Real-Life Scandals That Have Rocked The Soap Opera World

Soap operas, love 'em or hate 'em, are firmly ingrained within the pop-culture zeitgeist, and have been for decades. From the soap's origins in 1930s radio (the term, in fact, comes from these ongoing dramatic stories' sponsorship from laundry detergent companies, targeting homemakers) to the present, the genre has weathered massive societal shifts by continually adapting to new generations. 

While it's true that the genre as a whole has declined significantly since its heyday, arguably peaking during the 1980s, hardcore soap fans continue to tune in day after day to follow the latest exploits of their favorite characters — and, of course, the beloved actors who play them. And while the soaps themselves have come to be characterized by scandalous, over-the-top storylines, sometimes the behind-the-scenes behavior of those involved in daytime dramas can be every bit as outrageous as what viewers have come to expect onscreen.

From reports of on-set fistfights, to shocking allegations made in lawsuits, to arrests, to firings accompanying to a variety of jaw-dropping claims, read on for a look at some real-life scandals that have rocked the soap opera world.

Y&R's biggest stars got physical in a backstage altercation

When soap vet Peter Bergman joined "The Young and the Restless" in 1989, taking over the role of Jack Abbott that had previously been played by actor Terry Lester, he was determined to make the character his own. Unfortunately, that strategy led to some conflicts with those who had enjoyed working with Lester. "Melody Thomas Scott [Nikki Newman] was very friendly to me but Eric Braeden [Victor Newman] was a big Terry Lester fan so his wasn't the warmest welcome," Bergman told Entertainment Weekly. Tensions between the two actors escalated, coming to a head in 1991 with an on-set altercation that reportedly turned physical.

"Eric and I had a number of problems when I first came here and they climaxed in an ugly situation that Eric wished would never had happened and I certainly could have done without it in my life," Bergman told Michael Fairman TV of the fracas.

However, both actors were able to set their mutual animosity aside, and went on to become bona fide friends over time. That, Braeden told Soap Opera Digest, should be the real takeaway for fans, all these years later. "There was a time when I said to Peter, 'Look, we may not like each other, but we are both good for the show,'" Braeden said, recalling that Bergman was smart enough to see that transferring their real-life anger to their characters would make better television in the end.

Fired soap star George Reinholt fought back against salacious claims

Back in 1975, viewers of soap "Another World" tuned in each weekday to watch the ongoing drama that erupted from the relationship between Alice Matthews and Steve Frame, played by Jacqueline Courtney and George Reinholt — and were shocked when the two actors were abruptly fired. According to SoapHub, the firings came about after Reinholt clashed with a new producer, whose ideas on where to take the characters led to conflict, and, reportedly, bad behavior from the actor. He managed to get hired on "One Life to Live," but ultimately parted ways with the show in 1977.

Reinholt struggled to find acting work after that. Facing financial difficulties and living in a garage, he placed an ad in a local newspaper advertising his services as a celebrity escort. This led to media reports that he'd become a gigolo, a charge he vehemently denied during an interview with "Entertainment Tonight." Reinholt insisted there was nothing sexual involved, but that he'd merely offered fans the opportunity for his paid companionship when going to dinner, see a show, or even play bingo. 

He also refuted those allegations during an appearance on daytime talk show "Sally," accusing the media of sensationalizing something he characterized as an innocent way to make a few bucks from his admittedly faded celebrity, while also dredging up old rumors that he was difficult to work with. Reinholt died at 73 in 2013.

A Days of Our Lives producer was fired for secretly rewriting scripts without permission

While many soap-related scandals involve the shenanigans of actors, that isn't always the case. For example, in 2008 Soap Central reported on the volatile situation behind the scenes at "Days of Our Lives," when Emmy-winning head writer Dena Higley quit due to co-exec producer Ed Scott allegedly going behind her back to rewrite her scripts, even filing a formal complaint with the Writers Guild of America.

Producers responded by firing Scott. "I have decided that it's in the best interest of the show's future to make this change in order to improve 'Days' both visually and emotionally," said "DOOL" exec producer Ken Corday in a statement, via Soap Central, announcing Gary Tomlin — a former producer at "One Life to Live" — was being brought in to replace Scott. 

Scott addressed his firing in a subsequent interview with TV Guide (via TV Fanatic), and totally denied Higley's claims that he'd been rewriting her work. "That is nonsense, a bunch of blown-up nothing," he said of her contention that he altered scripts behind her back. "I gave notes on Dena's outlines," he maintained. "That's it. Take 'em or don't take 'em." He did, however, accept his firing and had no plans of fighting to get his job back. "If someone tells me they want a change, I'm not the type to sit there and argue or ask questions," he explained.

