INTERVIEW

Jeff Kober Interview

Jeff Kober has starred in an impressive array of TV and film projects over the course of his decades in show business — but that was hardly the culmination of a boyhood dream, for it was not his interest in acting that originally brought him out to California from his native Montana, but someone else’s.

Explains the actor, “I was in college and I fell in love and she wanted to be an actress and she moved to Los Angeles. So I left school, I did one final summer on the [family] farm and then followed her here. I wasn’t an actor at all. I was kind of a bum, frankly. I really didn’t have a lot going on! I got here and I was in a rock band. And, as these things do, the band fell apart, the relationship fell apart.”

Fortunately, a savvy friend provided a lifeline. “Someone suggested that I go to this acting class that they thought I would enjoy,” Kober says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, my God, these are my people!’ ” Before long, and while supporting himself with side gigs like paralegal work and bartending, he began acting professionally. “Frankly, it was more frightening to be in class than it was to go out on auditions because my teacher was such a terror [laughs]! I started going out on auditions in the hope of not having to go to class anymore.”

His very first TV gigs were in daytime, though he can’t remember which came first, DAYS or Y&R. “I did both of them back-to-back and that is how I was able to buy my Screen Actors Guild card,” he recalls. “This must have been around 1984. I did two episodes.” Larger roles quickly followed, such as a 1985 arc on HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN (“Getting to work with Michael Landon and Victor French was huge for me”) and a 1988-91 run on CHINA BEACH. “What was so brilliant about that was, there weren’t any jerks,” he notes. “Everyone was there trying to do their best for this group of veterans, men and women who had gone through the Vietnam War. There was just no room for any jerk behavior, so that was really seminal for me, to have that as my first experience of a long [series run].”

In lockstep with the ascension of his career, Kober was also undergoing a sea change on the personal front: He discovered meditation, which he now teaches as well as practices, and which he credits with “saving my life, in a very real fashion.” He elaborates, “Most people who get into acting are, if not broken, at least bent in some fashion. Emotionally challenged, I would say. I was extraordinarily emotionally challenged. I just really had not developed emotionally because of trauma in my youth and I needed something to fix the whole package, rather than just tweak it here and there. Meditation was that thing; it was the thing that went to the spirit of the machine rather than just trying to fix the parts of the machine. And once I found it, I wouldn’t let it go. It changes one’s experience of life completely — and changes one’s acting, as well.”

Kober’s spiritual practice has only deepened his love for his chosen field. “I got into acting, number one, because it was a place for the huge emotions I had inside, but also because, you know, you want to be seen! If you haven’t been properly reflected as a child, you want to be recognized. With acting, millions of people are watching you. But that doesn’t give you what you think it’s going to give you, you know? And I learned that really early on. It didn’t work. The idea that, ‘If I just get the approval of a lot of people, that’s going to make me feel better.’ It doesn’t! It just actually adds more pressure. And to return to the idea of spirituality, then you have to ask yourself, is there another reason I’m doing this work, other than to be recognized? And yeah, it’s because it’s a form of art and it’s the one that I resonate with. What I love about acting is acting. And the more I can just let myself be and be present in the work, the more fun it is.”

Which made GH a perfect fit. When the character of Cyrus first came to his attention back in late 2019, “My manager said, ‘I don’t know if you’re interested, but they’re looking for someone for a couple of months on this show, GENERAL HOSPITAL,’ and I said, ‘Okay. Why not?’ I wasn’t doing anything else! I had never done anything like that, except very, very early on. And what can I tell you? It was so much fun right when I was getting started. It was absurd — working on a soap is absurd compared to other acting work! I mean, I remember my first night on the job, we finished the fifth scene in about 15 minutes, one take, and I forgot I was mic’d and I was sitting there and I went, ‘This is f—ing ridiculous.’ And everyone just started cracking up. They were waiting for me to, like, notice!” Right away, he felt a connection new workplace. “Everyone was so welcoming, and what’s fantastic about the job for me is they really let me do kind of whatever I want to do in terms of bringing the character to life. It’s such a great challenge because you have to find a way to give yourself freedom to really be present and act without a safety net, because there’s no take two! You don’t get to do it again. It’s like, ‘Okay, we got that,’ and you’re like, ‘Really? Wait!’ But I just can’t say enough good things about [GH]. I’m having a great time.”

