Friday, December 18, 2009

Interview: Catching Up With Robert Newman

Since the demise of “Guiding Light” this past fall, Robert Newman, who played Joshua Lewis for almost 25 years, has hardly been resting on his laurels. He’s been playing to packed houses in the musical “Sessions” at the Algonquin Theater in New York City. As the show nears its end in January, Robert took time to reflect on the play, as well as his time spent on “GL.”

Robert is no stranger to theater, and musicals specifically. He explains: “For the past five or six years, I had been taking a month or two off from ‘Guiding Light’ to do theater somewhere, and it’s almost exclusively been musicals. It’s something I kept quiet for the soap. They asked me to sing a few times, but I said no. Plus, I just couldn’t envision a situation where Josh would suddenly break out into song.”

In “Sessions,” Robert leads a talented cast of singers and dancers as Dr. Peterson. Robert says: “The show is about a therapist and his patients. There are eight patients, all representing different walks of life and different problems in life. For example, there’s an older married couple who hate each other; there’s a man who’s very reclusive; there’s a woman who’s beaten by her husband, etc. All of them represent different struggles in life.

“The therapist himself is going through a midlife crisis where he is on the brink of having an affair with one of his younger patients, which would not only destroy his marriage, but his career as well. He is also beginning to question the value of what he does. He’s very skilled at his job, but he doesn’t think so.”

“Sessions” will ring true for many people who come to see it. Robert says: “There’s a lot of comedy in the show, and quite a bit of tragedy as well — kind of how life is. The audiences really like the show. Everybody in the audience can relate to some character in the show. We have people in the audience who are very weepy by the time we get to certain sections in the second act. For some of the soap fans, it’s interesting for them to see me as someone other than Joshua.”

So, what was it like for Robert to work with a cast other than his family at “GL”? “Everyone has been great. They welcomed me in. A lot of them have been on board with the show since the beginning. I brought a very different take to Dr. Peterson than my predecessors had, and they all climbed aboard and took the ride with me. They’ve been very loving and supportive, and we’ve become very close in the five months I’ve been working on it. The theater has become my second family now.”

Fans can expect to see much more of Mr. Newman’s board-treading. He reveals:
“There’s nothing like being on stage. I feel very much at home. I love having a live audience, and I love the give-and-take that happens between the audience and cast.”

If you are going to be in the New York area, check out Robert’s turn as a song-and-dance man. “Sessions” runs until the beginning of January; you can get more details at And don’t miss next week’s column, where Robert discusses those final days on “Guiding Light.”

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Interview Outtakes, Part 4

Most of the time when I am conducting an interview with a soap star, I have more interview material than space for printing the interview. Here are some blurbs from stars that did not make it to the print version of the interview, but were too good not to publish.

Marla Sokoloff: I had to look something up on YouTube the other day, and some of my earlier acting jobs came up. I saw something I had done on “Step by Step,” and I must have been 12. It was so strange, because I don’t even remember too many of those experiences. But I was a huge fan of “Full House” before I was on it, like most kids in the sixth and seventh grade. When I got on it, I thought I’d be the coolest kid in school, but it actually backfired on me and I got made fun of.

Jonathan Jackson (Lucky Spencer, “General Hospital”) on playing Kyle Reese in “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”: That was really fun and that was a cool show. I liked the “Terminator” movies growing up, so it was pretty cool to be on the show. In terms of being that iconic character, when you go into something like that, you don’t overthink that you are playing a character that is so loved already. You just go into it and try to put your own thing into it with a sense of respect for the original thing, but not too much that it makes you gun shy.

Betty White (Ann, “The Bold and the Beautiful”) on receiving the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented this January: I cannot tell you what a thrill this is. When they called me I thought: “Well, they’ve made some kind of mistake. They must mean another Betty White.” I am just beside myself. I can’t believe it, and I can’t be coy about it. I am just thrilled to pieces.

Jay Kenneth Johnson (Philip Kiriakis, “Days of Our Lives”): I like that the writers have been integrating a lot of the characters. It’s smart writing to mix it up. It’s a small town, considering there are three places that we go. I mean, you’re bound to run into someone you know at the Brady Pub, right? And, at the Kiriakis mansion, I think we have at least 20 people living there.

Courtney Thorne-Smith: I am very prompt. Right after I had Jack, I’d missed a phone interview. It had never happened before in my life. In the beginning, after you have a child, there’s just no room for it. Usually on a day where I know I have an interview, it is constantly in my mind, but it’s all gone, because you’re thinking about changing the baby, keeping the baby from crying, keeping the baby from crying, keeping the baby from crying. It supersedes everything.

Don Diamont (Bill Spencer, “BB”): When you have a character like Bill, one who you want to be a romantic leading man, and he is that cutthroat, that makes it challenging. It makes the relationship that much more dynamic, and I think the writers are doing an incredible job with this, Whether Katie wants to admit it or not, she is enthralled by this guy, and the way that he wields his power and his influence. There is that place in her where she wishes she could be more like him.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interview Days: With Carly Back, Bo Has His Hands Full

Daytime Dial: How has been having Crystal Chappell back as Carly Manning?
Peter Reckell: There are two levels: First of all, Bo and Hope have been together for so long and the writers have found it difficult to make our stories interesting. And bringing Carly back makes it a lot more exciting and interesting on a lot of new levels that when Crystal was here before we didn’t have, because Hope wasn’t here. And so there’s a lot, you know, there’s a lot of history with both these women and so it’s pretty intense. And then on the other level of working with two amazing actresses, it makes my life fun.

DD: What kind of response are you getting from your fans about this new story line?
Peter Reckell: I actually was really surprised of the response because the news came out when I went to New York on a publicity tour for the Emmys, and so I got to speak to a lot of fans and people like yourself. And almost everybody I spoke to was really, really excited about Crystal coming back to the show. Mostly because it would bring some interest to the Bo and Hope storyline.

DD: Who would be the one person that Bo would turn to for advice?
Peter Reckell: Right now it’s kind of cool because there’s really nobody. I’m helping Carly so it’s — actually today we’re doing scenes about that where Carly comes into town and she’s kind of a mess, and so I feel good because I can help her. But at the same time I’m frustrated, because I usually go to Hope and we can’t talk anymore. So right now I’m kind of up in the air, kind of in limbo.

DD: Would Bo let himself truly fall back in love with Carly or will that be really hard for him to do because of Hope? Is he going to be all conflicted and not know what to do eventually?
Peter Reckell: Oh yeah, it’s a perfect soap opera story. There’s all that conflict and turmoil and which direction do I go? When Carly was around before Hope wasn’t around, so I let myself totally fall in love with her. He’s between a rock and a hard place. Bo and Hope are having problems and the feelings for Carly just start to come up.

DD: How would you characterize the differences between Bo’s relationship with Carly and Bo’s relationship with Hope?
Peter Reckell: With Bo and Hope, that whole relationship started when we were both pretty young. And it’s kind of a first love — with the depth and weight that that carries. And then the Carly relationship was more of adult relationship. I guess that’s it — there’s the first love, and then there’s the love that comes after that.

DD: How has Bo developed and changed throughout the years?
Peter Reckell: When I came back to the show a couple years ago and Bo was a cop, I was like what the — that’s the furthest thing from my mind. I never thought Bo would be a cop, because his relationship with Roman was Roman was the cop and the white knight, and Bo rebelled against that. And now here I am a cop, and I’m one of the top cops. And it’s like what the heck? How did I get here? But it’s been a natural progression: maturing, having a family and being responsible. But I think that renegade is still in there. And I’m hoping that with this story line with Carly that might come out a little bit more again.