Lisa Rinna admitted she 'hated' her onscreen love interest Robert Kelker-Kelly

In the early 1990s, Lisa Rinna's Billie Reed and Robert Kelker-Kelly's Bo Brady steamed up TV screens on "Days of Our Lives" in one of daytime's hottest romances. While their love burned brightly in front of cameras, behind the scenes it was a different vibe entirely. "I hated Robert Kelker-Kelly, hated him with a passion. He hated me with a passion," Rinna admitted during an interview with However, Rinna also contended that it was the intensity of their hatred that made them sizzle onscreen. "We were a volatile combination," Rinna explained, "and it looked like love and sexual chemistry on camera, so that was some darn good acting right there."

The actors wound up working together for three years, with both parting ways with the show in 1995. Kelker-Kelly remained within the soap milieu, later landing on "Another World" and then, in 2001, "General Hospital." Rinna, meanwhile, made the leap from daytime to primetime when she landed the role of Taylor McBride on hit drama "Melrose Place." 

Rinna later returned to "Days" for a few more stints over the years; Kelker-Kelly did not — which may well have been a factor in her decision to go back. When she reprised the role in 2012, Rinna confirmed that her character's romance with Bo was finished. "I have a child with Bo, obviously, but we are in a platonic relationship," she told Soaps.

Soap star Tyler Christoper was arrested for public intoxication

Tyler Christoper played Nikolas Cassadine on "General Hospital," and Stefan DiMera on "Days of Our Lives." In 2019, the actor celebrated his 47th birthday by being arrested, on charges of public intoxication. As TMZ reported, Christopher was picked up by officers in Martinsville, Indiana, and was eventually released after paying a modest bail. However, the outlet also reported that he'd had previous interactions with police in the days leading up to his arrest. "Tyler's arrest capped off an alarming bender that possibly went on for weeks," noted TMZ, pointing to documents indicating that police had responded to reports of the actor being excessively intoxicated no less than nine times — including one incident in which he sported a wound on his nose and had apparently urinated in his pants. However, Soap Dirt added more context to TMZ's report, noting that he'd recently been let go from "Days," and was experiencing marital difficulties. He subsequently pled guilty, and avoided serving any jail time.

In 2023, Christopher was arrested again — same charge, different location, picked up for public intoxication when police found him asleep on the floor of the Burbank Airport. 

In an op-ed for Reader's Digest (via Fox News), Christopher opened up about his alcoholism, and how it had taken everything from him. "My addiction to alcohol contributed to losing my jobs on 'General Hospital' and 'Days of Our Lives' — no one else is to blame," Christopher wrote.

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).

Brenda Dickson claimed that Y&R creator William Bell blacklisted her

Brenda Dickson was the first actor to play Jill Foster Abbott on "The Young and the Restless," a role she played from 1973 until 1987. The show also marked her final screen credit — which Dickson claimed was the result of being blacklisted by "Y&R" creator William Bell, ensuring that nobody in Hollywood would hire her. Dickson made that allegation in her 2013 memoir, "My True Hidden Hollywood Story." As the New York Post reported, Dickson claimed that Bell sicced "Mafia cartel judges and attorneys" on her, at one point leaving her homeless and destitute.

Shortly after she was let go, reportedly after battling with producers about the direction writers were taking her character, in 1988 Dickson sued to get her job back. She lost. In 2008, Dickson wrote a lengthy blog post, as documented by We Love Soaps, revealing she was in desperate straits. "I am being put in jail (illegally) and raped of all my assets," Dickson wrote. She alleged that her attorney was secretly working for Bell while representing her, 

Throughout the years, Dickson has continued to make similar allegations. "They blacklisted me because I was to [sic] popular," she wrote in a 2016 Facebook post, claiming that 8 million viewers fled the show after her firing. "My contract was up," she added. "I was free to work anywhere, unless you are dealing with mafia-like producers."

Michael Muhney was fired from Y&R amid allegations of sexual misconduct

In late 2013, Michael Muhney revealed he'd been abruptly fired from "The Young and the Restless," on which he'd portrayed Adam Newman. "I was informed Monday night at work," he told HuffPost. "I was told "We're going to be letting you go.'" He theorized the reason could have been financial or to give his character a rest, but also hinted he may not have been the easiest person to work with. "Sometimes I've walked around with a big backpack full of hubris," he confessed.

However, TMZ subsequently reported he was fired due to complaints from co-star Hunter King — then just 20 — who accused him of groping her breasts on two separate occasions. 

Muhney denied that report during a 2017 appearance on "The Peloton Brief Podcast." "This rumor disgusted me. I have a daughter. I never would do that," he said (via She Knows). "People thought I was gay on sets cause I never hit on girls. I was always professional." In fact, Muhney claimed that he hired a private investigator, who discovered the story originated from a Florida blogger. Meanwhile, Muhney acknowledged the real reason for his firing was, essentially, that he'd acted like a jerk, making demands of producers and threatening to quit if they weren't met. "After six months they finally said fine, you are leaving." He added, "My problem was I was a f**king idiot. I was my own worst enemy."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

One Life to Live's Jessica Morris was charged with a felony

Among her many roles, Jessica Morris was known to soap fans for playing Jennifer Rappaport on "One Life to Live." Morris made headlines in 2019 when an argument with her boyfriend, actor Rib Hillis, turned violent. How violent? According to TMZ, she bit his lower lip so hard that it was nearly severed from the rest of his face, as displayed in some gruesome photos of Hillis' injured lip. When Hillis went to the ER to treat his injury (which reportedly required 25 stitches), a nurse notified police. That led to an investigation, which ultimately resulted in Morris being hit with a felony charge of domestic violence.