And it looks like he’ll continue to. “I was supposed to die, I think!” he chuckles. “But pretty quickly, I realized I was just having fun and [Executive Producer] Frank Valentini walked by — ‘Still having fun?’ ‘You betcha!’ And he said, ‘As long as you’re having fun, we’re gonna keep writing for you.’ I said, ‘Okay!’ ” And the odds of his character’s long-term survival seemed to improve even more last December, when Cyrus was revealed to be the half brother of Laura and Martin (see sidebar). Beams Kober, “Frank said, ‘All this stuff, this is you. The writers are just having fun. They enjoy writing for you.’ And I couldn’t be prouder of that.”

Puppy Love: Avid photographer Kober took this portrait of his beloved two-year- old Labradoodle, Bud Powell. “He throws himself into life — and into the air and into walls [laughs]. He’s the dearest animal I’ve ever known. He raised my energy by 30 percent the day he walked into the house.”

Jeff Kober

SIBLING REVELRY

Jeff Kober is tickled pink over the reveal that his character, Cyrus, is related to Laura and Martin, sharing, “I knew that Genie Francis [Laura] and I had a really nice connection, and I thought, ‘What are they going to do with this?’ And then it was, ‘Oh, my God, she’s my sister!’ I thought, ‘She is soap opera royalty!’ And Michael [E. Knight, Martin] and I go way back. We’ve known each other for many, many years. What’s fun is that he gets in my face and he challenges me. Some people are afraid of me, but Michael isn’t, so when we got to do those scenes around my unconscious mother’s bed, he was fantastic. He was in my face with that Southern accent. I loved it!” As for Francis, he raves, “She is just waiting for someone to get in her face! She loves to act. She’s a real actress. When you’ve been doing this for so long, it’s probably challenging to be so alive all the time and bring something new to it, but she’s really committed to that and engaged in that and I just get to go along for the ride. I look forward to our scenes together.”

DID YOU KNOW?

• In 1986, Kober did a short stint on FALCON CREST as a hit man. “It was horrifying!” he shudders of his foray into prime-time soaps. “I was a fish out of water. It was not my skill set, you know?”

• In 1988, he and CHINA BEACH co-star Dana Delany (ex-Haley, AS THE WORLD TURNS) traveled to Vietnam the month after it was opened to tourism. “We were like the only Westerners there. It was an extraordinary experience.”

China Beach

JUST THE FACTS

Birthday: December 18

Provenance: “I grew up on a farm outside of Billings [MT], so boyhood was like milking cows and working in the fields, weeding sugar beets and pinto beans and stacking hay and chasing cattle and riding motorcycles and stuff like that.”

Type Cast: “My wife [Adele Slaughter] is a writer and teaches writing, and I’m in the process of writing two books, so there’s a lot of writing going on.”

Lens Crafter: “I do photography, tintype photography, and I’ve also been doing some new photographic process where I’m printing on alternative types of paper and really large-format prints and seeing what I can do with that.”

Viewing Pleasure: “We just started watching LUPIN on Netflix, about a gentleman thief. THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT, loved that. Wonder Woman 84, loved that. And my wife and I both have a soft spot for really bad action movies — the awful ones where you’re like, ‘Why did we watch that?!’ ”

Your Song: Kober, who sings and plays guitar, is switching up his playlist for a special audience of one. “I have a back catalogue of murder ballads that I know how to sing, but we have a grandson and I’m trying to come up with things to sing to him online — and murder ballads are not really the best [laughs]. Right now I’m trying to learn the alternate tuning and thinking for ‘Buckets of Rain’ by Dylan because I think that would be delightful for him.”

Comments