The character was conceived as a short-term role; Howarth is credited with "turning what was a day player role into a compelling, long-term character". Initially designed to be a ruthless, cunning and one-dimensional villain, throughout the years Todd has evolved into a complex character, often selfish and acting the villain but also passionate about protecting his loved ones and even showing kindness and a conscience.
During his time in the fictional town of Llanview, Pennsylvania, the character has had much trouble with the law, including the infamous gang rape of Marty Saybrooke. In 1994, it was revealed that he was the son of Victor Lord, the brother of Tina Lord and half-brother of One Life to Live heroine Victoria Lord.
In September 2007, the writers had Todd remarry longtime love Blair Cramer for the fifth time. The characters have two living children, Starr and Jack. Todd's third child, a son by the mentally unstable Margaret Cochran, was scripted to have been kidnapped at birth and later presumed dead; in 2007 Todd discovered that the boy was in fact alive and being raised as "Tommy McBain" by people he knew. Todd was awarded custody, but Tommy's adoptive mother Marcie McBain fled with the child. With Marcie and his son still at large, on December 20 2007, viewers witnessed Todd's announcement that "Tommy" would be renamed "Sam Manning," in honor of his deceased mentor and friend, Sam Rappaport.
Todd has been the subject of numerous soap opera articles, been alluded to and studied in books, and inspired the creation of a doll in his likeness. He has been called daytime's most popular character, and is considered one of the show's breakout characters.
"In the creation of Todd Manning, no one played a larger role than the remarkably talented Josh Griffith, first associate head writer, then co-head writer, during my stay at One Life. Josh loved, lived and breathed Todd and fought passionately for his position on the show. Second, Todd never would have evolved from 'first frat boy' to the major cast member he became without the powerful talent of Roger Howarth. Because of Roger's ability to convey the complexity of Todd (the hurt as well as anger, the insecurity as well as bluster, the brains, yearning, manipulativeness, sexiness, tenderness, nastiness) we were able to explore both the deeply dark side of this character (the effort to destroy Marty to cover the rape, the attempted revenge on his lawyer Nora, the attack on Luna) and at the same time slowly uncover his growing struggle (usually a failed struggle) towards some kind of redemption. Romantic leads have often begun their careers playing villains (Valentino, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart among them). These characters appeal because they make women feel both the thrill of the 'bad' and the lure of the hidden 'good': they can lead the man to change through love. 'I'll save him!' Fans loved Todd from the beginning because he always had that appeal. The network was therefore happy to have him return to Llanview whenever Roger would come back, and happy to have him move into story in major ways."
Malone gave Todd the last name "Manning" without knowing Victor Lord’s mistress was named Irene Manning. This oversight is what allowed the writers to later reveal that Todd was Tina and Victoria Lord's brother.
The writers made Todd the younger brother of Victoria Lord to give them significant story to work with while transitioning Todd from recurring to main character status. They could begin with the mystery regarding the false heir; David Vickers was introduced as the con-man who claimed Todd's fortune as his own. From there, the writers had Vickers corrupt Tina, and developed Todd not only as Victoria's unwanted sibling, but as "her professional rival" who used "a splashy tabloid newspaper to wipe out her venerable Banner".
To make the character seem even more menacing, a "nasty-looking" scar was given to his right cheek; Marty's friend, Luna Moody, had stopped his second physical attack on Marty by hitting him with a crowbar. The camera would often emphasize this scar, which would later become synonymous with the character.
Independent casting director Howard Meltzer explained, "Todd wears the scar like a badge. It’s a warning to others: Don’t mess with me." Meltzer relayed that Howarth underplayed Todd; Todd did not have to rant to incite fear. "He gets a lot more from the raising of an eyebrow than raising the volume of his voice," Meltzer stated. Todd's actions were mostly in response to the environment around him. Meltzer thanked Howarth's "expressiveness" for making it possible for viewers to see "the wheels turning". The scar was applied by glue, with a little makeup to make it look more authentic, and usually took 10 minutes to apply.
Todd's hair was integral to the character as well. It was described as "enigmatic, with an air of innate authority". The hair was said to demonstrate Todd's lack of pretense, to convey an "I don’t care" attitude, and compliment the character's "overhanging brow". Todd would therefore seem more threatening but vulnerable at the same time. The hair often concealed the "intense, vulnerable eyes underneath". These features contrasted well to the character's mouth, which was cited as pouty and sensual and conferring "a charming, boyish quality". These attributes could sometimes be misinterpreted as Todd being less dangerous than he actually was. Photographer Robert Milazzo noted that the hair was the softening part of the character, as portrayed by Howarth. "You don’t expect that intensity because of it," he cited, and that it made Todd more intriguing.