Complicating the situation was the fact that Hillis was married at the time, to "Dancing With the Stars" pro dancer Elena Grinenko. "This situation is difficult for everyone involved, and is complicated," said Anthony Salerno, the attorney representing Morris, stating the obvious. He also said that Morris would not be making any public comment on the matter. 

The fraught and violent situation ultimately had a happy ending when Morris and Hillis — who had divorced Grinenko — got married in May 2023. "Finding true love is not always easy," Morris told People. "Sometimes the journey is long and full of obstacles, twists and turns, and even some pitfalls. But if you keep going, never lose hope, and follow your heart, it will take you to a wonderful destination."

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Victoria Rowell sued Y&R over claims of racial discrimination

Victoria Rowell was not shy about speaking her mind while portraying Drucilla Barber Winters on "The Young and the Restless," which manifested in feuds with various co-stars on the popular soap. In 2007, Rowell left the show, reportedly at her request. However, in 2015 she took the show to court. In her lawsuit, filed against Sony and CBS Television Distribution, Rowell made shocking allegations of racist behavior by her co-stars, including: Melody Scott Thomas mocking her hairstyle by wearing an afro-style wig; Michelle Stafford spitting on her and calling her a "freak" (which she claimed was in collusion with producers); and Peter Bergman issuing threats, and accusing her of mental instability. She also claimed that she wasn't rehired after her exit because she'd publicly criticized the show's lack of racial diversity.

"I've exhausted all other opportunities," Rowell said in an interview with Serial Scoop at the time she launched her suit. "We've tried to handle this ... we did not want to be litigious. But this is where we are, and it's going forward."

CBS fired back. "We were disappointed to learn that, after leaving the cast of 'The Young and the Restless' on her own initiative, Ms. Rowell has attempted to rewrite that history through lawyers' letters and a lawsuit that has no merit," CBS declared in a statement about her suit. Two years later, a settlement was reached, and the suit was dismissed.

All My Children's Michael Nader was arrested in a drug bust

Michael Nader played Count Dimitri Marick on "All My Children," a love interest for Susan Lucci's Erica Kane. He also became familiar to NYPD officers when he was swept up in a massive drug bust in New York City in 2001. As the The New York Times reported, he was among more than 20 people arrested during a raid at what was described as "an illegal social club" in the city's East Village neighborhood. Undercover officers had reportedly been scoping the place out, with one of them witnessing Nader sell $20 worth of cocaine to another person at the club. He was hit with a felony drug charge. According to the Times, this was Nader's second brush with the law; back in 1997, he was charged with driving under the influence, while his 13-year-old daughter was a passenger in the vehicle.

Nader subsequently sued ABC, seeking more than $30 million in lost wages, alleging that producers reneged on a verbal agreement to rehire him after he'd gotten sober. What gave the case something of a twist, however, was Nader's contention that he was an addict, which he categorized as a disability; as a result, Nader's lawyer, Joseph Ranni, contended that the actor was being discriminated against, on the basis of his disability. The judge, however, did not view the case the same way, and the suit was eventually tossed.

Nader died in 2021 at age 76.

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).

Days of Our Lives producer Albert Alarr axed after misconduct investigation

In 2023, the cast and crew of "Days of Our Lives" launched a petition calling for the ouster of producer Albert Alarr, alleging that he was responsible for fostering a toxic environment on the set. In a copy of the complaint, obtained by Deadline, Alarr was accused of being a tyrant who humiliated and belittled actors, among other things. "It's kind of a running joke that everything that comes out of Albert's mouth is inappropriate," a source claimed.

"DOOL" alum Lisa Rinna, who'd recently appeared on the show, shared her dismay. "I couldn't believe the work environment. It was disgusting. I was shocked," she wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post, as reported by She Knows.

A nine-week investigation was launched; as People reported, the findings led to Alarr's dismissal. Alarr, however, was unrepentant, claiming in a statement that the studio was overreacting to counter the negative press the show had been getting due to the complaints against him, which he insisted were unfounded. A few weeks later, he implied he was fired due to his race. Blaming the entire fracas on two people, he issued a statement (via Daily Soap Dish), declaring, "Those individuals ... have been relentlessly angling for greater pay and increased influence on the show, and, it appears, believed that their best strategy to get it was to play on vile stereotypes in order to bring down a Black man in a position of power."