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#TBT — James Patrick Stuart

James Patrick Stuart
Credit: ABC

This interview appeared in the October 3, 1991 issue of Soap Opera Digest.

All His Life, He Thought He Was Insane… Until He Joined AMC

On a New York day so beautiful that, even at lunchtime, there are empty cabs at every corner, Patrick Stuart arrives at the Empire Grill looking dapper in olive green and shiny shoes. “It’s more important to look good than to feel good,” he says. “Don’t you know that?” But Stuart obviously feels good, too. It’s apparent in his humor, his passionate approach to life, and his happiness at being on AMC.

Stuart’s life began at the age of three when he had stitches removed from his nose. He doesn’t remember tripping over his father’s rocking chair, or flying into a window, just the stitches. “I actually remember it as, ‘Oh, hello, I woke up.’ It was suddenly the beginning of my life,” he says. “My first memory ever.”

After that, memories — both good and bad — came fast and furious. As the son of rock singer Chad Stuart (one half of the duo Chad and Jeremy, or Nigel and Patrick if you happened to catch them on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW), Stuart’s childhood was heavily influenced by creativity, and he has no doubt that such an upbringing nurtured his own artistic spirit. “Without my father being in the entertainment industry and rock and roll, and if my mother hadn’t been such a wise old soul — hey, I wrote a poem, by Patrick Stuart, wow! — I wouldn’t have learned all the lessons I needed to as early as I did. My friends were mostly grown-ups, so [maybe] I learned a bit too quickly. I was always raised in a studio or on a photo shoot. We moved around a lot because my father was in show business. The conventional way of looking at it would be, ‘Oh, that poor kid was robbed of his childhood.’ That’s not true at all. It was incredibly conducive to my becoming an artist, an actor, a musician,” he says.

It was only when other people made bones about his unconventional childhood that Stuart thought he may have been missing something. Now, he realizes that his childhood was just his life now, in miniature. “I used to think I was insane, but James Mitchell [Palmer] and Jill Larson [Opal], they both taught me why I do it. Hanging out with this group at AMC has really been an opportunity for me to come into my own. Suddenly, I found a lot of people like me.”

Stuart names Michael Brainard (Joey) and Matt Borlenghi (Brian) as two of his closest AMC pals, and he is saddened that Brainard will soon be leaving. “That’s the nature of the business,” he acknowledges. “I was sorry to see Michael Knight go, too. Now all I ever get is the odd phone call from an airphone somewhere over Colorado Springs, that can’t be traced. ‘Hi, Patrick, chsh, sorry to hear that you’re, chsh, not home. I’ll call you in a couple of months. Chsh. Thank you for using AT&T airphone. Beep.’ It’s a pain. I think Matt and I will kill each other without Brainard around because we both have self-destructive streaks. We’re on the top of Matt’s building on the fifty-second floor and we just want to race around the perimeter. But he’s sicker than me. I chicken out and run to the fire escape, and he just laughs. I think he would have done it. I wouldn’t do anything really dangerous, but Matt might.”

The risky business of making friends on the set only serves to reinforce Stuart’s belief that acting is a very lonely business. And when it’s at its worst, Stuart relies on his own strength and that of his family. Divorced after thirteen years of marriage, Stuart’s parents have both remarried. Stuart’s mother, Jill, lives in San Diego with her new husband, “who is basically responsible for my being alive and acting,” says Stuart. “He’s not even my real father and he funded college and drama school. Without that, I would probably be a rock guitar player in a band in Los Angeles.” Stuart’s biological father, whom he describes as a Renaissance man, lives with his wife in Idaho, where he’s now writing musicals, after a period of penning commercial jingles. “I don’t think he could ever get back into rock and roll,” Stuart says, “because when you start writing jingles, you sell your soul. If you’re trying to appeal to everybody, you’re not really making a statement. My father is gifted at making stuff that appeals to everybody now, and he can’t go back.”

Like his dad once did, Stuart has a band, though he won’t reveal the name or where they play. He will say that they are a group of professionals in other fields, who get together and jam some funky rock and roll and who are very good, actually. Though dad’s rock and roll blood courses through his veins, Stuart has given up the idea of making music a career.  “It happened specifically, one moment at the house of Thomas Dolby about two years ago. We were playing with his band, and this was the moment I knew that music was going to play second fiddle for a long time,” he recalls. “I was playing with them, and I could hold my own on drums, but the minute I hit the keyboards or guitar, these guys would just run circles around me. I realized that these were the guys with the tape on their glasses and pocket protectors in school, who just practiced while I was out partying. Now they’re world-class musicians and I’m not. They were really, really good. I could’ve gotten really, really good, but I would’ve had to drop acting. Acting is really more important to me. So far it’s proven right. It was a year and two months after I made that decision and got this job.”

