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ICYMI James Read Interview

Prison bars had become the DAYS norm for James Read, who’s spent the last few years of his run as Clyde Weston locked up in the slammer. So learning his character was finally getting sprung came as a welcome break for the actor.

“I’m real happy not to be wearing orange anymore,” delivers Read with a chuckle. “While Clyde was in prison, most of my scenes had been with Rob [Scott Wilson, Ben] who plays my son. I love working with him, but it’s been nice to reacquaint myself with the rest of the cast. They’re putting Clyde in lots of situations with characters he hasn’t seen in a long time or, in some cases, never before. That’s been really fun.”
Becoming newly employed at the Brady pub has put Clyde in the orbit of a number of the town faithful, including his ex-love, Kate, who’s living upstairs with Roman. “That adds a little spice to the stew,” points out Read. “It’s a great touchstone for Clyde, and it gives the audience an opportunity to wonder what might happen between them.”

Meanwhile, Clyde’s met and started dating the newly single Nancy. “To be honest, I had never seen or met Patrika [Darbo, Nancy] in all the years I’ve been on the show,” says Read. “So, to me, it was a brand-new character and completely out of left field. I had no idea where it was going or what Clyde’s level of sincerity was. It has been and continues to be a fun exploration.” As has the chance to share the screen with Darbo. “She’s just a barrel of laughs,” enthuses the actor. “She keeps me on my toes, and I love trying to make her laugh. I think the intention of the story is to show everybody that it definitely has legs.”

And there’s the potential for some romantic comedy along the way. “I’d say there is an element of that to it, because Patrika’s got such a natural gift as an actress for comedy,” notes Read. “It takes on a different tenor. There’s a kind of romantic giddiness to [their relationship] that Clyde plays to. You’re really seeing that element there.”

It’s actually nothing new for Read, whose long career has encompassed it all. “I’ve done a fair number of sitcoms and lighter parts throughout the years,” he shares. “I know the audience expects Clyde to be a no-good, one of the heavies. He’s almost universally loathed, except by Ben. Fortunately, the writers see more to the character than that. The relationship with Nancy is one way for them to explore that. I’m happy they’ve given me that opportunity.”

Read, who joined DAYS way back in 2014, admits it’s hard to believe he’s still part of the show. “I don’t think anybody thought Clyde would be long for Salem,” he admits, initially envisioning “a six-month thing. I was happy with that because I had never done daytime before, and I wasn’t sure I would like it. It was a way to get my feet wet and decide whether or not it appealed to me. It’s worked out great.”

Prior to delving into daytime, Read’s resumé featured an impressive array of credits, dating back to his role as Murphy Michaels in the 1982 hit REMINGTON STEELE. He landed the gig within a year of moving to Los Angeles. “It just confirmed for me what I was hoping to find, that I stood a chance of making a career of acting,” says Read. “It was the first time I made decent money and my first time in front of the camera. And I learned a helluva lot. I had a sense that I could probably better further my career by leaving the show and seeking starring roles in something, and that’s what I did. Those roles started coming in shortly after I left. So it was a good move.”

Read’s next big project came when he was cast as George Hazard in the 1985 miniseries NORTH AND SOUTH, a project he realized was destined for greatness from the start. “It was produced by David Wolper, and, at the time, he was king of the miniseries,” explains Read. “He had already produced ROOTS, THE THORN BIRDS and a half dozen others. You knew he was going to do a lot of stunt casting with big stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Hal Holbrook, and that it was going to be a big project.”

It proved to be a turning point in Read’s life, both professionally and personally. It was on the NORTH AND SOUTH set that he met his future wife, Wendy Kilbourne, who played his love interest, Constance. The pair actually married on screen before tying the knot in real life. Read admits it was love at first sight “for one of us.” But as to which one, “I’m not telling,” he responds with a laugh. “The other was just as smitten, but a little gun-shy. It took a little time.

“As I recall, three or four marriages came out of NORTH AND SOUTH, including Genie Francis [Laura, GH] and Jonathan Frakes,” Read continues. “Lesley-Anne Down [ex-Jackie, B&B et al] met her husband [Don E. FauntLeRoy], who was a camera operator on the show. The bigger miracle is that three of those marriages are still intact. On-set romances don’t have a very good track history. They’re not often there for the long run, but in this case they all worked.”

