Kendall Slater (née Hart) is a fictional character from the American daytime drama All My Children. The character was portrayed by Sarah Michelle Gellar from 1993 to 1995, and is now portrayed by Alicia Minshew, since 2002.
The character was originally cast a complex villain, detailed as "the most terrible daughter on daytime", but has since reformed. Now one of the show's most beloved heroines, with a touch of bad girl still relevant, she is a passionate wife and mother. Married to Zachary "Zach" Slater, and parent to two sons, Spike Lavery and Ian Slater.
Due to Kendall's complicated history, her skill for exacting revenge, need for love when vulnerable, and often acting on the notion that the ends justify the means, she has emerged as one of soap opera's most layered and popular characters.
When Kendall first appeared on the show in 1993 (and was portrayed by then 16-year-old Sarah Michelle Gellar), she was a waifish teen, despite the fact that she was the result of Erica's rape at the age of 14, before the show even began in 1970, 23 years earlier. Back in 1970, Erica's age was set at 16 and her birth year was set at 1954. But fans protested, and so the show's producers rapidly aged Kendall to 23, thus moving Erica's birth year two years back to 1956.
When Minshew took over the role of Kendall in 2002, the character's birth year was changed to 1976, thus pushing Erica's even later than where it was before, to 1962. Originally stated in 1993 to have been born September 25 1970, Kendall's birthday was revised to September 25 1976 in 2002.
The show's producers were adamant about keeping the storyline a secret. Thus, during the casting process, the actresses were told that Kendall would be Erica's new assistant. "I didn't know when I auditioned for Kendall that she would turn out to be who she is. I had heard rumors, but everybody was denying it. Besides, I was scared enough at the thought of working with Susan," stated Gellar.
"Practically every teenage actor in New York auditioned for the role, which eventually went to Gellar." Baring a resemblance to Lucci, Gellar also had the acting talent and the "forceful personality" needed to go up against the experienced actress. Kendall was supposed to be like a younger version of Erica.
"When they told me I was playing her, I was like, 'What? Daughter? Me?' I remember on my first day when I walked into the rehearsal hall, Susan and Michael were rehearsing a scene. I was very nervous. I kept thinking, 'What if I'm really bad and they fire me?' I just snuck in the back and tried to blend in with the coffee machine, when all of a sudden, Susan said, 'Hold it, we need to stop for a minute.'"
"Then she walked over to me and said, 'Congratulations! I'm very glad you're here.' She put her arm around me and said, 'Don't worry, nobody bites.' And then she introduced me to everyone who was there. She really did help me and always made sure I was okay during my first couple of weeks when I was still unsettled. Both Susan and Michael made me feel comfortable."
Kendall made her All My Children debut on February 24 1993, to an unsuspecting audience as Erica's new 22-year-old assistant. Eventually, the truth was revealed — Kendall as Erica's long-lost daughter. "She was also mad as hell for being abandoned at birth — even though going through the pregnancy had resulted from a rape — and determined to exact revenge against Erica as payback."
Gellar admitted that Kendall was the most terrible daughter on daytime during her reign (during her first week on the show, she locked Bianca, her little sister, in a crypt and tried to seduce stepfather Dimitri — and when he turned her down, she had sex with the stable boy, after which she cried rape and then went to jail), but the actress refused to admit that the character was evil: "I chose to see Kendall as misunderstood, which was how, as an actress, I justified her actions. It was amazing, though, playing a psycho-looney."
At the time, the audience had a problem with a 17-year-old actress portraying a 23-year-old character. "I may not physically look 23, but then again, not all 23-year-olds look their age," Gellar pointed out. "I think people should just forget about that. Age is a personal vision. Besides, I know that at 17, Sarah is more mature than Kendall at 23."
"All My Children proved to be a goldmine for [Gellar]. Longtime fans of the soap saw her as the second coming of Erica." The more Gellar demonstrated that she could handle the work, the more the writers showcased her. She became a household name to the soap opera medium. "Fans wrote to her to tell her she reminded them of Natalie Wood and people stopped her in the street." Gellar recalled the time she got in a cab and was greeted by the driver. "I had no idea who this guy was. It turns out his son was the doorman at my apartment building."
Minshew, like Gellar, had no idea that she was auditioning for the role of Erica's first born when the casting call came. "No, I honestly had no clue I was auditioning for the role of Kendall," she stated. "I had auditioned for several roles on All My Children several times and thank god Judy Wilson (All My Children casting director) called me up one day and said 'we are casting a part we think you would be excellent for'," Minshew relayed.
"At the time, the role was being called 'Candy' because they were keeping it incognito... Wilson told me she wanted me to come in and just be my fun, sassy self, be strong, be sassy, do what you always do," Minshew continued with a laugh.
