Bryan R. Dattilo guested on Digest’s podcast, Dishing With Digest, where he chatted about his winding road in and out of Salem and his new fitness regimen.
Soap Opera Digest: You’re back at the studio doing this interview, which means you’re back filming.
Bryan R. Dattilo: So cool, right?
Digest: Right? ’Cause Lucas, as we know, had been given a rest. So how did this return come about?
Dattilo: It was really a pleasant surprise for me, for Bryan, but Lucas, I think, just gets dragged back. I’m not sure if you’re referring to this time or the last time I came back, but both times have to do with unhealthy relatives.
Digest: Spoiler alert!
Dattilo: How’s that for a tease?
Digest: That’s a good one. So you said it came as a surprise to you, but you’ve come and gone so much over the years like, you had to know it wasn’t the end for Lucas.
Dattilo: Well, I just thought that, you know, things start and things end, so at some point it’s gonna end, and I thought that was the time it was gonna be [the end]. I actually really did think that was it. Once you’re in the Horton living room and you’re hanging your ornament you’re like, “Ah, one last time for the Gipper.” And you feel like oh, that could be it. That could be it. But then Julie said, “This will always be your home,” so then I kind of thought, “Well, maybe the door’s open.” I definitely was surprised, but pleasantly. Usually, there is like about a year in between each little break. But there’s been a two-year break before, too, so I really didn’t know. I was surprised.
Digest: Well, how’d you spend your time away from the studio?
Dattilo: Life takes over as being a dad and a husband and an owner of two crazy dogs…. I’ve been trying to revamp my acting profile outside of DAYS. There’s new agents, new managers, new headshots to be taken, there’s always social media to keep updated. You really have to have your team together these days. In the past, I always thought I could do it all on my own, and that’s just not the case in this business. You really need help. You need people pushing you and people getting you out there for other auditions. You can’t be complacent. A lot of it is just trying to up the game with the acting thing and get updated with that…. And there’s always acting class that I never go to.
Digest: But you think about going?
Dattilo: Yeah, I think about going all the time. My sister says, “Why don’t you come to acting class?” And I’m just like, “Eh, I don’t know.” I think that it’s important. As an actor, you’ve gotta do a lot of work outside of the actual job. I dropped 20 pounds since I was last on the show, so that was kind of fun — actually, 25.
Digest: You’re looking good on your social media!
Dattilo: Well, I got way too big just being lazy and not working out and eating what I wanted and not thinking about what I was putting in my face, and the next thing you know you’re like 185 pounds and no one’s telling you, “Dude, stop.” They’re just kind of looking at you laughing. So I was like, “Dude, what’s up with this? Maybe I should start losing some weight,” so I did. I just got into a routine daily where I wake up early and do a two-hour routine in my house…. And then a lot of it after a two-hour workout is you don’t want to eat bad, you want to eat healthy, so you start drinking more water, you start eating better, and then you start losing weight and then you start feeling better about yourself. So it kind of just snowballs. Luckily for me, I have an addictive personality, so I just got addicted to working out again and eating right, as opposed to getting addicted [to] not doing it. Your appearance is a huge part of being an actor. You can’t just say, “I’m a good actor. Why aren’t I working?” You have to have the whole thing…. It relates to so many other things, ’cause then you don’t get the anxiety, you don’t get the pressure, you don’t get all the things that are associated with all the negative stuff that kind of snowballs in your life; you get the positive stuff snowballing.
Digest: So shirtless scenes, not a big deal for you.
Dattilo: I look better. People say I look 10 years younger, which is nice.
Digest: Well, when you started it was a very heady day in daytime history with Jim Reilly writing the show. What did you know about soap operas before you even joined? What did you think of your early stories?
Dattilo: Well, I was a huge fan of the show before I was on for years. I started watching it with my grandmother on a daily basis when I would go visit her in the summer. So I would go visit her for about a month and a half every summer, and she just would sit me down in front of the TV and say, “Okay, DAYS is on. You’re not allowed to talk. You can ask questions at the commercial. I want no noise, otherwise you have to go in the back room and watch the Cub game.” Well, I was into the Cubs, but for some reason I was in love with Jennifer at the time.
Digest: Your sister!?
Dattilo: She was with Frankie, and Frankie kind of looked like me. So I thought, “I could be Frankie, get a girl like Jennifer someday. What a great show. I’ll watch it.” And they were putting her in a bathing suit. They put her in a like mid-’80s like one-piece bathing suit and I was like, “Wow, look at her arms.” Back then you didn’t see a lot of skin on daytime. So I was in love with Jennifer and I actually told my grandmother, “I’m gonna marry her someday.” And she was like, “Okay, whatever.” And then I got really lucky getting the audition, and called my grandma up and I was like, “I get to try out for DAYS OF OUR LIVES!” And she was like, “You’re gonna make it!” And I’m like, “I don’t think I’m gonna make it.” And she was like, “You’re gonna get it.” I didn’t know that much about behind-the-scenes soap stuff and the preparation and the hard work; I just knew that it was a really fun show to watch and you got to drag people through a lot of emotion in the middle of the day, which I thought was kind of cool. I used to cry sometimes while watching the show. I used to be like, “Wow, that was a really good scene.” You know, when Patch would sit and play his harmonica, I’d be like in tears with him like, “Oh, no, my man Patch is hurting. Now I’m hurting, too!” So then when I got here, I was like, “Wow, what a different world,” because it truly is a different world once you become a soap actor. You’re in the inside now. And there’s so many different personalities on the set, on the crew and on the cast; that’s kind of like the really fun, cool stuff that I’ve kind of run into over the years. It’s just the relationship with people that have been really cool and great. It really does become your family, especially with the hours, because you’re here more than you’re at home.
