INTERVIEW

Eric Martsolf Details The Unique Challenges Of Playing Comatose

During Brady’s most recent coma, Kristen and Chloe had quite an emotional interaction in his hospital room. What was it like to listen to that? “It is harder than you think. Your instincts are to open your eyes and be part of the conversation. You just have to completely tune yourself out entirely.”

DAYS

JPI

Your first coma was in 2005, when you were on PASSIONS as Ethan, and it lasted a while. What do you remember about that time? “I remember I was in a coma for two or three months during the summer and production had told me that they wanted me to keep my eyes open for the coma. And I did. And I had my eyes open. The air conditioner was just above that set, blowing Freon into my eyes and it would make my eyes water. You can’t blink when you’re in a coma, so all of your loved ones come to you and tell you how much they love you and miss you and hope you’re getting through, and I would be crying because of the air going into my eyes. And I remember people suggesting to me, ‘Wow, it’s interesting that he’s in a coma but he still hears them. He’s emoting through the coma.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, he is. That’s what I was going for.’ Meanwhile, it’s like, ‘Can you turn the air- conditioning off?’ ”

Passions

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How did you react to being put into a coma? “I remember being slightly upset because I felt it was a diss. I felt it was, ‘Oh, well, we don’t really need to hear him talk anymore, so let’s put him in a coma [laughs].’ I felt it was more of a punishment and I later realized it’s just a vehicle for storyline and it has a purpose and you shouldn’t take it personally when you’re put in a coma. Unless you don’t wake up. If you don’t wake up then yeah, maybe you should go to acting class, or something went wrong. Now I don’t feel that way. Now I understand the game of soap opera and it’s a necessary evil to perpetuate storyline. And this recent coma with Brady was instrumental in showing Chloe’s possible true feelings for Brady. What brings out the truth? When you feel like you’re going to lose somebody, that’s when you let it all out. It’s a shame that it takes tragedy for those feelings to come through. But it helped Chloe come to terms with the fact that she may like him.”

Did you ever have to sneeze or scratch an itch? “I’m sure. Anyone will tell you the worst thing about being in a coma is that you’re attached to all the wires and all the plugs and the heart monitor and blood pressure machines, so if you happen to be doing that section of scenes and lunch is called and then a break is called? You got Props staring you down, looking at you, thinking, ‘You’re going to stay there, right?’ And nine times out of 10 you do, so the entire set leaves for a 10 or 15-minute break and you’ll just sit there all alone, hooked up to this equipment for fear of upsetting the Prop Department because it is a pain in the butt to put you all back into that bed, so you just lay there and look at the ceiling and look at the set and think about your life.”

What do you think about? “When I’m out of the scenes, I’ve had some moments on that set where everyone is on break to get their tea or their coffee or their muffin, and you’re sitting there all alone, hooked up to these machines, and you do have moments where you’re thinking, ‘Geez, I hope this never happens,’ because you are alone on this giant soundstage hooked up to the machines and it’s surreal that way. But as far as when you’re in the scenes, you just disassociate from everything. I’m going over my list at Ralphs, wondering if I’m going to get the chocolate-covered almonds this time or switch it up for the peanut clusters.”

So, did you ever fall asleep during scenes? “No! I’m a professional. I would never fall asleep. My eyes were open and it was 12 degrees underneath the air conditioner but I have never fallen asleep. I couldn’t be that relaxed. You’re still being judged. You still have a crew looking at you. I try to hold my breath when the shot is including my character. I do try to hold my breath. But I would never fall asleep.”

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