January 30th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

THE TUC WATKINS INTERVIEW – ONE LIFE TO LIVE

TucMain66.jpg

This week on One Life to Live, “David Vickeroshi”, will be on the receiving end of a marriage proposal by a very deceitful Dorian, as PI Rex is hot on their trail. With the “Go Red Ball” just around the corner, David’s story will take front and center stage. Will he finally come to realize he is Asa Buchanan’s son?

I chatted with the one and only Tuc Watkins, star of “One Life to Live” and the primetime series “Desperate Housewives”, about his latest Llanview Buddhist incarnation, and playing the bumbling con man. We also discussed the Daytime Emmys, and working on Wisteria Lane, playing one half of the snarkiest gay neighbors you’d ever want to meet, Bob and Lee.

One of the most talented and innovative performers ever to grace the daytime screen, Tuc’s interview is one of our favorites at “On-Air On-Soaps”.

Listen to the audio:

Play

MICHAEL:

Tuc, Namaste’! Namaste’!

TUC:

Oh, my goodness, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that word.

MICHAEL:

Are people coming up to you and saying, “Namaste’”?

TUC:

Every now and then I do hear it on the subway. I hear it a lot on airplanes, usually places where you can’t run away. (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

I thought your performances have been just great. Every time you come back to “One Life to Live”, it just adds so much and spruces up the show. This time you are “David Vickeroshi.” What did you think when they told you how they were bringing you back this time?

TucBudah1.jpgTUC:

When I first heard the acorn of the idea, Frank Valentini (executive producer, “OLTL”) called and said, “Do you want to know what you are going to be doing?” I said, “If you want to tell me.” Because the great thing about going back to play David Vickers is it really doesn’t matter what we are going to do. It’s always fun doing it, because it’s all about the means rather than the end. I said, “Sure. What’s it going to be?” He said, “You are going to come back as a Buddhist monk and you are all enlightened.” I said, “All I see is the comedy. So I assume this is going to be comedic?” He said, “Yes.” I thought it was a great idea. When you play a character on and off for fourteen years, sometimes you have to go far a field to keep things fresh. Obviously, this is not something that will stick around for a long time, this transformation. So, it’s been a lot of fun to
explore a character that you
know really well, in a way you
have not seen him before. It’s
really a fish out of water story,
so it’s been a lot of fun.

MICHAEL:

Ron Carlivati (head writer, “OLTL”) and you are brilliant together. Do you ever ad lib your lines, or are those the lines that are written by Ron and the writing team on the page?

TUC:

The great thing about Ron coming on is that is not often that a character, a writer, and an actor, all sort of get it together. Sometimes an actor does not have a handle on what the writer and director is gunning for, and not have the full grasp on something that you are very familiar with. I think Ron appreciated the same characteristics of David that I appreciated. So, we kind of turned up the volume on David. It has been great. You know, I have been through a lot of different writers on the show. I have never really noticed that much difference in the writing, but I really did notice a difference when Ron started. I remember going up to Frank’s office going, “The writing is different and I really do think it had made several strides forward,” and for the first time in a long time, I thought it was really noteworthy. So I said something out loud. Actors like to say a lot of things out loud (He laughs). ‘Namaste’’ takes on a lot of different meanings!

MICHAEL:

So what do you think the meaning of ‘Namaste’’ is?

TUC:

I was told early on the literal meaning of ‘Namaste’ was “I bow to you.” It started out as that, and then it meant “I am hot for you”, and then it also meant, “Thanks for the food.” So, it’s sort of a catch-all, in a way. ((He laughs).

Robin1.jpgMICHAEL:

Is there anytime when you are working with the incomparable Robin Strasser (Dorian), or Erika Slezak (Viki), or any of the actors on the show, when you guys just break up in laughter?

TUC:

Well, we usually get the laughing done at rehearsals in the morning. But, that is also when and where we find stuff. It’s where we tweak what’s there, or punch up a word you might not have punched up, if you had not been rehearsing it with the other actor. We get the ‘funny’ out of the way in the morning or during dress, so when we get to tape we are not wasting anyone’s time.

MICHAEL:

When you first got to work with Robin and Erika, who I think are probably two of the best actresses on the daytime canvas, did you think, “Wow. This is really great?” Did you even know who Erika and Robin were?

