What Happened To The Cast Of Santa Barbara

In July 1984, NBC unveiled a splashy new soap opera that quickly became a sensation: "Santa Barbara," which centered on the complicated lives of the Capwells, a wildly wealthy family living in the ritzy California enclave that gave the show its title. The soap may not have been the longest-running in the genre, canceled in 1993, yet it remains beloved by its legions of fans. 

While the series never really broke through in the ratings when compared to its contemporaries, "Santa Barbara" earned critical acclaim and numerous Daytime Emmy Awards, even winning two consecutive Emmys for outstanding soap in 1988 and again in 1989.

"Santa Barbara" also welcomed numerous actors over the course of its nine-year run, some of whom remain best-known for their time on the show, others who went on to far greater fame; in fact, a young actor named Leonardo DiCaprio got his start when he appeared in a handful of episodes. With that in mind, read on for a look at some of the familiar faces who appeared on the show by delving into what happened to the cast of "Santa Barbara."

A Martinez has appeared in numerous films and TV series

Actor A Martinez has been amassing screen credits since the late 1960s, and had guest starred in numerous television series appeared in dozens of films and TV series before landing his biggest break to that point when he was cast as Cruz Castillo in "Santa Barbara." As viewers will recall, Cruz had a long and complicated romance with Eden Capwell (Marcy Walker), and was eventually revealed to be a clandestine secret agent.

After leaving "Santa Barbara" in 1992, he landed a recurring role in hit drama series "L.A. Law," featured in numerous episodes, and appeared in many more TV guest spots. In 2000, he joined the cast of "General Hospital," exiting in 2002 to take a role in primetime legal drama "For the People." Other notable post-"Santa Barbara" soap gigs have been stints on "One Life to Live" (playing Ray Montez for 52 episodes), "The Bold and the Beautiful," and "Days of Our Lives." He's also portrayed Jacob Nighthorse in TV crime drama "Longmire," and, more recently, appeared in AMC crime drama "Dark Winds."  

However, all those decades later, "Santa Barbara" continues to loom large in his career, something he's attributed to the quality of the show's writing. "It was a cut above," he explained in a 2023 interview with Soap Opera Digest. "At its best, it was so audacious."

Marcy Walker returned to soaps and then became a youth minister

Another OG member of the "Santa Barbara" cast, Marcy Walker portrayed Eden Capwell for more than 1,200 episodes. She subsequently returned to "All My Children" (in which she'd appeared prior to "Santa Barbara"), making numerous appearances on the show between 2000 and 2005. That proved to be her final screen credit; when her contract wasn't renewed, Walker stepped away from acting.

In a 2012 interview with the Edmond Outlook, the actor — now known as Marcy Smith — revealed that her decision was influenced by the Almighty. "After a long time of praying, God told me that the scales had tipped, and I said I'm walking away from acting," she shared, noting that she'd become increasingly active within her church, attending Bible study and teaching Sunday school. 

That led to a job as a children's pastor at a church in Huntersville, North Carolina. "The experience I had in North Carolina was amazing. It was amazing what we were able to do, but God called me to something more," Smith said, recalling that she'd started sending out her resume and received an offer to work for a church in Edmond, Oklahoma. "I thought, 'Oklahoma? Really? This isn't part of the plan,'" she recalled. However, once she paid a visit to check it out, she felt as if she'd found her home. "For me, I wanted to go where God is, and God is here," she explained.

Nicolas Coster continued acting until his death in 2023

Nicolas Coster portrayed Lionel Lockridge, nemesis of Capwell family patriarch C.C. Capwell (Jed Allan), a role he inhabited throughout the series' run. Coster came to the show after a successful career in theater, first in his native Great Britain and then on Broadway. Beyond "Santa Barbara," Coster racked up well over 100 screen credits in film and television, with TV roles running the gamut, from wacky sitcom "3rd Rock from the Sun" to frontier drama "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." He also continued to dabble in daytime drama, cast in soap opera "Another World" in 1993. He won his first Daytime Emmy for playing Major Jack Madison in the online soap opera "The Bay." 

In the midst of all that acting work, Coster also shared his knowledge of the craft at an academic level. "I teach at the University of Georgia as an adjunct professor in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies ... I love doing that!" Coster said in a 2009 interview with Santa Barbara: le site Francais, noting that he'd also been teaching film at the University of Southern California Graduate Film School and the American Film Institute. 

Coster never retired, and continued his acting career well into his late 80s, culminating in a guest-starring role in a 2023 episode of "The Rookie: Feds." Coster died in June 2023, at the age of 89.

Robin Wright's career exploded after she left Santa Barbara

Robin Wright was one of the original cast members of "Santa Barbara," playing Kelly Capwell for more than 500 episodes until leaving the series in 1988. "Santa Barbara" proved to be a launching pad for Wright, who went on to the career-making role of Princess Buttercup in the phenomenally successful 1987 film "The Princess Bride." From there, Wright's film career blew up, highlighted by her unforgettably poignant performance in 1994's "Forrest Gump." In 1996, she married fellow actor Sean Penn; they divorced in 2010. 

