Scott Clifton guested on Digest’s podcast, Dishing With Digest, and traced his soap roots from GH’s Dillon to ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Schuyler to B&B’s Liam.
Soap Opera Digest: You joined GENERAL HOSPITAL as Dillon in 2003. Was that the first time soaps had been on your audition schedule or on your radar?
Scott Clifton: No, I had auditioned for GENERAL HOSPITAL three times before that. And before that I had auditioned for AS THE WORLD TURNS once. So, soaps were on my radar. I knew that they were a kind of respectable line of work for an actor to have…. I had auditioned for the [GH] character of Lucas, I auditioned for Lucky at one point. I was way too young for that. I think it was the third time I had auditioned [Casting Director Mark Teschner] gave me a hug at the end and it was a very kind of like consoling hug, so I knew I wasn’t getting the part. But he whispered in my ear, “I’m gonna get you on this damn show if it kills me.” And then the next time I auditioned I almost didn’t want to go to the audition because I was so bummed because I got so far — each of these auditions for Lucas and Lucky I went really far. I had like two or three callbacks and then eventually Dillon Quartermaine came up and that was it. I got that job and was on the show.
Digest: Tell us about your early days as Dillon and working with Jane [Elliot, Tracy, Dillon’s mother].
Clifton: I don’t think I understood the gravity of her at the time, [but] pretty quickly, I learned that the Quartermaines were, like, a pretty big deal and Jane was a really big deal…. My first day on the show, I think, Jane made this announcement. She kind of said, “Everybody! Everybody!” You know, when she does that everybody shuts up real quick. And she said, “This is Scott. He’s going to be playing my son. If any of you give him any trouble you’ll be hearing from me,” or something like that. And everybody kind of chuckled and clapped. I got a really, really warm welcome…. Jane and Tony [Geary, ex-Luke] really instilled in me the value of making interesting choices and just always being on, like, “Just make sure that you’re always entertaining the audience.”
Digest: You were there for four years. What precipitated your exit in 2007?
Clifton: Poor judgment. I was there for like six months and then they offered me a contract. [I] did my four years and it was time to possibly renegotiate the contract. I just had this thought, “Well, I’m young. The world is full of opportunities. I’m gonna leave. This is just one step. I’m gonna go be a movie star now,” or whatever it was I was thinking. Lots of people have done that and it’s gone very well for them. It didn’t for me. I mean, within, I think, four months or so I was living downstairs at my parents’ house. It was just me wanting to leave and see if I could move on, and I really couldn’t. I never got any jobs after that…. Fortunately, not too long after that, I got a call to go fly to New York and audition for Schuyler Joplin on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. So, that was that. From that point on I really understood how lucky I was to have been in the position I was, to have had the steady job that I had. After that I never took soap operas for granted again.
Digest: You were only on ONE LIFE for a year. What stands out to you about your time there and the year you spent living in New York?
Clifton: That was the best year of my life. I think around the time that I left GENERAL HOSPITAL, I met my now-wife [Nikki]. It was a new romance for us. We were excited about our lives together, and then I got this job in New York. It was a little difficult. We were going, “Should we be doing a long-distance relationship?” And we decided, “Yeah, sure. It’s worth it.” I went to New York, I got a really, really nice apartment on Central Park West [and] I spent all the money I made on that show flying my girlfriend out every other weekend to hang out with me. So, it really wasn’t that much of a long-distance relationship! Anyway, it was a really short time but it was a really, really wonderful, impactful time for both of us in our lives. I really liked ONE LIFE TO LIVE…. That was an interesting time because that was the first job I had gotten as an “adult”. Like, I had never played an adult before. This was the first time that I had to behave as an adult. He was a schoolteacher with a past of drug abuse. I mean, that was so foreign to me. I kind of had a little bit of an impostor syndrome the whole time I was there. That was when I started to try to grow a pathetic little beard. It was an awkward stage in my life. But I think if it weren’t for that, if [B&B Executive Producer/Head Writer] Brad Bell hadn’t seen me in some capacity as a young adult on that show, then I never would have gotten offered the audition for BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL either.
Digest: You last aired on OLTL in April of 2010 and just a few months later, in July, you made your B&B debut as Liam.
