ICYMI: Donny Boaz Interview

How Donny Boaz’s Path Led Him To Y&R

While growing up in the small town that Donny Boaz describes as “Nowhere, Texas”, his life was defined by a singular passion. “My childhood was just sports,” says the actor. “I really couldn’t see anything outside of sports. With competition, I felt like I found my calling. It kept me out of trouble and I had to make good grades to be allowed to play on the field or the court. I went from cross country to football, basketball, baseball, track, tennis and repeat. I didn’t know anything else outside of sports. That was my life until I was 22 years old.”
Throughout high school, Boaz excelled in all things athletic. “I’m fast, tall and I can jump high and those seemed to be traits that worked well in every sport,” he reasons. “My biggest love in high school was basketball. I was on the All-Star team, I made varsity as a freshman, sophomore I was Sixth Man of the Year, we won state in my junior year and we almost won again in my senior year.”
Boaz graduated at 17 (“My mom started me in kindergarten when I was 4”) and while working as a personal trainer, he received a surprising offer. “A woman at the gym asked me, ‘Have you ever thought about doing any modeling?’ ” he recalls. “My first response was, ‘Nah,’ but she said, ‘I think you have a really good look.’ I really wasn’t interested because it just was never on my radar. Then she bribed me. She said, ‘If I sign up for six sessions with you would you allow me to take you to an agency?’ and I was like, ‘Deal!’ So she took me to Kim Dawson’s agency.”
The critique Boaz received from the modeling scouts was less than enthusiastic. “They said, ‘You do have a good look but your ears stick out,’ ” he chuckles. “They wanted me to grow my hair to hide my ears. When I left, that competitiveness in me kicked in because I don’t like to be told no.”
First there was college. “I got a partial scholarship for football and a partial scholarship for track, so between them, it gave me a full ride,” Boaz explains. “I went to a private university, the Southwestern Assemblies of God University, and it was a very religious school. When I showed up at the first football practice meeting, these guys had tattoos and piercings, while I couldn’t even shave yet. I was really intimidated but when we got out on the field, I was faster and I was like, ‘Thank you, God.’ In my freshman year, I played wide receiver and when a cornerback got hurt, they had me playing both sides of the ball so I was in every game.” Boaz admits he wasn’t as focused on academics. “My major was business administration, but I really didn’t have direction outside of football. My hopes and dreams were to take football as far as I could.”
After football season concluded, Boaz was ready to circle back to a previous challenge. “I grew out my hair during my freshman year and I went back to Kim Dawson six months later and they didn’t even recognize me,” he remembers. “They asked me to wait, then they came back with some paperwork and said, ‘Sign here, here, here and here.’ ”
Modeling gigs soon rolled in. “My first job was at Abercrombie [& Fitch], second job was a Calvin Klein underwear ad and third job was the runway in Milan, so I moved to Italy during the off season of football,” Boaz shares. “Some people work their whole lives so they can take that two-week vacation to Italy and at 19, I was hopping on trains to Rome, to Venice, to Lake Como.”
Boaz returned to college for his sophomore year and resumed modeling after. However, it was when he was back as a junior that his past came back to haunt him. “A girl on campus had a photo of me in the Calvin Klein underwear ad on her wall,” he recounts. A resident advisor spied it and recognized Boaz. “That photo made its way to the president of the university and 30 minutes before playing my first game of the season, my scholarship was taken away for inappropriate modeling.”
Boaz was left suddenly rudderless. “I thought my life was over because I couldn’t play football, so I got a modeling contract in Australia and moved to the other side of the planet to pout,” he says. “I was over there for three months, then came back to the States and that’s when I got picked up by an arena team called the Arkansas Twisters. They offered me $200 a week with a $50 win bonus. I was making $250 an hour modeling, so I hung up the cleats. I was very sad at the time but looking back, that sent my life down a different path.”
Boaz went full speed ahead with modeling. “The turning point was when I shot the cover of the Japanese GQ and also a spread for Tetu magazine in Greece,” he shares. “When those came out, it was like success came with it. I booked nine shows in Milan, six shows in Paris as well as shows in London and New York. I swooped up 18 modeling agencies worldwide and things got really busy for me.”
