Marsha Posner Williams knew that she wanted to work in television from a very early age. She moved to Los Angeles in her twenties and struggled to break into the business. She eventually did and worked her way up the chain, starting as an administrative assistant and eventually becoming an executive producer on top network shows. Williams’ resume includes long-running hit shows like Amen, Night Court, and Benson as well as short-lived “brilliant but cancelled” series like Hail to the Chief and Good Grief.
Though Williams’ later years credits are very impressive, it is the show that she essentially got her start on, Soap, that is closest to her heart. She is one of the very few people to have worked on the ABC show from the very beginning to the sitcom’s untimely cancellation.
If you aren’t familiar with it, Soap follows the lives and families of two sisters, Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon). Jessica and Mary are quite close while their families can’t stand each other — the Tates are wealthy while the Campbells are not.
Soap was a groundbreaking sitcom and seems to effortlessly shift from farcical comedy to heartfelt drama in the blink of an eye. Series creator Susan Harris tackled many hot topics of the day like homosexuality, infidelity, racism, and impotency with both sensitivity and humor.
The show is often remembered for sparking picketing and hate campaigns, before a single episode had even aired. Once people saw the sitcom, much of the outrage withered away and some people’s narrow-minder perceptions were changed forever.
This is the first part of an interview with the delightful Williams (left). In it, we discuss her early career, how she began working on Soap, her experience with the controversy surrounding the show, memories of the extraordinary cast, and much more.
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To learn more about Soap, please listen to an extended interview with ventriloquist Jay Johnson (Chuck and Bob on the series). If you haven’t seen the sitcom (rent or buy it now!) or would just like to refresh your memory, here are a couple of fun videos.
|The opening to season four that recaps numerous cliffhangers.||A murder that’s followed by a trial and a historic cliffhanger.|
Would’ve been nice if they could have left the racism out of Soap and Golden Girls. Dorothy had an issue with her son marrying a gorgeous older Black Woman but she had no problem telling Barbara Thorndyke to “Go to hell” when she was willing to exclude a Jewish man from an evening at a restricted Country Club. Sophia was friends with Black people on occasion but stereotyped them and mocked their blackness on occasion as well. Burt from Soap took issue with Danny marrying the drop dead stunning Polly and went on to tell him why White Men and… Read more »
I don’t recall the Golden Girl episodes but I know the Soap episodes very well. Susan Harris is clearly not a racist and showed how silly prejudice is through her intelligent writing — as did Norman Lear through All in the Family. They both took a lot of heat for discussing the topics that they did. None of the Campbells or Polly’s mother were racist but they were all concerned for Danny and Polly because of the times and society they lived in. The neighbors assaulted Danny and Polly’s home and they were clearly the bad guys. Though some of… Read more »