Y&R’s Eric Braeden (Victor) Sounds Off About The Last Year In Genoa City — And Why He Thinks It Is Returning To Its Former Glory.
Soap Opera Digest: The tribute to Neil just aired. What was that like for you to film?
Eric Braeden: It was regurgitating emotions that we’ve all gone through, obviously, in the time of [Kristoff St. John’s] death. It’s pretty tough. It really is. It was tough because you realize it was not acting, it was final. He’s gone. Anyway, very moving, I have to say.
Digest: We’ve gotten a sense from the comments you made on social media what a personal friend Kristoff was.
Braeden: One of the few people I trusted. One of the very few. Two or three. That’s it.
Digest: Why do you think he inspired trust in you?
Braeden: Because he came to me at a time and told me something that no one else really talked about. He and Dougie Davidson [Paul] both. I appreciate them for doing it. That’s enough.
Digest: The actors allowing themselves to feel all of that stuff really made for a cathartic viewing experience, as well.
Braeden: I think [Executive Producer] Tony Morina and Josh [Griffith, head writer] did a wonderful job putting it all together. A wonderful job. It was respectful of Kristoff, respectful of his role. There’s a tendency in this business as a whole, but especially in daytime, when you’re gone, you’re gone. It’s that kind of fleeting nature of our medium. And I say that now having been here for 40 years, practically. I have no pictures on the wall [of my dressing room] because I never think I’ll stay here — this is 39 years later — because I’ve seen too many people come and go. It’s too tenuous. I mean, the business is tenuous as a whole. I’ve done television quite a bit and unless you do a successful series for … most successful series run five years, at most? And that was one part of this business that I didn’t like. I didn’t like the fleeting nature of it. Still, no medium affords you the kind of emotional responses that daytime does. This medium is so much more satisfying in that regard. And that’s why I’m so loyal to it.
Digest: Something you said reminded me of the scene where Victor and Nikki spoke after getting the news about Neil. Just a simple scene between two people packs such a punch that it wouldn’t in another genre.
Braeden: That is true. That is very true. And we’re hitting it from the point that a lot of people in the business structure of this business don’t even realize, and that is that you grow on people. The characters grow on people. They become part of their lives. A lot don’t realize that and they think they can replace one with the other. People have watched us and they have lived with us through ups and downs. Enough said. You just need to go on a public appearance somewhere and then you realize how much each character means to people of the audience. It’s extraordinary. There’s sometimes three generations that watch us, and that’s just unheard of. So therefore, the upper structure has to be very careful to simply say, “Okay, we’ll replace so and so.” It doesn’t work that way that easily without causing damage. Thank God for [social] media. Fans have an enormous influence that way and should. And it’s wonderful. When they’ve been loyal for that many decades, you give it back to them.
Digest: Speaking of social media outcry, when you took a little break from the show, you couldn’t go two tweets without seeing a comment about that. What was your response to the response that that got?
Braeden: That response is very gratifying. It is deeply gratifying. It’s very nice. The absence was based on something I don’t need to discuss, I don’t want to discuss. That’s all.
Digest: It seems from reading your comments that you’re feeling positive about the influence that the new regime has had. Can you speak to what you see?
Braeden: Very specifically, I see a change of music. For example, the memorial to Kristoff. It was Tony Morina and Josh Griffith’s idea. They treated that character with respect. And all of us with respect in that sense. You need to have respect for the show that you do. You can’t come in from the outside and suddenly change direction in so many ways where people say, “Wait a minute, that’s not what we’ve been looking at.”
Digest: There are more Newman stories to be told. I just read the Digest interview with Mark Grossman, the new gentleman playing Adam, who spoke so highly of getting the opportunity to work with you. What has that been like for you?
Braeden: He’s a damn good actor. I wish they hadn’t written him with so much dialogue. So many scenes. You see the finished product and you don’t realize how much sweat goes into that. That boy was confronted with so many scenes. Whoa. He did a hell of a job. We have had very good Adams.
Digest: The fans get excited at the thought of a relationship with Victor
and Adam again. Do you get excited about it?
Braeden: Well, by the nature of who we all are it’s going to be a variation of the theme. That must be a disturbing thing for a parent to realize that one of them is a troublesome seed, to put it mildly. For a parent it must be heartbreaking and hard to reconcile those differences. And understanding everyone, understanding both Nicholas and Victoria will be upset with Adam being reintroduced to the whole fabric. They thought that was gone. So for a father, it’s tough.
Digest: As many Adams as there have been, it’s been so consistent with Nicholas, with Joshua Morrow playing him for so many years. I love that we’ve gotten to see that relationship evolve with two familiar faces.