Clifton: Yeah, it happened really, really fast…. I don’t know if Brad Bell had been paying attention to my leaving ONE LIFE TO LIVE or he heard about it after the fact, but they contacted me through my agent and offered for me to come in and audition. My first audition was just in front of Brad…. I don’t know what my psychology was at that time but I was very nonchalant about it; I was like totally cool if I didn’t get the job. I didn’t go in there with a lot of anxiety or anything. It was in Brad’s office. I met Jacqui [MacInnes Wood, Steffy] for the first time. There were three or four other guys that were all auditioning for the same part; one of them was Adam Gregory, who went on to play Thomas. [Bell], after the scene, said, “Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen acting quite like that before. You looked like …” And he was struggling for the words. He said, “You look like you weren’t acting.” And that was it. That was all he said. I took that as such a huge compliment. But it made me realize that this show, BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL, is a very stylized show. It’s a mom and pop show. It’s not run by a huge conglomerate. It’s run by this family and it is classic old school soap opera formula. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL is a different style of soap opera than other shows and I learned that pretty quickly. It was surprising that I got the job because I’m not leading man type material. It’s surprising that Brad, bless his heart, put me in this position of a sort of leading romantic role because that’s not my thing. I’ve just never been great at that. They have to constantly be on my ass on set. I’ll do a scene and they’ll stop it and they’ll say, “Hey, Scott. We need to do it over again. You need to be more romantic. Cut the Woody Allen s–t. Can you just be, like, masterful?” That’s the word I get all the time. “Come on, Scott. Masterful. Let’s do it again. We need you to be a man.” And I’m like, “All right. Okay. Fine.” So yeah, it’s really been a trip. Now it’s home. I mean, I’ve been there for almost a decade and it’s the greatest experience of my life. I’ve never been happier in my life than being on BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL. I’m not meant to be on this show. I don’t quite fit. I think Brad saw that and that’s why he thought I’d be a perfect fit. He knows what he’s doing.
Digest: Liam has gotten a lot of guff over the years for [his romantic waffling]. Do you think he’s really in it to win it at this point with Hope? Where does Steffy fit in? Give us your current take on our favorite waffler.
Clifton: Aw, thank you that he’s your favorite waffler. That means so much. Of all the wafflers, I win — I am the waffle king! Okay, first let me say, I don’t get Liam. I try really, really hard, but I don’t get Liam, and that is the struggle of my job. I mean, he’s an idealist, I’m a pragmatist. He’s naive and his thinking is flowery and I’m the opposite of that. I’ve been with the same woman for 15 years and he can’t stay with the same woman for a week. It’s very hard to get in his head. I consider my job to be just that, is justifying his behavior. So, I think if you were to ask Liam, not Scott, but Liam, Liam probably believes that Hope is the love of his life…. I think Liam believes that he and Hope are star-crossed lovers and that they are destined to be with one another and [I] think he almost feels like he has a cosmic duty to make things work with Hope because that’s his soul mate. The reality that keeps smacking him in the head is that his relationship with Steffy, when it’s working, works really, really well. They’re kind of opposites in a way. Steffy is obviously very different from Hope but she’s also very different from Liam. She challenges him…. You’ll never hear me say that I prefer one or the other or I think Liam should be with one or the other. That’s a death sentence both on screen and off. I just don’t think it works that way and there shouldn’t be an answer. I mean, who Liam should be with is like the suitcase in Pulp Fiction. You’re just not supposed to know. There is no answer and that’s the beauty of it because the story must go on.
Digest: In 2017, you made history by becoming the first male daytime actor to win Daytime Emmys in all three dramatic acting categories: Younger, Supporting and Lead, all for B&B. What does that accomplishment mean to you?
Clifton: You want to be careful. You don’t want to be dismissive of it, but you also don’t want to make too much of it. So much of it is timing and just having the right storyline the right year. Kristoff [St. John, ex-Neil, Y&R] could have won that final award. In fact, he deserved that final award. We had a conversation about how much it meant to him before the winner was announced. He had won Younger Actor, he had won Supporting Actor, and it really meant a lot to him. He really wanted that trifecta, and I got it. I mean, he had been doing this far longer than I have. When I won, he was so gracious and complimentary and wonderful to me, but it hurt him. I remember telling him, “Listen, man. Technically I haven’t won in all three categories. I tied in one, because I tied with Billy Miller [ex-Billy, Y&R], so you still will make history next year when you win.” And that kind of put a smile on his face and he looked at me genuinely and said, “Thank you.” The Emmys mean different things to different people. For me, it means community. I mean, these are my people. This is my tribe honoring me. It’s not about who’s the best actor. It’s not. It can’t be. Once you’re familiar with the process and how the votes work and what the rules are, it’s not about who’s the best actor, it’s about your community. I don’t know, that’s why it’s special to me.
Digest: July of 2020 is gonna mark the 10th anniversary of your debut on B&B. What does that milestone mean to you?
Clifton: That means a lot to me. That means more to me than any 12-inch golden girl. To be a part of this community … I mean, I was so excited to just be a part of it when it was my first month. I knew what I was getting into. I knew how special it was. I knew that this place, the energy of this place, the tone of this place was different from any other job I had had. I knew it was a family. And time flew, man…. I really hope I get to make it to year 20.
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