The original creator of Todd's theme music, composer David Nichtern, loved Todd and enjoyed implementing the different versions of the Todd theme. While describing Todd's "return from the dead" music (as the return was a prominent event at the time), first played in 1996, Nichtern addressed the broader aspect of his music composition for the character:
"All of Todd's music has had a certain 'vibe' to it, especially since the character is so well-drawn. It also has seemed particularly well-suited to my guitar style, so I've enjoyed 'becoming' Todd musically. The key is always to represent his dark side, but with the possibility of redemption and power behind the whole thing. That's what makes him such an interesting character. Todd's cues are always custom-made so to speak, so there is energy and attention going toward getting the exact flavor of what the current story-line is saying about his journey."
Malone felt that the most important part of Todd's redemption was to have him re-confront Marty Saybrooke, the woman he had gang raped. The writers had Todd risk his freedom of prison to instead save Marty from a car crash, even going so far as to donate his own blood to Marty to ensure that she survived the wreck. Todd would later help Marty's lover at the time, Patrick Thornhart, as well. But these good deeds never made Todd feel any less horrible for having raped Marty.
The writing showcased that the rape was not about the sex, about women, or even about Marty. It was rather about what takes place between men and women in the aftermath of rape. Powerful archetypes were drawn out, such as the fight between good and evil, reminiscent of nineteenth-century melodrama, where critique would be given to "power relations, especially the oppression of the poor by the rich and of women by men".
Todd was viewed as unequivocally bad, as he displayed no remorse and no charm. The writers made him the pure embodiment of evil. Certain plot points were issued to further demonstrate this. One included Todd attempting to rape Marty for a second time. He wanted to punish her for "winning" the trial against him. Todd's second attempt to physically harm Marty, however, was thwarted by Marty's close friend (Luna Moody). The writers had the scuffle between the two leave Todd with a scar gracing the right side of his face.
As Todd's popularity with viewers grew, and as a solution not to have to kill off what had become perceived as a monster, executive producer Susan Bedsow Horgan and head writer Michael Malone chose an option that was highly controversial at the time — the decision to complicate their character, ensuring that he was not a one-dimensional rapist. When, after attempting suicide, Powell confessed to raping Marty and was publicly forgiven by Marty herself, Todd was set for revenge when he and fellow rapist Zach received eight-year sentences behind prison as compared to Powell's three months of jail time. Todd made a vow that he would be out of prison in three months as well. To carry out this vow, Todd was written to escape by "drugging himself, waking from a coma to leap from a speeding ambulance, and then reviving himself again by stabbing a knife through his hand while rolling his eyes heavenward and exulting, 'Pain. Pain is good'". The scary determination of the character had become characteristic of him by then. With his escape from prison, he set out to attack the woman who had ensured his fate behind bars, his former lawyer, Nora Gannon (Hillary B. Smith), who had thrown his case once she discovered that he had indeed raped Marty. Nora was spared from Todd's attack by her then-husband Bo Buchanan (Robert S. Woods) showing up before Todd could strike. The writers had Todd's fury increase from there, writing him to yet again attempt to rape Marty, another failed attempt. But his vengeance on Marty was exacted when he killed her boyfriend at the time, Suede. The character was then pushed into a storyline where he kidnapped an ingenue named Rebecca Lewis, hid out with her, committed grand theft auto, and was later found by the police and shot in the chest, falling off a bridge "into the freezing river of the far upstate New York".
The final and crucial addition to Todd's early redemption was his friendship with two children at the time, C.J. and Sarah Roberts. This particular aspect bore "an uncanny (and almost certainly deliberate, given Malone's affection for nineteenth-century literature) resemblance to the monster's narrative in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein". Mary Shelley's monster saves a young girl from drowning, but instead of the incident being seen as heroic, it is misinterpreted as an attack on her. From the hidden shadows, the monster also watches two children living happy lives. In similar comparison, Malone's Todd Manning character rescues the cousin of C.J. and Sarah, Jessica Buchanan (who would later turn out to be his niece), from being manhandled by an older boy. This serves as the start to Todd's road to meeting the two children (also of blood relation to him). Like Shelley's monster, Todd observes the family's happy moments together from afar, and wishes to be a part of their life. He uses his time alone to make toys for the two children. Once they accidentally discover him, he manipulates the children into keeping his whereabouts a secret, relaying to them that he is \"a genie on the run from an evil master\". The stories Todd tells them reflect his feelings about his own father.
In the years following, Todd would continue to evolve into a complex character, starting with amends to his former victim, Marty.
During an August 1993 interview with magazine Soap Opera Digest, Roger Howarth grimaced as he was read a quote from a previous profile where he stated, \"I was happy to get the part of Todd, but it was the furthest thing from the fabric of my personality.\" Howarth responded to hearing this quote by saying, \"What a totally self-involved, pretentious thing to say.\" He clarified, "When it comes to creating a character for a soap opera, they have to go with an archetype, one that's recognizable. The one they created with Todd is that he's privileged and very rich. My upbringing was not like that at all. Status is really important to the characters I seem to be playing. To me, Roger, I don't think it's that important."
