Monaco suffered "breathing problems" related to her mask on the first day back.
Fans tuning into "General Hospital" this week might find themselves rubbing their eyes every time Sam McCall comes on the screen.
The popular character, who has been portrayed by Kelly Monaco since her debut in 2003, suddenly has a very different face. And it isn't because of a secret plastic surgery storyline or any other type of soap opera dramatics.
Apparently, according to her mother on Twitter, Monaco suffered a "breathing problem" in relation to her COVID-19 mask on the first day that the cast returned to the set. As a result she was quickly recast and subjected to multiple COVID-19 tests, all of which came back negative.
Kelly is safe and healthy. First day back she had a hard time with the Covid mask and was given a rather unexpected 14 day quarantine even though she tested negative twice for Covid and a third negative test for Covid antibodies. She is excited to get back on set next week.
Carmina Monaco assured fans on Friday that her daughter was "safe and healthy." She was, however, subjected to a 14-day quarantine after the mask issue.
That means Hartley's performance as Sam won't be for too much longer, as the soap opera appears to be running on less than a two-week lead time.
It is indicative of one benefit that the format enjoys amid the uncertainty of trying to film a continuing daily series amid a global pandemic. Built into the DNA of soap operas for decades has been the notion of recasting characters.
Unlike the recent "Batwoman" recasting that will see Javicia Leslie portray a whole new character after Ruby Rose's departure, soap operas have long employed the notion of simply bringing on a new face to portray an old character.
Sure, prime time television has done it as well, but not nearly as efficiently and it's rarely accepted as smoothly as seems to be the case with soap fans.
That could be why the "General Hospital" producers went ahead with Hartley rather than just write Sam out of the scripts for two weeks. They knew the fans would just roll with it. Hell, after more than two months since new episodes, they'd probably be willing to roll with a lot.
But it also means that soap operas can employ this tactic again should anyone in their cast fall sick. As long as it's not a full-on outbreak, a temporary recast means production can continue and storylines don't have to be tweaked at the last minute.
In a genre that his been built on consistent, daily storytelling year after year after year, that continuity is important for loyal fans. And those loyal fans are important for the network's bottom line and the advertisers that define it.
A soap opera veteran herself, Hartley followed a nine-year run on "Passions" with regular roles on both "Days of Our Lives" and "All My Children." More recently, she has become a regular fixture in Lifetime's movies.
While she may not be the Sam McCall fans have come to know and love, Hartley will surely bring her two decades of experience to the role, and possibly something fresh and and intriguing along with it.
For fans, it also helps to know that her appearance is just temporary. She was just keeping the character warm for Monaco's return.
Some big shoes to fill...precious too. I hope you enjoy watching Sam as much as I have enjoyed playing her, temporarily ❤️🙏🏻 https://t.co/o7aTNni5dN