Over the past eight years, John O'Hurley has appeared on five different daytime soap operas, creating six memorable characters and earning favorable reviews.

And all of that didn't help much when he was cast in the prime-time movie "White Hot: The Mysterious Murder of Thelma Todd," which airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on Ch. 2."NBC didn't want me for this - my own network," said O'Hurley, who stars as Stephen Slade, the impassioned filmmaker with a mysterious past on "Santa Barbara." "I was the only member of the cast they didn't want."

Networks executives somehow didn't think the daytime star could perform in a nighttime movie. The producers prevailed and O'Hurley got the part, but he said he's run into similar problems when it comes to theatrical film roles.

"It's so crazy to me. Over a period of a week, about 22 million different viewers tune into the soap," he said. "They don't take that into consideration. They just say, `He doesn't have a big enough name.'

"There's this theory that you don't pay $7.50 to see an actor you can see for free five days a week."

In "Thelma Todd," O'Hurley co-stars with Loni Anderson as the murdered film star's agent/estranged husband, Pat DiCicco. The fact-based movie about the life and death of the Hollywood actress is only fair, but O'Hurley is very good.

"I really liked the character. He's so Hollywood," he said. "He's really the archetype of the movie mogul-agent. He just kind of typifies what I hate most about the business. He's working his way up the Hollywood echelon in a smarmy sort of way."

The character is thoroughly despicable - a wife-beater and all-around rat. The sort of role the actor loves.

"I like to pick apart a character who has a strong dark side," he said.

And he generally has played bad guys on the soaps, where he also has been seen in "The Edge of Night," "Loving," "All My Children" and "The Young and the Restless." It was on "Y&R" that he portrayed a rare good guy, Dr. James Grainger. "In fact, he was so nice he put me to sleep," O'Hurley said.

He much prefered playing twin brothers Jonathan and Keith Matalaine on "Loving." "I shot 11 women and most of them were my girlfriends," O'Hurley said. "I shot a doberman and punched the lights out of a little old lady."

Each of his soap characters have been quite different from the others.

"I have eight years of experience on daytime television and I'm not typed to any one role," O'Hurley said.