Howarth was consistently being cast as a bad guy, and stated that he had no idea why, but that he loved it. He decided that he "would never want to come in now and play a nice guy for three months". The bad-boy persona fit him well. He felt that playing nice would be "dreadfully" boring, but that it was just as easy to portray a bad guy as to portray a good guy. He detailed that the key to understanding Todd is Todd's concern for how he is perceived by people. "I don't think Todd's obnoxious," Howarth stated, "and I can't try to play obnoxious. It's so important to him to think he looks good to others. He's able to mistreat people, which in turn pumps him up. He doesn't appear to the world to be vulnerable in any way. His defense mechanisms have spun out of control."
Howarth cited Todd's rape of Marty as being complex: Todd was in love with Marty, is how Howarth saw it. When Marty rejected Todd's romantic advances, it began to upset Todd, and eventually started to fester. Todd failing an exam only added to his frustration because everything "had always come so easy to him". Rather than admitting that he himself was the reason for failing his exam, he blamed Marty; it had to be his tutor's fault. Todd tried to cast all of his problems off on Marty.
In a 1994 interview to the same magazine, Howarth commented on Todd's clothing style (this before Todd would eventually start dressing in suits more) as "all Ralph Lauren. Double R.L.: 80 dollar pants and a 400-and-something-dollar jacket" when it came to the grunge, Salvation Army-like "rags" in which Todd "slithered around in". At the time, the clothing was the only thing that Howarth admired about the character, and found it disturbing that people could romantically desire a character that, as he described, is unhealthy: "I don't get it. I don't want to insult anybody, but I don't know why he's attractive." Though the interviewer noted that Howarth's own good looks may have attributed to it, Howarth surmised that, for some reason, skinny white guys were in demand.
Howarth was perplexed about writers sometimes having the need to redeem characters. "Todd's a pretty interesting character just the way he is," enthused Howarth. "There's no need to fix it if it's not broken. I don't know where the whole notion of redeeming characters comes from. People used to say to me, 'I hope you get redeemed so you can stay on the show.' Well, Todd hasn't been redeemed, and he's still on the show." Howarth continued, "I don't love the character I play. If I met Todd on the street, I wouldn't say 'Hi' to him, but I do love playing this character."
Queried on the matter of Todd's future, in a 1994 interview months later, Howarth stated that he had no predictions on what was going to happen to the character, but that he would be happy portraying Todd regardless. He did have concerns, however, on the matter of what direction the writers were going to take Todd:
During Howarth's portrayal, the writers detailed Todd's personality as a blend of dark humor, uncouthness and the tortured soul. The character would often deliver one-liners that ranged from humorous to sadistic. In 1997 and 1998, Todd was given comedic partners to sometimes help emphasize this aspect of the character. The first addition was Charlie Briggs, portrayed by actor Robert J. Hogan. Hogan was first seen as Briggs in 1995; he was working for rival company The Banner before Todd "stole him away". Hogan elaborated, "Briggs had been on the show for 17 years, but they never showed him."
Similar to comedy teams, where the "funny guy" usually has a "straight man" who either sets up the joke or simply "does not get it", Briggs was the "straight man" to Todd. An element the writers added is that Todd did not realize that the joke was sometimes on him. Scenes between Todd and Briggs typically involved Todd issuing "some bizarre order" to Briggs, or Todd asking Briggs a "way-out question" that was often "way out of line". The script would sometimes have Briggs respond with a "stupefied look" on his face. Briggs may have appeared lost at some of Todd's comments, but Hogan cited that Briggs was more than a match for Todd. "You look at a kid yelling at you," he said, "and you can't take him seriously."
The second comedic pairing for Todd was his friendship with a parrot he named Moose; the bird was actually portrayed by two South American blue and gold Macaws named Flash and Lucky. Part of Todd's character trait was that he was closest to this bird than to most humans. He would tell his private thoughts and secrets to Moose, which would put the character in direct conflict with Todd's then-wife Téa Delgado. Actress Florencia Lozano, Téa's then-portrayer, clarified: "My character, um, has a very adversarial relationship with the bird. Um...it's sort of jealous of me, I'm jealous of the bird. We're both trying to get close to Todd."
In addition to Moose and Téa's antagonistic relationship, the bird would make insulting or funny remarks to anyone causing problems for Todd. The parrots' awareness of the real world as compared to the fictional world helped them to connect with the actors and better achieve comedic timing. Parrot trainer Ed Richman, explained, "The character of Todd would be yelling or screaming or somebody else would be yelling or screaming... Uh...the birds kind of know in their hearts, inside of them, that it's not real."
Richman had been working with Flash and Lucky for fifteen years, and the birds had developed an "impressive résumé", having appeared on shows such as Magnum, P.I. and Jake and the Fatman, which eventually led them to One Live to Live as Todd's pet parrot. Richman stated that Howarth caught on "real quick" regarding his interaction with Flash and Lucky and that he was the best actor he had worked with in the industry.
