Soap Opera Digest: Thirty-five years on TV puts you in a pretty exclusive club. How would you describe your decades at CBS?
Diamont: Great, and yes, it was steady. It was a bit unsteady there for a bit, and then steady again [laughs].Yeah, I guess it is pretty extraordinary, really, particularly in this business. In the daytime business, it may be a little more common than in other genres but nonetheless, it is quite extraordinary. As I take stock of it, I’m still standing. I’m a survivor. I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go, and I’m still here. I’m enormously grateful for that. I’m specifically grateful to Bill Bell, Sr. and Lee Bell [Y&R and B&B’s co-creators], of course, and Brad [Bell, B&B executive producer/head writer]. My gratitude to them is eternal. To work for such extraordinary professionals that are also good people? What more could you ask for?
Digest: Let’s rewind. You were just coming off DAYS —
Diamont: When you say, “coming off DAYS,” you mean having been fired [laughs]. Yes, I was voted Best Newcomer and fired in the same week.
Digest: But, you weren’t out of work long because you then screen- tested for Y&R’s Brad. How was Brad described to you?
Diamont: I don’t remember the description of the character. I’m sure it was something like, “This mysterious opportunist who comes to town.” I’m sure it was something like that, but I don’t really remember the breakdown.
Digest: What was the audition process like?
Diamont: Having come off DAYS and the circumstances surrounding that, I was still super-confident. I felt like I would get another show, whether daytime or otherwise. That’s what I said to my mom at the time, that work begets work and that I will have another opportunity, and thankfully, Bill was aware of me from that relatively short time on DAYS. He had [former Producer] Tom Langan call my agent. I didn’t read for it. It was just coming to screen-test.
Digest: Coming in as the Abbotts’ pool boy, did it bother you being eye candy?
Diamont: About having to have my shirt off and all of that? I didn’t have an issue with that at the time. I was 22 years old, and it was summer and kids were home, and you certainly want to build your following, so I understood the business of that. So, having my shirt off and being in the Daisy Dukes for the summer, that didn’t faze me. And, it wasn’t that long after that that Bill put me into the shipping room at Jabot, so I suppose if I wasn’t delivering and they weren’t getting a good fan response that I may have drowned in the pool at 22 instead of drowning in the frozen lake 23 years later. I was also very determined when I came in. I probably didn’t take the first job at DAYS as seriously as I should have, and I took the opportunity atY&R very seriously, enough to graduate from the pool into the shipping department and not long after that, he had me in a three- piece suit. I was really gratified that I was graduating from the naked pool boy into the business world of Jabot and Newman Enterprises.
Digest: Fans still love the Brad and Traci pairing. What stands out to you?
Diamont: I love Beth Maitland [Traci] to this day. I was so fortunate to be paired with Beth and work with such an extraordinarily talented actress who is such a good person. She really helped me along; I learned a lot from her. She was patient, kind and always in good humor. I was really blessed and we’ve remained friends over these many years. In fact, she was using my dressing room when B&B was dark one week and she left a note saying, “I love you madly, Don Diamont.” It’s still on my cork board. I’m so happy to see that they’ve been using her so much on Y&R because it’s deserved. There’s nobody better and I’m so happy for her.
Digest: You worked with some of the best leading ladies on the show.
Diamont: That’s right! Eileen [Davidson, Ashley], Mel [Melody Thomas Scott, Nikki], Heather [Tom, ex-Victoria; Katie B&B], Amelia [Heinle, Victoria] and Tracey Bregman [Lauren], of course. In every instance, they are all wonderfully talented actresses with great senses of humor. I have been very fortunate.
Digest: When Brad died in 2009 saving Noah, it was a hero’s death, but was it dif- ficult to play?
Diamont: I have to admit that was challenging. When Bill, Sr. was alive, I have a handwritten note from him that I have to this day about how Y&R would always be there for me and appreciating my contribution to the show. It’s a lovely note. He had passed away by Kaplan. The character was being so compromised over that year [by rewriting Brad as a former Navy SEAL whose family tangled with Nazis] that I wasn’t entirely surprised by the move, yet I was still somewhat shocked when it actually came down. Yeah, it was scary. It was difficult to take because it seemed unwarranted. It just came out of nowhere after 23 years.
Digest: What was that last day like?