TUC:

Well, I first started on “OLTL’ in 1927, so I have known them for a long time. (He laughs) But seriously, I started on the show fourteen years ago, and I never watched soap operas. Some friends of mine in school would plan their course schedule around soaps, but I never quite got it. I mean, I understood that people could become addicted to them. You either get it, or you don’t. And that’s just not one of the things I got. So, when I first started on the show, I did not know who anyone was. But, I did know that they had been there for awhile. I think it’s like starting in a company. You tend to look up to someone who has been around for a number of years and respect them. You figure these people know what they are doing, so I am going to learn from them as opposed to telling them what to do. I remember one of the first days I started working on the show, I was doing a scene with Erika and I was pretending to be her brother. She said, “Can someone please give this kid some light? You can’t even see him!” That’s not something you consider when you are young and starting out. You just want to say your lines and not throw up. When I first met them both, they were the standard to learn from then, and they continue to be.

MICHAEL:

Will David finally find out this time out, that he is really Asa Buchanan’s son?

TUC:

You know, they have been teasing this story for eternity. Talk about dragging out a story! Even by soap terms, it’s taking a long time. I remember when the previous head writer was there and I went back under contract for three years starting in 2003. They told me, “We are going to reveal you are Asa Buchanan’s son.” I thought,” That’s cool, because he is the patriarch of the show, and that means I will be working a lot!” Well, I tell you now, it is going to be revealed, but it is six years later! This is 2009!

MICHAEL:

The only thing that redeems it is you and David come and go from the canvas. So it’s a setup where there are months when you are not on screen.

TUC:

I left contract in 2006, and things have worked out scheduling wise so I can go back. When you have a character like David who is a bumbling con man, it makes sense that he is not always on the canvas. It makes sense that he goes out into the world and tries to pull the wool over other people’s eyes in Bangladesh, or New Delphi, or other cities that I cannot point to on a map. So, when it finally came around, it feels like it has been taking a long time, but fortunately we have been telling other story that has been interesting. The timing is just right to tell it.

TucNora1.jpgMICHAEL:

Does David attend the upcoming, “Go Red Ball”?

TUC:

David does attend the Red Ball, and I will say, something happens at the “Go Red Ball” that changes David’s life.

MICHAEL:

In a good or bad way?

TUC:

A little bit of both. (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

I see that “OLTL” has put you up for one of the two actors in the in-house voting, for the pre-nominations for Supporting Actor for the Daytime Emmys.

TUC:

Oh, I did not know that. I am thrilled!

MICHAEL:

Well, you have been my pick for many years to get an Outstanding Supporting Actor nod at the Emmys, but you never got the chance to compete for the prize. So, what are your thoughts?

TUC:

I think everyone’s an idiot! (He laughs) To tell you the truth, what I get to do on “OLTL” is so much fun, and not traditional to what daytime has carved out for itself. So I understand when they look at a bunch of tapes of people to be considered for Emmys and a nomination. I come on and cross my eyes, and fall down the stairs, and they look at it like, “Is this guy for real?” So, it’s sort of a double-edged sword. I am very lucky that I have been able to play this character that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the people that inhabit the town of Llanview. But having said that, part of what allows me to do that prevents me from doing terribly dramatic stuff. I know you are supposed to cry on cue on daytime, and I can’t do that. So, anytime I try to play anything dramatic I tend to turn the car in a different direction. I guess it could be said I err on the side of trying to find something that is funny. That’s not always the best choice. In fact, Robin Strasser is always getting on me about that.

TucVickie1.jpgMICHAEL:

But, I think there have been such beautiful, nice, and at times, emotional scenes between David and Viki.

TUC:

If I can have poignant moments, but with a hump and mole with hair coming out of my face, then I am happy doing those poignant moments. They brought me on to be this cool mysterious guy in 1994. I did it for a year, and to tell you the truth, I was pretty unremarkable at it. It wasn’t until one day I woke up and realized, “David Vickers is not a cool mysterious person. He thinks he is a cool mysterious person.” And that s when the David we know today was really born, and that is when I kind of hit my stride with this character. You’ve got to figure out how to play the character among the other people you are with. And it’s not that easy. It took me a year on “OLTL” to figure out what makes David special. Luckily, when I was turning their mysterious cool character into the town buffoon, they supported it rather than say, “You don’t get it. You’re out.” So I have been pretty fortunate.

