February 4th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

THE ERIC BRAEDEN INTERVIEW – THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS

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Playing the ruthless businessman Victor Newman on “Y&R” for more than 28 years, Eric Braeden still thrills fans with his powerhouse performances. Particularly in 2008, he gave a star turn that many feel should be recognized. The series brought back star-crossed lovers Nikki and Victors’ relationship to the forefront, and reignited the relationship between Victor and Ashley, as well.

In this honest and direct interview, Eric only tells it like it is. We discuss the exit of fellow cast mate and long time friend, Don Diamont. We talked about The Daytime Emmy voting system gone wrong, the aging of his on-screen daughter, and upcoming retribution for those who wronged Victor Newman. Eric also spoke about the “Dream Team” regime that has revived “Y&R” back to its rightful place as one of the most compelling dramas on television, as well as Braeden’s pet project,
“The Man Who Came Back”.

Listen to the audio:

Play

MICHAEL:

What are your thoughts on Don Diamont (Brad) being ‘let go’, since he had been part of the Genoa City canvas for so long?

ERIC:

I was very sad about that, to be quite frank with you. He did some of his best work in the last months, where he played the ‘shifty’ guy and the bad guy and you don’t know quite what he is up to. I think he played that extremely well. I always think that’s a mistake to let people go that have been part of the fabric as long as he has been. Furthermore, he was related to people on the show, and personally, I think those things are a mistake. If you want to want to save money, then cut down on hiring new actors.

MICHAEL:

It’s a hard pill to swallow, to see people lose their jobs.

DonsLast.jpgERIC:

My heart goes out to him. I don’t know why the decision was made. Who knows? That is why when I do my movies I control everything. I don’t like other people to control things.

MICHAEL:

The animosity grew between Brad and Victor (on Don Diamont’s final weeks on the show) over both being Abbe’s father. Victor was showering the young girl with
lavish gifts, while Brad got pissed off.

ERIC:

Victor is Abbe’s father, but that does not mean that affection and love have to come naturally, and you can’t force that. I hope it won’t continue that he buys all sorts of things, and buys her love. I am tired of that. Hopefully, they will grow closer. Victor is basically a loner and does not trust anyone. He grew up in an orphanage and was abandoned when he was seven years old. So, he is sometimes a little awkward because he does not trust affections either, not really, and the moment there is the slightest inkling, I think he goes against that person to protect himself.

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MICHAEL:

Victor’s romantic life finally got a jump-start after the death of Sabrina, when Eileen Davidson returned to the show as Ashley. And this brings up something you and I discussed over the years, that “Y&R” never really played out the Victor/Ashley romance re-do.

ERIC:

I agree with you, and I love working with her, but I love working with Melody as well. With Eileen, I always felt it was an unrequited love story that should have been started a long time ago, and for various reasons it wasn’t. I always thought it was an honestly felt love story with great material for conflict with Nikki.

Diamontein.jpgMICHAEL:

Now your daughter Abbe has grown into quite the teenager within a blink of an eye. Yup, SORAS (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome) has hit another of the Newman kids. How do you explain it?

ERIC:

Well you know what happens, as I have told you before. Victor Newman sends his children to Switzerland and they go to a clinic and they eat Swiss cheese and learn how to yodel. That combination while there makes them go through enormous growth spurts and they suddenly jump by ten years. (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

In 2008, and now through the beginning of 20009 on “Y&R”, you have been front and center and have delivered powerful performances as Victor Newman. You were in the running for the in-house pre-nomination Lead Actor category for Daytime Emmy consideration. (Braeden eventually did not make the in-house final cut) This year you submitted yourself, even though in the past, I know you have been vocal about participating in the Emmy process.

