August 26th, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The Christian LeBlanc Interview – The Young and the Restless

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This week’s special On-Air On-Soaps birthday boy is three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Christian LeBlanc.  Known for his extraordinary performances as the quirky legal eagle, Michael Baldwin, whose past and family put the “D” in dysfunctional, LeBlanc is heralded as one of the greatest dramatic daytime performers ever to hit our small screens.  But, many have also noticed the amazing timing and comedic brilliance of this guy, both on and off the screen.  Just a few weeks ago, after watching soap pal, Days of our Lives star Nadia Bjorlin (Chloe) take her turn as guest-host of the live SNL type sketch comedy show in Los Angeles, ACME Saturday Night, LeBlanc decided he would like to give it a whirl!  His colleagues and pals already knew this seemed like a perfect fit for his talents.  And so this Saturday night, August 28th, Christian (in front of a live audience, and also streaming live to audiences on the web) will tackle a new frontier in his career, as part of his birthday celebration.

In this funny, candid, and revealing interview, Christian details: the process of putting together the ACME show, his hilarious hosting stint at the recent Creative Arts Daytime Emmy Awards ceremonies, and the importance of trying new outlets for yourself at any age.  But that’s not all!  For Y&R fans, we get a preview of what’s next for Michael Baldwin, discussing Michael and Phyllis’ on-screen bff friendship, the ending of the Lauren/Sarah Smythe doppelganger storyline, and more.  And, when As the World Turns signs off the airwaves in a few weeks, who else but LeBlanc can put into words how much the show has meant, because it is the place where we first saw his remarkable talents.

So, let’s send birthday wishes his way, eat some cake, and get ready to watch Christian this Saturday night!  To get tickets if you are in the Southern California area, or to watch the show online, visit ACME’s website by clicking here!

MICHAEL:

First off, Happy Birthday Christian!  So for the occasion, you decided to top this week off with trying your hand at sketch-comedy?

CHRISTIAN:

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I always do some new adventure for my birthday, be it an external or internal one, but this is also something I have always wanted to do.  People for years have been telling me to do comedy, comedy, comedy, and stand-up!  I would say, “No.  That is the hardest thing in the world.  You have to write your own material and work it out.”  It’s something I would love to try, but it’s one of those things you put off forever.  So, finally like my French and piano playing (I started speaking French at my last birthday, and then I started the piano playing) this is something different I have always wanted to attempt or learn.

MICHAEL:

The good thing about this is… it’s sketch comedy.  I would die if I ever had to do a stand-up comedy routine!

CHRISTIAN:

I had friends from New Orleans when I first moved to New York that would do stand-up, and it was my job to clap and laugh, and to drown the drunks out. (Laughs)  To see Nadia Bjorlin get up and do ACME Saturday Night the other week, I did not know what it was supposed to be like.  Both Eden Riegel (Heather, Y&R) and Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe Y&R) had told me that show is very funny, since they both hosted it before.  I just meant to laugh and clap because that is what a friend does, but it was great.

MICHAEL:

Did your cast mates, Eden or Elizabeth, give you any tips in preparation for Saturday night?

CHRISTIAN:

They were telling me to do this show before I even showed up to watch Nadia’s!  Elizabeth was going, “Oh, you would be perfect!”  And I would go, “Elizabeth, weren’t you nervous?”  And she said, “Not till the day of… before that I was fine.”  I was like, “Oh, shut up…bitch!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

You will be great!  But what did the ACME troupe pitch you for the sketches?

CHRISTIAN:

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I cannot tell you, because I want you to be surprised.  As I got my scenes pitched to me earlier this week, it was an amazing process to watch.  They come up to you one-on-one and pitch the scenes to you they wrote.  The writing part of sketch comedy is what amazes me.

MICHAEL:

But recently, you did some comedy shtick and wrote it, too, when you hosted the 37th Annual Creative Arts Emmys, correct?