Wright experienced a career resurgence in 2013 when she was cast in Netflix drama "House of Cards," earning six Emmy nominations for her portrayal of Claire Underwood, and two more for her role as the series' executive producer. While working on "House of Cards," Wright also stepped behind the camera to direct; she made her big-screen directorial debut with the 2021 film "Land."

Looking back at her years on "Santa Barbara" in an interview with Harvard Business Review, Wright recalled the 18-hour work days. "You had to manage your time, your sanity, and your immune system," she said. However, she added, the experience was also a valuable education on the technical aspects of acting in front of multiple cameras. "How do you not only remember your lines but also when you need to turn a bit to the left to favor camera one or at which line you need to face camera three," she explained.

Jed Allan held a key 90210 role before his death in 2019

Throughout the entirety of the nine years that "Santa Barbara" aired on NBC, Jed Allan played C.C. Capwell. Following the series' cancelation, Allan landed a few TV series guest spots, but those post-"Santa Barbara" screen roles were infrequent. Those included the recurring role of Rush Sanders — father of Ian Ziering's Steve Sanders — on "Beverly Hills, 90210," and guest-starring appearances on series such as HBO drama "Six Feet Under," the "General Hospital" spinoff "Port Charles," and "CSI: Miami." He also appeared alongside some other "Santa Barbara" alums in the digital soap opera "The Bay."

Allan died in 2019 at the age of 84. Ziering paid tribute to his TV dad in a touching Instagram post, writing, "Such a great guy to work with, he will be missed."

In a 2009 interview with Santa Barbara le site Francais, Allan remarked on the show's enduring popularity — although he also expressed his regret that the series' viewers didn't put up more of a fuss at the time that "Santa Barbara" was taken off the air. "It's a shame that the 'Santa Barbara' fans that even now are still loyal to the show couldn't have made more noise back then," he said. "Then maybe the show wouldn't have been canceled. I hope that they will continue to be fans and friends of mine. Fans are what keep us going."

Nancy Lee Grahn is trying to mount a Santa Barbara reboot

Nancy Lee Grahn joined "Santa Barbara" in 1985, playing Julia Wainwright — later Julia Wainwright Capwell, after the character wed Mason Capwell. In the years after the series ended, Grahn appeared in various TV series, including "Melrose Place," "7th Heaven," and "Murder One." In 1996, she returned to the soap genre when she joined the cast of "General Hospital." In 2023, Grahn marked her 27th year on the venerable daytime drama. 

Grahn reflected on her quarter-century on "GH" in a 2021 interview with TV Insider. As she recalled, at the time she was landing a lot of guest-star work on TV. "But when you're not a regular, you have to keep looking for that next job," she explained, revealing she wanted a steady gig because she was planning to have a baby. "My daughter Kate was the reason I wanted to do 'GH,'" she said. "I called and asked if they wanted me," she said with a laugh. "They said, 'Not really, but we'll take you anyway.'"

During a 2022 Facebook Live interview, Grahn revealed her dream was to spearhead a "Santa Barbara" revival for a streaming service, either Hulu or Disney+ because of issues involving rights to the show. However, she admitted that those issues had placed those plans in limbo, at least for the time being.

Robin Mattson became a soap opera MVP

Robin Mattson was a member of the "Santa Barbara" cast for most of its run, playing Gina Timmons for more than 1,000 episodes between 1985 and 1993 (replacing Linda Gibboney, who originated the role in the series). After the series ended, Mattson remained committed to soaps, joining "All My Children" in 1994 in the role of Janet Marlowe, ultimately appearing in 100 episodes. In 2003, she appeared in "The Bold and the Beautiful," and in 2007 joined "As the World Turns." During 2010 and 2011, she appeared in 27 episodes of "Days of Our Lives," and then returned to "General Hospital," reprising the role of Heather Webber, which she'd last played in the early 1980s, just before joining "Santa Barbara."

"I've done several soaps including seven years on 'All My Children' as Janet Green and I reprised my role as Heather Webber on General Hospital,'" she said in a 2009 interview with Santa Barbara Online. "I've continued to perform as an actress on daytime drama as well as hosting my own culinary show on Lifetime Television." That show, "The Main Ingredient," was inspired by Mattson's decision to enroll in an intensive three-month course at the Los Angeles International Culinary School.

As she told the Post-Bulletin, "The Main Ingredient" was shot live to tape, and if mistakes were made they usually wound up on the air. "Things go wrong in a kitchen," she explained. "It's human. We're not Martha Stewart here."