MICHAEL:

You pull double duty at times, as Bob on “Desperate Housewives”. Will you be continuing on that?

ColorTucKevin1.jpgTUC:

Yes. They signed me and Kevin Rahm (Lee) to a recurring contract this year. On a show like that, it’s always going to be about those five women, as it should be. I mean, it’s called “Desperate Housewives”, but we have gotten a little more involved this year. Kevin has gotten more involved with Teri Hatcher’s (Susan) character, and I started representing Felicity Huffman’s (Lynette) kid, because they decided my character was a lawyer. As it is, it’s also a soap opera, when you boil it down. They just have better lighting and hair styling. So, one day they sent me a script and I went to the table read and head writer Marc Cherry went, “Oh, by the way, you are a lawyer now.” That involved me a bit more. They have our characters in that house between Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria (Gabrielle), and we are sort of a new color on the canvas. A lot of story is told through us…

MICHAEL:

….they are reactionary instead of propelling story, right?

TUC:

Yes. The end game is how it affects the women on the show. It is a lot of fun to work on that show. It is the funniest set I have ever been on. That’s probably because you go to work on a neighborhood street where it’s mostly sunny, and they have really good snacks, and you just hang out. And any drama that happened on that show, happened a long time ago. And everyone in between takes are playing games and catching ‘rays’.

MICHAEL:

How is working with these powerhouse actresses?

TUC:

They are all very different. I remember Kevin and I started around the same time Dana Delaney (Katherine) started. I thought, “Oh, this poor woman has her work cut out for her because she has such strong archetypes that have been set up and established.” I thought she did an amazing job of finding something new that was also necessary. Kevin and I are in the supporting cast, but all those women on there are all fun in a different way. Eva Longoria takes nothing seriously, in the best of ways. She is always cutting up and laughing. Felicity is knowledgeable and it’s great to talk about acting with her.

DH1.jpgMICHAEL:

You and Kevin play the gay couple on the show. Is there one thing you would like to see them involved in, if you were writing the show?

TUC:

The thing that I like about the way Marc Cherry brought that couple on was, he brought them on as a gay couple, and one of the first lines they say is, “We’re gay. We are life partners.” So there was no dancing around that, and it was not issue-oriented. I think a lot of times when they brought in gay characters, or minority characters in the 70’s or 80’s on television, black or Asians had to explain why they were there! We don’t need that anymore. I thought it was great that we got to go on… everyone knew we were gay… but that wasn’t the story. Why we went there was part of the story, and how we get involved in other peoples lives is the story. We are not this cookie-cutter, great super hero, gay couple, where everything we say is kind and friendly. We are not that couple from “American Beauty”. They were the only normal people on that street, but we are kind of mean!

MICHAEL:

Yeah, I like that they are these ‘snarky’ gay guys. It’s not the issue that they are gay; it’s just the ‘snarky’ guys that live down the street.

TUC:

I describe it as: I am Andy Griffith and Kevin is Barney Fife. Kevin says all the funny lines and I stand behind him and roll my eyes, and that’s what Andy did with Barney.

TucRed1.jpgMICHAEL:

Is there a lot of Tuc in David Vickers on “OLTL”, and in Bob on “Desperate Housewives”?

TUC:

I will tell you this: I am not a method actor. I studied that in school, and I think that’s how most students of acting learn about acting. That’s where you become the character and eat for breakfast what that character ate for breakfast, and you think about how that character was treated when they were a child. That didn’t work for me. I am more of a behaviorist. I am more about how a character behaves in the environment he is in. I would say most of the characters I play, especially in television; you are usually hired to play pretty close to who you are. So, I would say Bob on “Desperate Housewives” is very similar to me, because I am a neatnik in a way, and I maintain a sense of humor. But I am fairly straight laced in what I think. David, on “OLTL”, is also a side of me where I like to cut up. So, it’s two sides of a coin in many ways to me. I would have to say, that both those characters are pretty close to me without being mutually exclusive, if you know what I mean?

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