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32 Years and Still Restless, An Interview with Doug Davidson

32 Years and Still Restless, An Interview with Doug Davidson

In our exclusive interview, Doug Davidson reveals his submission for the Emmys, thoughts on his recent storylines, the recasting of his on-screen daughter and his views on the show he’s called home for over 30 years.

It’s no secret that Doug Davidson is one of The Young and the Restless’ most talented actors. For over thirty years the actor has played private investigator Paul Williams. Through the years we’ve seen Paul at his best and at his worst, but the one constant has always been the raw honesty and conviction in Davidson’s portrayal.

It’s been a rough year and half for Paul. His plans for a happily ever after came crashing down after his bride-to-be Nikki broke things off right before their wedding. When Nikki revealed she couldn’t love Paul the way he deserved, she let him go. On top of his heartbreak, Paul has also had to deal with the shenanigans of his mentally unstable sister Patty (played by the beautiful and talented Stacy Haiduk). Thanks to Victor’s quest for revenge, the mustache unleashed a ticking time bomb in Patty that has sent shock waves through Genoa City for months. In between dealing with an erratic Patty, Paul has found the time for himself in dating Nina Webster. With all of his focus set on helping his sister through her latest mental breakdown, how will Paul react when his ex-wife Christine (Lauralee Bell) returns to Genoa City?

Davidson is nominated for his second Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor. He’s up against co-star Peter Bergman (Jack) and other actors James Scott (EJ, DAYS), Michael Park (Jack, ATWT) and Jon Lindstrom (Craig, ATWT). Find out which star takes home the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor and more this Sunday during the 37th Annual Daytime Emmys, airing live on CBS.

In our exclusive interview, Davidson reveals his submission for the Emmys, thoughts on his recent storylines, the recasting of his on-screen daughter and his views on the show he’s called home for over 30 years.

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TVSource Magazine: First off I just want to say what an honor it is to get the chance to interview you. I’ve been a fan of yours for years.  Congratulations on your Emmy nomination. It was well deserved and we’re pulling for you. How did you find out you were nominated? What did you do immediately after?

DOUG DAVIDSON: Well I had trouble sleeping. I woke up at three in the morning and I had convinced myself that whatever happens is fine. And then for some reason at 3 in the morning I got a bit restless so I went downstairs to see if I could find something on the internet and good. The phone rang I guess between 5:30 and 5:45 and it was Maria Bell, our co-executive producer and head writer and one of our producers Josh O’Connell and they informed me that I was one of the five names on the lead actor list. I was thrilled.

TVS: What did you do immediately after? What was your feeling?

DOUG: Well I was ambulant and excited and screaming. It’s fun. It’s like Christmas. You can’t take it too seriously because I know rejection just like everybody else. What you try and do is keep it in perspective and make it like a great Christmas present. I personally don’t put a ton of stock in it because there are some really, really great actors that haven’t been recognized. When it all comes together then it’s really exciting and that’s fun. It’s nice to have your entire peer group flatter you with nominations. It makes you feel like you’ve been doing something right. That’s what it takes to get nominated.

TVS: Now this is your second nomination correct?

DOUG: Yes. The first time was in 2003.

TVS: What scenes did you submit?

DOUG: Let’s see if I can get the order right.  When things started to fall together and point to Victor – that he found Patty and paid for her surgery and drove her to do the things she did. When Paul figured it out he was hurt, angry and upset and went over to the Newman ranch after he was released from jail. Paul was arrested the night before for breaking Chance’s walkie talkie, and when he was released from jail the next day, he went over to confront Victor Newman. That’s the show I submitted.

TVS: You had so much material to choose from last year, was it difficult to narrow down your choices?

