INTERVIEW

Eric Braeden weighs in on Victor’s quest to save his family — and their legacy

Soap Opera Digest: Well, Eric, it’s been very exciting to see Victor take control of this whole Ashland situation, because I think the fans have been eager to see him in full patriarch mode, if you will — defending the company, defending Victoria.

Eric Braeden: It was about high time! High time. I think it’s one of the best storylines that I’ve had in years.

Digest: Tell me why you think it’s so successful.

Braeden: Because it’s all very real, meaning, one understands that Victoria would fall for a good-looking guy like that with a lot of money; one would understand how she, being Victor Newman’s daughter, would have certain Machiavellian tendencies, meaning she sees the possibility of a merger between Locke’s company and Newman. She sees all that and at the same time, he’s a good-looking guy with a lot of money and she fell for him. But the real Machiavellian, of course, is Victor [laughs]! Victor, on one hand, has very paternal, fatherly feelings, wants his daughter to be happy, is happy that she’s out of Billy Boy’s clutches, yet he, too, is beginning to smell a certain rat. He doesn’t quite trust him and is very aware of it and of course, his fatherly instincts of wanting to protect his daughter are stronger than almost anything. And to protect his business. So, he’s not stupid! Victor is a chess player. He’s about two, three, four moves ahead of everyone else. So it all makes sense, psychological sense. Sound sense. That’s why I think it’s such a brilliant storyline because it’s one where you can do long-term planning.

Digest: Were you feeling that sense of, “When are we going to see Victor be Victor?”

Braeden: Well, of course! Look, let’s be very honest. The last regime introduced things that no one gave a damn about, okay? Let’s call a spade a spade. No one gave a damn about some of those storylines, no one, because they were not part of the history of that show! I hate to say it, but obviously, the Newman empire is one of the main cornerstones of the show. What the last regime really wanted, to be frank with you, was to get rid of me and get rid of Melody [Thomas Scott, Nikki], if you want to know the truth.

Digest: I want to know the truth, but that is so crazy to me!

Braeden: Of course, it’s crazy! You must remember that people who come onto the show as new executive producers have their own egos, and they think they can rewrite it, they can redo it all. What they don’t understand is that [Co-Creator/Former Head Writer] Bill Bell was a brilliant man who laid a very sound foundation, and if you want to veer away from that foundation, it will begin to flounder. That’s all I’m going to say.

Digest: Well, I must say how much I enjoy Victor hiring Michael and those two characters being back in the same sphere.

Braeden: It’s well-written! It really is all very good, very natural, makes a lot of sense. Other storylines make no sense, introduced by the former regime, names that will remain nameless.

Digest: Do you feel that Victor respects Victoria’s intelligence and independence, or do you feel that to him, she’ll always be his little girl who needs protection?

Braeden: Both. Really both. In other words, you cannot suddenly ask a father, or a mother, to forget about the very basic paternal instincts or maternal instincts, the parental instincts. You cannot forget about them no matter how successful the offspring has become. On the other hand, you want them to be successful. You want them to be independent. You want them to make strong decisions. So, what is interesting about this storyline is that all these feelings are very mixed, the paternal feelings. The paternal feelings also apply to the offspring’s success in business. It’s very complex; therefore, it’s a brilliant storyline, it really is. It all makes such sense. I wish they would take a little bit more time with each segment of the storyline, not jump to fast conclusions, just a little bit more time. But the feelings toward Victoria on the part of Victor are very mixed. He adores her, that’s his daughter, yet he is protective of her, yet he wants her happiness, yet he doesn’t want her happiness with a man he doesn’t trust.

Digest: Fans found it surprising that Abby didn’t include Victor in some of the things going on with her, that Victor would have wanted to take charge and help her with the Chance situation or the Dominic situation. Did you have an opinion on that?

Braeden (laughs): We only have so many hours a day to shoot this stuff! It would be too far-flung right now, I’d be involved in too many things, I guess. Melissa [Ordway, Abby] is another wonderful actress to work with, and I think the fellow who plays her husband now [Conner Floyd] is also doing a very good job, he really is.

Digest: I’m not on TikTok, but I hear you are as of recently, and have made quite a splash!

Braeden: Yes, I joined TikTok. It’s hilarious. The first one got 2.9 million views and the other one was 2.5 million or something. It’s interesting what people react to!

Digest: It’s very tickling for people who know you only as Victor Newman to see this more lighthearted side of you.

