“Wait, say that again?!” exclaims Bryan R. Dattilo, when he is told that April 2018 marks 25 years since his DAYS debut as Lucas. “That is hilarious! I thought I was close to 25, but I didn’t know that it was 25 already. I feel like I’m 25 and I act like I’m 25. I think it’s funny that it’s been that long.”
Dattilo has total recall about landing the role, which had both a professional and personal significance for him. “When I first got the audition, I was so happy because it’s my family’s soap opera,” he explains. “It’s what my grandmother watched, so I was a DAYS watcher from 1978. I would go there and visit in the summer and it would always be on. That meant a lot to me, to actually get the audition. And then to go through the process and get it was such a cool thing. I thought, ‘That was true luck! I’ll probably last maybe a year and then I could say at least I was on her favorite show,’ but a couple of years turned into a couple more.”
Dattilo says he struggled in the early days, and wasn’t sure that he was cut out for the grind of daily drama. “At first, the job was so hard for me,” he admits. “I grew up with a couple of strikes against me educationally. Even reading is hard for me, so to have a job where all you do is read scripts and memorize, I never thought I could do this, ever. When I started, I was terrible. Thank God for people early in my career like Deborah Adair [ex-Kate]. She used to stay with me after work and work with me because I could not retain the information. It was very motivating because she was very honest with my mistakes and very hard on me. I respect that so much because if I didn’t get over those humps and figure out how to work around my little disabilities that I have, I don’t think I ever would’ve lasted as long as I have.”
Though Dattilo wound up sticking around much longer than he ever expected, he also wound up in the soap’s revolving door more often than he would have liked. “It was hard when I was away because I always thought I should be there,” he reflects. “I never thought I should have another job in my life. I thought, ‘I’m just going to be Lucas until I die and that’s cool! I’m okay with that.’ But going on and off you were like, ‘Oh, man, I really miss that character and that show and those people.’ ”
That’s one of the many reasons he’s thrilled to be back in the game again. “It’s fun to have longevity; that, to me, is my own reward,” he says. “The money comes and goes, the storylines come and go, your co-stars come and go, but you always feel like that’s home and that’s where you belong and I’ve never tried to do anything else.”
Dattilo appreciates how new Head Writer Ron Carlivati threw his alter ego into the thick of things for the better part of 2017. “I’m a big believer in making people proud of me and making them not regret giving me that opportunity,” he notes. “Hopefully, I did the best that I could with it. It was really fun to play because I hadn’t had a chance to get that deep in my character, even in 25 years, so to have that opportunity was really good. The connection with Lucas and Sami when Sami came back, I thought, rehashed a lot of cool things for the characters. And then plugging in the whole Will coming-back-from-the-dead thing was challenging, but it was fun to film.”
Although his phenomenal year wasn’t rewarded with an Emmy nomination, “Maybe next year I’ll break into the top 10 and get a prenom, which would be great. Or maybe not,” he shrugs. “Either way, as long as I’m honest with myself and do the best work I can do, then I’m cool with it. I’m happy for people who do get the nomination.”
When he’s not in Salem, Dattilo is busy on the home front with son Gabe, 18, and daughter Delila, 3, and parenting the two is a very different experience. “Gabe’s just about to get ready to wrap up high school and start junior college,” Dattilo reports. “I’ve been accused by many people of not putting my ‘Dad hat’ on enough. It’s hard because he’s 18 and there’s only so much I can tell him. He’s going to make his own mistakes, so I try to be more of a friend in that, ‘I know it’s hard. I’m there for you. I got your back, but you screwed up.’ Life’s tough all around on everybody and I’m just trying to make it easier for him.”
With Delila, he says, “It’s fun because I’m doing the whole thing again. I was a single dad quite a bit with my son in the beginning until I had help from my wife, Liz, and she’s at work now, so I’m back to juggling many hats and doing my thing. Little boys are a little more maintenance, to tell you the truth, because girls like to do things on their own and boys like to have you do it for them, in my experience. Delila is definitely a ‘do it yourselfer,’ which I love. She looks like me, which is weird to see myself as a girl. I look great in a Moana dress [laughs]! I never thought I would, but I do.”
