Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nicholas Walker, Part 2: Beyond Frank Goodman

In the first part of our interview with Nicholas Walker last week, we discussed his approach to the role of Frank Goodman on "Santa Barbara" -- and it couldn't have been an easy task, we know. Walker lent a certain amount of humanity to Frank's persona -- a marked woundedness -- that provided much more depth to a character that could have just come off as flat. In the second half of our interview, Walker talks a bit more about that, but also about what he has going on these days -- and if there's a chance we'll see him on the small screen again soon ...

Is there anything you would've done differently with the Frank Goodman character, if you were one of the show's writers?
"As a soap it's really interesting, because the writers write what I call a skeleton script, and because the medium is so fast, the main core of the ensemble of actors take the skeleton script and infuse their own personalities and sentence structuring during the rehearsal process. I've experienced it in different ways. You might see Frank going ape in the situation, and it was written as just anger, but I, as an actor, I love surprising and showing that behind the rage there's this hidden pain that fuels the rage. So the written anger in the scene is infused with real pain as depicted with real tears. We have a symbiotic relationship with the writers. Hopefully they would say we didn't write the scene anticipating the wounded part but the actor brought an interesting contribution.

"It's so fast. In an hour show like 'Santa Barbara,' it's just shy of 100 pages. They crank it out day in and day out. In the blocking rehearsal, the ensemble of the show, say, make the script come alive as we are standing and talking the script. All of a sudden, the script gets lifted off the page very quickly. It's so quick. ... My theatrical training did not serve me in soaps. I had to find a different approach. When I was rehearsing George Bernard Shaw, every comma, every word, must be said exactly as written. So coming into the soap world, and one hears actors saying no, I'm not going to say that, it's like, wow, I am in the Twilight Zone ... I realized there was no point in memorizing word for word before blocking rehearsal and the breakdown of the script. Then you memorize it, rehearse and you do it live. It’s more of a controlled scripted improvisation.”

How about hate mail -- did you get any of that? (I have to ask because I know Terri Garber got hate mail just for her character daring to pursue Cruz Castillo!)
"Yes. It was interesting that I received more hate mail when I played the role of Jimmy O'Herlihy on 'General Hospital.' I actually had death threats so the FBI was brought in. The person / persons who wrote to me knew too much personal information, and I was in possible danger. That's the other side of celebrity that people don't take in or believe. There is lack of boundaries and privacy. It's pretty amazing what people will do."

Who was the best to work with, among the "SB" cast?
"A Martinez. He was a very generous, kind actor. He's rare, because he's not ego-driven. And it was a great homecoming for me because Kim Zimmer was also a cast member with me on 'The Doctors.'"

Do you have any keepsakes from the "SB" set? Did you keep any of your scripts?
"No. To be what I call current and present as an actor, as an artist, once the role is done, it's done. I just let go of everything so I can be open for the new characters to emerge. If you lock onto things and hold onto things; it gets in the way of the work."

Your last credited role is in 2003 -- do you have any plans to return to screen acting?
'I do, actually. I took a long sabbatical for my most important life’s work. Fathering my four wonderful children. The time is a comin’ for a re-entry into the world of acting."

What role do you feel like you're best known for?
"Well, it's interesting. If I'm in Europe and specifically Italy, 'Capitol' was the number-one primetime show for five years. So I'm a rock star in Italy. And even today, if you look at my Facebook page, you'll see there's a big 'Capitol' fan page out of Italy. You'll see that they've basically resurrected the show. I've done interviews. They want to bring back 'Capitol' via the Internet or on another format, that's quite amazing after all these years. I would say in New York, it's Max Holden of ABC’s ‘OLTL.’ As you know each network has different demographics."

How would you characterize the demographic for "Santa Barbara"?
"That's a good question. I was part of the last cast for that show, so I never really experienced the demographic. The show got canceled, so it was hard to get a read on the demographic. I think 'Santa Barbara' was big in New York, as well, because I remember going to a church where there was a meltdown of fans for Marcy Walker and company."

What's the craziest thing you've ever read about yourself in the press?
"Here's the real truth. I don't read my press good or bad. I get irritated because I make the effort to be accurate, and then later I read nonsense that I didn't say. I was misinterpreted purposely or innocently. People hear what they want to hear, or they're motivated by their own agendas. ... As an actor I really try to come from a pure place. And if I'm aware of what previous critics have said good or bad. As a human, I will always shy away from where I am hurt, and then I'm not true as an actor. My job is to be true to the character, whether the public / critics like it or not. Because otherwise you have an internal editor and are therefore disconnected in the scene. All of a sudden, as you're trying to be in the creative process of bringing a life alive, you're editing and double-guessing yourself all along because of previous criticisms that have maligned you in some way. I think criticism is a necessary component of what I do, and once I enter the public arena, I become public property.”

I know you talked about being a father. What occupies your time these days?
"I love being outside. I've been blessed that I can make a living doing what I love to do. As a kid I always loved to be in the plant world, building things. So I'm a designer / builder in the landscape architectural world. That's my day job. My other job is I work as a design ambassador for Kathy Ireland Worldwide. She asked me to join her team and brand in 2001 where we launched Jardin at the San Francisco Garden and Flower Show."

"While I was doing soap operas all those years, I simultaneously ran my landscape business. I would start my landscape day from 7 to 12 and then go to the studio. I have naturally lots of energy (and you kinda have to when you have four kids, by the way), so I did two jobs. ... Thank God that Kathy Ireland came to me in 2001 and said, I want you to develop an outdoor division for my brand. She has a business that's worth two billion dollars and growing. You can check it out on You'll see my work there. I represent the green aspect of the brand, it’s about bringing the outdoors in. ... The mission statement is celebrating gardens and the outdoor experience.

"And raising my four children is my favorite and most important job. I really love it. I've had a career where I've been blessed to portray a variety of roles.”

Have you seen any of the recent web soaps, such as "The Bay," and what do you think of the trend toward Internet-based soaps?
"I have not seen them. Conceptually, I think it's great. This soap opera medium is not dead and thankfully has a new life on the Internet. Perhaps once the fad of reality TV has gone its course maybe the audience will reclaim their soaps. Thank-you for this interview; I enjoyed it.”

And BRBTV extends heartfelt thanks to Nicholas Walker for his time!