Jack Is Back!

Soap Opera Digest: Walt! I just finished talking to Thorsten [Kaye, Zach], who told me that you’re funnier than him.
Walt Willey: Well, I would have to give him credit for probably the quickest wit. He’s not funnier than me, he’s just quicker. But when he’s my age, I’ll have him beat. He won’t be as quick as me when he’s this age! Digest: We have to talk about Jack and Erica’s divorce, which is giving them a story I’m really enjoying.
Willey: You and me both! In the past, let’s say, three weeks, the material has been just incredible. I get the scripts and I’m overjoyed. Susan [Lucci, Erica] and I both think it’s wonderful. We’re both like, ‘This is so much fun!’ You know, I’ve been hoping and praying for a long time for some kind of a Nick and Nora-type thing, and I don’t know whether anybody heard it or whether it was just the natural cycle of things, but it seems like that’s what we’re getting. Susan, you know, has got a fabulous, fabulous sense of comedic timing. We did a scene yesterday that played when we taped it completely different from how we had rehearsed it and completely different from how it had played in my mind the night before, which is always really fun.Digest: Well, not only do you seem thrilled with the story, but when I was interviewing Julie [Hanan Carruthers, executive producer] for a May Sweeps Preview, she could barely contain her giddiness about it. Which is nice!
Willey: I tell you what. I am really glad to hear that — and I have to say, it’s been really good. It’s really nice. It’s a relief, in some ways, and yet it makes you crank up your work — that combination of, “Oh, my God!” and “Yes!” Relaxed enthusiasm is the best way to work. It’s making me go, “Oh, so they do still love me! They know I can add something to the show and they’re letting me prove it!” And Susan, even the suggestions she makes about blocking are great. We did a scene the other day … it was kind of like a double take, it was a turn away and then a turn back to finish the line. And it was just one of those things that felt absolutely right, just absolutely right. Our process here is kind of condensed and then speeded up; you don’t get to explore stuff like that in the rehearsal of it. So that’s where her instincts and her openness really matter. She knows how to make the material more … more Erica. It’s not a screwball comedy that we’re doing and my tendency, of course, is to want to go the Cary Grant or Dick Van Dyke direction and play it as a screwball comedy, which would be quick and out of context! So she helps us keep one foot in that and one foot in what we do around here and she has a really level sense of that. It’s nice.Digest: I’m glad not only that attention is being paid to the characters, but that also some effort seems to be being made to make worthwhile the pain that Jack and Erica fans have been through lately!
Willey: Susan and I have talked about the last few years [of story] and I don’t think either one of us are really clear on which one [of the characters] wanted this divorce. I would like to think it was one of those “break them up to make them up” kind of things — and I’m not sure if this is a make-up or not — but to do this fun thing we’re doing now, this battle of wills between these two stubborn people — is fantastic stuff to play, I’ll tell ya. I was never satisfied that this breakup was about the kids or about her need to have space or even the Jeff Martin thing; I always thought it needed more.Digest: Have you worked much with your new on-screen daughter, Sabine Singh (Greenlee), yet?
Willey: A couple times. She had a really big scene when she first arrived and I thought, “Wow, she’s gonna be good.” I don’t think anybody walks in here with the kind of seasoning … I mean, I know that I left some of my best performances right here in my dressing room — well, not this dressing room, but the one I had when I first started — because there is just [a period of adjustment] that comes with this job, but she is really good. I think she’s right for it and I’m glad to have Greenlee back because we never got to explore that. We had those great scenes in the oyster bar and then that was it. That was it! Story got in the way of relationship in that case and then she was gone. It would be nice to finally get to do that.Digest: Speaking of Jack’s kids, I know we both lament the ongoing absence of Reggie from Pine Valley. Have you spoken to Michael [B. Jordan, ex-Reggie] recently?
Willey: Yes! I spoke to him last week, as a matter of fact. He’s got a film in the Tribeca Film Festival called Blackout and he and I were actually trapped together in the [2003 New York City] blackout.Digest: That’s right! You drove back to New Jersey together. I remember that story.
Willey: Isn’t that funny? Yeah, it was the two of us in the car; I was on my way to the airport and he was on his way home. Anyway, the film’s got Melvin Van Peebles and Jeffrey Wright and I talked to him a few days back and we’re going to try to get together when he comes to town. I can’t believe that was four years ago now. I’m really bad with time that way; everything that happened, I think it happened last year. No matter what year we’re talking about, it was last year!Digest: But now as if you’re not busy enough with your own story, the kids you do have on the show are working a lot more. Has Leven’s (Rambin, Lily/Ava) dual role added a lot of time to your day with its technical requirements?
Willey: Nah. I’ve been here for Adam and Stuart, Tad and Ted, all of that, and I think we’ve gotten better at it. We’re not trying to do as much split-screen and doubles, doing pick-up shots from the other side, which we used to do with David [Canary, Adam/Stuart]. But then again, it’s David — there’s nothing of his you don’t want to get on tape!