Soap Opera Digest: Welcome back, Billy!
Billy Flynn: Thank you. It’s nice to be back. Come back for a little encore.
Digest: How did it come about?
Flynn: Obviously, they wrote Abigail and Chad off in a pretty easy way to bring them back, but everything just aligned perfectly. They decided they wanted to keep the story going and reached out. I had a film that I was supposed to be shooting right now that got pushed to July, so I jumped at the opportunity to come back and play pretend with Chad a little bit longer.
Digest: Let’s talk about leaving the first time. How did you react to that news?
Flynn: You know, it was a shock. I guess it’s an honest reaction, but I also felt like it was coming. There’s a lot of growing up and a lot of personal stuff that I had been going through. I needed to kind of focus on myself for a while. It’s so consuming. Chad was pretty much front and center since I started. Being my first job, it was overwhelming and I think I never really caught up. I was shooting five-to-eight episodes a week for four years. They stretched Chad and Abigail in so many different directions and they did for so long that things kind of just became disoriented. I guess it was a long time coming. After I got over it, I was like, “Okay, this is good.” And then it was just a matter of, “How can I focus on myself and getting myself better? And just in case they ever do call back, I want to be in the best possible condition. And if they don’t, I need to figure out what’s next.” But you know, I think for those four years, I was constantly living in fear of like, “This is never gonna last.” Every year that passed, every new episode, I was kind of surprised that I wasn’t let go yet for some reason. And when you live like that for so long, in that mindset, it just takes its toll. You run yourself down with that kind of thing. When they said they were going to write off the character, I had been expecting it for like four-and-a-half years, but it shocked me. And what it allowed me to do was go tumbling and find humility and go from a place of gratitude of, “How lucky was I to have that experience?” As opposed to when you’re in it, I was just so filled with fear that I was going to lose it every day. And now going back, it felt like, “Oh, they asked me to come back. I guess I don’t have that fear anymore.” I just did a lot of growing up, personally, in the nine months I was off the canvas.
Digest: Tell me about that time. What did you do while you weren’t there?
Flynn: I had lost somebody really close to me, my great-grandmother. She was a huge part of my life. Sort of the last two years I was there, I was just kind of on a constant decline. I wasn’t treating myself really well. I wasn’t really taking care of myself and my mind, either. I kind of lost it, I guess. So when I left, I was just like, “Okay, I gotta find myself again.” It sounds cliché or narcissistic; I don’t know what it is. But I got healthy again. I started doing things that I loved doing. I finally dealt with the grief of losing my great-grandmother. I matured in a sense of putting things in perspective. But I think the biggest thing of all, I just got grateful for a lot of different things. And work is a plus. When you’re a struggling actor for so long, it becomes this thing that you need and then you get it and maybe it’s what you expect it’s going to be, maybe it’s not, but I just wasn’t really equipped to deal with it all. I never knew I was coming in as this main character, and it took off. I just learned a lot about myself in the time off. And being on the other side of it now, I’m super-grateful for what I have. Everything happens the way it’s supposed to. I kind of believe that now. I kind of gave a lot of stuff up. I was so controlling of everything because I was so afraid to lose it. Everything in my life. It started with work and then it trickled into everything. I just focused on myself. There were so many parts of myself that I’d forgotten and I just got in touch with that again. I put on about 15 pounds of muscle. I worked out a lot. I started boxing, doing jiu-jitsu. And then most importantly, my wife and I focused on each other. It was so chaotic because I shot two films. I was shooting every day on DAYS. We were just able to have some time for ourselves. That was really nice.
Digest: Did you come back to the show now with a different perspective?
Flynn: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I don’t know what I thought when I was there before, but I guess the perspective was just not to take everything so seriously. I was just making everything so hard on myself, trying to control all these different aspects of the character and the story and that’s not my job. I’m there to tell their story. Now, I’m in great shape. I’m super-clear-headed. I have perspective on what’s important. I’m a better actor now, I think, because I’m clear-headed. I have gratitude for just being there and being able to tell the story. I think people probably enjoy my company a little bit more; I’m not so damn serious all the time. It takes a lot to shake me now.
Digest: What was your first day back like?
Flynn: First day I was nervous because I learned to work differently. I’m not using real [life] stuff in my work ’cause when I was doing that, over time, it’s like taking little cuts, like cutting yourself over and over again. Eventually, I didn’t know how to get out. Chad is a character that has been through so much and I was going through so much in my life. I just never got out of it. I’ve had so much grief and so much depression and I was doing things in my off time to cope that weren’t healthy for me. It was just this constant cycle. And now I removed all of that stuff and I treat myself in a much kinder, gentler way. But in a sense, I had to learn how to act as a craft, as opposed to coming in and feeling like I had to be in this really dark and depressed place. What I learned is that I can access that without being in it. All that’s great in theory, but going back I was afraid because there were a lot of feelings that I knew would come up that I didn’t respond well to. So there were some nerves going in like, “Am I still going to be a good actor without the things that I was using before?” I think I shot 10 episodes the first week. But after the first day, I was like, “Oh, okay, I can do this. I can do it in a safe and healthy way. I can still tell the story. I still feel good about my work. It feels good.”
Digest: You and Kate Mansi (Abigail) are back at the same time. Are you happy to be working together?
Flynn: I am. Chad and Abigail have an open and honest relationship. He’s making amends for things he did while he was in Salem. He’s coming back. He’s fresh. They’re good. They’re communicating. Kate and I kind of just jumped right back in. We both had that kind of mindset. We both just came in and picked up where we left off in that sense.
Digest: What can you tease about what’s ahead?
Flynn: I don’t know much yet. I think you will see a Chad who is probably comfortable with his relationship, but there are still going to be some things that will come up that will make him revisit some of his own insecurities and things that he’s lost. Chad’s still going to be flawed, but he’s somebody who has matured a lot. He’s a man now, as I am. I mean, Chad’s always reflected my own personal life. I think that’s what you see. w