Soap Opera Digest: In 1986, you were tapped to play Duke Lavery on GH, which kicked off your daytime career.
Ian Buchanan: My agent got a call asking if I would go meet [with ABC], just generally, and so I did. They said they’d like to put me on tape and there was somebody someone was looking to cast on the West Coast, and they said it was a soap opera. I said, “I have no idea what that is.” They said, “Well, it’s called GENERAL HOSPITAL. It’s a big show.” I said, “Okay.” [I] came out to California, to the studio, and I think the first person I met was Gloria’s [Monty, then-executive producer] secretary, who took me to the makeup room to meet Finola [Hughes, Anna]. Finola was gorgeous and she was bubbly and very enthusiastic and I kind of was not bubbly or enthusiastic [laughs]. The nicest thing I could say about the way I was, was I was being very Scottish — very cautious and very kind of wary. [After we shot the screen test] I left and was running because I couldn’t wait to get in the car, couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel, couldn’t wait to get back to New York, couldn’t wait! And then suddenly behind me comes Finola, running. She goes, “Oh, my God, that was terrific, that was so terrific!” And I turned and I said, “What?” And she said, “The test, it was terrific!” I said, “Really? Why?” “It just was great, you don’t think so?” “No, I don’t think so!”
Digest: Well, obviously she was on to something, because you and Finola became fast friends as Duke and Anna quickly rose to supercouple status. When you look back now, what does stand out to you about the magic of that first four-year run?
Buchanan: I think I found [in Hughes] the best person I could possibly find to kind of usher me into the next phase of my life. I think, really, that’s what that was about. From the moment we actually started working, we were just fast and furious friends. It was kind of extraordinary. It was a great friendship, a great relationship, and it’s just been that way. It was very funny, last summer, [her son] Dylan was coming down to L.A. to do an internship and Finola dropped him off with his suitcase and a little bag of staples, some food and stuff, and I looked at her and I thought, “Oh, my God. Who would have thought in 1986 that at this point, in 2019, you’d be dropping off your 18-year-old son for me to take care of for two weeks?”
Digest: Why did you leave GH [in 1990]?
Buchanan: That’s an interesting question. I was with a management company and also with agents who I think had bigger plans for me than I had for myself, I believe. They were kind of molding me and pushing me toward what they considered to be bigger, better things. I didn’t particularly feel that way; I was still kind of learning [but] they wanted to push me into probably having a prime-time series of my own. That was part of the negotiation, which didn’t go terribly well, and things were just done, for the time [being]. And then I went on to TWIN PEAKS [as Dick Tremayne].
Digest: What stands out to you about working with David Lynch and filming that show?
Buchanan: He particularly still stands out. I see him socially, or did see him socially, when we had such a thing! I don’t even see him at a distance anymore, but I had a very interesting relationship with him. He only ever calls me by character names. The first time I worked with him, I did a Calvin Klein Obsession campaign with Lara Flynn Boyle [ex-Donna, TP] and that’s when he asked if I wanted to play a Dick and I said, “Sure!”
Digest: You eventually made your way to BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL in 1993, where you played the virginal psychiatrist James Warwick. Buchanan: I don’t even think [his virginity] came up until [James and Taylor] were in the cabin after the earthquake or the blizzard — I think I read it, I don’t think anyone told me, I think I actually read it and I was like, “Seriously? Like, for real?” [There] was a lot of uncomfortable kind of giggling until Hunter [Tylo, ex-Taylor] and I kind of committed. [B&B] was a great experience for me. I loved the format, I loved the class, I loved the style, I loved everything about it.
Digest: Is that where you met Susan Flannery (ex-Stephanie), who is a good friend?
Buchanan: Yes, that is where I met Susan Flannery…. It seems like every show that I’ve done, I’ve picked up at least one great friend, so, I mean, I’m very grateful for that. I have Rebecca [Budig, ex-Greenlee] from ALL MY CHILDREN.
Digest: Well, I don’t know if you have a friend from your next daytime role, but it was PORT CHARLES, where you played vampire king Joshua Temple.
