While most fans remember him as Lincoln “Linc” Tyler on ALL MY CHILDREN, veteran actor Peter White is also known for his acclaimed work onstage and his role in the controversial and groundbreaking play and film The Boys in the Band. Weekly recently caught up with White to discuss his experience working with the beloved Eileen Herlie (ex-Myrtle, AMC) and the upcoming DVD release of The Boys in the Band.
“I started on the show around 1974,” White recalls of his early days on AMC. “When Eileen came on and we all realized we were going to have our storylines together…forgive me for saying this, but that’s when soaps — [including] ALL MY CHILDREN — were really good.” White has many fond memories of his co-star. “Eileen just sort of fit in. Eileen, Francesca (James; ex-Kitty) and I, we connected royally. I remember talking to Agnes Nixon (the show’s creator), and she said, ‘I have to write a storyline about you guys, because you all get along so well!’ That was sort of it; we just became instant family and have been ever since, which is great.”
Even with his own lengthy list of credits, White is still blown away by his former co-star’s talent and accomplishments. “Eileen was a gutsy old Scot broad, and nobody really knew, you know? And after reading the obituary…we [on the show] all knew, for the most part, but I don’t think most people knew what her credits were. She had incredible history — from Burton to Olivier and down the line. They say you get on a soap and it’s a great training ground. That’s bulls–t. You have to be pretty damn good if you are going to be halfway decent on a soap.” And Herlie certainly was.
White recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the historical play and film The Boys in the Band, which he risked his career to star in. Featuring a story that focused on a group of gay friends coming together at a birthday party for one of them, the film is set in the early 1970s and was extremely progressive, controversial, provocative and daring for its time. White will never forget how he came to play the pivotal role of Alan. After he toured with actress Myrna Loy in Barefoot in the Park, Loy persuaded White to take a risk and play the sexually ambiguous Alan. “Things were sort of really moving for me; I was doing so well, and I thought, ‘I don’t need this kind of risk.’ I talked to Myrna — she became my mentor — and she said, ‘Peter, if you are going to be an actor, you are going to have to take some risks in your life.'” White did take the role, which was a breakout success that led to an off-Broadway run and a feature film adaptation. He still can’t believe the impact of the film. “Opening night, none of us knew what we had. We all just thought, ‘It’s a play, it’s something new, it’s different and it’s good.’ It was a 100 percent gay audience — and then the next day, it went crazy! We got a call to come to the theater early, because there was such a crowd around the theater, you couldn’t get near it. Everyone at the time wanted to call it a gay play — [I always thought] it wasn’t [so much] a gay play [as] it was a play with gay characters.”
You can currently catch White as a guest star on SAVING GRACE. When asked what shows he would like to appear on, White has an easy answer. “There is a list. But MAD MEN is…I’m perfect for it. I’m custom-made for it.”
The 40th anniversary DVD of The Boys in the Band is available in stores and online.