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Always Tom Eplin
*Why ATWT Killed Jake*

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From the May 21 (2002) issue of SOW

Jake McKinnon survived Another World's cancellation, jumped networks, and found a new home and love on ATWT. But AW fans who followed Jake to Oakdale, as well as those who fell in love with him when he got there, were devastated recently when Jake was fatally shot.

'Jake's heart wrenching death makes the last three years bittersweet,' wrote AW/ATWT fan Caragh from Canada in an e-mail to Soap Opera Weekly.

Fan Rose M. from Connecticut cried, 'How could do it? I was hoping by some miracle that Jake wouldn't have been killed off. I never watched the show he came from, but his presence on ATWThas been great.'

'Why would ATWT kill this very popular character? came after the first of the year,' reveals head writer Hogan Sheffer. 'Jake McKinnon is a character from another soap opera, and because of Tom Eplin and who he is, we brought him on this show at a time when As The World Turns didn't have a whole lot going for it. I understand why Mickey Dwyer-Dobbin (executive in charge of production) and Procter & Gamble made that move.'

But that was then and this is now. 'The problem is Jake is really hard to tell story for' adds Sheffer. 'He's not connected to anybody on the map. We were hoping, in marrying him to Molly, we could find a niche for him where he would become one of the Oakdale cast. It just never happened. He always felt like an outsider, and worse than that, it make Molly feel like an outsider, because she's not really connected to anybody except this fuzzy cousinship with Carly.  Suddenly, I felt like, 'Damn it, now I've isolated two great characters! What do I do now?''

'I was very frank with (executive producer) Chris Goutman. I said, 'I love Tom Eplin. I can always write story for him, but it's not going to be that deep, great, emotional stuff because what he's got on the map is all new and it has no depth to it'. He agreed with me. It was not a decision we made lightly, and Tom has been a gentleman in the press and all the way around. I think he knows that Jake just wasn't an Oakdalian, and that's all it is.'

Sheffer asserts that killing Jake was the way to go. 'We did think of writing him going back to Bay City, but in doing so I seem to be promising that he might return, which is not the case,' he says. 'Also it leaves Molly with an ex-husband. It was much cleaner this way in terms of storytelling to be able to bring Molly back to a place where she can once again be a viable, romantic character for us, which we're missing. Molly brings something that Carly doesn't, and that's a total sentimentality.  Carly can be a schemer and a louse for money.  Molly can be a schemer and a louse too, but always for love. That's a great character for a show, so to have her free again is very encouraging.'

Don't look for Jake to be reunited with his dead wife, Vicky, in the afterlife. 'I didn't want to go there because we are doing these terrible things to Molly this month, killing her husband and putting her in a custody situation literally days after he dies,' maintains Sheffer. 'To have him parading off with the first wife in the end was just too cruel. It's got to be about Jake and Molly.'

Jake's spirit will stick around briefly, though to help his widow. 'We are going to use Jake to bring her around, to get her past the grieving stage where she can say, 'OK, I can put one foot in front of the other now and I'm going to be OK.'  That was better to me than dragging Jensen (Buchanan, ex-Vicky McKinnon) back into it.'

Sheffer went into it knowing fans were going to be upset. 'Of course, that's always a concern. It just got to the point where we had to do what was best for the show. If there are people out there who only tune in to see Tom Eplin, I apologize to them. Believe me when I tell you, if there was any other way to do it, it would have been done.'

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