Soap Opera Digest: First of all, congratulations on your second consecutive Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series for THIS IS US.
Justin Hartley: Thank you! I’m feeling good. It’s pretty incredible. I remember last year, they put us at the front of the room and I thought, “Well, if they put us at the front, we might have a shot at this.” This year, when we got to the theater, we were at table 41 all the way in the back and I was like, “Well, it’s a good show anyway [laughs].”
Digest: How does it feel to be acknowledged by your peers again?
Hartley: It feels great. It’s the best. There were actors in that room I’ve looked up to for years and years, younger than me and older than me, and to know they’re clicking a box [for us], it’s overwhelming.
Digest: Speculation is those awards are heavy.
Hartley: They’re 12½ pounds. My wife [Chrishell] looked it up. She’s like, “This is like 40 pounds!” and I was like, “It’s not 40 pounds, baby,” but it is 12½.
Digest: Let’s talk about Kevin on THIS IS US this season. Finding out his uncle is alive and his father lied to him about it really threw him for a loop.
Hartley: That revelation brings up a lot of things for Kevin. A recurring theme in his life is that he feels things in a different way, and he thinks he can overcome without taking all of the necessary steps. Bringing his uncle back into his life and realizing the gravity of all that, and what it meant for his dad to lie to him about this man being dead, it opens up a whole can of worms for Kevin, and he starts to realize that he’s not as mentally sound as he thought he was.
Digest: Which explains his relapse into drinking again.
Hartley: Exactly. He dove right into a relationship. He invited her to move in. You never really see him with his sponsor. You never see him going to meetings. He thought he had it under control but the reality is, you have to deal with it. It doesn’t just go away. He’s really good at taking care of other people and he’s really sh–ty at taking care of himself.
Digest: What are your personal thoughts on Kevin?
Hartley: I love Kevin. He’s a complex guy, and he puts on a happy face for others that I believe a lot of us do. I also like the jokey, fun part of Kevin. He’s got a great spirit and a great heart and I think he’s a really good guy — but I also like exploring the darker side of why he is where he is and how that happened.
Digest: Do you feel a responsibility in playing an addict?
Hartley: Of course. There’s a tremendous sense of responsibility because it’s something that is serious and it’s everywhere. People are dealing with opioids and addiction and depression and mental health. It’s a very real thing, and the result can be fatal. I don’t know anybody who isn’t either affected by it or knows somebody who has been. It’s like cancer. It’s that serious.
Digest: What kind of feedback have you gotten from fans?
Hartley: People get really moved, and it’s amazing how people will thank you. I talked to a guy a few days ago and he said he hadn’t talked to his sister in six years and because of this show, he started talking to his sister. I said, “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I mean, is she a nice person [laughs]?” But he was basically saying that without the show, they would still be estranged, as far as he knows, and hearing that is really special. That’s what I get more than anything: people thanking us for the show.
Digest: The show is in its third season and the producers report that it will end after season six.
Hartley: One of the things I love about this show is that as you discover more about these characters, just when you think you know something, it gets turned on its ear. But I would say that just the things I know that are happening next year and the year after are incredible.
Digest: It has been pointed out that Kevin hasn’t been seen yet in the future-forward stories. Is there a reason for that?
Hartley: Hmm. Well, the thing about that is … let’s see … I think what you’re asking is, does he die [laughs]?
Digest: We didn’t say that!
Hartley: I’ll put it this way. I don’t think that’s the case but I also think you can read something into that. It’s a story point. There’s a reason for that. There is a story that needs to be told that has to do with why he’s not there and if you see him. So, we’ll see. Or, we won’t [laughs].
Digest: Let’s talk daytime. Have you had a chance to watch Chrishell on DAYS?
Hartley: Oh, yeah! She’s fantastic. She’s crazy on that show now. It’s great fun to watch.
Digest: Word has it that Y&R is looking to recast Adam. Thoughts?
Hartley: They should. I believe they are doing it. I’ve heard they are. Good! I think that’s great. They should. Adam is a great character.
Digest: Does it feel like your stay in Genoa City was a lifetime ago?
Hartley: Sometimes, and then sometimes it feels like just yesterday. I’m friends with Missy [Claire Egan, ex-Chelsea et al] still and we’ll go on about things that we used to laugh about; crazy storylines and stuff you remember vividly.
Digest: Besides TIU, which of your roles do you get recognized for the most?
Hartley: Oh, my gosh! I still get, at least a few times a week, Fox from PASSIONS. I get a lot of Adam Newman — a lot of Adam, and Oliver from SMALLVILLE.
Digest: Speaking of SMALLVILLE, where you played Green Arrow, you also played Aquaman in a pilot that didn’t sell, back in 2006. Have you seen the megahit Aquaman movie yet?
Hartley: No! Do you believe that? I want to see it, though. I want to see it with my daughter [Isabella]. I’m a big fan of [Aquaman].
Digest: Were you disappointed when AQUAMAN didn’t go to series?
Hartley: Looking back, I think if something like that happened to me now, or even three to four years ago, I think it would be more devastating. But I was so naive at the time. It was like, “I’m gonna do this pilot. It’s great. What a great opportunity,” and then they didn’t pick it up. I didn’t really know what that meant. They were like, “Well, we’re not doing any more,” and I was like, “Oh, damn. Well, okay. What’s the next one?” Ignorance is bliss. I didn’t know any better.
Digest: Well, superheroes weren’t the rage they are today.
Hartley: I was ahead of my time [laughs]. And I ended up getting SMALLVILLE from that. They got me directly from that show.
Digest: You’ve been working steadily as an actor for 17 years. Do you ever fear that suddenly it could all just go away?
Hartley: I wasn’t scared until, like, five seconds ago. Why? Do you think that’s going to happen to me? No, I’m just kidding. That’s a great question. I try to tell myself to stop and enjoy the moment, because it really is a special moment. I may never be on a better show in my life. It’d be hard to beat this show. I may never do a show again. But, you try to enjoy the moment.
Digest: What other projects do you have coming up?
Hartley: I’m in this movie called Little, which comes out in a couple of months. It’s really funny. It stars Regina Hall, and I play a schoolteacher. And I just got back from San Francisco where I shot a movie with Adam Devine about a guy who loses touch with his personal relationships because he’s always buried in his phone, and he ends up falling in love with his phone. He is hilarious. So I got to play with them for a little while, and that was fun.
Digest: Any more waxing like in A Bad Moms Christmas?
Hartley [laughs]: No waxing in this one. Yeah, my waxing days might be over.