the soap opera.
The impact of Sydney Mikayla’s performance transcends age and race, with an impact that will be felt for years to come
Sydney Mikayla’s ability helped jumpstart a movement on the show that infused diversity into the city of Port Charles like never before. Her talent has afforded opportunities for other performers in the Black community to thrive on ‘General Hospital’. The impact Sydney Mikayla has made can’t be understated and will be remembered for years to come. Sydney Mikayla’s talent transcended age and race, but simultaneously helped add youth and diversity to the show.
Thank you, Sydney.