Braeden: If there’s one thing that we fortunately have on our show, and that I enjoy very much, it’s that we laugh a lot about this stuff. What people don’t understand is that you have a lot of dialogue to learn, and that process is its own world. I love to laugh. Not all these scenes lend themselves to humor, no question. Now, the worst guy when it came to that was Dougie Davidson [ex-Paul]. Dougie Davidson is a very intelligent guy and when you do a scene with him, in a supposedly serious moment, I’d look in his eyes and see the little [twinkle]. He was always ready to laugh, and when that started, you’d say, “Oh, s**t! Let’s get this under control now!” Because once you get to that point again you start laughing again. The same thing happens with Joshua Morrow [Nick] or with Christian LeBlanc [Michael] or sometimes with Amelia [Heinle, Victoria]. It lends itself, in that very tense moment of getting this done, to humor. So it’s very hard to control sometimes and therefore when we have these moments of just unbridled laughter, it’s a release.

Digest: Do you feel bound by notes in a script like, “Cry here”?

Braeden: No, I never look at that. Never. Because I know the history of the character too much. And I will sometimes also, because I know it so well, add dialogue that I come up with on the spot. And I sometimes feel that something needs to be said, needs to be emphasized. Writers have a different kind of responsibility and obligation. They have to finish so many pages to fill so much time, right? And they obviously have to tell a certain story. And then it is really up to us to fill all that in.

Digest: I think this genre thrives on actors who take real ownership of the persona that is their responsibility.

Braeden: That’s very well put. Precisely. Take ownership of what you do. But you need flexible producers and directors and writers to go along with that. I would never change the course of a story, I would never do that. That, you can’t do. But I certainly will embroider what the scene is about sometimes. For example, in a scene with Joshua or with Amelia or whatever, I know the whole history. And Victor, of course, always remembers his childhood and how he started out and he knows that the children grew up with a lot of money. And every so often, he needs to remind them.

Digest: When you’re in the throes of a story you enjoy, are you happier about going to work?

Braeden: Absolutely. You look forward to it. You look forward to doing the scenes, you look forward to seeing them after.

Digest: Do you feel like you learn more about Victor or uncover new facets to him via a story like this?

Braeden: No, I have known him. He’s a very complex figure and obviously a lot having to do with his childhood. I know all of that. And a lot of this, in the performance, comes from your real life. That’s another interesting aspect of an actor’s performance; how much of it do you take from your real life? Because obviously, you relate to certain things immediately. Others, not so much.

Digest: Have you ever been interested in teaching acting?

Braeden: No. There are certain moments in scenes where I would like to say, “Try it this way,” or “Try it that way,” or, “Go down this direction.” That would interest me, I think; directing would interest me. Not directing a soap, though. The pressure on directors in soaps is enormous because it’s all about money. “Get it done.” This is one of the hardest-working industries in the world! This is a tough job!

Digest: I know I’ve asked you this in the past, but indulge me again. Why don’t you say, “Job well done, I’m going to hang up my hat”? What motivates you to continue working?

Braeden: The notion of retirement makes me fall asleep [laughs]. No, keep on going! Keep on going, man, keep on going and fighting! I can’t do it. I’m too restless. I’m young and restless! I couldn’t do that. I would have to find something new that would absorb me. Beyond that, I love my job. I do. I love to communicate with people.

Digest: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you would like to say before I let you go?

Braeden: Just that in moments of stepping back, I have such enormous respect for those people who write and produce and direct and work on the show. I have a deep, deep respect for them because we live in this encapsulated world where we learn our dialogue, we do our scenes and then we leave the stage, but every so often you step back and say, “Oh, my God,” and you realize that some people drive two hours to get to work, they get up at 4 in the morning. I mean, it almost makes you come to tears when you think about it. And the people who work their asses off don’t make that much money, and have a family to balance, and all the difficulties that a normal person goes through — kids going to school, the pandemic, and on and on and on. So, it’s a much-misunderstood industry, it really is.

Digest: I often say it’s truly a miracle that these shows get on the air at all!

Braeden: It really is! When you see the beginning of a scene, when we rehearse and we joke around and this and that, and somehow it all gets together, see all the technicians. Imagine being a cameraman on a show like this. You have to be there morning till night, you have to be precise all the time. An hour for lunch, that’s it, beyond that you’re there all the time and have to concentrate minutely. I mean, it’s such a misunderstood industry.  

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