Parenthood in his 40s, however, has its challenges. “I don’t have as much energy because I get really tired. We do a lot; she’s very active. I’ll go down for her nap as hard as she will. I didn’t used to nap with my child. I respect women and men all over the planet who stay home. It’s hard work! It’s harder to run a household than it is a career. There are more things that come up in a house with kids than in a career.”
As he looks back on a quarter-century of playing Lucas, Dattilo jokes, “Well, I didn’t grow! That was disappointing. I always thought I would have a late spurt, but that never came. I’ve learned that the horrible decisions I’ve made in my life, in and out of my personal life or in business, have all made me who I am now and made me appreciate the things I have now. I was given a lot at an early age and sometimes that’s not a good thing. You blow a lot of money, blow a lot of opportunities in your life, but I am who I am because of that. I’m okay with that. I think I’ve learned to not try to live in the past as much, try to look toward the future more.”
A future that he hopes continues to include DAYS. “DAYS has always been my home,” Dattilo declares. “It’s always been something that at the end of my life, I would love to get a Lifetime Achievement Award for being Lucas for like, 50 years. That would be the coolest reward for my job. And just doing good work on a daily basis. As long as I can go home and know I tried my best, that’s a good day at the office.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: July 29
In The Beginning: Dattilo was born in Kankakee, IL and moved to Florida when he was 2.
Family Man: The actor wed Elizabeth Cameron on July 12, 2011. “I got a good one. I got a good deal out of this.” They welcomed daughter Delila on June 11, 2014. Dattilo has a son, Gabriel, 18, from his first marriage.
Pet Set: The Dattilos have two dogs, Domino and Seamus, plus, “We have fish. We have a lot of squirrels that live in the back palm tree, so I guess it counts.”
Must-See TV: “My wife is a BACHELOR crackhead, which I’m so against. So not THE BACHELOR for me. It’s all about ANCIENT ALIENS for me. And then there’s always MY BIG FAT AMERICAN GYPSY WEDDING. That’s a good show!”
Guilty Pleasure: “French fries is always my go-to. I love dessert, too, so pretty much any kind of dessert, but fries is usually the heart attack food I go for.”
Make Me Laugh: “Galen Gering [Rafe]? I just look at that guy and I just fall apart. I can’t even handle it. He’s the funniest dude I know, without a doubt by far.”
Did You Know?
• His first professional gig was at age 12 on NOT NECESSARILY THE NEWS.
• In between DAYS gigs, he used to work on construction sites. “I got recognized too much, so that got a little embarrassing.”
• He graduated from Beverly Hills High.
If things had been different, Bryan R. Dattilo might have played Brandon Walsh on BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 and his sister, Kristin, would have been Brenda … had he not blown the audition. “I had to read with Shannen Doherty [ex-Brenda] and she mouthed my lines, which was horrible because I wasn’t used to someone mouthing my lines as I did my lines and it threw me off,” he explains. “I was like, ‘Did you see what she did?’ and they were like, ‘No.’ Aaron Spelling’s like, ‘What are you doing?’ so that was like a big miss, I think. My life might have been different if I got that. I already signed a network contract knowing how much I’d make the first year, so that was a tough interview to kind of get over.” He says he doesn’t dwell on it much, but, “I saw Jason Priestley [who got the role of Brandon] at a restaurant once, and the only thing I could think of the whole time I was eating was how much money he has and how much money I had, and how different those amounts were. But these things happen! I’d rather be Lucas than Brandon.” As for his sister, “She took another job at the time. An agent that she had told her that this other show would be better than 90210. It’s always a running joke. I think she’s even friends with Tori Spelling [ex-Donna] and it just makes it more fun.”