Love him, love him, love him. Wish I got a chance to work with him! Oh my God. I really think he helped me with my screen test because he was so present for me, so charming and so touchy-feely. He was right there for me. He gave me so much. I remember forgetting my lines and the two of us improvised a little bit, just played off of each other, until I figured out where I was. It was so real! I thanked him. I gave him a big kiss. I said, 'Thank you, you made my screen test so fun. I had such a good time, I forgot that I was trying to get a job.' They had a couple rounds of auditions. [The second time I went in,] we did the exact same scene. He said, 'All right, it's you again! We get to have some fun!' We already had a nice rapport going on, so I was excited. I was like, 'Whatever happens, this is fun.'
It was after the screen test that Minshew was told that the role was actually for Kendall Hart. "Judy pulled me into a room after my screen test and told me, 'I want you to know that the role is for Susan Lucci's daughter Kendall who was originally played by Sarah Michelle Gellar'...and then I got so nervous and thought I don't know if I can do this and Wilson said...that I had a pretty good shot at the role, to which I thought ehhhhh she's kissing my butt," stated Minshew with a laugh.
"I always tell people that I truly believe one of the reasons why I got this part was Josh...he made me feel so comfortable and I had so much fun playing with him and I was just able to let go, forget I was screen testing and just throw myself into the part...whatever I did was good and they liked me. I started 3 days after I screen tested," Minshew relayed.
Minshew detailed her working relationship with Lucci as healthy: "She's just such a strong presence. For a little tiny lady, she's a beautifully strong presence. I've always known who she was. So I was like, 'Wow! That is really cool!' My first day on the show I worked with her. I said, 'Hi, I'm playing Kendall, and I think you're beautiful.' She warmed up to me immediately. We've had a great rapport. She's just... She has only been good to me."
When asked of her portrayal of the character, Minshew cited Kendall's complexity. "She is a hard character to play. When I first came to the show, I was a little off...I had never done daytime before, had never watched the show, so I was not familiar with Sarah Michelle's portrayal of Kendall... I was a newer actress and really, really green and it took me a while to delve into the character and find out who she really was and to make her more real and vulnerable."
As Minshew grew to understand the character, she became more connected to Kendall. Her acting improved with each newly discovered aspect. Years later, Minshew stated, "Now I feel like I love Kendall so much. She has become part of me. I find myself sticking up for her and defending her...the character means a lot to me on a personal level and it's nice to see the fans enjoying Kendall as much as I enjoy playing her."
Kendall is released from jail, and briefly marries Anton, who divorces her because of scheming. She decides to write a tell-all book about Erica with writer Del Henry, who she falls in love with. He helps her mend her relationship with her adoptive parents, and she drops the book when her adoptive father, Bill Hart, dies. Kendall and Del get engaged, and leave for Florida after coming to a truce with Erica.
In January 2002, Erica goes on trial for the murder of Frankie Stone, Bianca’s girlfriend. Needing someone to help incriminate her, Erica calls in an eager Kendall, who has amicably split from Del. She stays at the Pine Cone Motel across from Ryan Lavery. The two come to verbal blows often due to their strong-willed personalities, but eventually begin dating. After Erica's house is set on fire with Bianca still inside, Kendall is charged with arson. Ryan hires Trey Kenyon to represent her at trial, not knowing that Trey is the guilty party. Believing that Erica is framing her, Kendall becomes obsessed with the idea of exposing her mother, despite being engaged to Ryan. Ryan catches Kendall seducing Aidan Devane for information regarding Erica, and leaves town after ending his relationship with a devastated Kendall.
Needing something beyond her flirtation with Aidan, Kendall begins a cosmetics company along with Greenlee Smythe, Mia Saunders, and Simone Torres to compete with her mother's company, Enchantment. They name the company FUSION, and it has a rocky start, as Kendall and Greenlee have been enemies in the past. But the company eventually becomes a success.
Kendall begins dating the charming Michael Cambias, but ends things after sensing menace behind his charms. He attempts to rape both Kendall and Erica, but succeeds in raping her younger sister, Bianca. As Bianca is being raped, Kendall helps Erica through a panic attack involving the night she was raped and Kendall was conceived. This marks a cornerstone of their relationship. Police are unable to make a strong case against Cambias, and Kendall begins a convoluted plot against him when he is released from prison. After claiming she had married him in Las Vegas, Michael is murdered by an unknown assailant. Her relationship with Erica, which had grown stronger because of Erica's panic attack, is again strained because of the marriage to Michael, his murder, and the revelation that Bianca is pregnant with his child. Erica encourages her to get an abortion, and Bianca prepares to go through it with the help of her friend, Maggie Stone. At the clinic, Kendall tells her sister how much she admired her, and though Kendall does not give an opinion on the abortion, Bianca lets Kendall know that she has secretly decided to keep her baby.