ERIC:

You know when I think about that Michael, I don’t think much about the Emmys. I really don’t. It’s irrelevant ice. There are other people who are just as deserving. I wanted to pull out of that years ago. It’s nice if you get them. Does it translate into anything? No, it doesn’t. It’s just another piece to put on your mantle. The point is, how do you judge certain performances? It’s so hard. Let me give you an example: I recently saw some performances that were fantastically written and played. They were scenes by Peter Bergman (Jack) and Michelle Stafford (Phyllis), and between Joshua Morrow (Nick) and Sharon Case (Sharon)… all good stuff. This happened in the last few days. Where do you draw the line and whom do you choose there? Melody Thomas Scott (Niki) and I had some good scenes when Sabrina was dying, and all that. There are so many good actors on the show, and how do you decide between them? How many times have I watched the Oscars where I say, “How could you give it to this person and not that person?” Sometimes, they give it to someone because of age and for all the wrong reasons. Besides, it’s a pain in the ass to get dressed up in a tuxedo. I appreciate very much that you, the soap community and fans, think I gave a wonderful performance last year. That is very satisfying to me. There is so much politics involved in the awards process. I have a bad taste in my mouth about it all, but it’s a nice show, the Emmys, and I am not denigrating the show per se, but do I want to be there? Nope!

MICHAEL:

You have an incredible fan base and viewers who want to know what Victor Newman is going to do next.

ERIC:

I really appreciate the people who are fans, I really do. Victor is going to go after those who tried to do him wrong with a vengeance, and that’s what my movie, “The Man Who Came Back” is about, as well. I do that well. (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

You can’t shoot everyone in retribution, can you?

ERIC:

Well, I almost do, but not on “Y&R”. There would be nobody left! (He laughs)

TheManAd.jpgMICHAEL:

Speaking about your film, “The Man Who Came Back” was released direct to DVD late last year, and it spent time as the #1 DVD rental for films with non-theatrical distribution and the #10 film to buy, overall, and is still available. For those who still may not be aware of your project, how would you describe the movie?

ERIC:

“The Man Who Came Back” was 80 years in the making! (He laughs) It’s a western, and takes place in the second part of the 19th century. It’s a revenge story, where the lead character, myself, is falsely accused of a crime he did not commit… a lynching. They go after him and send him to prison. Obviously, he is full of rage and comes back and kicks-ass. It’s a revenge film, pure and simple, in a historic context. It deals with the second bloodiest labor strike in US history in 1887. The film has been doing extremely well.

MICHAEL:

You were both the star and the executive producer of the film, but had a host of other known Hollywood actors in the feature with you.

ERIC:

The cast is wonderful, with George Kennedy, an Oscar winner, who I have enormous respect for. He played my father on “Y&R” for a while. We had Billy Zane, who I worked with on “Titanic”, Armand Assante, Sean Young, Peter Jason, Ken Norton and James Patrick Stuart. It was a wonderful cast. I am eternally grateful to my fellow actors to make this possible. So, we had a hell of a time last year shooting it.

MICHAEL:

On “Y&R”, will we finally see enormous payback for Jack and an eventual huge showdown between the two rivals?

ERIC:

Eventually, there will be a huge showdown. Peter Bergman is wonderful actor, so it will come to that.

MICHAEL:

Chris Engen plays your son, Victor Jr. How do you feel about the plot point that Victor has let his own flesh and blood rot in a jail cell?

Melody-Eric22.jpgERIC:

Being a father, it would break my heart, and I could never do what Victor did to his own son. But, I understand it. It provides for good drama and good conflict, and probably a lot of people are angry with me for doing it. On the other hand, Victor Jr. was trying to frame me for a murder I did not commit, and he conspired with my archenemy. So again, it is Victors’ way of paying back. I think he wants to teach Victor Jr. a lesson as well. Victor Jr. was arrogant for awhile, and needs his wings clipped a little, I think.

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MICHAEL:

I so vividly remember the recent scene where Victor and Nikki were in the Mexican bar. It was such an emotionally packed scene, where Victor railed at her. It reminded us all of the old Victor/Nikki, showing us their complete and utter
dysfunction. Did you enjoy those moments?

ERIC:

The answer to that is simple, I like to play whatever comes naturally out of that situation. Obviously, Victor has enormous anger when it comes to her, because she was in front of him flaunting her relationship with that David character. She did not listen to what Victor was telling her and tried to defy him. And, all he wanted was for her to be successful and not embark on a political career, and it backfired. These are two strong personalities and she always felt that she lived in his shadow. Victor understands that, but yet, if you show disloyalty to Victor Newman, you are finished. That’s why these scenes are so good, because they are so real and visceral, and recently that’s what I saw happen between Nick, Sharon, Phyllis and Jack. Those are real scenes! They are so riveting.