Braeden: Right. It has been unfortunately not the best of relationships. Josh is sort of, in some ways, similar to my own son and I have a very good relationship with him. To have this adversarial relationship with Nick doesn’t sit well with me. But it causes conflict and drama, so there you are. Would I treat my own kid that way? No, under no circumstances. You try to find a way to solve your problems. When you play those scenes you have to think of someone in you that makes you dislike him in some scenes, but I can’t do that. It has been interesting.
Digest: When you approach a script are you just trying to get the dialogue down? Or do you really need to think it through?
Braeden: The very process of learning a dialogue in itself is a difficulty. And to make that your own is a difficulty. So what you try to do is be as natural as you can with someone else’s words. There really lies the acting challenge. And for that you need to know the dialogue, so hence you don’t have a lot of time thinking about a lot of things. The joy with me is that sometimes in the middle of a scene you really connect to the material, the relationship — those are the greatest moments for an actor. On daytime we don’t have a lot of time to really rehearse long enough to really make it your own all the time. So yes, I create this character, but the dialogue is different every day. You have to be an actor to understand how satisfying it is to do a scene with someone and say, “That felt real. That felt good.” And then you also know that moment was not that good. And sometimes the whole scene is very good and that is a joy. And then you go home upset thinking about it and say, “S–t, I should’ve done this differently.” And then you learn to let it go.
Digest: You do have to let it go. It’ll make you crazy. But at the same time you have to allow yourself to have that thought before you let it go because it shows you still care.
Braeden: Oh, otherwise I would be out of here. I care deeply.
Digest: Are there days you don’t feel like doing it?
Braeden: Yeah, when they cram a lot of scenes into one day. But the work is always a joy. It’s always fun to work with fellow actors. It’s just that when it’s so much you have no time to really enjoy it. It’s like, my God. Pages and pages and pages sometimes. And to save money, they put more and more scenes into one day. Sometimes you look at it and say, “Are you kidding me?” But then there’s a challenge in it and you say, “Okay. I’ll do it. I’ll show you.” The most I did one day was 62 pages.
Digest: You mentioned you’re in your 39th year. It’s such an amazing achievement.
Braeden: And [Y&R has been] No. 1 for 30. Unheard of.
Digest: When you think about that number that’s coming upon us — 40 years — what does that mean to you?
Braeden: Well, it’s a very good question and I’ll tell you why. I’m someone who deals with issues at hand and I don’t look back that much, except when I wrote my book [I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama], I started sort of reflecting upon them. And now, every so often, I reflect upon them. But I get very involved in the day-to-day. We have a lot of dialogue to learn a lot so you don’t really reflect that much. But I’m a lucky bastard. I survived this.
Digest: You were in New Orleans recently for a book signing. It’s remarkable, though not surprising, that there isn’t a bookstore in this country that you could go to that there wouldn’t be people interested in the book.
Braeden: It’s wonderful. And to be honest with you, I just had this conversation with someone. And she said, “My God. Think about it. The Barnes & Noble outside of New Orleans is packed and this is two or three years after your book came out.” And I said, “Yeah, you’re right.” I still have trouble believing it all sometimes. And you also know how fleeting it is. I’ve been with actors who have passed now or are no longer working who thought that they were the end-all and be-all and never to be heard of again, or rarely. You got to keep it up. It’s a drive in me that I had from childhood on.
Digest: Doug Davidson is back. Was it good for the soul to see him back?
Braeden: Of course, it is. Dougie has been here longer than I have been here. To see him sort of disappear or whatever, it just didn’t seem right to me at all. I’m very happy to see him back. We all are.
Digest: Josh [Morrow] had done an interview with us about the show’s sets, and it made me think about how the audience even becomes attached to sets.
Braeden: The former regime took away Victor Newman’s office.
Digest: Right. Is the office back?
Braeden: Oh, yeah. You bet.
Digest: Did you have a feeling walking into the office again?
Braeden: No, I say this is what belongs, what it should be. Enough said.
Digest: Is it a happy time to be coming to work?
Braeden: Yes. The atmosphere is so much better. So wonderful. Tony Morina and Josh Griffith, I like both of them a lot. It’s family. So yes, absolutely.
Digest: You share your thoughts on social media, which gives you a direct pipeline to the fans as a way to engage and converse with them.
Braeden: Wish I could do that more.
Digest: You’ve served as a voice for the audience in some way by using that platform to call attention to some things and I think the audience appreciates how clearly you do care, not just about Victor, but about the show.
Braeden: I mean, look, whenever an established actor goes or leaves for whatever reason, I get upset by that. I don’t like it, unless they want to go.
Digest: Anything else you want included?
Braeden: I’m just happy to be at work. I love coming. I love working with my fellow actors.