To achieve different personality moods for Moose, the producers would trade parrots; Flash was used for intimidating scenes where it looked like he "was going to kill somebody", and Lucky was used for the "loving, very caring", physically-close portrayal of Moose. The parrots did not actually speak themselves, however; voice actor Ron Gallop was used to deliver the verbal aspects of the character. Gallop joked, "I train them not to speak so that I have a job." Lozano recalled, "I've had monologues with them and, you know...just like any other kind of — acting with anyone else or anything else — you take it off of the bird or the person. And, um, obviously, the birds are really good actors because — they're just being honest."
Other characteristics defining Todd were the character's eating habits, his nightmares and issues with sexual intimacy. The character typically ate with his hands, and usually refused to use silverware. Téa was at times determined to teach Todd proper table manners. Todd knew what was considered proper, but preferred not to acknowledge it. Téa was also there to help console Todd about his nightmares, and wanted him to open up about them. The nightmares were detailed as a look into Todd's "soul" and why he is the way he is; they were the driving factor behind him hardly getting any rest. It was rare for Todd to discuss the nightmares, but he would open up to Téa about them on occasion.
Todd's resistance to sexual intimacy stemmed from his romantic past with Blair Cramer; having survived a near-death experience and presumed dead for months, he sought revenge against Blair after discovering her having sex with Patrick Thornhart on the floor of their penthouse. It was after this that Todd shut down emotionally, and almost completely, mainly showing kindness to his daughter, his sister and occasionally to children. The writers often emphasized Todd's fear of sexual intimacy by making this a prominent obstacle for Todd and Téa's relationship. At one point, Téa was shown to strip down naked in front of Todd and plead for him to make love to her. In response, Todd angrily threw her out into the cold — a rejection more about not being ready for human closeness of this nature again than about rejecting Téa. The character later renewed his interest in sex when romantically reunited with Blair, but remained ambivalent towards sexual interaction.
One significant component to Todd's personality was his cleverness. The character consistently out-smarted police, family and anyone he targeted. An example of such awareness took place when he faked split personalities in order to avoid a life sentence in prison for holding 14 people hostage. Todd always remained one step ahead of his enemies.
Analyzing Todd, St. John felt that it was nice to step into the role and have instant concrete relationships: "There was so much history with Todd. I became a core character. It was grounding. I could look at old scripts and ask people, 'What was your relationship with Todd like?' Whereas with Walker, no one knew." St. John cited that this is what acting is all about — "your relationship to people when you figure out how to play a scene".
Regarding Todd's style, St. John seemed to focus more on the hair of the character, telling magazine Soap Opera Weekly that he wanted to get a haircut. He hoped that the show's writers and producers would let him trim off a little of it, commenting, "It's just not me to be this shaggy. Right now it's OK, because I've made the creative choice that I'm letting myself go because [Todd's] not really right in the old noggin. They asked me to leave it alone until further notice. I even gained a little weight so it looks like I'm not thinking about appearance. But personally, I'd like to be a little cleaner."
Due to Howarth's praise for his portrayal of the character, as well as the length of his portrayal, it became inevitable that viewers and the soap opera media would start to compare St. John's performance as the villain to that of Howarth's, wondering how Howarth might have acted out certain scenes, recited certain lines. To this, St. John made his feelings known:
St. John acknowledged the love/hate relationship that viewers have with Todd, but commented on how this factor keeps the character from becoming boring. "It’s fun," he stated, "bad guys are always the most popular, I think." St. John felt that likeability is unnecessary. "I think empathy is what people respond to," he relayed. "If you understand a person, the person can do whatever unlikable act, and you’ll still be rooting for him." He added, "And Todd’s kind of both good and bad. He’s got his good side with his kids, and yet he is conniving and vicious and all those negative things. That’s the kind of character that people like to watch. No one likes to watch a monolith of niceness. The worst thing a writer could do is make a character nice, period. Or likeable."
Howarth's portrayal of Todd made the character a legend, and earned Howarth a Daytime Emmy Award for the role in 1994. At the height of Todd's popularity, there were female viewers expressing ardent desire for the fictional rapist in such a way that it unnerved the actor.
In his first few years as Todd, Howarth's popularity extended to talk shows, where hosts would address the "rabid" attention he and his character received. On May 17, 1994, Howarth appeared with seven other male soap opera stars on the Phil Donahue Show. Howarth discussed Todd's scar, his love for soccer aside from acting, and working with child co-stars. That same month, he appeared on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee (now called Live with Regis and Kelly). The appearance came after winning the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Younger Actor. As Regis Philbin started to introduce Howarth, he relayed, "This guy is hot! More mail than any other soap star going....he's a terrible villain, who's become a heartthrob to thousands of wildly adoring fans...." When Howarth came out, Philbin cited that Howarth did not look like "such a bad guy". The interview consisted of professional and personal detail, and concluded with Philbin introducing a clip of Todd in a confessional; he was confessing his sins of the past, and one of the future. The audience applauded loudly when the clip was finished, and Philbin and Kathie Lee praised Howarth's performance. Philbin said that Howarth was "very, very convincing". Howarth explained that it took hundreds of people behind the scenes to get an episode of a soap opera together.