MICHAEL:

“On-Air On-Soaps” voted Joshua Morrow the Most Underrated Actor of 2008. He delivers consistently great work, and yet he never really gets the recognition he deserves. Would you agree?

Josh-MOrrow.jpgERIC:

You bet! To be honest with you, I called him two nights ago and said, “What you have done the last few days is riveting and just fantastic. You should submit that stuff and keep it for reel.” You are right. I have talked to Joshua about this before,”Embrace what you have,” and he has done that more lately. He is an athlete, and some of us are sort of reluctant to embrace the whole acting thing. The best thing to do in those circumstances is to stop hiding it and embrace it. I think he has a big future, to be honest with you.

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MICHAEL:

The ‘Dream Team’ came into “Y&R” towards the latter part of 2008 and turned “Y&R” on its ear. It has revitalized the show to probably the best it’s been in many years. What do you think of co-head
writers, Maria Arena Bell and Hogan Sheffer,
and executive producer, Paul Rauch’s
accomplishments?

ERIC:

I pull no punches. Maria Bell has done the best job since Bill Bell. I have not met Hogan Sheffer, but you see the writers never let you know who is responsible for what, but I have to assume Maria had everything to do with it. I thought Lynn Latham gave it her best; I personally liked her very much. I think the regime before them was trying to undo the show and reconceptualize it, and I thought that was nonsense. But right now, it is back on track and better than ever before. Maria simply realized what works for the show. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure that out. But, unfortunately what happens is; some writers come in with such egos that they want to redo everything and reinvent the whole thing. Well, don’t do that! We have been number one for 21 years. I think Maria Bell is perfectly aware of what works for the show, and she has brought it back to that. I have never heard the actors so happy.

Eileen-Eric.jpgMICHAEL:

What do you think makes for Victor’s popularity? I mean, after all, you and he have been on more Soap Opera Digest covers than anyone else!

ERIC:

I don’t know. I am enormously grateful that is the case and it’s very flattering, and especially for someone who played bad guys. “Y&R” has been very good to me and I feel
intensely loyal to Bill Bell Sr. He
and I created the character together.

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MICHAEL:

What do you think about the current state of soaps and continuing budget cuts? Do you think that soaps are about to die-off?

ERIC:

I would be very saddened if it did. I am not privy to the financial structure, but I think someone is making money. We are in an economic down turn right now, so the advertising dollars are not as forthcoming as they were. But they have to be very judicious on how they go about pairing soaps down and how they go about making it more cost efficient. I just think letting Don Diamont go is a mistake. To me, it’s so clear; when you have an audience that is invested in the show, why hire new characters? It does not make sense to me. I am sorry!

meddin-Braeden.jpgMICHAEL:

Speaking of new actors who had come and gone, Raya Meddine (Ex-Sabrina) came on and Victor’s romance with her character was so quick. It was hard for viewers to digest, yet out of that came the storyline of the year, “Sudden Impact”. What were your thoughts on the relationship?

ERIC:

I loved working with Raya. She is a brilliant woman and a joy to work with. I think Victor and Sabrina was rushed along, but I think they had something else long term in mind. If that were going to be a viable relationship, it would have had to grow very slowly. I think there is one thing wrong in soaps. I think we jump into stories too quickly to tell the story. We don’t trust the vetting process and getting to know one another. It’s a slow process. Even Bill did that sometimes. I think it’s intrinsic in soaps. I think they make a mistake when they do it. It’s very interesting the things with soaps; that soap writers need to learn that there could be a lot of emotional moments played without dialog. If, for example, you have a party going on and you want to tell the story of two people falling for each other, have them look at each other. That’s real. Let it build up.

MICHAEL:

What can we look forward to coming up from Victor on “Y&R”?

BradenHead22.jpgERIC:

He is going to get even with those who tried to undo him, for certain. Beyond that, I hope that the relationship with Ashley will go well for a while, although there is a lot of history that could throw a monkey wrench into that business.

MICHAEL:

You don’t want Victor to go back to Nikki too quickly?

ERIC:

No. I think it’s painful to watch sometimes. And I think that’s all good drama, and what we sell in this business is drama and conflict.

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