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ICYMI: Eric Braeden Interview

Y&R Superstar Eric Braeden Checked In With Digest About Staying At Home, The State Of Y&R, And His Eventual Return To Work.

Soap Opera Digest: First of all, tell me, how have these past few weeks been for you? Have you been able to see your grandchildren during quarantine?

Eric Braeden: I have not been able to see my grand- children, because they live away from here. Only by FaceTime! To be honest with you, I kind of like it. I’m having a pretty good time, reading a lot. And knowing that everyone else isn’t doing anything so you don’t have that, “What am I missing? I need to be out there.” It’s kind of unsettling when you think of a long-term [period of staying at home]. But it is kind of calming, as well, to be frank with you. I read and I work out as I usually do. I have my own gym at home now. Or I just walk a lot and do simple things like push-ups. I can’t really say that I have cabin fever. But the existential angst for a lot of people right now is just horrendous. People who have been cut off from income, my heart goes out to them. It’s serious business.

Digest: I spoke recently with your pal Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH), who talked about how strange it has felt to be without the routine of going to work. Have you noticed that at all, the absence of that?

Braeden: Yeah, and you know, I’ve been doing it lon- ger than Maurice has! It’s nice to see the old shows that were done under the auspices of [late Y&R Creator/Head Writer] Bill Bell, the master of them all. It’s nice to see that.

Digest: Oh, you’ve been watching the classic Y&R episodes, then?

Braeden: A little bit here and there, yeah.

Digest: Give me your thoughts.

Braeden: I’ll give you the thoughts very simply: Bill Bell allowed no one to come in and interfere with what he did. No one. He was the man, and the results were wonderful. He was the driving force behind this. The driving conflict at Y&R is the Newmans versus the Abbotts, so don’t forget about it. It doesn’t happen very often that you have a conflu- ence of the appropriate writer, the appropriate actors. Don’t forget about that! Don’t ignore it. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. That’s all I have to say about that, and seeing the old shows reminded me of that. Do I miss it? Yeah, I miss working with the people I respect, miss seeing the crew. So yes, of course, there’s something about the routine I miss a lot. Maurice is right in that regard. But the repercussions of this [pandemic] are so extraordinary, of course, one thinks about it all the time. I did something on Facebook and close to 700,000 people reacted to it, something paying respect to those who sacrifice their lives every day. They are heroes, the doctors and nurses and janitors working in our hospitals. It is extraordinary, what these people do, knowing full well they could catch this bloody thing at any time.

Digest: Did you watch Victor and Nikki’s 1984 wedding when it was re-aired?

Braeden (laughs): It got interrupted by our governor! Victor was saying his vows and suddenly our governor came on with a public service announcement. But it was really won- derful to see all of those familiar faces, it was wonderful to see that. It really was, I must say, and it was done so beautifully and so sumptuously and with style. And Melody [Thomas Scott, Nikki] looked glorious! It brings back memories. And to see Jeanne Cooper [ex- Katherine]! It always saddens me that Jeanne is not around anymore, but she and I used to have a lot of laughs when we worked together. A lot of laughs. We’ve both been around the [block] a time or two, nothing was new to us and so we laughed a lot. She had a good and bawdy sense of humor. Hilarious. And of course, whenever I see Kristoff [St. John, ex-Neil]…. He was one of the few friends I had at the show, one of the few people I really trusted. To see those shows of the past, it’s kind of nostalgic, as well.

Digest: What are your thoughts about return- ing to work? What do you think will happen?

Braeden: It would be very irresponsible on my part to say, “Oh, we’ll do this when we got back to work,” because we don’t know enough about the ways of this virus. I mean, it’s a vicious son of a bitch. I think I will be willing to go back to work if some provisions are met, serious provisions are met. You have the crew with masks on, you have people in the booth with masks on but somebody always wiping things down, you have con- tinuous tests … I think it can be done. You have distancing of the actors when they perform. I’m willing to risk it, no question. And then you have to obviously sign a release to corresponding studios or whatever that you will not sue them if you fall victim to the coronavirus. So, given the proper provisions, yeah, I’m willing to come back.

Digest: When you think about the entertainment industry being kind of in a state of pause, what are your thoughts on the role of entertainment and escapism right now in people’s lives?

Braeden: I think the role of entertainment is becoming more apparently important now than ever before. What do people do at home? They watch shows, they watch old shows, they watch reruns, they watch old sports shows. I think the need for entertain- ment is even greater now. I mean, what do people do otherwise? It’s an escape, let’s be very honest. The need for entertainment is very strong. I don’t think there is going to be any diminishing of that when we rebound and when we start producing again. Look at the success of Netflix right now. It’s extraor- dinary. The need for entertainment will always be there. These are moments when people suspend their own self-reflection, their own self-criticism for a moment and they just watch some- one else. That will always be there. What form of production it takes, that’s a different story.

Digest: What have you been doing for entertainment?

