I visited the show on the first two mornings of the couple’s first full season together, in early September, about five months after Consuelos’s debut. There was no picket line to cross; the show does not employ Writers Guild members. Six cameras — three stationary, three roving — captured Ripa’s sleek blowout, her husband’s impossibly white teeth. This far into Consuelos’s tenure, their rhythms and repartee were established. She was the giddy cheer captain, a glammed up version of, as she put it, “a simple girl from New Jersey.” He was the hunky straight man.
I wanted to know, as far one can ever know these kinds of things when it comes to unscripted television, just how much of this was for the many cameras and how much spoke to their real relationship. Marriage, after all, is another kind of performance, with each spouse filling what is hopefully a complementary role. These two seem better at that act than most. Where did the act end? Did it end?
The first time Ripa and Consuselos pretended to be a couple was in 1995, during a chemistry read for the ABC soap “All My Children.” Ripa was already a star of the show, playing the party girl turned private investigator turned cosmetics chief executive Hayley Vaughan. Consuelos was auditioning to play her new love interest, Mateo Santos. The two actors had met in the rehearsal hall the day before, Ripa’s hair in giant curlers.
“Are you sure you want this job?” she asked him. She gestured to a blob of toothpaste she had applied to a pimple. “Look what they do to you.”
Consuelos did want the job. He and Ripa wanted each other, too. They were married, secretly, in Las Vegas, a year later and had their first child a year after that. Hayley and Mateo enjoyed a somewhat more eventful relationship: kidnapping, bigamy, arson, near death and at least one alternate personality. In 2002, in a soap-imitating-life move, their characters were written off, with Hayley moving across the country to host a talk show.