This interview originally appeared in the July 30, 1996 issue of Soap Opera Digest
OLTL’s Tortured Poet Would Just As Soon Keep A Lid On His Personal Life
Thorsten Kaye lives on the parlor floor of a turn-of-the-century Manhattan townhouse. But don’t look for the leather-bound volumes of Shakespeare or tweedy furnishings you’d expect from ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s brooding hero, Patrick Thornhart. Instead, visitors are greeted by a gumball machine, Looney Tunes prints and a Harley-Davidson neon sign. A pool table stands in the dining area, flanked by a saddle on a post (in case visitors are feeling in the cowboy way). It comes as no surprise to learn that this Englishman has had a love affair with all things American since he was a little boy.
“My dad worked for General Motors,” explains Kaye, in a slight accent more British than Patrick’s Irish brogue, “and I always went to American schools.” Even his first love was an American girl living in London with her family. When he pictured life across the ocean, Kaye’s vision was very specific: “I wanted to go somewhere warm, where there’s a beach and palm trees and beautiful weather.”
As Kaye shares his memories over an after-work beer at a restaurant near his apartment, he’s cordial and honest, yet guarded. This is not a man who feels comfortable pouring out his heart for a magazine article. It becomes apparent as the conversation progresses that Kaye is fighting his share of demons; soaking up the limelight as a newly knighted soap hunk is clearly not a prospect he’s relishing. But he is too much of a gentleman to let his apprehension make anyone else feel ill at ease. In fact, when he was told during the interview that one of the restaurant’s patrons was a fan, he didn’t wait for her to work up the courage to approach him — he walked over and introduced himself to her and her husband.
In person, the 6-foot-1, hazel-eyed actor is every bit as appealing as Patrick, the romantic hero who melts Marty’s heart with longing looks and lines like, “There is no life without you.” And like Patrick, he has an intensity born of suffering. “I’ve never been a happy person,” Kaye acknowledges with a shrug. “I’m not that close to my mom and dad, and it’s not my choice. You have a conversation [with them] and it goes here, it goes there, but it never really hits [home]. Sadly, that was a lesson I learned very early.”
To fill that void, Kaye spent his youth immersed in sports. As a teenager, he broke records in track and field and even became a decathlete. “It was an egotistical time in my life,” he admits now. “Runners get very self-involved.” When a motorcycle accident left him unable to compete and his parents moved to Germany, the 18-year-old Kaye pitched a tent outside London. But not for long: The United States International University (USIU) offered a tryout for its soccer team. Armed with $57 and a one-way ticket to San Diego, Kaye headed west.
“I arrived in San Diego unshaven, wearing a bomber jacket and jeans,” he recalls. “I went into a hotel and the guy looked at me and said, ‘No rooms.’ So I slept on a lawn near the harbor. At 5 a.m., the sprinklers came on: That was my introduction to America.”
Kaye didn’t make the soccer team, but he was able to get a scholarship through USIU’s theater department. “I wanted to be a movie star, make a lot of money and live on the beach,” he recalls, flashing his killer grin. Countless unsuccessful auditions later, Kaye was forced to reassess his career path and accepted a scholarship to Wayne State University in Detroit, where he earned a master’s degree in theater. By the time he read for the role of Patrick, Kaye had performed nearly every Shakespearean play.
Kaye laughs as he describes his screen test opposite Susan Haskell (Marty). “I walk in and [learn I] have to do a kissing scene. Susan comes up to me and says, ‘I just want to tell you that there’ll be no tongues.’ I thought, ‘Great, because that’s what I wanted to do, tongue everybody and go home.’ It was very awkward; I tease her about it now.”
Nine months later, the two are close friends as well as anchors in one of OLTL’s most romantic stories. Kaye speaks modestly about his appeal as Patrick. “It’s the character, not me,” he insists. “He’s a romantic, and I play the yearning.”
Sometimes, Kaye suggests, Patrick’s yearning goes a bit too far. “Guys don’t talk like that,” he points out. “If I said to a woman, ‘I love you, I want you to be with me, I’m building you a house in the hills,’ and she said, ‘I had a good time, but I’m staying with this [other] guy,’ I’d be out! That’s the biggest opposite between us — my respect for marriage. I’ve never been a great yearner.”
In other ways, Kaye sees a lot of himself in his character. “I’m very passionate about my work. I love peace, quiet. And I’m searching for a place where I can sit and say, ‘This is my home.’ ” Playing a teacher comes naturally, too, because Kaye actually taught drama and literature when he was in graduate school. “I love the largeness of Shakespeare and classical theater,” he effuses, “and there’s a place for it in this medium. People loved the Romeo and Juliet thing we did in the classroom because they felt that hour was not a waste.”
Of course, Kaye doesn’t greet every soap script as enthusiastically, particularly the ones marked, “Patrick, shirtless, heaving,” as he puts it. “If you have to take your shirt off because it’s on fire, that’s one thing,” he grins. “Otherwise, I’ll say, ‘Why?’ During the remote where I had to do a horseback riding scene, I said, ‘How come I don’t have a jacket on?’ They said, ‘You were in such a rush [you forgot it].’ I said, ‘It’s freezing out, I saddled my horse, put on a new shirt and a vest and didn’t grab a jacket? Why don’t you just say that you want to see my chest?’ ”
Still, his frustration with soap work doesn’t leave Kaye daydreaming about movie stardom. “It would be nice to do a movie that means something, like Braveheart or Rob Roy,” he says. “But I don’t want to end up like some of these movie stars, unhappy because they want somebody else’s career. They’re just as angry at themselves as I am.
“I would love to go to sleep one night and feel content about my work,” says the performer who has earned critical and fan acclaim. “I don’t know what it’s going to take. It may never happen.”
Just The Facts
Birthdate: February 22
Favorite Classical Role: Macbeth
True Romance: “Buying something is not romantic. To actually have a conversation with someone — to listen and tell them honestly how you feel — that’s a romantic thing to do.”
The Female Factor: “Most of my friends are women. I just enjoy their company. It doesn’t mean I have to go home and go to bed with them.”
On Keeping His Personal Life Private: “It’s the only thing I have that’s mine. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything.”