Howarth leaving the show only served to preoccupy fans more with their love for the villain, and his returns were met with anticipation and hype; the character coming back in 2000 for his love at the time, Téa Delgado, received significant fanfare.
Soap Opera Magazine felt that Howarth's face "greatly" attributed to the character's success, as they listed him in their February 24, 1998 article Daytime's Most Fascinating Faces:
Although the scar that traverses his face while he plays Llanview’s dark prince isn’t real, the menacing intensity that Roger Howarth can so effortlessly convey with his eyes and furrowed brow are frighteningly authentic.
Howarth's acclaim as Todd continued throughout his entire tenure on the show.
On May 29, 2006, Memorial Day, St. John delivered what has been described as "one of the most memorable moments" in soap opera history. The moment was Todd's execution, which was cited as "breathtaking, nerve-racking and heart wrenching". Todd was put to death by lethal injection, an action set up by enemy Spencer Truman. Todd's wife, Blair Cramer, screamed in terror as the process happened. During the same moment, John McBain rushed in declaring Todd's innocence. He had proof; the woman Todd was accused of killing (Margaret Cochran) was at his side, clearly still alive. Spencer, a doctor, was forced to bring Todd back to life on the spot.
What made the execution scenes particularly gloomy were Todd's flashbacks of his life, from his romance with Blair to the birth of his children, a song entitled "Forsaken" (or "Todd's Song") by Michal Towber which overlapped the five-minute and twenty-four second montage, and Blair's disbelief in Todd's innocence while his daughter stood outside of the prison crying in the presence of a lynch mob. The scenes were cited as "unbearable", and Blair's unwillingness to believe in Todd infuriated the audience. At the time, the majority of the audience (due to lack of access to the Internet or interest in its spoilers) believed Todd's death was permanent. Viewers expressed desire for St. John to receive an Emmy nomination; Frank Valentini, One Life to Live's executive producer, when asked by TV Guide which episode the show submitted for Emmy consideration, stated, "We submitted the 'Todd's execution' episode for best show." While St. John was not nominated for an Emmy, the storyline surrounding "Todd's Execution" landed the show an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Drama Series, and Towber was among one of the show's composers nominated in the Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction And Composition For A Drama Series category.
In a June 1994 interview with TV Guide, Michael Malone described the pattern of rapists redeemed as "the bond between the woman and violator". He stated that it is a great historical tradition in fiction and films, and cited actors such as Rudolph Valentino, Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, and Clark Gable, saying that they all began as totally irredeemable villains. "You certainly don't want to say that these women want to be raped or that they are drawn to violence, because that's not true," he cited. "But they are responding to the intensity of passion and an actor who lets you inside the torment. Some [women] believe they can be swept up in that passion and still turn it good. They think, 'With me, he'd be different.'" To this, the publisher of the article, Michael Logan, created controversy when he commented on Malone's analysis by stating that "there is a large contingent of American female soap viewers who find something very attractive about rapists".
The actual female viewers who were aware of Logan's rape comment were infuriated by it. A woman from her r.a.t.s group criticized this argument, elaborating that she did not like Todd because he is a rapist; but that she liked Todd because of Howarth's performance as the character.
"Today the Associated Press reported on the messy merchandising mishap currently making waves at ABC. At the center of the mini-snafu is Todd Manning, a fictional character on ABC's never-say-die soap opera One Life To Live, portrayed by actor Roger Howarth. So popular was the recurring character that ABC execs licensed and produced a collectible Todd Manning doll, selling the daytime-TV action figure through the network's online store for $19.95. But after only a few days, the Manning doll was unceremoniously yanked from the ABC site, with marketing execs citing Todd Manning's 'unsavory past' as the reason for the about-face. For those out of the soap opera loop, Manning's unsavory past includes one attempted murder and two attempted rapes, the latter of which left him with a menacing scar down his right cheek — a flaw lovingly reproduced on the Manning doll. 'We didn't exercise proper sensitivity to the history of the character of Todd,' said Sally Schoneboom, vice president of media and talent relations. 'We have reevaluated and decided not to sell the doll.'"
The uproar started when The Jack Myers Report harshly criticized the network's judgment on creating and releasing the doll.
Trevor's Todd continues to impress me. He has given some sweetness to Todd that I find totally appealing.
