Y&R’s Eric Braeden on Victor’s return to power and his own real-life health battle
Soap Opera Digest: Like many fans, I’ve been grinning from ear to ear watching Victor take back control of Newman Enterprises — ousting Adam, demoting Victoria, making Nikki the CEO of Newman Media. How do you feel about these power moves?
Eric Braeden: I loved doing those scenes. I think it’s about time we’re back to that! I hate that in-between bulls–t, where he’s neither retired nor [in charge]. It was high time and I loved it!
Digest: What was your take on the arc that led into this, where Victor decided to take a step back and tried to let his kids kind of figure out their corporate dynamics amongst themselves?
Braeden: You know, hope springs eternal! Obviously, every father would love his family to get along. And you find out, painfully, that certain habits die hard. He certainly gave it a try and I mean, the brilliance of the Adam story, from its very beginning, when it was conceived by Bill [Bell, Y&R’s creator and former head writer], which bears fruit now and has for quite some time, is that obviously, Adam feels perennially lesser than, and feels like an outsider. And that is so deeply imbued that try as Victor may, he seemingly does not ever get rid of that feeling. And that is a wellspring for all kinds of drama. It’s fantastic! It’s brilliantly done.
Digest: I see a range of opinions online about whether Victor treats Adam fairly or if he’s not giving Adam the credit he deserves. Where do you fall on that?
Braeden: Well, that’s simply not true [that he treats Adam unfairly]. Victor has expressed his loyalty and his support to him many, many times over and has tried to explain to him that it was not his decision for the boy to be raised on the farm by Hope. He wanted him to be raised in Genoa City. I put that in [dialogue] myself because the writers sometimes seem to forget. The facts are and the history was that Hope decided to move back to the farm in Kansas against Victor’s wishes, but he understood [her decision]. So there you are. But what that also really speaks to is how, when certain early psychological impressions are made, they’re difficult to undo. And obviously, Adam always felt left alone and abandoned by his father, which in fact was not the case. It’s so interesting. It really doesn’t make any difference what the legal arrangements are; in divorces, the children are the victims of it, period. This is a perfect example of it and that victimhood carries on and on and on. And, of course, offers great ammunition for conflict and story and drama.
Digest: Why do you think Victor resists or pushes back when Nick expresses that he doesn’t want to be part of the family business? And how do you think he feels about Nick expressing that sentiment yet again?
Braeden: Again, these are the brilliant consequences of what Bill laid the groundwork for. Victor has never overcome the fact that he grew up in an orphanage. Hence, he has always had this extraordinary desire to have his family together as a unit. That is Victor’s pathology, if you will. He does not see that others want to be independent. Children need to be independent and inevitably will leave home. You can’t force the unity. But Victor is so determined because with everything he’s ever accomplished, he has forced his will on it, and he cannot really force his will [on this front]. It’s very tragic, actually. Again, we are dealing with the consequences of early childhood experiences.
Digest: As much as we see Victor attempt to impose his will on Nick, Victoria and Adam, he isn’t as controlling with Abby.
Braeden: Yeah, very true.
Digest: Why do you think that is?
Braeden: I don’t know! I can’t answer that question. That’s in the writers’ hands. But it’s a very legitimate question.
Digest: Let’s talk about Victor’s decision to demote Victoria.
Braeden: Well, I think that he is innately suspicious of an outsider like Nate coming in. He is innately suspicious of all the outsiders, like Ashland Locke, the guy who married Victoria. He’s very suspicious of anyone using love or marriage to his offspring as a means to get into the family business. He doesn’t like that. I assume he felt that she is perhaps conniving with Nate. Who knows? He is also innately suspicious, period! Victor grew up as a loner. He has done things all by himself. He doesn’t really, in the end, almost trust anyone. And therein lies another tragedy. Freud would have a field day with the Newman family!
Digest: Indeed! On the topic of Nate, I see fans debating about whether Nate is succeeding in kind of pulling the wool over Victor’s eyes.
Braeden: All I’ll say is, good luck to anyone trying to pull the wool over Victor’s eyes! Good luck!
Digest: Does Audra fall into the same category as Nate for Victor, meaning, he is wary of her?
Braeden: Oh, he’s wary. Look, they all think, at one time or another, that they’ve made inroads [with Victor]. Victor always watches. He’s always suspicious. But you have to get to a certain point before the hammer comes down!
