KEY TO SUCCESS
How Thad Luckinbill Juggles His Thriving Career On Both The Big and Small Screen
After producing films for A-listers like Reese Witherspoon (The Good Lie), Emily Blunt (Sicario), Jake Gyllenhaal (Demolition), Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (La La Land), Thad Luckinbill, who started his professional acting career playing Y&R’s bad boy slacker, J.T. Hellstrom, had a compelling reason for stepping back in front of the camera to reprise the role. “I’ve always loved the character,” he shrugs. “When I started, I was only supposed to be on for five episodes and with the help of the writers and actors, I was able to turn that into 11 years. It’s a character I still deeply care about and that’s even become more obvious to me as I’ve gone through this process these last few months.”
Luckinbill admits that he wasn’t excited about the idea of another actor in the role. “I would absolutely hate to see somebody else play that character because I’m the only one who’s ever done it,” he says. “I have a lot of pride in that and I knew Y&R had a really cool storyline for J.T. I had some downtime between films that we were shooting with my production company, so I talked to my partners and said, ‘Guys I’d like to do this.’ It just happened to be really good timing. All of the factors came together at once and I went back.”
Luckinbill was surprised by J.T.’s plot prominence after returning to Genoa City. “I knew it would be a lot of lines, I didn’t know there would be that much!” he chuckles. “I’ll be honest, that’s been challenging, but we’ve gotten through it and I think I’ve done well. They’ve written some really beautiful stuff. I’ve been doing film and TV for the last few years, not only producing but acting, and clearly that’s a much slower pace. It took me a little while to ramp back up into such a heavy storyline. It wasn’t like, ‘We’re going to ease you into it,’ it was more trial by fire. But they were awesome with me and we got through it.”
Luckinbill wasn’t surprised that there was still plenty of chemistry between J.T. and Victoria, who is played by his former spouse, Amelia Heinle. “That was part of the reason I came back, too,” he explains. “I talked to Amelia quite a bit about it and I knew that this would be good and it would be fun to play. She’s really such a great actress. Although she’s won two Emmys, she’s a completely underrated actress. She’s so honest with her material and she never pushes it; it’s always very true and honest and I think that’s just something to be absolutely valued in daytime TV.”
He’s having a good time mixing it up with other actors on the canvas, as well. “I love Doug [Davidson, Paul] and Lauralee [Bell, Christine] so much,” Luckinbill raves. “They’re wonderful people and such good actors. They’ve been there forever and it makes me happy when I see them both and I love working with them.” Ditto Jason Thompson’s Billy. “I was there a long time before and I lived through a few Billys,” Luckinbill smiles. “I love Billy Miller [ex-Billy; Drew, GH], he’s a great friend of mine and he’s a fantastic actor, but I also think Jason is a great actor. I just love what they’ve been able to do in keeping that character so well cast, so my hat’s off to Jason. He’s an awesome guy and I honestly wanted to work more with him.”
Shortly after he began airing on Y&R, Luckinbill’s film 12 Strong was released in January, and he is especially proud of the project. “That was a really great experience for me, not only as a producer but as an actor,” he relays. “I grew up in a military town in Oklahoma and I’ve always valued the military. My brother-in-law is a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. Growing up, when you saw those guys in their uniforms, it was like seeing an NFL star. They were our heroes. For me, being able to portray a military member and tell a story and do it right was a real honor and a great experience.”
Next up is the sequel to Sicario, coming out in June. “It’s a fantastic movie,” Luckinbill enthuses. “It’s one of my favorite films and I’m not just saying that because I produced it. It’s awesome! It’s everything the first one was but it’s bigger and there’s more action. I can’t wait for people to see it.”
Action movies and thrillers aren’t the only films Luckinbill is working on, however. He just wrapped Sierra Burgess Is a Loser, a movie about teen angst and high school romances. “It’s sort of a John Hughes-esque coming-of-age story,” he shares. “Shannon Purser, who is from STRANGER THINGS, plays Sierra Burgess. It’s for high school kids, first of all, but I think all of us remember some of those moments. Of course, things have changed, but the basics are still there. It’s still the same dramatics and emotions and it’s a very funny movie. It’s got a lot of heart. We sold it to Netflix, so that will be on there at some point. I don’t know the exact release date.”
Despite his red-hot film career, Luckinbill is very proud of his Y&R roots. “It’s the most important thing I did in the early part of my career,” he affirms. “It taught me how to appreciate a role, appreciate the work environment, how to work fast, memorize lines and be a good scene partner. It taught me really just how to grow up!”
Upon first reading the script for La La Land, Thad Luckinbill didn’t know that the flick would become the mega-hit that it did. “I remember thinking, ‘This could be really cool,’ but I knew the execution was going to be very difficult because it was an original musical,” he explains. “It wasn’t music that fans would already know. It’s always [movie adaptations like] Mamma Mia!, Chicago and Les Mis, so to do an original musical was really bold.” It wasn’t until La La Land was presented at a test screening that Luckinbill realized it was the start of something big. “I watched the audience reaction from the back and I was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got something here,’ ” he recalls. “The first screening tells you a lot about where you’re at as a film, and you go back into the editing room, fix and try different things and you test it again. That being said, even after the first test, I thought we had a crowd-pleaser, and I really started to shift my thinking about the film.” La La Land went on to be nominated for Best Motion Picture of 2017, and was even announced as the winner, but as the world now knows, there was a snafu and Moonlight was given the honor. “I was not onstage but I was there in the theater and it was so bizarre,” Luckinbill concedes. “I’ve got to say, I worked 12 Strong with Trevante Rhodes, who was one of the actors from Moonlight; in fact, I met a lot of those guys and they’re such great people and I’m so happy that they got their movie recognized because they deserved it, too. It was a great movie. The unfortunate part is there are a lot of great movies and it’s really hard to boil them down and say, ‘That’s the best one.’ It’s so subjective, but for me, I think it’s cool that a lot of people at that point knew about La La Land and so they knew about Moonlight. If it enabled them to get more people to see their film, then I think that’s cool.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: April 24
Born And Raised: Enid, OK
Full Name: Thaddeus Rowe
First Soap Run As J.T.: 1999-2010
The Ours: He and ex-wife Amelia Heinle (Victoria) have two kids, a son, Rowe, 10, and a daughter, Georgia, 8.
Line For Line: “Joshua Morrow [Nick] has this crazy memory, so he’s really good at memorizing dialogue. That makes me want to punch him in the face! I’ve never been that way. I’ve always had to prepare quite a bit. I just keep looking at a script until I’ve got it.”
Basic Black: Luckinbill, twin brother Trent and Molly Smith formed a production company, Black Label Media.
Did You Know?
• Luckinbill is 12 minutes older than his identical twin brother, Trent.
• He appeared in Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me” video as a cowboy thrown from his horse.