Monday, June 13, 2011

Chatting with Christopher Mayer, part 2

Last week, we gave you some highlights of our long-awaited and soooo-much-appreciated interview with Christopher ("Chip") Mayer, who was Vance Duke on our beloved "The Dukes of Hazzard." This week, we continue that, with an emphasis on Mayer's work on the '80s soap "Santa Barbara," where he was the free-wheeling, morally compromised but overwhelmingly hunky T.J. Daniels, in pursuit of not only the lovely Kelly Capwell but also her mom, Sophia!
So what was his most vivid memory of working on that daytime show?

“I think it was just the amount of dialogue," says this actor whose career stretched from 1980 to 2000, "because normally you do a film or a TV show, and it’s an hourlong show, and we would take a week to do that. We would do interiors, with a blue screen behind us with the General Lee and all that … But on a soap, it’s a 3-10 deal. … You go in there, and everybody’s working like they’re hung over. And you do a dry run through different scenes. There was a lot of dialogue, and a lot of choreography. You might have to move to another area and sit down. And if you miss that, you feel like a big screw-up. I wouldn’t look at my lines until the day of the shot. There were days I had like 30 pages of dialogue. The amount of dialogue you had to learn day to day is one of the most challenging things about doing a soap.”

Though he shared his "SB" scenes with multiple Kelly Capwells, including Playboy Playmate Kimberly McArthur and we suspect Carrington Garland (though Mayer thinks he left before she took over the role), he seems most impressed by far with Robin Wright, who originated the character.

“Robin was a hoot. She ended up telling me at one point, I had gotten to be a bit of a maniac then because my first marriage had broken up … She looked at me and she said, ‘You’re too crazy. I’ll tell you what I am going to do.’ This was right at that time the movie ‘Casualties of War’ was being shot with Sean Penn and Michael J. Fox in Thailand. She said, ‘I’m going to go over to Thailand, and I’m going to meet Sean Penn and I’m going to marry him.’ She prophesied that. She’s cool, really cool. It just cracked me up. Only such a beautiful woman could go like, ‘I’m going to go over and meet the president of France and I’m going to …’"

Now, we know why T.J. was interested in Sophia -- for her money! -- but does Mayer think perhaps he was actually in love with Kelly, or was he just interested in her Capwell cash, too?

“I usually go with my own instincts," he says. "Everybody looked at it like, you were supposed to be the Chippendale dancer, the gigolo. But it’s all about the girl. You can find money anywhere.”


T.J. was a pretty evil guy, but it must have felt like a juicy role. Were there things he would've changed about the character, if he could have?

“Like that movie ‘The Butterfly,’ if you change one thing, it will have a ripple effect. To be a gigolo was a character they needed to even out or overall texturize the character list. It was fun to do it, because to be an opportunist, you have to have that personality to live in L.A. So it was like I was subliminally culturally acclimating myself." He laughs.

"And there’s more texture to that than just playing romance. So no, I wouldn’t have changed anything.”

Mayer's time as T.J. Daniels was in the late '80s, a few years after he portrayed Vance Duke on "The Dukes." And his career certainly wasn't hurting after that, with a proliferation of roles on shows like "Silk Stalkings," "Baywatch" and "Xena: Warrior Princess." But his priorities began to change, he says, and he turned to construction work for about a decade and a half.

“It was a wonderful, wonderful 20 years. But as I got older and had the responsibilities of being a father, I was looking for something a little more steady.”

Does he have any desire to return to acting? Why, yes, actually. Mayer tells BRBTV he has something in the works right now, and it hearkens to his construction-work days. He has a friend who does what's called "faux finish" work, a painting technique that replicates materials such as marble or wood. The technique is evidently popular in L.A., and Mayer just shot a pilot for a reality show focusing on the work. He gave us the title "Faux-Get About It." The show is being shopped around right now, he says, even though today's reality TV trend doesn't necessarily rank high on his entertainment list.

“If you have a camera on the dash of your Range Rover, you’re not being real!” he quips.

Mayer is also looking into some motivational speaking work nowadays, with his wife Catherine, a Christian like him, upon whom he lavishes kind, loving words (just check his Facebook page!).

And speaking of Facebook, he makes no bones about the fact that it's new to him -- and not entirely comfortable.

“I’m not a computer guy or a Facebook guy or all that Twitter or Skype stuff. When I first set up the Facebook page, I felt like I was walking around with my zipper down. Because I’m super private. That’s not me. I’ve really been off for so long. But now I’m going to try to be more on."

With elements like "The Dukes of Hazzard" on his life experience list, it presents a nice opportunity for the actor.

"It’s a great way to make people smile. It’s fun to be a part of something that still has an intense devotion.”

BRBTV wishes Mr. Mayer only the very best.

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