In late 2006, with speculation that St. John would be departing from the series, rumors began to circulate that Howarth would be returning to the role. TV Guide looked to clear up the matter and questioned executive producer Valentini. "I can't really comment on contracts," Valentini stated. "I'll get in trouble. [Pause] I will say that we're doing our best to make sure that we do right by the audience. In 2007, TV Guide received official word that Howarth would not be returning to the series. "The answer to the question," they stated, "is a resounding 'Nope!'" What initially started the rumor of Howarth's return was the fact that both actors were in the midst of contract negotiations at their individual shows. "It was widely speculated that Howarth could return as OLTL's Todd." To gauge the reactions of Howarth's possible return, TVGuide.com conducted a poll; an overwhelming 82 percent of voters wanted to see Howarth come back to portray Todd. Daniel R. Coleridge of the website, however, disagreed with the results, stating, "Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I absolutely adore Trevor St. John. His Todd is very cocky, arrogant and humorous in a sexy way that makes this Llanviewer wanna slap him — and then totally make out with him!"
St. John felt the need to apologize following comments he made at an August Fan Club Luncheon. When asked about the controversial storyline involving Todd and Marty, St. John replied, "I'm all for gang rape." He issued the following apology to SOAPnet.com:
"I regret the way I responded to the question about the upcoming Todd and Marty storyline. It was meant in jest and I should know better than to ever try and make a joke about such a serious subject. I intended no disrepect and apologize to anyone I offended."
In response to viewer concern about the direction the writers seemed to be taking the Todd and Marty bond, head writer Carlivati assured Soap Opera Digest that he would have never written this under different circumstances. He explained, "We're not talking about Marty with all her memories. She would never get close to Todd in any way. This is about a Marty who doesn't remember anything about him, and he starts to feel close to this new person and starts to feel this gratitude for the fact that she doesn't remember this horrible thing he did." Carlivati added, "It is like this new chapter and this new arc. I don't think I would ever attempt to tell this relationship the way we're telling it if she knew who she was. I think that's a much different scenario. If we had Marty just come back to town and we started to build a relationship between the two of them...I can't imagine."
Todd and Marty's relationship became based on a psychiatrist/patient dynamic and not something physical. When asked if romance is a possibility, Carlivati stated, "I'd like to watch it unfold a beat at a time, a day at a time, a week at a time and not have the audience jump to, 'Are they going to kiss? Are they going to fall in love? Are they going to sleep together?' The goal is more to take these two characters who have an unbelievable, dark history with each other and explore where it would or could go if they didn't have that obstacle — the rape — between them." However, Carlivati further relayed that this obstacle still exists between them and that the audience is going to see close moments. Todd helping her walk, physical contact between the two as he continues to nurse her back to health are a few of these close moments in which will take place. "I think the thing about the two of them, the characters and the actors, is you feel a chemistry when they're just talking, so I don't necessarily categorize it as romantic," stated Carlivati. "They're definitely forming a relationship and it continues to grow and build through the fall."
Regarding viewer resistance to a romantic pairing between the two, Carlivati acknowledged, "I understand the initial impulse, but then again, I feel that action is more appropriate if we were telling a story where she had all of her memories. It's not that I don't get or understand the seriousness of putting these two characters together, but I don't think we're in any way damaging Marty's character." Carlivati stated that "this is not the same Marty and, to [him], it's fascinating to watch because you're wondering if and when it is all going to come tumbling down".
On September 5, 2008, Todd and Marty shared a passionate kiss as Todd helped Marty walk. Todd initiated the intimate contact, and viewers, as well as critics, argued that, given Todd's sexual intimacy issues, it was out of character for him to be as sexually bold towards Marty, especially given the fact that Marty is his rape victim and a source of his sexual hangups. On September 23, 2008, the show went further with the intimacy between the two characters and almost had them engage in sex. Todd eventually backed away from the contact, presumably due to his conscienc.
In his September 29, 2008 article, TV Guide's Nelson Branco declared the soap opera in a "state of emergency" due to its insistance on going through with a Todd and Marty romance. Critics and fans questioned whether the current head writer of the show was the same head writer who had given the series a string of good storylines just a year before. Branco stated, "Three weeks ago, Carlivati's risky and oh-so-reckless decision to turn the gold standard of rape stories — Michael Malone’s 1992 Emmy-winning gang-rape storyline — into a soap cliché culminated in a shocking, controversial and highly publicized kiss."
Romantically pairing Todd and Marty had been contemplated and proposed by almost every One Life to Live writer at one point, even though the notion was considered career suicide. Howarth and Susan Haskell's refusal to act out the storyline is what largely kept writers from going with the story. However, Haskell decided to return to the series as Marty in 2008, and has seemingly reconsidered doing a Todd and Marty romance, likely due to Carlivati's insight that this is not Real Marty and is rather a Marty with amnesia, a Marty with her past wiped clean.