CHRISTIAN:

Yes.  For the Creative Arts Emmys in June, I did write that bit in it in two days.  I got a lot of response from it, but I knew in my heart that I needed more time.  It was really fun and it was terrifying.  I mean, first I walked out in my underwear, and you think after that there is nothing! (Laughs) And, I read a letter of apology to our wardrobe department.  There were 54 categories to get through, and I would only have one or two minute increments in between.  So I made this up; that I had a fight with wardrobe and that I had to read this letter of apology, and then later on, I did a slideshow.  I made slides of actors before and after make-up and hair.  And in presenting this I said with a straight face, “I am going to show you just how much power the Creative Arts Emmys have on the day to day lives of performers.”  Then we started showing the slides, and I said, “Here is Nadia Bjorlin before…” So I had Jeanne Cooper come in to Y&R with no make-up and hair not made up, and that was the shot.  And after that, there was a beautiful shot of Nadia Bjorlin.  Then I go, “This is James Scott (EJ, DAYS) before.”  James Scott is very shy and does not like to be in hair and make-up.  And so, it’s a picture of Patti Denney and Kathy Jones from Y&R’s make-up department dragging Jeanne Cooper on the floor.  It had her kicking and screaming into make-up and hair.  So then I go, “Look what happens afterwards!”  Then, it was a beautiful picture of James Scott.  Then I go, “Here’s me. Christian before…” which is a nice head shot of me. And, “This is Christian after”, and it’s Brandon Beemer (Owen, B&B) without clothes.  The last one is, “Here’s Jeanne Cooper before make-up.” And, it’s a skeleton, and then the after picture was Jeanne Cooper.  Jeanne pulled in a favor. God bless her.  That is the closest I ever got to stand-up.  Some of it sounded like it hit, some of it I was not so sure. We did this sober-ish. (Laughs)  And more people have come to me the months since then, and told me it added some “pop”.  It was only five minutes in the whole three hours of the presentation of the Emmys. 

MICHAEL:

So let’s go back to the ACME pitch meeting.  I am intrigued by this.  (Laughs)  So you have the right to refuse the pitches, and go, “yes or no”?

CHRISTIAN:

They all come pitch you.  They all take their turn, and they are all very excited if their sketch gets picked.  This is their big chance.  You have a stack of 15 skits, and you go up on stage and you act them all out, and they direct it a little.  They give some feedback and I listen.  Then, they bring out props, etc, and we do it full force.  Then you go to the back of the theatre with the director and the producer, and they speak frankly. “What do you think?”  I know what I am comfortable with; I mean there was a proctology exam that did not make the cut.  But funny.  So I relied on them, and I picked the ones that I was not that comfortable with.  Doing the opening, that part of it is comfortable for me.  And so you pick four scenes, and they round the show out with some of their own sketches, because you need to change and get ready for the next sketch.  So, my appearances are spaced out.

MICHAEL:

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Did they do research on your career, and who you play on Y&R, your Emmys, etc. to perhaps integrate bits of that into the show?

CHRISTIAN:

They do their research.  They ask you ten questions.  One of them is, “What would you like to avoid?”  In which I answered, “I would like to avoid being not funny!”

MICHAEL:

So it’s always a work in progress?

CHRISTIAN:

I don’t get scripts again till mid-week, and I will tape a video short on Thursday. Nadia’s video was hysterical, with the pepper spray going, “Are you here to rape me?”  So I don’t know till Saturday, when we rehearse all day and go do the show.   I know with the four sketches I picked, they will have re-written them and done the fixes we talked about.  It’s a work in progress the whole time.

MICHAEL:

Are you a fan of Saturday Night Live? Over the years, have you watched it regularly?

CHRISTIAN:

Yes, I am a big fan of sketch comedy.  I love Kids in the Hall and I love SNL.  But even watching SNL from beginning to end, it’s bad.  But that is comedy.

MICHAEL:

Will your cast mates be in attendance this Saturday?

CHRISTIAN:

Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, Y&R) will be there, and James Scott, Nadia and Brandon, too.  I am going to have a ball.

MICHAEL:

Ok, what day was your birthday, and how old are you?  If I recall, for fifty you took your clothes off in a sexy photo shoot!