Read’s career has thrived ever since, spanning over four decades and featuring many memorable roles, series and films. Among the projects he remembers most fondly is the movie Eight Men Out. “That stands out pretty strongly,” he says of the true story about the 1919 Chicago White Sox throwing the World Series. “That film had a lot of integrity. It was a real bonding experience and had a fabulous cast — John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Christopher Lloyd. It’s a very American story and one that many people have told me over the years they think is the best baseball film ever shot.”
He also had a prominent role in the classic Beaches. “Heavy stuff,” he remembers. “Those were all A-listers — Bette Midler, who was top of her career at that point, and Barbara Hershey. John Heard was one of the actors who I became aware of at a very young age, when I saw him on Broadway. He was kind of a role model. It was great to be among such a lofty crowd. And [director] Garry Marshall was just a hoot to work for.”

He’s also added a mix of prime-time guest spots and regular series roles (AMERICAN DREAMS, CHARMED, WILDFIRE) and films (Legally Blonde, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White And Blonde) to his list of credits. “Most actors will continue to answer the phone whenever it rings,” Read explains. “I’m not at the most active point in my career. The luxury that I have is that I’m able to work when I want to work and do the jobs that I want to do. I’m really fortunate to be in that position. I did a really fun guest star on a show called THE ORVILLE, which is Seth MacFarlane’s kind of STAR TREK takeoff. I think my episode is the first of the new season of shows on Hulu and will be airing in the next few months. That was fun. They called and offered me the job. That’s my rule of thumb. If I’m in town and available and the job appeals to me, I’ll work.”

Yet Read seems just as content kicking back and relaxing at his home up the California coast with wife Wendy. “I’m a pretty boring guy between the bike, the guitar, playing Wordle and spending a little time in the kitchen,” he shrugs when asked to describe a typical day off. “I try to keep up with my fair share of the cooking and do all the grilling. We love to entertain for our friends, so we spend a good amount of time doing that.”
The couple is planning some trips in the near future. “My daughter lives in Seattle,” notes Read. “And my son just graduated medical school. He’s going to start his residency and move to Seattle, too. So we’re going to be spending a lot of time in the Northwest.”

The draw of Jackson’s baby daughter, Read and his wife’s first grandchild, is an even bigger lure. “It’s a real joy,” reflects Read on becoming a grandparent. “It’s something you always hear. After a while, you go, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Then it happens to you and you go, ‘You’re absolutely right. This is the greatest thing in the world.’ It brings you right back to those golden moments as a young parent. You remember what a really special time it is to be with children as they’re growing up.”

And as for his future in Salem, Read says, “The progression I’ve been on since starting DAYS has been perfect. I come and I go,” adding that if he was doing one project exclusively, “I’d be looking over the fence at the other side.”

If he ever hangs up his shoes as an actor, James Read could hang up his shingle as a psychologist. He has a master’s degree in Psychology from Pepperdine University. “I’d always been curious about it,” says Read. “As I look back when I was in high school, I just became aware of the whole field of psychology, and it really interested me. In many ways it’s very close to acting. It’s all about how people behave and why they behave that way. You’re really kind of in the same world.” Read decided to pursue it upon becoming a parent. “It was a period right after our first child was born,” he notes. “I just became really interested in family dynamics and how to rear children properly. I thought it would be beneficial for me as a father to know more. I was also thinking that I might like to [pursue psychology] professionally at some time in the future. Although I eventually decided not to, I’m really glad I’ve got that education.”

Just The Facts
Born: July 31

Hails From: Buffalo, NY, but was raised in Schenectady, NY

Family Guy: Read married actress Wendy Kilbourne in 1988; they have two children: a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Sydney.

Talking the Talk: Read modeled Clyde’s accent after The Band’s Levon Helm. “He was from the Ozarks himself and one of my favorite musicians. He was a drummer who’s passed on now. There’s plenty of footage on YouTube of interviews he’s given over the years.”

Easy Rider: When he’s not working, Read is “a big cyclist. For the last 20 years I’ve been on a bicycle. I recently came back from Portugal, where I was on a bike tour. I’ve also been on bike tours in Spain and all over the U.S. That’s my big go-to activity.”

Guitar Man: “I just started playing the guitar a couple of years ago, right before Covid started. It’s a rare day when I don’t stop and pick up and play for at least 15 minutes or so. I wish I had done it years earlier.”

It’s Showtime: “I tend to binge-watch. I’m really enjoying the limited HBO series about the Los Angeles Lakers [WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY]. It’s about that Magic Johnson/Jerry Buss era, when the Lakers were the transformational team in basketball.”

Games On: “I’m a voracious and habitual daily reader of The New York Times online and an addicted Wordle player. I do the crossword puzzle and Spelling Bee, too. I go to them at idle moments throughout the day.”