Such strong-willed decisions have been the hallmark of Stuart’s life. At age fourteen, after a childhood career of modeling (“I needed bucks to buy a set of Super Heroes”), commercials and a co-starring role in GALACTICA ’80 with Lorne Greene, Stuart shelved his acting career to accompany his father to England “for the experience. If I hadn’t done that, I would have burned out on the acting business, because I didn’t have the understanding about what I was doing that I do now,” he asserts. Years later, Stuart made a similar decision to launch himself back into acting. He left San Francisco State University, and headed to Hollywood to try to make it in the movies.

Ironically, the film in which most people saw Stuart is the one he’d neglected to mention if he could get away with it: Pretty Woman. “There ended up being so little of me in the film. I had lines but they ended up on the cutting room floor. I even had a lovely scene with Julia Roberts, where she has all these shopping bags that she’s carrying, and she’s so happy and so in love with the idea of being rich that she jumps the bell boy, rips his clothes off and makes love to him on the spot,” he deadpans. “But it was three days work and even if nobody saw it, I had the greatest time being directed by Garry Marshall.”

For Stuart, the only difficult thing about leaving California to take the AMC job was finding an apartment in New York City, but, he is happy to report, he finally has. No more park benches for him. Since he joined the show, his mother has gotten hooked on Pine Valley. “She loves Janet,” he reports. “She went to the Central School of Speaking Drama. She came from the finest family, upper class. You would think she would be in London doing theater work with the Julie Christies and the Maggie Smiths and she’s over here watching soap opera daily. She’s in love with James Kiberd. She was originally an actress, but when I saw her first film, I ripped that title from her. She wasn’t much of an actress, but she’s very beautiful.”

Stuart was surprised to learn that Barbara Bush is also a big AMC fan, especially when her interest led to invitations to the White House Christmas party for both him and Michael Knight. Having only been on the show seven months, Stuart could hardly believe it. “There’s a funny story,” he shares. “Michael and I were walking down the hallway — and this was right after [Tad, Knight’s character] had fallen off the bridge — and if you keep walking, you’d make it to the Oval Office. So they have all these guards layered behind bulletproof glass. There was this big, black, Idi Amin-looking guy with a gun. And as we pass this guy, who would have shot us [if we made a wrong move], he looks at Michael and says,” Stuart pauses to deepen his voice, “ ‘Are you dead or in a coma or what?’ Everybody in the party wanted to talk to [Michael]. There were women, literally, mingling with the President, who looked over at Michael, screamed and spilled their drinks. In the meantime, I was meeting the Secretary of the Treasury, the Surgeon General, Sandra Day O’Connor. What do you say to these people? I don’t know. I was going to say, ‘I don’t know your opinion on Roe v. Wade.’ Do you say that? No, you say, ‘Pass the ham.’ ”

Not that Stuart is daunted by celebrity. He grew up with the likes of George Harrison and Roger Daltry visiting his home in Encino, California. “But I don’t listen to any of that stuff because it reminds me of the time in my life when my parents were divorcing. I don’t listen to the music I grew up with. Anything before 1980 is very painful for me because my parents were divorcing and I was being bounced back and forth between them. It was very painful and we were very much in the music industry. In 1980, I started listening to what I wanted to and became a human being.”

When it comes to his own relationships, Stuart admits to his share of problems. Mainly, he says, they stem from the fact that the women he’s dated don’t share his mind-set. “I’m not an entirely good boyfriend. I think that love is something that requires a lot of knowledge, a lot of experience, a lot of understanding, a lot of devotion, a lot of time and a lot of energy. And I guess I don’t have any of that stuff,” he observes. “I’ve learned that through having my heart broken because I started going out with somebody who didn’t dream the same dreams I did, but I felt I was in love with her. She wanted to have stability, a place to raise a family. She wanted all those things and I wanted to act from the age of death to an age that’s not born yet. I need to do a lot of stuff with my life and I know it; it’s always been like that. To violate that to be in love with somebody in some ways seems wrong. I can’t get tangled up with somebody. I’m dating a girl now. If that is going to work, I don’t know. If you accept the fact that you may never meet Miss Right, then it becomes okay, because that would just be a great thing. Wouldn’t it?”


Birthplace: Encino, CA

Birthday: June 16

Height: Six feet

Siblings: One full, two halfs and four steps

The Greatest Actor In America Today: Campbell Scott

Currently Reading: David Mamet’s Some Freaks and Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island

Currently Listening To: Crowded House and Sting’s new album. “Maybe if you listen to those two albums, you’ll understand a bit about me.”

Would Love To Live In: Scotland

Would Like To Meet: Rick Springfield. “He was such an inspiration. I wanted to play guitar because of him.”