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CHRISTIAN:

My birthday was Wednesday.  I am fifty-two this year.  For fifty, I did the nude shots, which play, just so you know, in to my opening monologues.  I continually set goals and things. They are things I have saved up that I always wanted to do.  One of them, as I mentioned earlier was piano class and the other was singing.  I also kind of started the French lessons last year.  My French tutor is from Paris, and you do these batches of interviews for the Monte Carlo Television Festival, and in one of the articles, it says, “Christian LeBlanc speaks French well!”  So I am printing that and framing it and putting it in my dressing room. (Laughs)  It’s one of my best birthday gifts ever.  This year, I want to do lots of small trips.  One of the things I want to go do is to touch one of the largest living things in the world, which is the Sequoia.  Last year I went all over England, and I was with all these great British people.  I said, “If I want to go to a castle, you just shut up and go!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

So what can we tell Y&R fans; of why they should come down to the theatre on Saturday?  Will there be a take-off of The Young and the Restless opening, perhaps?

CHRISTIAN:

No, I don’t think so.  But you never know with this group.  I would say for fans; it’s the most fun they can have with their clothes on!  Come see it, because it’s just like a train-wreck… you won’t be able to take your eyes away!

MICHAEL:

It is really important now for daytime actors to expand their reach, especially with the difficult times the industry has fallen into.

CHRISTIAN:

The soap business is hard right now.  It’s hard to do what I want to do anyway, which is I want to make gold every time I walk out there and say a line.

MICHAEL:

Coming up on Y&R, will we see more of Michael involved with the Lauren/Jill feud, or perhaps, something else?

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CHRISTIAN:

You will see legal Michael quite soon, I believe, and you will see fireworks!  I have not filmed them yet or seen the scripts yet, but I am seeing them coming my way.  It should be very interesting.

MICHAEL:

I have to tell you, I thought your scenes at the culmination of the Lauren/Sarah Doppelganger storyline, where Tracey E. Bregman played both parts was sensational.  The mirror scenes alone were great drama!

CHRISTIAN:

My ego was thinking when I was sitting there with Tracey Bregman going, “Oh, I would have loved triplets or quadruplets!”  Tracey is like “Oh, God!”  We did the big ending that was a take off on the motion picture, The Lady from Shanghai, and that was a 5AM shoot.  I was never more proud of everyone!

MICHAEL:

Christian, you have told me in previous interviews, it is always something you look for in scripts, and in the performance, to take something and make them real Michael moments, no matter what is given to you.

CHRISTIAN:

When you are patient it will come, and like anyone, I have a big enough ego.  It is a hard thing to do, and you can do all this wonderful work, but it’s also so technical.  The mirror stuff was brilliant and yet hard.  I had a ball, but you had to work through all the technicalities, and I imagine it’s like working with CGI.  You really have to work as an actor.  But from all that, I had some of the most difficult and wonderful scenes with Tracey, and I got to have the arguments with Tracey that Lauren and Michael can’t have, but Sarah Smythe and Michael had.  First, my wife telling me she doesn’t love me anymore. Then, getting a phone call where my wife told me she slept with someone else.  And then, getting a phone call from my wife sounding like she did in the old days, and how that kills you in an argument when you are breaking up.  As an actor, I did not have to look at Tracey as Sarah.  I just had to look at her as Lauren.  I did not have to buy any weird scheme.  All I had to play was a simple theme between a man and his wife, who he adores, and he is now broken-hearted, and protecting his son.  So when you don’t want to play the happy couple, and you want to sink your teeth into something, this is the stuff to do that with.

MICHAEL:

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What would happen if they SORAS’d Michael and Lauren’s son Fenmore, and he was all of a sudden a 13-year-old?

CHRISTIAN:

They could and would.  I think Fenmore now is at a great age, and the actor, Robbie Tucker (Fenmore), is so wonderful. We have a ball.

MICHAEL:

Would you want Fenmore to be a problem child?

CHRISTIAN:

I want Fenmore to be different.  I want him to be a smart-ass because I play him that way.  He would be Michael back to me, you know how children sometimes are, like little Michael and big Michael… really smart and verbal, which he is.  And, he is very capable of playing that.  I make him a hellion when he is not even there or on-screen.  I think for Michael, it’s much more interesting to have a child that is wearing you out!