Branco argued that the Todd and Marty story should have focused "on the inspired karmic thread of Todd and Marty’s children, Starr and Cole, falling in love Romeo and Juliet-style". With Starr pregnant and Starr and Cole expecting a Manning-Thornhart baby, the teen pregnancy storyline would have provided "the perfect catalyst to keep conflict brewing between Marty and Todd without having to resort to the characters falling in love," cited Branco. He called Carlivati's decision to instead opt to "parasitically rape Malone’s storyline" another disappointing story in Carlivati's writing for 2008. Expressing his dismay at One Life to Live's decision to turn Todd and Marty's relationship romantic, Branco stated:
...I’m afraid, it’s too late. After witnessing Todd play tongue hockey with Marty, I felt betrayed, hurt, and disgusted as a viewer. This storyline no longer resonates nor engages me. As Emmy-winning soap scribe Tom Casiello noted recently in one of his blogs, had Marty kissed Todd, and not the other way around… oh, what am I talking about? In my eyes, it wouldn’t have made an iota of difference. Sadly, that single kiss erased 16 years of story and character motivation/back-story from my soap-viewing history. In that depressing yet shocking moment, I realized I had wasted almost two decades investing — and believing — in this epic story.
The 1992 Marty Saybrooke rape storyline won Emmys, including actor, actress and writer Emmys for Howarth, Haskell, Hillary B. Smith (Nora; Todd's lawyer who threw his rape case once she discovered his guilt) and Malone. Branco stated that the storyline has now been ruined. "...art was destroyed and sacrificed to sell detergent," he relayed. "This soulless decision to sell out a sacred storyline has me feeling depressed, angry, and insulted." Branco further voiced the romance as a rewrite and undoing of classic territory and compared it to All My Children's "mishap" in which former head writer Megan McTavish all but erased Erica Kane’s historic abortion storyline by writing it so that the fetus (and now adult male named Josh Madden) was never actually aborted. The series has never recovered from the rewrite.
The Todd and Marty romance is speculated to be a ratings ploy, and Brian Frons, president of ABC Daytime, is speculated as dictating which stories Carlivati writes. Frons has continuously stated that he does not want ABC soap operas to look bad. Despite this, he approved the new Todd and Marty storyline and ABC began airing promotional commercials with the message "The story you never thought we’d tell you”.
Branco noted, "Carlivati, a former Washington lawyer, has defended his controversial and obscene decision to cowardly flirt with a romance between a convicted rapist and his rape victim by pointing out he would never allow Marty Saybrooke to fall in love with Todd Manning if her memory were intact (she lost it due to a car explosion last winter)." The translation is clear, Branco added. "Ostensibly, RC is admitting that pairing these two characters romantically is wrong, but under the right conditions, “it’s OK, folks.” Branco stated, "Todd and Marty didn’t like each other to begin with, so even if he hadn’t raped her, they still would hate each other. Period. End of story."
It is cited that soap opera writers always side with the rapist, not the rape victim. This is what made the Marty Saybrooke rape storyline especially different, and especially for the decade in which it was told. "Malone’s critically acclaimed gang-rape storyline truly resonates and engages the daytime community because the umbrella arc — which consisted of three acts: crime, justice, and atonement — wasn’t mined from a place of desperation, nor a desire for ratings. Malone’s opus was solely inspired with pure intentions and social purpose. The novelist boldly penned a character-rich story that was rooted in telling an honest and emotional study of a woman’s right to sexual freedom juxtaposed with a patriarchy destined to destroy it. And that’s why it worked." In contrast, one of the main objections to the Todd and Marty romance is that it is viewed as not making sense or having a point. The Todd Manning viewers have come to know hardly ever does anything that does not benefit him and yet is haunted by the gang rape he initiated on Marty decades ago. "He would have immediately seen the win-win situation in heroically saving Marty and giving her back to her friends and family." For years, viewers were led to believe that Todd was remorseful and haunted by his rape of Marty. Thus, helping Marty by immediately returning her to her family would have "inched him further towards a realized atonement for his past actions in a very loving and organic way". Carlivati, however, opted against this.
Carlivati decided to have Todd do what resembled a daily therapy session with Marty. As Marty asked about the details of her rape, Todd reluctantly recounted the gang rape moment by moment to Marty as a storm was brewing outside, just like on the night he raped her. What Todd left out, however, is the fact that he raped Marty. Branco stated, "Just like AMC’s suicidal move to undo Erica Kane’s historic feminist decision to have TV’s first abortion, daytime’s most complex and entertaining villain has been completely destroyed. The most glaring missed beat in this story? Todd was raped by [Margaret Cochran ], people! He of all people should know how unfair this situation is to Marty."
Margaret's rape of Todd was one of the reasons he almost killed Cole when he feared that Cole had raped his daughter Starr. It was likely that Todd had suffered a nervous breakdown, having suffered a post-traumatic response either from his own rape by Margaret or the reminiscences of Marty’s gang rape. However, the opportunity to delve into Todd's psyche regarding rape was once again overlooked by the writers.