Digest: At what point did you tell Missy [Reeves, Jennifer] about your teenage crush on her?
Dattilo: I don’t think I ever have told Missy that because I’m her brother now and it would be so awkward to have sexual tension with my sister. We’re pushing all kinds of boundaries here. I think I told her once that she really looked good in bathing suits.
Digest: Oh, that’s so much less creepy, Bryan. Good move…. Now, you really hit it pretty quickly with the story with Carrie and Austin and Sami and Lucas. Could you ever have imagined that your first story out of the gate would be such a fan favorite and popular, being on Digest covers? It was a lot at once.
Dattilo: It really was a lot to step into. I had no idea [about] the loyalty behind couples themselves and how soap fans just gather behind certain people, so I didn’t know, you know, Team Austin or Team Carrie or “Lumi” or whatever Austin and Carrie were. I don’t even know what their name was. But the fans are very loyal to those couples. It was kind of fun to play it onstage, but I didn’t realize just how I was digging my grave by sabotaging Carrie and Austin. People loved Carrie and Austin back then, so for me to like get in between that, I used to get a lot of fan mail saying, you know, people used to make fun of my teeth and my hair and my cheekbones. I guess I had like really high cheekbones then because I had like no weight on me. And it was before I got my teeth fixed. People were like, “Lucas should just leave Austin and Carrie alone with his bad teeth!” And then you’d be like, “Whoa, these people are really invested in this. This is not just a show for them, this is personal, and this is something that they really raise a flag for.” I remember being tripped out by that in the beginning. And then I remember relishing the bad guy part that I got to play so early just because of that, just because I wanted people to send me hate mail. I wanted people to get so mad at me that they had to sit down and write me a letter and tell me what a dork I was. That, to me, [was] like a success…. It was a lot of work, dialogue-wise. I wish I had a chance to kind of go back and do it when I was a little more familiar with memorizing and acting in itself because there’s so many great moments I feel like, “Oh, my God, I’m so bad. That was such bad rookie acting.” I wish I could get those storylines back and sink my teeth into ’em now.
Digest: Sink your new teeth into them.
Dattilo: Sink my veneers into them now! That would be insane.
Digest: How did you feel when the show made Lucas a Horton? I mean, that really solidified you, in a way, to like the first family of the canvas.
Dattilo: Yeah, well, that was a blessing and a punishment because I got put into a royal realm, which is the Hortons. For me, that was like the ultimate honor, to be included in that house, to be a part of that living room and come down those steps and sit in Alice’s chair. All that is like DAYS vintage 101 classic royalty. Ever since I became a Horton, I kind of became just a Horton. I got to do some things here and there but … I became a grandfather, I became a Horton … There was so many like age-appropriate transitions that kind of put me into that grandfather role that kind of slowed down the workload. It was great to be a Horton because you can’t get any more respect than that, being a Horton on DAYS, but then you know, you show up around Christmas and then everyone else gets to have the drama and the fun and you get to show up and kind of throw your two cents in, but then everyone else is really going through the hard stuff. I don’t know, for me, when I was a Horton I kind of got put into a more mellow role, not in the middle of things as much as I would like.
Digest: And it eliminated any possibility of a Lucas/Jennifer pairing.
Dattilo: That was the big thing. I wasn’t gonna say that, but that was truly the true headache. Now she’s really my sister and I can’t have a love scene with her? I quit. I quit. I’m going to GENERAL HOSPITAL.
Digest: Well, as you are about to mark now 26 years since you first came to Salem, what do you think about when you think about this journey of playing Lucas and just how it changed your life?
Dattilo: Oh, I think not only has it changed my life, it’s become my life. It’s become everything that I will probably stand for when I die is, I am Lucas from DAYS OF OUR LIVES. That’s who I am. I’m totally great with it. Pat Muldoon [ex-Austin] used to tease me back in the day, “Bro, you’re gonna be Lucas forever!” “Hey, bro. You’re gonna be Lucas when you’re 60.” And I always used to be like, “No! No! I’m gonna be a great actor and have a film career.” And then he’d be like, “Yeah, right. No way, Lucas.” And it turns out Pat Muldoon is right. I’m almost 50, I’m still Lucas. I don’t think there’s much on the horizon, which is fine. My job in life now is just to play Lucas to the best of my ability. Maybe someday get some hardware. I would even take being nominated for an Emmy. I would be okay with that. I don’t even need the Emmy, just like make it so I don’t have to pay to go to the Emmys. That would be cool, if I was nominated.
Digest: All he ever asked for was a free Emmy ticket.
Dattilo: That’s all I’m asking for. Yeah. It’s not much. I’m okay with it. I’m okay with being Lucas forever. I’ve learned to accept my real fate.
Digest: Yeah, belated thanks to Pat Muldoon for helping you prepare.
Dattilo: Yeah, thanks, Pat. You roll hard, bro.
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