MICHAEL:

Michelle Stafford and you are great friends off-screen, and on Y&R, Michael and Phyllis are the best of friends through thick and thin.  Did the through line of that great on-screen relationship develop because of your real life bond?  Recent scenes where Michael was there for Phyllis, as he watched the disintegration of her marriage to Nick were electric. Why do you think the Michael/Phyllis scenes work so well?

CHRISTIAN:

It is because I think Michelle is a phenomenal actress, if not one of the best actresses on television, and she makes me better.  So it’s the excitement of all your senses coming alive when you are being challenged.

MICHAEL:

She draws you in as an actress.

CHRISTIAN:

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Our styles mesh, like Tracey and mine mesh.  I am so lucky that I also have people in my on-screen family such as Greg Rikaart (Kevin, Y&R), that whenever we have scenes together they are effortless.  But with Michelle in particular, because it’s something you don’t see, that is why people are drawn to it.  You know Michael and Phyllis were lovers once!  You have this great relationship between two ex-lovers, and they are a man and woman.  I don’t think you usually see that dynamic as much on other soaps. Then there is that they both have this evil background.  So, there is this real hint of mischief about it, and a hint of trouble-a-brewing always… either with Michael or her.  They understand that.  Not only do you have two kinds of shady people with their past, you have two ex-lovers, and so they know each other. The biggest compliment I have received in scenes with Michelle is that you can see they (Michael and Phyllis) have been friends a long time, and they have that comfort with each other and they act that way.

MICHAEL:

With Lauralee Bell’s recent return visit to Y&R as Christine, will they continue to whitewash his attempted rape and his attacks and harassment on Christine years ago?  In your mind, is this swept under the carpet?

CHRISTIAN:

No.  I showed it in the scenes I had, and there is a great one coming up.  It’s short, but that is the joy of it.  You can do something like that in a scene with just a look.  It’s not forgotten, and I don’t forget it.  Anytime Michael is with Christine it is electric, because this is part of his past, and you don’t see one another that often. There is always that with Christine.  You cannot let something that juicy go.  Thank God, the writers gave us a sweet little hard scene to play.  In a few minutes you had to play years of history.  You don’t need a three act opera, and that is the goal of a good actor.

MICHAEL:

We are three weeks away now from the ending of As the World Turns, the show that got you your first big break and start in daytime.  Can you comment on ATWT going off the air?  What are your thoughts on it?  It must hold an incredibly special place in your heart.

CHRISTIAN:

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It’s just sad.  All things come to an end.  An actor’s life is an actor’s life.  We are gypsies and we move around.  We have gotten some great people on our show from there and now we are bringing on Maura West (Carly, ATWT, soon-to-be Diane, Y&R) and I am so excited for us.  She is a heavy hitter.  But, Don Hastings (Bob, ATWT) and Kathryn Hays (Kim, ATWT) they are amazing people.  I would not be here if it wasn’t for the people who taught me how to act on that show.  I did not even have acting classes before I started on As the World Turns, and they believed in me.  The legends were there.  Betty Rea was the casting director extraordinaire, and Mary Ellis-Bunim was the producer, who now does Real World. Julianne Moore was with me, Marisa Tomei, Meg Ryan, Margaret Colin, Justin Deas, and I know all these guys.  It taught me to speak a language that has gotten me through and propelled me.  If I am a good actor at all, it’s because of these people, and them giving me a chance.  I mean, I was raw.  It took a Betty Rea, who auditioned me to get my break there, and she would yell at me like a son, and I would answer!

MICHAEL:

Some fans have a hard time with Y&R now, with the influx of many younger and new characters to the canvas, or recasts, while not concentrating on the core signature characters of their soap.  One thought you hear throughout the industry recently, is that in order for daytime soaps to stay on the air, they have to trim the fat of their cast and get down to brass tacks, or the bare bones.  What are your thoughts on core characters vs. adding newbies, with the state of the genre right now?

CHRISTIAN:

Everything can be done right.  You want great writing, so pay your writers. You want actors who can really act.  If you do all those things, and you want to bring more people and new people in, it’s all fine.  As an actor, you want to work all the time because we are all whores.  My thing is always jokingly, Christian LeBlanc’s, The Young and the Restless. (Laughs) That is forever my pitch.  If I have an Emmy, it’s because I had great actors around me.  I so know that.  I think rather than look at it from numbers perspective, if it can be written well, and the actors can step-up, then you have no problems.  But you have to start with the basics.