Braeden: I watch a lot of what’s on the news. I watch C-SPAN, I watch CNN a lot. I watch, obviously, shows like 60 MINUTES
and FRONTLINE and documentaries and whatever I can get ahold of. I watch a lot of SEINFELD. I’m a big fan of UFC, I’m a big fan of boxing and obviously football and basketball, They have to really figure that out. Obviously without audiences you cannot pack stadiums any- more right now, but this too shall pass. The brightest people in the world are trying to find an antidote, and they’re going to find one.

Digest: Have you spoken to any of your colleagues or castmates at Y&R?

Braeden: Yeah, I’ve talked to Peter Bergman [Jack] shortly and talked to Doug Davidson [Paul] and talked to Melody [Thomas Scott]. I talked to Joshua Morrow [Nick] very shortly and to Amelia Heinle [Victoria] and Melissa Ordway [Abby], but only shortly. I’ve talk- ed to Tony [Morina, executive producer]. Lauralee [Bell, Christine] I’ve talked to, and Greg Rikaart [Kevin], wishing him well. He obviously has recovered [from COVID-19], I think. And the guy who plays my grandson, Robert Adamson [Noah], is coming over this afternoon. We’re going to film something. It’s an homage to the nurses and the doctors on the forefront of this. A friend of mine is playing the trumpet. So yes, I’m in touch with people.

Digest: You mentioned Lauralee and it brought my mind to the recent loss of her mother, Lee Phillip Bell. I’d love to hear your memories of her.

Braeden: If I’ve ever known a woman who I would have called a lady, it was Lee Bell. For 40 years I’ve known her, not well, but obviously we knew each other. What a lady. Bright, elegant, reserved in many ways. She obviously was very influential also on some of the storylines. She influenced Bill, I think, in regard to making stories socially contemporary and dealing with those contemporary problems. She had a way about her that was just so elegant, not only physically, but she just exuded elegance and reserve and she was smart. She was really one of a kind, I’ve got to tell you.

Digest: In April, you tweeted something about wishing Daniel Goddard (ex-Cane) was on the show, wishing Doug Davidson was on more. What prompted you to tweet that?

Braeden: I don’t remember. I just know that Goddard was liked by a lot of people. He was a fan favorite. And so was Dougie Davidson. Why? Why are they not there? These people have spent decades to become fan favorites and suddenly you’re replaced with someone else that no one cares about? Come on.

Digest: When Y&R stopped filming, do you remember the last day you were at work? Did you have a sense that you might not be back for a while?

Braeden: No, it was [abrupt]. That applied to everyone across the nation. It’s a wise thing that we did. It’s a good thing that we did.

Digest: Y&R’s last week of shows included this reveal about Victor protecting Adam, hid- ing that he had been responsible for a man’s death. What are your thoughts on that story?

Braeden: I like that storyline, I do. I like it, and I liked it when Josh [Griffith, head writer] first told me about it. It’s what a father would do! Obviously at the time he would have been afraid of legal repercussions for his son, and he didn’t want that to happen and he forgot about it over the years. I assume that Adam had driven him to the point where he needed to come clean with him. Adam was trying to wrongfully accuse Victor of having done that. Victor’s driven to a point where he says, “Wait a minute. Since you are determined to prove your father wrong and accuse him of having done this, I have to set things straight.” That he kept it under wraps for so many years, I kind of understand that as a father, yeah.

Digest: Eric, what would your message be to people in the audience who are experiencing real challenges in life right now with everything going on?

Braeden: I just want them to know when one sits at home and reflects upon this whole phenomenon of what they’ve been doing for the last 40 years, I am deeply, deeply grateful to the audience and the fact that we have an audience, and that they’re that loyal. I obviously know from Twitter and Facebook and all that that people are going through very hard times and I empathize completely. I grew up in very difficult times, after the war, and so I understand. My heart goes out. There is almost nothing worse than financial insecurity, and it causes all kinds of physical and psychological problems.

Digest: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would want people to know?

Braeden: I just miss working with Melody, I miss working with them all, with Amelia and Melissa and Joshua Morrow and Peter Bergman and Doug Davidson. I miss seeing all the people behind the cameras. In 40 years there, I never have established very close relationships with anyone on Y&R because I never trusted it. I never trusted that one would be there — I come from nighttime, they’d be there for a while and then, boom, it’s over with. Well, no one told me in 1980 that I would be here 40 years later, so I have always looked at relationships that emanate from work with a certain amount of distrust, because you just don’t know how long you’re going to be there! I never had any pictures in my dressing room because I thought, “Well, I could be gone next week, who knows?” I’ve seen that with so many colleagues. Do I miss it? Yes, of course. But am I depressed? No. I’m too busy with too many other things in my life.

Digest: You mentioned you’ve been talking to Tony. Are you feeling good about the state of the show and about what Tony and Josh are doing?

Braeden: You know, Tony and I almost never talk about the show. We do sometimes a little bit. And Josh and I haven’t talked about that for a while. Last time we talked was about that storyline and I liked it. But onward and upward! I think as long as they maintain the basic structure of the show we’ll be all right. I’m looking forward to going back to work and I’m proud of what we have done for all those years. I’m basically optimistic. I love this country and I’m optimistic about America.