DOUG: It really is. The way the way the contest is organized, it is very difficult to choose. You get one episode this time and the style of daytime has changed so a three page scene is usually about the longest scene we have these days. So to put together a reel that shows a variation of emotions and abilities is harder than it looks. And the length of tape is a consideration too. You can’t have it too long or too short. And you’re required to put in scenes in which you are speaking in. So it is – unless the company has written a show for you like they did for Christian [LeBlanc] one year, the take off of "It’s a Wonderful Life." And I think they did the same thing for Billy Miller this past year. Otherwise you have to look high and low for what might be suitable for judge’s panel to view.

So it’s not as easy as it looks and sometimes you have a cliffhanger in one episode and the dramatic payoff is in the next. And you can only submit one and if you choose the one with the dramatic payoff, often times you don’t have enough lead in to it to make it a complete tape. There’s always been a discussion on how to change the rules in order to make it fairer. Because everyone thinks, and it is, they give it a calendar year, the 2010 Emmy awards, but it’s one episode out of 150 that a character could be in. So it’s pretty tricky. I always thought you should be able to submit what you think is your best work. 10 minutes of unedited scenes, that you can compile in a montage so you can choose throughout the year and let people see what you think is your best work.

TVS: I like that idea. The Emmys are always full of controversy from fans and the media. Who deserved it, who wasn’t, was the process fair. Hopefully they’ll get the process right sooner than later. Our staff was hoping you’d submit the church scenes where Paul and Nikki break up.

DOUG: I will tell you that was a frontrunner. I had four that I had narrowed down to and that was one of the four. Oddly enough at different points in deciding what tapes to submit, each of the four had the number 1 decision so it kept changing. I had finalized my decision four different times [laughing]. I’d say "THIS IS THE ONE I’M GOING WITH" and then we’d watch it again and have a different opinion. [laughing].

I used all my friends and co-workers. Lauralee Bell and her mom Lee watched it for me. Everybody — our producers, literally everybody I could I wanted their take on it because it’s not always so clear cut. I enjoyed the show with Nikki. It was a favorite of some of the cast members too. But I felt it went on a bit long.

When a panel is viewing 22 reels, you have to consider that you need moments to stick out, because if they watch you first then they look at your disc and go "oh what was that again?" And so I wanted something with a bit more fire in it and that’s why I ended up with the one with Victor.

TVS: After 32 years on this show, how do you keep Paul fresh? What’s your approach to making each day different?

DOUG: I guess because of the style I work, learning lines is always a challenge for me. So I really can’t just walk through it. The only way for me to learn dialog is for me to understand the thought process that the character is having. And for that to happen I have to spend time with the material. So I start a couple days ahead of time. I would have to say that is probably the reason it’s fresh because every day is brand new for me.  I don’t look at it from Doug’s perspective; I try to look at it from Paul’s perspective. So when you do that, you’re going to have off days and stuff, but the attitude at the onset is that I’m going to make this the best possible show I can make.

TVS: What’s going on inside your head when you tap into that really dark place that it seems like you go when they give Paul such heavy emotional material?

DOUG: I try and bring the reality of that situation to the fore. It’s a matter of focus and tricking yourself to believe that that is your reality and then releasing the fear and worry that might accompany "what if I’m not. What if it doesn’t come?" In real life you don’t think of any of those things. In real life you’re not expecting a result of any kind. So it’s almost a meditative state where you clean the slate and live in the confidence that whatever happens, happens. If you’re focused and centered where the character is, then your emotions are free to run as they should. My belief is that love is the most powerful thing in the universe. So if you tap into any of that then you’re good to go.

TVS: That really does come across especially in your scenes with Stacy. What’s your relationship with her like? There’s something really magical between the two of you.

DOUG: She is a very similar personality type. We just naturally connect. Before any of this started, I had a scene where she comes — we hadn’t worked together really, maybe thrown a line back and forth but that was it. She reveals to me that she’s my sister and I’ve always established the fact that she’s nuts [laughs]. And so it’s a big shocker to find out that she knows intimate details of our lives growing up and there’s no one else that could possibly know that.