So that no one will know that Bianca is carrying the child of a rapist, Kendall claims that she is pregnant with Michael’s child after marrying him before he was murdered. A skeptical Greenlee begins investigating her friend, while Erica shuns her. Bianca, however, stands by her sister, as does a newly returned Ryan Lavery, who helps keep the secret. Kendall explains to Bianca that she is helping her and her baby because she sees the baby as herself since Kendall was also the product of rape.
Kendall is put on trial for Michael’s murder, and begins wearing padding underneath her clothes to keep up the ruse. Not understanding the level of trust Ryan has in Kendall, Greenlee reveals the fake pregnancy by ripping the padding off a testifying Kendall. Kendall is forced to reveal that she had faked her pregnancy to protect Bianca, who has killed Michael, though she doesn't remember. Realizing how much Kendall cares for Bianca, Erica becomes close to her daughter again, but Kendall's budding friendship with Greenlee is shattered.
Kendall begins dating Ryan again, who suggests that she forgive Greenlee. Kendall refuses and uses the controlling interest of Fusion she had inherited after Michael's death to treat her former friend unfairly. To even the playing field, Ryan gives Greenlee the shares of Cambias he has inherited from the deceased Alexander Cambias. He goes on to propose to Greenlee to help her out at Fusion, which causes an infuriated Kendall to lock her nemesis in a room to stop the marriage. Kendall attempts to marry Ryan herself, but he chooses Greenlee after realizing what Kendall has done.
To help Kendall be on equal footing at Fusion with Greenlee, Zach Slater offers to marry her and give her his shares of Cambias Industries. Over time, Zach and Kendall's relationship turns into deep romantic love and Kendall's friendship with Greenlee begins to mend. Eventually the two become so close that they consider themselves "sisters."
Kendall goes on to have two children. Her first, Spike Lavery, is born on May 31, 2006. He was originally supposed to be Greenlee's biological child and carried by surrogate mother Kendall. However, a power outage caused by Zach forces Kendall to use her own egg during the artificial insemination. She is almost killed when J.R. Chandler accidentally drops construction supplies on Kendall and her unborn son. Zach comes to consider Spike as his own son, though Kendall currently shares custody with Ryan and his wife Annie Lavery.
Ian Slater is her son with Zach, and he is conceived during Kendall and Zach's second marriage, in February 2007, while the "Satin Slayer" terrorized Pine Valley. He is born severely premature on July 26, 2007.
The show immediately set up the following characters as employees at the club:
|Current ConFusion employees|
|Amanda Dillon||Executive Manager|
|Former ConFusion employees|
|Jonathan Lavery||Assistant Manager/Waiter|
Of the nightclub ConFusion event, Taylor Race briefly described his Pine Valley town-experience with noted humor: "If you think you put a lot of time and effort into a bit or break on the radio, think again when it comes to TV — you spend 20 minutes in makeup, just to get the mic flag on TV!" he said, as he sipped his double half-caf, no-foam, extra hot, nonfat, 30% soy latte delivered by his assistant, Serge. "I picked up some serious TSL today in Pine Valley...and a nasty rash too. I'd love to spend more time chatting with you, but the Daytime Emmy people are on Line 7, and Lucci is requesting The Goo Goo Dolls on Line 9. I will tell you that this daytime drama stuff is great — you just make stuff up! Hold on — I'm going to stare at my cell phone for dramatic effect.... OK, that's a wrap! Lunch, everybody! Back on set at 3pm!"
The book is credited as being written by the character. Kendall is "given a novelist's voice", and the writers who produced the tie-in are said to have "gotten it right". The novel's conceit is that the book is Kendall Hart's roman à clef, written to set All My Children's town of Pine Valley on its ear. Kendall's stand-in for this fiction (i.e., the book being loosely but secretly based on Kendall's life) is a sweet yet assertive young woman named Avery Wilkins. Avery runs her own New York–based cosmetics company, Flair, and is launching a new perfume—Charm!. She hopes that the perfume will launch her career. "When Avery first founded the company with financial backer Finn Adams, a softhearted smart man she later fell in love with, she never thought that he would die and leave his share of the company to his Paris Hilton–type daughter, Parker." Parker's drug and alcohol problems, along with her late-night partying endangers the reputation of Flair and its new perfume. A mysterious phone call to Avery from a manipulative woman claiming to be Avery's mother (a nod to Susan Lucci's character, Erica Kane) "throws everything into a heady cloud of smoke". Avery has two love affairs. One "with a dashing newsmagazine producer" and the other with a "quick-witted yet sensitive billionaire", added to intoxicate readers.
ABC soon had a success with CHARM! when not long after the book was released at a price of $15.99, it became a bestseller not only on the soap opera but in real life as well.