Mixed Media

Days of Their Lives

Soaps are the ties that bind for producer Marika Kushel

Marika Kushel (BA ’99) with her 2012 Daytime Emmy. Photo: Cashman Brothers

“How does a girl from Long Island who goes to a SUNY school get to work on one of her favorite television shows in Hollywood?”
MARIKA KUSHEL, BA ’99

By Ann Whitcher Gentzke

Soap opera has long been a leitmotif for Marika Kushel (BA ’99), simultaneously supporting a 15-year career and bringing her extended family closer. The onetime UB media study major now freelances in Hollywood as associate director/editor for “General Hospital” and as an editor for “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

Kushel fondly remembers watching “General Hospital” with her babysitters and, later on, “Days of Our Lives” with her mother. After Kushel’s father remarried, she discovered that her stepmother was also an avid “GH” fan. “We bonded over that and would watch together,” Kushel says. “My dad even started to pick up on the characters and their stories.”

By the time Kushel arrived at UB, she was interested in working in television, but a career in soaps felt like a long shot. She remembers thinking, “How does a girl from Long Island who goes to a SUNY school get to work on one of her favorite television shows in Hollywood?”

Her career path began to crystallize when she took a class taught by Mary Cassata, associate professor emerita of communications and—fortuitously—a soap opera researcher. “One of the students gushed about her upcoming summer internship at ‘Days of Our Lives’ in California. Something clicked for me in that moment. I wanted that,” Kushel says. Armed with contacts from Cassata, Kushel sent out her resume and got two interviews. One led to an internship on Aaron Spelling’s “Sunset Beach.”

After graduating with a concentration in video production, she returned to California and “Sunset Beach.” Soon after that, she got a surprise call from “General Hospital,” asking if she would interview to be assistant to Julie Hanan Carruthers, executive producer of the “GH” spinoff, “Port Charles.” Kushel’s experience and passion prevailed, and she was hired, later following Carruthers to “All My Children.” She became a member of the Directors Guild of America, and in 2012 won a Daytime Emmy, with Anthony Pascarelli, for multiple camera-editing on “All My Children.”

Kushel says that soaps—with their slow-moving story lines revealing the characters’ motivations—have helped strengthen her connections with family. Her grandparents became smitten with “All My Children” after Kushel recommended the show to help her grandfather recuperate from heart surgery, and a year later Kushel arranged for the couple to tour AMC’s Manhattan set to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary. “It was such a thrill for my grandparents. They kept saying it was ‘one of the best days of their lives’!”