10:39am PT by Eriq Gardner
'Days of Our Lives' Producer Looks to Beat Soap Star's Retaliation Lawsuit
Sony Pictures and the producer of Days of Our Lives are hoping to finally end the lawsuit brought by Victoria Rowell, who once starred on The Young and the Restless before she turned her attention to an advocacy campaign to have more African Americans behind and in front of the camera.
Rowell filed her claims in February 2015 after her ambition of reviving the character of Drucilla Barber Winters went nowhere. She alleges that her further efforts to appear on The Bold and the Beautiful and Days of Our Lives were rebuffed thanks to her outspokenness on discrimination issues.
Most of her claims were subsequently rejected, but in June, California federal judge John Kronstadt allowed her to advance on the narrow ground that she was not hired in retaliation for engaging in protected speech. Rowell's amended complaint had alleged that she pursued a small part on Days of Our Lives before being taken off an audition list. The judge rejected the producers' argument that her claim represented an impingement of their First Amendment rights.
Now, however, Corday Productions has filed a summary judgment motion that asserts the decision not to cast Rowell had nothing to do with her advocacy. "Rather, Plaintiff – who has years of daytime drama experience and her own fan base – was not the right actress to play Melinda Trask, a minor, one-note character who appeared in only 20 episodes of DOOL," Corday's lawyers write.
The motion relies on testimony from the casting director, Marnie Saitta, who felt the Melinda Trask character didn't have a lot of depth and so wouldn't be appropriate for Rowell. As for the soap star's advocacy work, Saitta apparently viewed it as a positive.
Rowell "cannot establish that the Melinda Trask role was not available to her because of her public advocacy," states the motion, adding that Rowell acknowledges both a lack of evidence of any causal link or proof she wasn't allowed to audition because of her protected activity.
Speculation alone can't drive the lawsuit any further, Corday adds, especially since there's a "legitimate, non-retaliatory reason" for the casting.
If Rowell hopes to get the case to trial, she'll have to convince the judge there's evidence of retaliation and maybe figure out a way to establish that the official reasons articulated for her non-casting amount to pretext.
Meanwhile, Sony Pictures has also filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that it is not a producer of Days of Our Lives and wasn't involved with the casting of the Melinda Trask role.