HOLLYWOOD – In the wake of the bin Laden killing, the actor who portrayed him is speaking publicly for the first time about the sudden demise of his infamous character.
Timothy Osmond (no relation to Donny & Marie), who played the charismatic and villainous bin Laden on the soap The War That Will Not End in Our Lifetime, says he was surprised that the producers decided to kill him off, stating that he didn’t know they were going to do so until he got the script on the day of shooting.
With most soap operas on the network chopping block these days, news of the death of one of its biggest characters may spell not only the end of a storyline on one of the most popular series on TV, but an end to the genre itself.
We spoke with Mr. Osmond by phone earlier today to get his reaction. Below is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Mcpocalypse News: Thank you for talking to us today.
Timothy Osmond: My pleasure.
MN: When did you first realize they were going to kill off the bin Laden character?
TO: Funny you should ask that, because I was just talking to the producers a week earlier about how bin Laden would be releasing another videotape, calling for jihad against what’s happening in Libya, and getting ready for the anniversary of 9/11.
MN: So they were thinking about doing something big to mark the ten year anniversary.
TO: Yeah. So, it totally surprised me when I got the script on Sunday and it said, “shot in the head by sniper team.”
MN: What was your response?
TO: Well, I didn’t believe it at first. I thought they were playing some kind of joke on me, you know?. And I went up to Bob (director Bob Dobbson), and basically said, ‘what’s this all about, man?’
MN: What did he say?
TO: Well, at first he couldn’t look me in the eye, ‘cause I think he knew about it for awhile, but he told me that the producers were worried that the character had run its course and that they decided the best thing to do was kill him off.
MN: So, you think they planned this for a long time.
TO: Oh yeah. I mean, in soaps, the writers work out the plotlines months in advance, so they totally knew it was going to happen.
MN: Why do you think they led you to believe otherwise?
TO: Well, to be fair, they probably did have these alternate scenarios, but at the end of the day, they chose to go with killing him off. I think they didn’t let me in on it, because well… I don’t think they were a hundred percent sure.
MN: But why kill him off now. Wasn’t the character still popular with the audience?
TO: I don’t know. That’s a good question. I still get the same amount of fan/hate mail, but I think because the character was more in the background, a figure who became less and less visible, but who’s shadow still loomed large, I think they just decided that it would be better to move on to a new villain rather than bring me back out again as the main antagonist.
MN: The character had flatlined, so to speak.
TO: (laughs) In their minds I think so, yeah. Personally, I think he had a lot more to do, but then I’m not the one who makes these decisions. I’m just the actor.
MN: I heard somewhere that you said you didn’t like the way the actual death was scripted.
TO: Yeah, that’s true. I mean, it was… I don’t know… kinda’ ridiculous really. At first, they had me dying in this bloody shootout, where I was supposed to use my wife as a human shield or something like that and beg for my life…
MN: Portraying him as a coward.
TO: Yeah, exactly. When I read it, I said no way would my character use some woman as a human shield. He’d die as a warrior. So, I objected to that.
MN: So they changed it?
TO: Well, there was a lot of debate back and forth about how the battle would go down, would he be a martyr, etc. ... in the end, they just decided I’d get caught by surprise and that’d be that.
MN: No guns a blazin’ or big firefight.
TO: No, just boom you’re dead.
MN: Kind of anti-climatic.
TO: I think so. I mean, for the world’s most evil terrorist mastermind, I think it was a lazy way to end it.
MN: Why do you think they chose to do it that way?
TO: I was told it was due to budgetary constraints.
MN: They didn’t have the money.
TO: Exactly. They didn’t have the budget for a big action sequence, so they just wrote this lame ending.
MN: I heard that they also filmed your character's memorial and burial at sea.
TO: Yeah, we filmed all that, but again due to budgetary and time constraints, that scene ended up on the editing floor.
MN: You know, this brings up an interesting question. With all the soaps being canceled these days, maybe all this budgetary talk means this one’s on the out as well.
TO: I hope not, but that is a real possibility. It’s true that we just don’t have the audience we did ten years ago.
MN: You’re death did help boost the ratings though. I read somewhere that it was one of the most watched episodes in history, second only to the Luke & Laura wedding on General Hospital.
TO: That’s true. I know the show had it’s biggest audience ever. I’m sure the sponsors were happy.
MN: Do you think they’ll ever bring you back? Like, say it was all a dream or something like that?
TO: (laughs) I wouldn’t mind, but no, I don’t think that’ll ever happen. Although, anything’s possible. But I would say that we’ve probably seen the end of Osama bin Laden.
MN: What are you going to do now? Any projects coming up?
TO: Not really. My agent’s been sending me scripts, but I haven’t seen anything that interests me too much yet. Although, we’ll see. Right now, I’m just going to take some time off and relax. Spend some time with the family. Do some traveling.
MN: Do you get recognized a lot?
TO: Fortunately, I don’t actually. Although I’m tall, without the beard, turban, make-up and all that, people don’t usually come up to me and say, “aren’t you bin Laden?”, so it’s nice. I get to blend in so to speak.
MN: In a way that’s good. Especially when you’re playing such a evil character.
TO: Yeah, people have a tendency to identify you with the character you play, so I’m glad I can be a bit anonymous that way.
MN: Appreciate you taking the time to speak with us today.
TO: You’re welcome.