MICHAEL:

When you do courtroom scenes, and have so much legalese to perform, do you ever just break out laughing from the difficulty and the wordiness of it all?  

CHRISTIAN:

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Those are my best moments.  I am the only one who loves court.  I will swear to you now, I am the only one off set that lights up when there is a five page monologue.  I have to tell you it was my first months on the show, and they gave me my first case, and it was about a black student who was suing the school system.  I gave a speech, and I am telling you they had 12 on the jury and those extra’s cried, and that is all I cared about.  That was like doing theatre.  When you are in the court you are given that little extra allowance to be dramatic, because it is a performance, of sorts. They give you smart and wonderful, beautiful words.  They give us freedom to correct things from our character’s past that aren’t relevant, that we know from our time on the show.  It gives me, in the courtroom, an opportunity to show a darker side of Michael, too.  When he is a shark in the courtroom and goes for the jugular, those are great moments.  We laugh and joke off-set, but when I am in the court, I take it very seriously and make it work.

MICHAEL:

Since we began this interview about being comedic, who do you think is funny?

CHRISTIAN:

I think I am a big one for watching the Roasts.  I have not seen the Comedy Central David Hasselhoff Roast yet, but I have it on tape.  I think Alec Baldwin is hysterical and he is a great actor.  I think of him on 30 Rock and him hosting Saturday Night Live and doing “Schweaty Balls”, is one of the funniest and most hysterical things.  I like Steve Martin, back in the day when he was hosting SNL all the time.  Gilda Radner was brilliant and genius.  Those people wrote their material and also were great actors.  I think that is what makes good comedy… you really have to get commitment.  And, at the ACME Theatre Company they do that, too. You think it’s scattered chaos, but it’s not.  It’s probably why it’s difficult.  It’s all in the timing and the precision of surgery.  Timing is not something that can always be taught to you, it has to be something very innate.

MICHAEL:

Are you the true funny man on the set of Y&R that everyone says you are, or is there someone else?

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CHRISTIAN:

I think Joshua Morrow (Nick, Y&R) is probably the only person who can make me dissolve into laughter.  He is funny, and he is that dry, intelligent type of funny.  You would never know it, but he is!

MICHAEL:

Ok, Christian.  I will be there on Saturday night to clap loud and drown out the drunks for you, no matter what happens.  But I am sure you will be fantastic and have us all in stitches!

CHRISTIAN:

When you bring the flowers for me, don’t throw them overhand… throw them underhand.  Remember, you’re not trying to kill someone! (Laughs)

  1. Mitch says:

    Great interview, very informative!

    Reply

  2. Doe says:

    Michael, I am so excited that you have his interview. Christian happens to be my favorite actor. His acting is always flawless and gets to me everytime he does something extraordinary, which is always! I wish I could see his performance Saturday, but I don’t live in the south. Good luck to you, Christian. I know you will knock them dead…. Great interview, Michael….

    Reply

  3. Candice Ryan says:

    I love Christian and Tracey together. They were incredible during the Sarah/Lauren story and both deserve Emmy’s this year. Congratulations Christina on another birthday and birthday challenge!

    And here’s to a Christian/Tracey Young and the Restless!!!!

    Reply

  4. Judy L-E (Facebook) says:

    Great interview, Christian….good luck Sat. night

    Reply

  5. Rob says:

    God I hope I look as good at 52!!

    Reply

  6. scarlett christensen says:

    Does anyone know if michelle stafford and christian leblanc are an item since
    there together all the time.

    Reply

  7. Dee says:

    I am a little late in making a comment..but I do Love Christian LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin) he is the only reason i even watch Y and R..his acting is superb and his looks are awesome..and the man has a fabulous body..I would so love to see him more on Y and R without the suit on and making some hot love with Lauren..but we get nothing as CLB fans and TEB fans..its disgusting..and I think the show has deteriorated to nonesense and so plot driven it makes no sense most of the time..Thanks for the article Michael..hope you have many more of the Man..Christian LeBlanc..

    Reply

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