Buchanan: I think [that show] was really obviously ahead of its time, ahead of all the vampire stuff … It was a little odd to be playing the underbelly of PORT CHARLES. I was a little wary, I think, of that initially, but once we got into it, you know, I was working with Rebecca Staab [ex-Elizabeth], who I had done COLUMBO with many years before, and she and I were very close. All the kids — Kelly Monaco [ex- Livvie, now GH’s Sam], who was a kid at the time, I just adored, and everybody else, I loved. Lynn Herring [Lucy], she and I started, I think, probably almost at the same time on GENERAL HOSPITAL…. I had a very good time.
Digest: You followed up PORT CHARLES with a 2005-06 run playing what I have to say is one of the most bizarre characters ever on ALL MY CHILDREN [Gregory Madden].
Buchanan: The best part was spending time in New York, actually…. I was totally oblivious to how controversial the un-abortion would be [Gregory stole the embryo Erica was meant to have aborted in the early 1970s and raised her son, Josh, as his own]. When [Executive Producer] Julie Carruthers was explaining it to me, all I could hear was, “I’ll take Manhattan. Yay!” I don’t think I heard “fetus” [laughs]. I don’t think I heard any of that! [I] felt pretty fortunate to have another daytime gig. I do remember, be careful what you wish for, or don’t reveal your fears, especially around a soap opera writer, because, lo and behold, I do remember telling [Head Writer] Megan McTavish that my greatest fear was being buried alive!
Digest: In 2012, you landed in Salem for six months as DAYS’s Ian McAllister, working with Sarah Brown as Madison and Lauren Koslow as Kate.
Buchanan: That was, again, not a very popular character. I think he was not really kind of brought in to be loved by anybody. He was pretty despicable, but I had a great time playing him! I loved Sarah and I loved Lauren Koslow. It’s funny because I will say, having been through daytime at its grandest and its greatest, every network has its own flavor and a different tone, and I had experienced ABC, of course, and CBS, and then NBC to me was a very, very different tone because it wasn’t a huge daytime community at that point…. NBC was very insular for me. It was not the happiest six months, I have to say.
Digest: Moments after you left DAYS, I feel like, you went back to GH.
Buchanan: I loved going back there, I loved being back there, but I liked when Duke was just the Duke that I knew [as opposed to Faison in a Duke mask], but also, obviously, much older.
Digest: This was the first time you worked with Tony Geary, who played Luke, and it seems like he became a good friend.
Buchanan: We are very close friends. Which is kind of interesting — you know, we walk through Amsterdam together [where Geary lives] and every now and again someone goes, “Oh, my God! Luke and Duke!” “Yes, we took the show on the road — here we are!”
Digest: A lot of Duke and Anna fans were really disappointed that their romance never really got a chance to shine the way it did during your first run.
Buchanan: I think it was pretty unfortunate that they didn’t give it, like, a chance, but, you know, things change, life changes. Also, I think they wanted to probably keep Anna’s character a little fresher, you know, younger. They had already made her a grandmother and I think they wanted to back off on that. I understood it. I think it was unfortunate. It’s very hard to recreate unique relationships and unique bonds. I think it’s difficult. I think when people make magic, that magic is something that you should just continue to shine, I don’t think you break it down or do anything with it, I think you just recognize it and hold it dear. I think I got to do that as long as I participated, and the rest is up to other people…. I got to die with my head on her lap, which was a huge request, because I hate dying with my head on concrete. That’s the one thing I did ask for and I got that.
Digest: Can you put into words what your career in daytime has meant to you personally and professionally?
Buchanan: I never would have dreamt that daytime would have been my life…. I’ve seen the whole genre change, but I always hold very dear Radio City Music Hall, Emmy night [when he won the Outstanding Supporting Actor award for B&B in 1997] or just the great sense of community. It’s been extraordinary. And also, just the enormous talent and the great support and especially the support that I experienced, not having a clue what I was doing…. That is what I hold very dearly from the experience.
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