“Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages!” With this phrase, Guiding Light‘s Rick Hearst (Alan-Michael Spaulding) became an actor. “It was the school play in the first grade,” he remembers. “I was the ringmaster in a presentation about the circus. I was just going to be a clown and hang out in the background and climb out of a car with all the other midgets, but I stepped in two days before we were supposed to open, because the kid who was going to be ringmaster got incredible stage fright and couldn’t remember his lines.”
Twists of fate such as this seem to be a theme in Hearst’s acting life. “I got what was called a Morton Brown (acting) scholarship to the University of Texas in Austin,” he reveals. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have been accepted. I applied to the university, and they turned me down. Then I auditioned for the scholarship and when I got it they sent me an acceptance letter. I thought they only did that for people who play ball. To this day, I still have my acceptance letter and my rejection letter.”
After two years of training in the university’s drama department, Hearst packed his bags and headed back to his home state, New York. “I wanted to get into a more intensive program,” he explains. “I saw a notice on the call board in Texas that Circle in the Square (a Manhattan theater) was coming down for a day to audition people, so I worked up two monologues. A week [after my audition] I got a fat letter of acceptance. I started jumping up and down and almost hit my head on the ceiling fan. Then I made a beeline for New York.
“I was fortunate, because my first year at Circle my parents were still supporting me. And my girlfriend, Donna, who is now my wife, was working so she made sure we had food on the table and a roof over out head,” he adds. “After I graduated, I got out there and slung hash like everyone else for a year. Then we moved to California.”Hearst found some acting work in the wonderful world of low-budget films. “One was called Brain Damage,” he says, chuckling. “It was a horror film, and a real horror experience. I didn’t get killed, but the top of my head exploded and electricity flew out of it. I was stoned throughout the thing — in the movie, not for real. You see my glazed eyes, and I say ‘Wow!’ and that’s the end of the movie. It was actually in theaters for a whole week. My friends and I went to see it in Los Angeles. The other film was called Crossing the Line, and it went straight to video.”
A call from Days of Our Lives saved Hearst from becoming the next B-movie king. “My agent told me, ‘There’s this contract role on Days for three years. The character’s name is Scotty Banning. He’s a music producer, and he’s sexy and charming,'” recalls Hearst. “And I thought, ‘Hey, I can play sexy and charming.’ When I looked at the character description, I was floored. I kept saying, ‘I can do this. This is my character. I’m going to get this.'”I can’t tell you what it was like when I finally got the call,” he continues. “It was 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 29 (1989), and I was watching Days. I called my agent to see if he had heard anything yet, and he said, ‘No, they have 10 days [to get back to you], take it easy. So I hung up. Forty-five minutes later he calls me back and says, ‘Hi, Rick, how’re you doing?’ and starts making small talk. And I interrupted him and said, ‘I know you know something, and you damn well better tell me.’ When he said I’d gotten it, I screamed. To get your first big job like that — there’s nothing like it.”
But Hearst admits his experience on Days wasn’t an entirely happy one. “We didn’t see eye-to-eye on the way the character should be,” he explains. “They have a formula way of handling character, and it’s tough to break that mold. It wasn’t a way in which I was doing my best work. But Days gave me my first job, so I can do nothing but thank them. They gave me a taste of what it was like.”