Last month, GH treated viewers to a sight they hadn’t seen in over 13 years: Brad Maule in the role of Tony Jones. The Texas-based Maule gave Digest the inside scoop about his emotional reprisal.
Soap Opera Digest: How did your appearance as Tony’s ghost come about?
Brad Maule: Well, I don’t honestly know what all the machinations were behind it, but I got a call from Frank’s [Valentini, executive producer] assistant saying, “Frank wants to talk to you,” and I said, “O-kay.” I didn’t know him or anything, but he was really nice and he just said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, trying to find a way to bring you back. Would you like to come back as a ghost?” I said, “Sure! That would be great!” I was excited about it. I was also a little concerned, you know? I hadn’t been on that track for a long time, so you lose your edge in terms of memorizing lines and being calm and comfortable on the set, because even though I’d been on there for a long time, it had been about 15 years, so I was the new kid on the block again.
Digest: What did it mean to you to discover that you were on Frank’s radar, and that Tony was on his mind?
Maule: Well, it was really sweet. When you’ve been on a show a long time, it’s like a form of death [to leave]. For me, I’ve never been a person who goes, “Eh, one job down, next one up!” I loved what I did. When I left, there was a grieving process for me because I never saw those people again, all that stuff. I had, I thought, closed that door. And then that phone call sort of opened it up a crack and I was like, “Oh! How is this going to be? Is it going to open a wound or heal a wound?” But it all went great. They respected the character, and I really appreciated the writing of it.
Digest: Tell me what the emotions were pulling up to the studio that day.
Maule: Trepidation, but I was excited. It was weird, because here I am, back at the gates at the place that I loved and had spent 22 years of my life. I literally hadn’t been back in [nearly] 15 years. It felt the same, sort of; everybody was really friendly and really nice. Funny, my biggest trepidation was to go back into the makeup room because that’s a place where everybody knows each other and they’re relaxed and kind of gossiping and all that. I didn’t know if that would be uncomfortable or awkward to the dead person that’s walking in! And it was just great. Everybody was sweet and kind and fun and very welcoming.
Digest: Tell me about some of the reunions you had that day. I know you saw Leslie Charleson (Monica), for instance.
Maule: Yes, I saw Leslie — Lester, we call her — and she hasn’t changed a bit! She’s just good, sweet, wonderful; when we hugged, it was like we hugged every day. It was just wonderful. And then I saw Ingo [Rademacher, Jax], and he has always been a very nice guy, but he made a special effort to make me feel welcome and happy that I was back. It was just all so much better than I ever thought it would be, you know?
Digest: How did it feel to actually be on set with Ryan Carnes [Lucas]?
Maule: Well, you know, after the first scene was taped and everything went okay, after that, it was easy. When they’re counting down, “5, 4, 3, 2”, you feel like you’re on an Apollo mission and you don’t want to screw it up and have the booth going, “Houston, we’ve got a problem! He’s 15 years older and he can’t remember his lines!” But after you get through the first scene, it’s like, “Cool.”
Digest: How was working with Ryan? You had never even met before.
Maule: Right, I just met my son that day [laughs]! I was hopeful that it wouldn’t be that actor competition that goes on among people, and sometimes young people are like, “Aw, jeez, I’ve got to work with this old guy who thinks he’s all that but he’s not.” These are fears that you have. But instead, here’s this open, sweet kid who was right there for everything, wanted to rehearse and it was just easy as pie. I didn’t actually have to work very hard because he was doing all the emotional stuff. You know, you plan things out when you’re learning your lines — “Oh, on this line, I’m gonna knock it out of the park!” But when you talk to somebody, it changes everything, if you actually listen to them. And when I was listening to him, I was like, “You don’t need to be knocking anything out of the park here. This kid’s got it, he’s running with the ball, your job is just to feed him the lines and listen to him. You’re dead! He needs help; you don’t need help.” You know? For me to be a ghost and to be all emotionally caught up in it was not the proper thing. I was supposed to guide him. I’m beyond the tears, beyond the veil. And he was just wonderful.
Digest: You didn’t have dialogue with Jackie Zeman (Bobbie), but wow — I got chills in your scene with her.
Maule: Everybody tells me, “That’s the scene.” Jackie and I have a real, deep, kind of beyond words relationship; we just kind of understand, good and bad, everything about each other, pretty much. But when I leaned against her, I was thinking about B.J. So, it worked. It was the same “listening to the heart” that I had done with B.J., when I was listening to Bobbie. That was there in the scene, I think.
Digest: Your photo does live there, by the way, on that wall in the hospital.
Maule: Yeah, isn’t that funny? I wish I looked like that again! Pretty, big ol’ hair [laughs]. I was like, “Who knew that when you die, you continue to age? Grow a beard and gain 30 pounds — what’s that about? Do they have barbecue up in heaven?”
Digest: In this very issue, Digest named B.J.’s death as one of the greatest stories ever told on soaps [see page 65]. How does that strike you, the idea that 25 years after it aired, we’re still talking about it and holding it up as a gold standard in soap storytelling?
Maule: There are so many different ingredients to it. All of us [actors] were and are parents, and we all have different relationships with our kids and fears and all that, but it sort of all was about that, about losing a child. And I grew up being the one left behind; I was the child that lived and the other one [Maule’s brother] didn’t. I didn’t understand it, but I had some kind of subconscious feeling about it. You can’t plan any of that — “Ooh, let’s look at Brad’s history and write a storyline!” On a soap opera, you have to do it 52 weeks a year, but sometimes, the forces of all the right actors and the right storyline and the right writers, it’s just this mix that comes together, because nobody did that on their own. Somebody had to shoot it, somebody had to write it, somebody had to think of it. It was a true collaboration.
Digest: Do you have specific memories of the day you shot Tony listening to B.J.’s heart beating in Maxie’s chest?
Maule: Oh, yes.
Digest: What comes to mind when you think back on that?
Maule: We shot it at the end of the day, and we had run out of time. So, they were like, “Do you guys think you could just shoot this?” They blocked it, but then they said, “Can we shoot the rehearsal?” Jackie and I and all those people, I don’t want to brag, but we’re kind of pros, so we were like, “Yeah, let’s go for it!” And they did. So those were rehearsals that we shot — and we shot them out of order, so B.J. was dead for my first scene and then she was alive and dying for the next scenes, so all your emotions were twisted all over the place. And when we shot where I leaned over to listen to her heart, my brother had had open-heart surgery and I was thinking, “What if that was his heart, and I could hear him again?” So, I had something to go on as an actor from that. And just imagine, if your child’s gone and you could hear their heart beating, ticking away, what it would mean to you. That’s all. I didn’t have to act. All I had to do was lean over and listen. The more meat on the bone in terms of writing, the less you need to bring to the table. “Stop telling the audience what to feel! Just give this big, wide freeway for them to go down.” That’s why that scene with Jackie worked when I came back. I said, “Shut your acting mouth, Brad! Stop trying to get some kind of award and just think about it.” And that, to me, is when the best performances come.
Digest: The fans responded so positively to seeing you on the show again. What does that mean to you?
Maule: It means a lot. People just said such sweet, wonderful things, and I was very happy about it. For me, it’s taken a big load off my shoulders. I live here fat and happy now! I’m like, “Yep, I did it!” It really was a great experience.