Diamont: Well, I was fired the day before Thanksgiving, and my last shooting day was the day before the Christmas hiatus. It was hard. Peter Bergman [Jack] and some of the other actors, along with my wife, Cindy, put together a going-away party, which was very poignant. I was very touched by it. It was emotional. Michelle Stafford [Phyllis] helped me clear out my room. It was a tough day. But in hindsight, it was the best thing that ever hap- pened to me.
Digest: Because it led you to B&B.
Diamont: That’s right! I’ve told you the whole story about how B&B happened — that’s well- documented — but Brad was my champion. Truly. He created Bill Spencer for me, and he told me he had a lot tied up in it. He really wanted this character to be successful, so I came out with guns blazing to have Bill be everything he wanted and more. It was exhilarating.
Digest: And there you were working with Heather again.
Diamont: I felt like the luckiest actor in the world. Heather had sent an email to Brad when she heard I was coming, saying, “I want Don Diamont,” so that was very flattering. We always got along great. We always had a great chemistry. We were always great friends, so to have that end up being his first real love interest? I was thrilled to be working opposite arguably the greatest actress to grace daytime television. And, she’s just such a wonderful human being. I love Heather.
Digest: More recently, Bill had another memorable love affair with Brooke.
Diamont: Again, so lucky. [Katherine] Kelly [Lang, Brooke] is so talented and so pleasant. She always brings it. Of course, we cannot forget the guys, too. That includes Peter and Eric Braeden [Victor, Y&R]. I worked very closely with them and I had a lot of fun. At B&B, there’s the great John McCook [Eric]. I enjoy working with Thorsten [Kaye, Ridge], who Bill has most of his conflict with — and then my TV sons, Scott [Clifton, Liam] and Darin [Brooks, Wyatt]. We always have a lot of laughs together, on screen and off.
Digest: Over the years, B&B has built a Spencer dynasty around you.
Diamont: I take a lot of pride in that. Bill was an island when he first came on, except for Karen, Joanna Johnson, who really wasn’t on the show at that time. He has since spawned this fantastic family. I don’t take it for granted, and all of their success is my success, and vice versa. We are a team, and I’m proud of all of them.
Digest: Besides playing two iconic soap characters for over three decades, you also raised seven sons, wrote a book about it, and have a great real-life love story with wife Cindy. How did you juggle all that?
Diamont: Believe it or not, it wasn’t that dif- ficult. One is my job; one is my life. I am professionally and personally blessed. I have the best woman in the world who I am lucky enough to call my wife. She is a doting mother, and I have these wonderful boys who I’ve watched turn into men. I’m proud of each and every one of them. I love them all so much, particularly after losing my dad and my brother as early as I did in life. I’m so thankful for them.
Digest: Did your sons ever razz you about being a soap hunk when they were younger?
Diamont: Well, they’re way past me being “dad the soap star” now! But it is fun for them to break my balls more than anything. I think they’re proud of me and what I’ve been able to accomplish in the crazy business, but you’d have to speak to them. That said, because of my job, it has allowed them to have some pretty crazy experiences and meet some amazing people, some amazing ath- letes who they otherwise wouldn’t have ever met. They’ve met presidents and princes. I think they would say that they appreciate that and they have been very fortunate.
Digest: Do any of them want to follow in your footsteps?
Diamont: No. There are no other actors in the family. One is enough! But, check back with me in another 35 years and we’ll see.
Just The Facts
Birthday: December 31
Hails From: New York, NY
Otherwise Known As: Bill, B&B, 2009- present; ex-Brad, Y&R, 1985-96, 1998-2009; ex-Carlo, DAYS, 1984. Wife Life: Married L.A. Realtor Cindy Ambuehl (ex-Amy/Kim, B&B) on June 12, 2012.
All His Boys: The group includes nephew Drew, 31, and sons Lauren, 31; Sasha, 28; Alexander, 25; Luca, 19; and twins Anton and Davis, 17.
Author, Author: In 2018, Diamont penned a memoir, My Seven Sons And How We Raised Each Other (They Only Drive Me Crazy 30% Of The Time).
Pretty, Please: Was the first daytime actor to land in People’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue, in 1990.
Butt, Of Course: He did a full-fledged nude scene on Y&R in 1995, recalling, “That’s right. I remember we did a few prime-time episodes back in the day, and you saw the profile of my butt going into the shower.”