Friday, September 18, 2009

Interview B&B: Don Diamont's Dynamic New Beginnings

It was the casting decision heard ’round the world. Fans were shocked to learn at the end of 2008 that Don Diamont’s Brad Carlton would be killed off on “The Young and the Restless.” Don, a 20-year veteran of the show, was one of those people who were shocked when he heard the news.

“It’s hard to encapsulate into a word or two how I felt,” Don says. “Obviously it was disappointing. It was shocking. It was many things. I went through a range of emotions.”

But don’t feel bad for Don. He’s back — and riding high as the corporate titan Bill Spencer Jr. on “Y&R”’s sister soap, “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which makes it difficult for Don to recall his emotions that fateful day last fall when he was told the news about Brad.

“I guess I have moved on from it,” Don explains. “I am just so happy doing what I am doing now. My time on ‘Y&R’ was wonderful. The hardest part was that I had spent my entire adult life there, and I had so many friendships and so many relationships, and so many life experiences that I went through while being there. That was really the hardest part of it.

“I got the news two days before Thanksgiving that they were killing off Brad, and my last shooting day was just before the winter break, around the 22nd of December. It was the end of February when I got the call from Brad (Bell, executive producer/head writer of ‘B&B’) that he was interested in my creating the role of Bill for me.”

While Don was excited to sink his teeth into a new role, he was also thankful to be a part of the creation of an entirely new character. “As an actor, you want to act, and just to get a call that there is a part for you is always a terrific call. When Brad and I sat together to talk about Bill, he gave me his character breakdown, and he also gave me the freedom to create him.

“I felt that the beard was really significant, to distance him from Brad. The physical characteristics — the way he dresses, his beard, his physicality — I’ve gotten a lot of comments from people who watch both shows and they have no problem with my playing a new character. They don’t see Bill as Brad in any way.”

So what was Don most excited about with his new role? “I loved that Bill is such a different character, and especially different from Brad. And he is such a dynamic guy to play — he’s a combination of Richard Branson, Jack Sparrow and just a dash of Hannibal Lector thrown in. So it really was a departure. The character really lit a fire, it really excited me. It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s take Brad Carlton, give him a different name and plug him in here.’”

Bill and Brad couldn’t be more different than night and day. “Bill says whatever is on his mind. He’s sexually inappropriate, he’s politically incorrect. Whatever he is thinking, he says it. He has no fear of anything or anyone. He answers to nobody; that gives him a lot of freedom. Whether anyone likes what he has to say, that doesn’t concern him.”

When Brad Bell (head writer/executive producer, “The Bold and the Beautiful) created the roll of Bill Spencer Jr. for Don Diamont earlier this year, Don wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but he knew that he was in for quiet a ride. And what an exciting ride it’s been so far!

Part of the excitement stems from getting to work with an old friend and former castmate, Heather Tom (Katie, “B&B”; ex-Victoria, “Y&R”). Don gushes: “It is absolutely the best to work with Heather Tom. She is so talented and she is so much fun. She takes her work very seriously, but she doesn’t take herself too seriously. We have a good time.

“I have always admired Heather, from when she was 14 and started at ‘Y&R,’ she just hit the ground running. She was a pro from day one. Here we are, how many years later, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Don’s alter ego, Bill, is a pretty happy guy himself, now that he has found himself falling in love with the sweet Katie. “With Katie, she touched something in him. Their falling in love has certainly taken Bill by surprise. His entire world revolves around his business. This just came out of left field for him.”

Don continues: “He really believes that she has so much untapped potential. He thinks she is more on the ball than her sisters combined, she is just afraid to go out of her comfort zone.”

Bill has been going out of his comfort zone recently as well, thanks to Katie. “It’s certainly hard for Bill to open up and be vulnerable. That’s just not something that is comfortable for him. He doesn’t let anybody in, which is really the beautiful part about that relationship. He’s obviously had plenty of women, but he hasn’t let anybody close or revealed much of himself.

“There is just something about Katie that is disarming for him, that touches him. There is a genuineness about her, an innocence about her, and yet there is a strength. She challenges him, and she does it in such a way that he doesn’t want to eviscerate her.”

Some fans might fear that now that Bill is in love, he’s going to go all soft on us. Don wants to reassure viewers that that won’t happen. Don explains: “I thought it was very important for Bill — he wouldn’t go soft because he is love. While he can soften some of his edges, he cannot lose who he is. He believes in who he is. In the world he lives in, the competition is fierce. You don’t get to where he is without being who he is. While Katie will point out some things in his life where he could go a little easier, soften an edge or two, that’s fine. But he’s not going to become a lovesick puppy all of a sudden.”

If Don sounds energized and happy by his new role, it’s because he genuine is. “It’s been a long time since it’s been that I can’t wait to open a script. I can’t wait to pull that thing open and see what Bill is up to now.

“I will be forever thankful to Brad Bell for not just creating this character, but for his faith in me in being able to bring this guy to life. He really gave me a wonderful opportunity. Here I played Brad Carlton all these years, a character who was named after Bradley Bell, and now I am playing a Bill (after Brad’s father, William Bell). It’s important to me that I do his dad proud. That is not lost on me. It does have a significance for me.”


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