Interview

ICYMI: Michael Damian Interview

Michael Damian’s Post-Y&R Career Is Still Soaring

Michael Damian, who played Genoa City’s home-grown rocker, Danny Romalotti, is over-the-moon excited about his latest film, High Strung Free Dance, in theaters now. “This is the second installment of the High Strung franchise that my wife, Janeen, and I created,” he begins. “For those who don’t know the franchise, these are stories of dance, romance, overcoming obstacles and challenges that hopefully will leave you feeling entertained and inspired. We’ve got a phenomenal cast headed up by Thomas Doherty from Disney’s DESCENDANTS 2 and 3. He’s an amazing actor and plays Zander, an eccentric, passionate choreographer. Harry Jarvis plays Charlie, a brilliant, virtuosic pianist and keyboard player, and Juliet Doherty, who is no relation to Thomas, is, in real life, a double gold medal winner at the Youth America Grand Prix, which is a student competition at the highest level, and the winners get a contract with a major ballet company. She is a glorious ballerina and contemporary dancer, and this is her debut on the big screen. I’m so thrilled and honored to have directed them. And then, of course, our anchor leading up the cast is Jane Seymour, who reprises the role of Oksana from the first High Strung.”

This latest production, however, isn’t a sequel. “It’s following a different journey of young people,” Damian explains. “The brand that we created is the mixing of classical and contemporary and modern music and dance wrapped up into an emotional, romantic story of characters. You don’t have to see the first one to understand the second one, and the scale of this one is probably three times the scale of the first movie. Our log line is ‘Dream big and dance free,’ and we’re trying to inspire people of all ages. Yes, young audiences are going to be our strong base core, but we just had a big Vegas premiere where the audience was older and the reaction was phenomenal. A couple of reviewers have said it’s a modern-day Fame, which is really an awesome quote that we’re going to definitely be using in our campaign [chuckles].”

Although the move is set in New York City, some interior scenes were shot in Romania. “We took over the Bucharest National Ballet Theatre because we couldn’t close down a
theater on Broadway for two weeks,” Damian shares. “But we did close [Manhattan’s] Times Square for some scenes and that was exciting. We also shot in Central Park, the Theater District and Lincoln Center; we were everywhere.”

Writing, directing and producing movies seems a world apart from the young musician who started out on Y&R in 1981. During his 19-year run as kind-hearted pop singer Danny, Damian parlayed his daytime stardom into a No. 1 hit single (“Rock On” in 1989), nationwide singing tours and a stint on Broadway in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. “Y&R was really just an amazing chapter of my life,” he reflects. “The camaraderie and the team spirit were so strong when I was on the show. There was this amazing energy between the castmates, especially everyone I worked with. [Co-Creator/ then-Head Writer] Bill Bell was an amazing captain of a ship that sailed with such amazing point and purpose when he was running the show. It was just so solid with Bill. He protected his cast is what I saw over those years. I learned so much on the show, consciously and subconsciously, and that’s why I’m directing today. I think my experiences working with all of Y&R’s fabulous directors and writers and producers and crew helped me to learn not just the acting side, but the physical production side, as well. I owe so much to the show.”

After marrying Janeen (a former SOLID GOLD dancer) in 1998, the couple began a successful collaboration of writing and producing TV movies and feature films. Their home base may be in Las Vegas (“Our house is right up at the foothills, on the 12th fairway of a gorgeous golf course”), but the Damians are usually “shooting, visiting or vacationing somewhere in Europe.”

With Y&R currently on the bandwagon of bringing back former characters, would Damian consider an encore if asked? “They reached out to me before but the timing wasn’t good,” he reveals. “So, if we can time it out right and it’s in between films, absolutely. It’d be wonderful. Danny could give Phyllis a piece of his mind and just let him give Cricket one more kiss. That would be fun.”

Looking back at his years in show business, Damian marvels at his good fortune. “I am incredibly fortunate and grateful for all of the wonderful things that have happened,” he says. “I mean, having the chance to be on the No. 1 [daytime] show, have a No. 1 single, be on Broadway, get a Grammy nomination, perform on THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW and all the different award shows, and now having movies in the cinema, I’m very blessed.”

Not surprisingly, Damian is still getting recognized by soap fans. “They say, ‘You’ve got to get back to Genoa City, man. There’s some problems there,’ ” he laughs. “And I’m like, ‘Well, okay! Let me just call Victor Newman and get on his jet.’ ”

 

Just The Facts

Birthday: April 26

Born In: San Diego, CA

Marital Status: Mar-ried wife Janeen on June 18, 1998

His Secret For A Happy Marriage: “Communication and respect. And don’t take the other person for granted.”

Five Alive: Damian is in touch with former Y&R co-stars Lauralee Bell (Christine), Doug Davidson (Paul), Christian J. LeBlanc (Michael), Beth Maitland (Traci) and Michelle Stafford (Phyllis). “I definitely want to do a Y&R alumni get-together.”

To the Rescue: Starting in 1993, Damian performed the lead in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and an unexpected five weeks in Chicago, where Donny Osmond had been starring. “He called and said, ‘I need a vacation. Can you please sub for me?’ He’s my bud, so I said yes.”

My Memoirs: Don’t expect an autobiography anytime soon. “I haven’t really thought about that. I don’t want to bore people.”

 

High And Mighty

Damian has long credited Y&R’s late Jeanne Cooper, who played the role of Katherine Chancellor from 1973 to 2013, as his acting mentor. “She gave me advice from day one when I first came on the show in 1981,” he recalls. “She really was so supportive. She could’ve been a diva and she was not. She treated people of all positions with respect. She was fair and kind. She was a hard worker and she didn’t take things too seriously. She was like, ‘Just relax. Don’t get all worked up. It’s just a scene. Worry about the next scene tomorrow. Let’s get today done.’ And she was so good to all the fans.” Damian fondly recalls when he and Cooper were in Natchez, MS, for a charity event in the 1980s and a crisis arose. “Jeanne called me in my room and said, ‘Michael, I need your help. Can you please come to my room?’ ” he recounts. “I go there and she’s having an issue with her hair because of the humidity. I went back to my room, got my hair spray, my mousse, my gel, my styling brush … everything. I came into her room and got her hair tall and full. I gave her the maximum ’80s hairdo. She loved it!”

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