Lane Davies has had an extensive TV career

Lane Davies played Mason Capwell on "Santa Barbara," the first of three actors to play the character (after Davies left the series in 1989, Mason was played by Terry Lester, and then Gordon Thomson). After his exit, Davies made a mark on television with numerous guest spots. He was particularly sought-after in sitcoms, appearing in such TV comedies as "Married... With Children," "The Golden Girls," 'Seinfeld," "The Nanny," and many others. In 2002, he joined "General Hospital," playing Dr. Cameron Lewis for more than 120 episodes.

Davies also pursued his love of theater, traveling the world to indulge his passion for performing onstage. "I'm at a point in my life if something seems like fun or if it's a role I want to do, I do it," he told Soap Opera Digest in 2019, describing productions in locales ranging from Prague to Tennessee, the latter of which saw him working with the Tennessee Shakespeare Company. Performing Shakespeare, in fact, remains one of Davies' biggest pleasures. "And I've recently gotten involved with something called the Conasauga Shakespeare Coalition, which will produce 'Henry V' this summer," he added.

Looking back on "Santa Barbara," he offered a theory about why the show remains so beloved, nearly four decades after its cancelation. "I think we took more chances that the average soap; we were not as formulaic," he told Soap Central.

Eileen Davidson became a long-timer on The Young and the Restless

Eileen Davidson was the fourth actor to play Kelly Capwell on "Santa Barbara," following in the footsteps of Robin Wright (who originated the character), followed by Kimberly McArthur (who held the role from 1988 until 1989), and Carrington Garland (who took over, and played the character until Davidson took over in 1991).

After "Santa Barbara" ended in 1993, Davidson jumped over to another soap, "Days of Our Lives," where she remained until 1998. From there, Davidson rejoined "The Young and the Restless," where she had played Ashley Abbott prior to being cast in "Santa Barbara." When she was axed in 2012, she returned to "Days," and was later rehired by "Y&R"; as of August 2023, she remains a member of the "Y&R" cast. During that time, Davidson has also stretched out to exercise her literary muscles, writing four whodunit novels centring on fictional crime-solving soap star Alexis Peterson. Meanwhile, she made soap history as the first actor to ever portray five distinct characters at the same time, a feat she achieved in 1998 on "Days of Our Lives."

In 2014, Davidson joined "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," and wound up sticking around as a part of the cast until 2017 (appearing sporadically for a few years after that). "It is like nothing else," she told the A.V. Club of that experience. "I mean, it's a mind, you know, fill in the blank."

Jack Wagner has remained a familiar face to TV viewers

Jack Wagner was no stranger to soap opera fans when he joined the cast of "Santa Barbara" in 1991 as Warren Lockeridge, having previously made a splash in daytime drama as Frisco Jones on "General Hospital." After the cancelation of "Santa Barbara," Wagner's next stop was "Melrose Place," playing Dr. Peter Burns for 131 episodes. Wagner has maintained a prolific Hollywood career since then, appearing in various primetime television series while also dipping in and out of the soap world; in 2003, in fact, he joined the cast of "The Bold and the Beautiful," appearing in more than 1,300 episodes between then and 2020. These days, Wagner is part of the Hallmark Channel family, where he's a series regular on "When Calls the Heart" — not to mention starring in the Hallmark Channel hit movie "The Wedding March" and its multiple sequels.

"The Hallmark Channel really has become a nice home for me," Wagner told the Columbus Dispatch. "It's become a relationship of actors that they feel are an asset to their network and vice-versa. Hallmark's audience fits the demographic we have built over the past 30 years."

He experienced tragedy in June 2022 when his son, Harrison Wagner, died of an accidental drug overdose at age 27. "My Heart goes out to parents who have lost a child," Wagner wrote on Instagram on the one-year anniversary of his son's death. "There are No Words."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

John O'Hurley became a Seinfeld fan-favorite

John O'Hurley wasn't on "Santa Barbara" for a long time — he played Stephen Slade for 75 episodes during 1990 and 1991 — but that early entry in his resume of screen credits kicked off an impressive acting career that grew increasingly successful. After an array of TV guest spots, one of those roles wound up defining O'Hurley's career when he was cast in "Seinfeld" as J. Peterman, boss of Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Elaine Benes. The character, and O'Hurley's loopy embodiment of it, became a fan-favorite, leading to 20 appearances on the now-iconic sitcom. 

That single role paved the way for numerous film and TV roles, including a wealth of credits as a voice actor in various animated series. Then, in 2005 he competed in the inaugural season of "Dancing With the Stars," becoming the runner up. "I was the first one they asked," he told Yahoo! Entertainment of "DWTS." "I said to myself, 'You know what? I don't know how to dance. Shame on me.' So I did it."

Looking back at his career in an interview with Soaps in Depth, O'Hurley had fond remembrances of his early roles in soap operas, having appeared in "As the World Turns," "General Hospital," "The Edge of Night," "Loving," and "The Young and the Restless," before joining "Santa Barbara." "Soap operas for me were some of the funniest and most endearing moments I spent on television," he recalled.