Digest: Were you pleased when you got the scripts that indicated that Victor was taking back the throne at Newman?
Braeden: Yes. However, that period [of him having taken a step back from the business], that sort of passive period, was necessary in order to make this dramatic, for this now to work.
Digest: And a big moment is coming up on that front, when Victor reinstalls his portrait in his office. [Braeden chuckles.] Why are you laughing?
Braeden: Well, because, obviously, when it first changed [and Victoria’s portrait was hung], I thought, “Hmmm. Something is not right here!” But I let it be because I wanted my daughter to succeed and feel all the power. And now he’s taking it back! So, as you’ll see, the scenes are very interesting. I’m loving the storyline, I really am.
Digest: Does it tickle you, when you shoot scenes like those, to know how excited Victor fans, who I think share your hunger to see him back in power, are going to be when they air?
Braeden: Yes, yes, yes! I read the fans’ remarks almost every day, so I know what’s going on [in the discourse of viewers] and I share their feelings. It’s interesting; my feelings and theirs are almost in synchronicity!
Digest: Now, when it comes to Nikki, it seems like he does have a lot of trust and faith in her and her business acumen at this point.
Braeden: Yes, certainly. But in the end, he only trusts himself. You know, he knows he needs to give his family some freedom and some responsibility and all that, but in the end, he knows he’s in charge. That’s all.
Digest: And it seems like he wants to remind them he’s in charge!
Braeden: You bet.
Digest: You said earlier that Victor’s hope springs eternal when it comes to these warring kids of his. What do you imagine he makes of their infighting?
Braeden: I think he fears, as it is born out in reality in many families, if the center is not there, that the rest will sort of start perhaps disintegrating. Everyone, rightfully, has their own egos and wants to imprint their own stamp on things. That’s only normal. But in order for an empire to work, for a huge business like that to work, don’t take out the center! Once you take out the center, the others start warring with each other. That’s human nature. [In] Victor’s case, in the Newman empire case, he needed to tighten the screws again, and tell people again who was in charge, because he was afraid it would simply disintegrate.
Digest: As your fans know, in April, you revealed that you had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, and in August, you shared the wonderful news that you are cancer-free. Why did it feel right to you to share your diagnosis?
Braeden: You know, I’m at an age where I really don’t care. What I do care about is that I’ve seen other people go through cancer, and that’s a tough thing to see them go through. So if I encourage men, in this case, or anyone for that matter, to have preventive exams, prophylactic exams, then I think I’ve done some kind of a service. If I had not had a cystoscopy at a certain time, which really came about sort of accidentally, I would not have known that I had cancer and it would have, by now, reached who knows what stage. My eldest brother, who is eight years older than I am, had his bladder removed 10 years ago because he did not have the luxury of finding out that he had cancer before [it had progressed]. So, I found it in the early stages. So, have a cystoscopy, have a colonoscopy at least once a year, get a calcium score of your heart, women should have an annual mammogram. Just do it! As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Cancer is a vicious thing. You don’t feel it come on. Really, I felt nothing in that regard. I felt problems having to do with the prostate, but it turned out not to be prostate cancer.
Digest: When you got your cancer diagnosis, were you scared? Have you been scared at any point?
Braeden: You know, I hate to say it, but no, I have not. I’ve not been scared because I knew — and this also is what prompted me to make this public — because of my brother’s experience and two or three other people that I knew who had different kinds of experience [with cancer], I knew what was awaiting me. So I was not scared in that sense. No. I said, “Let’s go, let’s get on with it, let’s deal with it,” and I’ve had that feeling ever since.
Digest: Because you’re on social media and because you do Facebook Lives, you see all this evidence of how much love there is for you, how much positivity and deep caring and good thoughts were being sent your way. Did that bolster you further?
Braeden: No question about it. I read it all. I wish I had more time to respond to all the comments; that’s the only drawback. But do I read it? You bet. I read every single one of them.
Digest: While you’ve been dealing with this very important and I’m sure, at times, quite stressful matter, was it nice for you to have the routine of work?
Braeden: No question. Work is always, for me, and I’m sure for the other actors as well, a different world. You need to totally focus, and I love it. I just love going to work because I work with people that I love being with — Melody [Thomas Scott, Nikki] and Amelia [Heinle, Victoria] and Joshua [Morrow, Nick] and Mark Grossman [Adam] and Sean Dominic [Nate]. They’re wonderful to work with. We have great fun and we laugh a lot.