Monday, July 02, 2012

BRBTV talks to Nicholas Walker

He was Trey Clegg on "Capitol." He was Jimmy O'Herlihy on "General Hospital," and Max Buchanan on "One Life to Live." He's appeared in "Nash Bridges," "Seinfeld," "Frasier" and numerous other TV series. But for us fans of the daytime soap "Santa Barbara," Nicholas Walker is the one who had the unenviable task of portraying the baddest of bad guys -- Frank Goodman, who had molested B.J. as a child. But Walker, a theatrically trained actor, dug below the surface and came up with something much more for Frank.

BRBTV had the pleasure to speak with Nicholas Walker and learn how he approached and grew this character – and what he’s growing these days! As with past interviews, the full text of this one will be included in the next edition of our reference guide "Send Me to Santa Barbara," but for now, we'll run it for ya in two parts -- first half today and second half next week.

First of all, can I confirm what I found on the IMDb for you -- born in Bogota, Colombia? At what age did you come to the U.S.? 
"Yes. ... The first time we came to the States was when we were preteens. So 11-12."

Was it a culture shock?
"Yes it certainly was. I didn't speak a word of English. ... I'll always remember that everything was so big in scale and proportion in New York compared to the smaller scale of Europe. I was just so amazed at how big everything was. Skyscrapers, streets, the people, the cars, the buses. "

Your native language was French?
"I have two maternal languages, Spanish and French."

Your resume is a long one -- did you set out to be an actor when you were growing up?
"Not per se an actor. But I always knew I was an artist, and in Europe they identify you early and encourage you into your strength and put you in the applicable academic tracts. So very early on I knew I was an artist, so that's how I started. I think everything followed after that. The first time I got exposed to acting was in high school, when they wanted guys from the soccer team, which I was the captain of, to wear tights for the school play, and to me that was a no-brainer because all the pretty girls were in the theatre. I thought, I wear shorts, big deal if I wear tights! I thought if I can be near the pretty girls, I'll wear the tights. That's how it started. I saw the correlation between athletics and the theatre. I experienced the wonderful correlation of athletics and theatre. They dovetailed nicely into each other. They are performance-centric with an audience and an enfolding drama. And once I started, I thought, yea, I know and like this."

You've done a lot of soaps work, from "Capitol" to "Y and R" to "GH" to "One Life to Live" ...
"I started my USA acting career landing roles both at the Circle in the Square and NBC’s 'The Doctors' in the same week. It was pretty heady. So I was doing Circle in the Square by night and 'The Doctors' by day. My first soap was with Kathleen Turner and Alec Baldwin. Ironically Alec and I both got our start at 30 Rockefeller. It was a pretty exciting time."

"Santa Barbara" was the last soap you did. Were you intending to get out of the soaps game, or is that just the way the roles fell?
"No, that was my intention. I thought no more soaps. After all, I had done six of them pretty sequentially. I just wanted to try something else and venture into primetime television and independent films."

Did you have any reservations about taking the role of Frank Goodman on "SB," given the subject matter?
"No. Because as an actor I learn from my roles. And I feel that if I get a role that is unexpected, then I see it as an opportunity to do some exploration, to go into waters I may not have known and dared not explore. You dream of a career as your career enfolds in front of you. I was a classically trained stage actor and I was told that there's no way you can do television. Well, I like to surprise and change people’s assumptions of me. There was a time when people thought, ‘he can only play a good guy.’ I played the good young doctor Brad Huntington, and I thought, next role I'm going to play has to be the bad guy. To me, Frank Goodman was a wounded, tortured soul. And most child molesters have been molested themselves. The way the writers originally wrote him was just as a bad guy. I wanted to show his hurt, his underbelly, his humanity. I wanted the audience to understand and experience what he was doing came from a deep wounding. ... That was a tall order, but that's the reason I wanted to take that role on."

What was the audition like?
"Actually, there was no audition. They offered me the role."

What preparation -- mental or physical -- did you do for this role?
"Well, I interviewed four child molesters. When you meet convicted child molesters, they look like regular Joes and Janes. They're like you and me. There's never a look. They don't look weird. They actually look normal and friendly. You never look at them and go, oh yuck, they're kinda creepy. The four child molesters I talked to, all of them, four out of four, were molested themselves. And not just molested -- two out of four were raped. It was violent. And what was interesting, most people think it's a male-dominated thing, but it's not. Out of the four people I talked to, one was a woman child molester.

"I found that it's kinda like this mixed feeling of hatred and familiarity, and they want to recreate it for their identity. And memory. That it actually did happen and no one will or can forget. It becomes an interject for them to say yes, it did happen to me, and the way they do this is to do it to someone else. People don't necessarily act out of maliciousness; they act out of woundedness. That's what I locked onto as an actor that he was really a tortured soul. He felt prisoner within his own actions and his own world. As an actor I like to work from the inside out, so I like to bring, if you will, my brokenness, my woundedness, to Frank Goodman."

Tune in next week for the second part of our talk with Nicholas Walker ...

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Walker; please do not copy without permission

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