Marty seemingly being less clever, as well as less wise, during the Todd and Marty romance has also been an issue. "According to the FBI, rape is the most violent thing that can happen to a person — next to murder." Despite Todd having a new face, it is believed that any person who has experienced a violent attack will relay that your body may eventually heal, but it does not forget. "When encountered with similar circumstances your body immediately goes into fight or flight mode." Yet, Marty spending time with Todd and hearing about the rape in his own words has not helped to restore her memory, aside from one subconscious flashback to her rape. In addition, Marty has believed everything Todd has told her thus far, and has disregarded picking up a phone or Googling herself. On October 3, 2008, Marty finally looked up her rape on the Internet and saw the faces of her rapists, but Todd got there before she could find out their names. Due to Todd's plastic surgery, Marty did not recognize that one of the rapist she was looking at was, in fact, Todd. Todd was able to convince Marty to do no further research on her rape. Branco relayed, "Rape is all about power. Todd has all the power, and Marty has none. Todd has raped Marty once again, and in the worst possible way."
What distinguished the Marty Saybrooke rape storyline from other soap opera rape storylines and cemented it as "the best rape tale in daytime history" was the fact that Todd was truly punished for his crime, and unlike others within the genre, Todd and Marty did not later fall in love. "Thanks to Ron Carlivati," Branco issued, "Michael Malone’s epic tale can never be referred to as the best rape storyline ever again. Even if this showmance doesn’t go any further than kissing, Malone’s legacy has been destroyed for self-serving interests."
The question of how many female One Life to Live viewers have been raped and what kind of message is One Life to Live sending to the tween-girl demographic, a demographic One Life to Live happens to be #1 in, was noted.
Lynn Parrish, a RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) spokesperson for America’s largest anti-sexual assault organization relayed that she has never heard of a rapist and a victim fall in love, and that if we are to believe a medium watched primarily by women and written for women, it is as common as the winter cold. Parrish revealed that One Life to Live never contacted RAINN before telling this storyline, but that ABC agreed to air a rape-themed PSA in the near future. Parish spoke of her feelings about the pairing: "There is nothing romantic about rape," she challenged. "Whoever writes a romance between a rapist and its victim under any circumstances clearly doesn’t understand rape nor violence — and probably shouldn’t be writing about it."
On October 1, 2008, former One Life to Live head writer and creator of the Todd and Marty rape storyline, Michael Malone, shared his thoughts on the controversial Todd and Marty romance to TV Guide. "On one hand," Malone stated, "it surprises me because Ron has been a far more conventional soap writer than I was. He’s also a great lover of the form, and has worked in the form for a long time. Ron loves the conventions and traditions of the form. So, my first reaction is, I’m surprised." Malone said that the character (Marty) having amnesia "literally erases the real moral consequences and the real spiritual journey Marty has embarked on. It’s like telling Othello he’s white and Desdemona doesn’t really die. Presumably, Marty will gain her memory, and what will happen? She will be horrified…" Malone agreed that Todd has now "raped Marty in the worst possible way".
When asked why the soap opera industry, which is written for women and watched by women, is "obsessed" with romanticizing rape, Malone detailed his answer. "First of all," he said, "to put it in a larger narrative perspective. That kind of relationship has always been a part of romance and women’s fiction; like Gone With the Wind, which featured a marital rape. Wuthering Heights, as well. One of the things I recall talking about with the reporters when Todd first came on is that he’s in a long line of anti-heroes who started out as villains." Malone said "that heartache inside of them made them appealing as romantic heroes. This isn’t coming out of nowhere. In this genre, General Hospital's Luke and Laura have a long history. This kind of story is profoundly founded on hope, forgiveness and redemption. That’s why it goes to its most radical narrative position. That someone can forgive this ultimate crime is redemptive both for the person forgiven, and the forgiver."
It is Todd's inability to forgive himself for raping Marty that has haunted him all these years. Because of this, Branco cited that Todd kidnapping Marty and lying to her about his identity erases 16 years of his character motivation, and back story. In response, Malone said that "Todd’s path to redemption shouldn’t be in any way easy, and amnesia seems like the easy way out". Bullies are always cowards, Malone stated. "Todd’s whole life is about redeeming that moment in time. Listen, it’s certainly possible he can redeem himself — the whole Christian faith is based on that belief, but it shouldn’t be easy. I can’t imagine someone who loves this form as much as Ron does, would make it easy. What I’m saying to you is to have faith, because I would expect that Ron has a larger plan. I hope he does." Malone conveyed that Todd and Marty are "very much alike" in "many ways" due to their emotional scars, and that "fictionally, whatever path their union takes in a narrative structure is inevitable". He stated that if Todd and Marty are on the screen together, they are going to be brought together in some way.
Queried on if he were currently head writer of the series, would he write the Todd and Marty romance the show has constructed, Malone stated: "As I say, if I were there it would be completely different. Anyone can tell a story, and one of the reasons people mock soaps is because you can only read plot. Writing a story is about the depths of the character and the relationships of the character, and the beauty in which the story is told." Malone added, "I don’t know how I would tell the story with these characters in a romantic realm. When I wrote Todd saving Marty’s life in that car accident years ago I expected that effort would be on going onscreen forever."