It was during this whirlwind that Boaz was thrown another curveball. “I had just moved back from Paris and there was a lady at Kim Dawson who had an acting division. She asked me, ‘Have you ever done any acting?’ I told her, ‘I played a robot in a sixth grade play.’ She said she wanted me to try out for this movie. I had never been to an acting audition before in my life, so I went in there and had one line. They asked, ‘Are you willing to shave your head?’ and I said, ‘Sure. Why not?’ I left thinking, ‘I couldn’t get signed as a model until I grew my hair out and now acting wants me to shave my head.’ I got a phone call three days later that I booked the job. I showed up and they had turned nine square blocks of Dallas into Iraq with dirt roads and Saddam Hussein murals on the walls. I had to go through military training and learn how to drive a big rig. The training lasted longer than the job did but that’s the moment I fell in love with acting.”
More acting jobs followed and modeling began to lose its luster. “At 25, I decided, ‘I know what I want to do now. I want to be an actor,’ ” he relays. “I went back to Dallas, packed up everything in my car and moved to Los Angeles in 2005. I thought I was a badass actor with my few credits but once I got to L.A., nobody knew who I was and nobody cared who I was. In four months, I had been on a hundred commercial auditions but nothing for film and TV. I quickly ran out of money and had to go back to Texas with my tail between my legs.”
Instead of wallowing, Boaz regrouped. “I learned not to wait on other people to make anything happen — you have to make it happen for yourself,” he muses. “I was waiting for my agent or manager to call me about an audition and it just wasn’t happening. So I decided to find the jobs myself. I was sending 20 submissions a day and over two years, I booked 20 projects. Now I had a real resumé and moved back to Los Angeles. Doors began opening up and I booked eight projects that first year.” Though he modeled here and there, “It was around 2012 when acting took up 100 percent of my time.”
Boaz was at his busiest when an unexpected opportunity came along. “I had five projects lined up and ready to go from October of last year until February of this year,” he marvels. “I was in Mexico when my manager called and said, ‘I got you an audition for YOUNG AND RESTLESS and I need you to come back to L.A.’ I’m that guy who tries everything. If the audition is in front of me, I don’t say no.”
Boaz ended up landing the role of Chance (“I was at Hollywood and Vine when the call came that I got it. I started laugh-crying”) and after backing out of some movie deals, he’s been dedicated to daytime ever since. “I lived my life out of a suitcase since I was 19 years old,” he points out. “I was always traveling to the next job instead of having a life. In 2016, I was in L.A. for a total of 11 weeks, and paid rent there year-round. Now I can do things again, like cooking more and grocery shopping. Y&R has made me sit still and I’m loving it.” 
Just The Facts
Birthday: December 12
Born In: Dallas, TX. “But I grew up 30 miles south on the 535 Highway in Waxahachie.”
Also Known As: “My real name is Donald Jr. and I go by Donny. The spelling was D-o-n-n-i-e and when I was 5 years old, I told my mom I wanted to change the spelling because my grandfather’s name was L-o-n-n-y. She said, ‘If you change it now, you can never change it again.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ ”
Sis Boom Bah! He has a younger sister, Loni. “My father’s favorite actress was Loni Anderson. My mother only agreed to it because her father’s name was Lonny. Funny story is, my sister got married to a man by the name of Jonathan Anderson, so her name for a while was Loni Anderson, but they’re not married anymore.”
Isn’t It Romantic? In a relationship with Nicole, a nurse living in Texas. “I have a good woman. She puts me in my place.”
Previous Soap Role:“I was on ALL MY CHILDREN for a short time. There was a competition for America’s Sexiest Man of Daytime TV in 2003 and when I got that, I was playing the face of Fusion. I moved to New York and I was there for two weeks when Fusion went bankrupt. I was like, ‘What do you mean I’m done? I live here!’ ”
In Brief 
Boaz weighs in on his new Y&R co-stars.
Peter Bergman (Jack): “There is nobody on that set who is more of a consummate professional than Peter. He even shows up to rehearsal in wardrobe.”
Melissa Ordway (Abby): “She’s from Atlanta,
so she’s a Southerner like me. It took us only three days to become best friends.”
Michelle Stafford (Phyllis): “This woman is just a hurricane, a force to be reckoned with, yet she’s just so humble about it. She’s so fun and interesting.”
Jess Walton (Jill): “She’s sassy as can be!
She’s been so gracious and sweet. She’s my wealth
of knowledge. Any question I ask, she’s right there
to answer.”
Mark Grossman (Adam, r.): “Mark is
so talented. We’re buddies. We clown
on set and banter back and forth. He’s like my brother.”
Bryton James (Devon): “What a great guy! He doesn’t have to say anything, I just watch him and learn.”
Joshua Morrow (Nick): “He’s a funny dude.
I would really like to work with him more.”