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Exclusive: BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL's John McCook On Eric's Medical Miracle

Soap Opera Digest: Ever since Eric got his dire diagnosis, I had people texting me, “Is Eric going to be okay? What’s going to happen with Eric?” I imagine you must have been getting a lot of that, as well!

John McCook: “Oh, my God, I know! There’s been so much Internet chat. I’ve been getting these congratulatory messages from people in, you know, Iowa, who say, ‘Congratulations on your long career,’ and people mourning the loss of Eric Forrester and I’m just going, ‘This is great!’ You know, it’s very involving and people are really responding a lot to the story and that’s great! That’s great for us.”

Digest: And it’s probably not a terrible feeling to realize how invested people are in your character and in the aforementioned illustrious career that you’ve had on the show.

McCook: “Yeah, it’s great. It’s very, very exciting and wonderful and it buoys my spirit. It really does. And we weren’t saying [either], ‘Well, he’s gonna be okay,’ or, ‘Yeah, that’s just the end’ — we’re not confirming or denying anything. We’re just letting [what’s happening on screen speak for itself]. The only people I can’t lie to about it are the people I see in the market. They go, ‘Are you dying?!’ And I’m just saying, ‘No, I feel a lot better on the weekends [laughs].’ ”

Digest: Tell me about getting to work with Winsor Harmon (Thorne) again after a fair number of years.

McCook: “It made me smile really big when I realized he was going to be back. I mean, I saw in the script that it said Thorne and I went, ‘Well, who knows who’s going to play him? They might even hire a new actor to play Thorne!’ But I was so happy that it was Winsor who came back. This show is a big part of my life and a big part of his, too, and it was great fun to have him there and I think it was fun for him, too, to rub elbows with all of us again.”

Digest: Now fans know that Eric got a Christmas miracle and rejoined the land of the living.

McCook: “Yes — they removed him from the breathing machine and he is able to breathe on his own, and we’re going to begin this whole new beat in Eric’s life, which is trying to recover from this major medical episode. And I think that’s going to be more of Eric and Donna trying to be healthy together.”

John McCook, Thorsten Kaye

Howard Wise/

Tear Duck: McCook couldn’t help but get emotional when Thorsten Kaye’s Ridge was emoting at Eric’s bedside.

Digest: Rate the reactions of your scene partners for me when Eric took that first breath — do you feel they were appropriate overjoyed?

McCook: “[Laughs] I think so! I was very proud to have those scenes to play with them. You know, it’s like when you have a party [scene] in a show like ours, where we’ve all been working together for decades. Almost all of us have been working together for at least 10 years, and half of us for [even longer]. Even [Joshua Hoffman as] R.J. has been there long enough to really be plugged into these relationships we have. Were they able to rise to the occasion? Well, yeah, of course, they were! We actually know and love each other very much. We’re very dependent on each other for our work and for our well-being as actors every day to come in and try to execute this drama together. We develop a real interdependence on each other, and when I’m playing these scenes, I’m not watching to see if they’re affected properly; they’re playing the scene with me and it’s one on one, and when we look at each other’s eyes across the room and they’re in the scene, there’s nobody checking their phone or, you know, looking at their nails and thinking they need a trim while we’re in the middle of doing a scene. I’m always very, very proud and touched, every day on our show. You don’t have to challenge anybody to do this work. Everybody wants to do it and wants it to be good. But the joke [around the set] is that when somebody is in a situation like me where I’m in a hospital bed for episode after episode, you lay there with your eyes closed and everybody pulls up a chair next to your bed and works on their Emmy reel! But it’s almost an insult to make a joke out of it because in reality, it’s very big drama for these characters and for all of us to play.”

Digest: Lying unconscious over the course of many episodes, and then convincingly playing coming out of a coma, is something they probably don’t teach you in acting school.

McCook: “They don’t! But first of all, whenever you have machines in a hospital or an ER recovery room, you have an expect there, someone in the medical community, who makes sure that the machines are beeping properly and that they’re showing the right medical information. For instance, when they take Eric off the breathing machine, the question is, ‘Well, what happens? Does the patient cough and is his throat sore? And with that first breath, do they breathe kind of slowly or is it a big gasp, like someone drowning and coming out of the water?’ You need that kind of advice because no, they don’t teach that in acting class. Those kinds of specific physical challenges are answered by someone who knows the truth, who knows the answer to that. And then you play it and you do it and if it’s not convincing the producer or the director will say, ‘Well, that’s what they told you to do, but it doesn’t look good.’ But none of that happened [in this case]. I was able to, apparently, make it realistic enough. And as far as laying around in bed for day after day, it’s kind of a real respite, you know? You don’t have to learn any dialogue and. The hardest thing to do, and this is the bottom line with this company of actors, is that they’re really good actors and we have very, very strong connections. And so for me, as Eric, to lay there and listen to Brooke or Donna or Ridge sitting there talking to Eric, trying to get him to come back, the hard thing is not to cry! It’s hard not to tear up. And if you’re in a coma and not hearing [your loved ones’ pleas], you’re not gonna cry, you know? At one point I was listening to Thorsten [Kaye, Ridge] tell me stories — it was Ridge talking about a thing that happened between him and his father when he was a boy, and it was very touching and it made me tear up, but luckily enough, to be frank, it was my upstage eye, so nobody saw it! The tear came out of my right eye and the camera was on the left and didn’t see it, because if they had seen that they wouldn’t have been able to use that shot. But it is hard not to react to what’s happening if you’re supposed to be in a coma!”

Digest: How do you think Eric might evolve after having gone through this crisis?

McCook: “That’s a really good question, and that’s my big question, now, too. It’s the beginning of a whole new beat in Eric’s life and I don’t know it is going to affect him. Is he just going to go back to his regular self, and is the energy going to be the same? Is he going to change who he is? Is he going to have a sense of humor or is he going to lose his sense of humor, is he going to get more aggressive with people or is he going to be angry that Ridge let the machines keep him alive? Is he going to resent that? Is he going to be happy and thankful? I don’t know the answers to that yet. I haven’t talked to our writers or producers about that yet. So these are big questions about how the story is going to go. We as actors are really fans of the show and when we first get a script and we open it up and we turn the pages, we go, ‘Oh, my God, look what’s going to happen!’ [If I was to] turn the page and Eric’s attitude is something incredibly different than what he was before, that would be something interesting to play. But would that serve the show well? And does that serve his relationships well? I’m really curious and I’m looking forward to seeing what Eric is going to be like and what his relationships are going to be like and what it’s going to be like for Eric and Donna in their house as he recovers — or does he recover, you know? Does he lose anything during this week or two when he’s down? I don’t know, but those are good questions for the show [to explore].”