John Wesley Shipp Sails Into Llanview

Veteran TV actor John Wesley Shipp first captured soap fans’ attention as dreamboat Kelly Nelson on GUIDING LIGHT from 1980-84, then terrorized Kim and Frannie as Douglas Cummings (for which he won an Outstanding Supporting Actor Emmy) on AS THE WORLD TURNS from 1985-86, and even popped into SANTA BARBARA in 1987 (earning another Emmy) and ONE LIFE TO LIVE in 1989 until springing to prime-time success on shows like THE FLASH, SISTERS and DAWSON’S CREEK. This week marks Shipp’s return to daytime as he introduces a new villain, OLTL’s Eddie Ford, on November 5. Just days after he began taping, Shipp called Soap Opera Digest to rave about the new gig.Soap Opera Digest: Welcome back to daytime! This is actually not your first role on OLTL, correct?

John Wesley Shipp: Right. I had a very curious couple of weeks on ONE LIFE TO LIVE in the late ’80s, which I don’t really even remember. It was so quick and so brief. I came in to be a lawyer and it was a fun part to begin with, but one of the long-term contract players was sitting in the courtroom not saying anything and I had all the good stuff, so he suddenly went to one of the producers and said he had nothing to do — and then he had all the good stuff!

Digest: Got it. You also played bad guys on ATWT and ALL MY CHILDREN, as wife abuser Carter Jones in 1992. How is Eddie going to be different?

Shipp: With Douglas Cummings, he had a deep wound. It was really sad. It was a heartbreaking story and you could generate empathy even though ultimately what he was doing was just terrible. With Carter, he was a very smart lawyer, could run circles around anyone but still at base just wanted to be loved. Yes, he would beat her up, but then he’d cry about it [laughs]. With Eddie, there aren’t any redeemable qualities that I can find. He is a [creep]. And he’s such a [creep] and he enjoys it so much that it’s really darkly funny. I really have the crew going, “Oh, my God, you did not just do that! Was that an ad-lib?” So it’s fun. I’m really enjoying it.

Digest: You’re playing a dad to three young guys. How is working with David Gregory (Ford), Lenny Platt (Nate) and Nicolas Robuck (James)?

Shipp: We’re all excited. And those three actors, aside from just being beautiful, are committed, conscientious, talented … they work really hard. I think they’re great, great guys.

Digest: Have you offered them any advice on starting out in the biz?

Shipp: I was asked that same question on DAWSON’S. [Reporters] would say, “Do you give advice?” and I’d say, “Oh, God, I hope not,” because that would be insufferable! What I try to bring is enthusiasm. I don’t give advice, but I get very excited about the scenes and how we can make them better, and if it’s a little bit of ad-lib, we’re being creatively supported. I have to say, if Frank Valentini is not the best executive producer I’ve ever worked with, he’s pretty close to it. Not only is he efficient, he has a wonderful creative eye.

Digest: So why return to daytime now?

Shipp: I have had a couple of opportunities, but it never felt right. I am at a time in my life where I no longer have to live in Los Angeles and I’m more of an East Coast person. My whole family ended up in Atlanta and my agency opened an office there, so I thought I’d go and see if I can do this from there, and while I was in Atlanta visiting family, this offer came. These parts are fun to play because you come in like a tornado, you get the most outrageous stuff. I have done some pretty off-the-hook stuff with Carter Jones and Douglas Cummings and those kinds of characters, but this, daytime has just gone crazy. You can do almost anything! I feel like I’m twirling fiery batons and setting off explosions and hopping on the trampoline and doing cartwheels on the set.

Digest: How long can we expect to see you on OLTL?

Shipp [laughing]: I got into big trouble with you guys years and years ago because the [ATWT] production office told me, “Do not tell them you are on a short-term contract,” because [then-Head Writer] Doug Marland was spinning this big, huge storyline, so I played along as though I were coming back to daytime in a multiyear contract and then of course, six, seven months later when it turned out that Douglas Cummings was the secret admirer and was doing the murders, ooh, I understand my name was taken in vain over there. I don’t want a repeat of that!

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