DOUG: I believe it was a page and a half in the final reveal and the only way to do it was to fully commit and work without a net. And she had some physical things that for some actresses would be incredibly difficult. There was a tussle and she had to knock certain props over and leave others standing because there were breakaway things and other things that she couldn’t break. I thought "oh boy" and she handled that with the greatest diploma. When I looked in her eyes we were just connected. And from that point on there was mutual trust. And when you have mutual trust it’s so much easier to connect with the other player. And for me, that’s half the battle. I don’t work alone. A lot of actors and really good actors can work alone but I’m not one of those. I get so much from the people I work with.

TVS: It’s interesting that you brought up the trust factor. Many actors express the need for trust with their scene partners in order to get the best work.

DOUG: You need to react to everything and the feelings that are presented to you. If they’re spontaneous and not manufactured than your outcome has limitless potential. It’s really hard to do that alone because I think the creative self inside you is so much more imaginative than your left brain figuring out how a character would — how their behavior would manifest.

TVS: How has it been working with the new Heather, Eden Riegel? Was it difficult to say goodbye to Vail Bloom?

DOUG: Well personally it was an incredibility difficult thing for me. I had developed a very close relationship with Vail Bloom and I think that she has incredible potential and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she becomes a superstar. We got along personally and professionally. We had a kind of a father/daughter relationship in real life as well. So when I was told that this was happening I was hurt and saddened and the first day on the set with Eden, I told her pretty much what I’m telling you. I said "I don’t mean to be standoffish, believe me it’s nothing you did, but give me a chance to adjust to the reality of losing a daughter and getting a new one." That process takes time.  She’s been really great though and has never pressured me and it’s worked out well.

So that was it. No one talked to me about a recast or that they were thinking about it. It was just like "here it is," one day in the makeup room so it takes a while. It hurts because I know it hurts the girl they let go, and it hurts me because it hurts her. I’m happy that Eden has found gainful employment and I enjoy working with her but it’s still uh….I have issues when any soap changes characters.

I mean I personally believe that caused the eventual demise of As the World Turns and countless other shows too. You tune in and you’re like "Who’s that?" You don’t know who the new actor is. It’s hard to swallow. It changes the "reality". It takes your emotional commitment to the character in the show away. And one isn’t dispassionate about soap operas if they view them. They are emotionally invested in them. And when you switch horses mid-stream it’s a bigger adjustment than I think the executives realize.

TVS: That is very true.

DOUG: I know that they look at what we do at a completely different angle than how I see people viewing shows. It’s not always representative in focus groups. And I think it’s different than most television shows because they’re in your living room every.

TVS: I agree. You’re letting these actors into your home 5 days a week. The actors become that character in a way, and the attachment isn’t just to the character, it’s to the actor as well.

DOUG: They invariably will call you by your character name. I’m not sure that if that happens with people in night time shows. I mean there is a separation between the two. In soaps, we have become that person on and off-screen.

TVS: How have soaps changed over the years? Do you think the audience is more accepting of change now than they were back then?

DOUG: At some point they, those in charge, felt it necessary to get the younger demographic. I think part of that has ceased because with certain research they discovered they weren’t buying as much as they thought they were. And they certainly weren’t brand loyal. During that time period when they were after that younger demographic — on soap operas people are introduced to the shows by a grandmother or a mother or an aunt that babysits — so the whole younger generation is introduced to the show via the older viewers. They generally don’t find them on their own. There was a huge push on all the show to address the younger viewership with no respect to the older viewers and it totally backfired because you lost older viewers because they weren’t seeing the faces they know, their characters, their stories and they had nothing invested in the young people. So suddenly the kids came off the laps and they chose to do something else at the time.

In the early days of our show, we had the largest African-American audience without having one African-American on our show. I was quote "a young hunk" at appearances and all the girls I thought were going to be hot for me, couldn’t ask enough questions about Katherine Chancellor. So you really don’t have to be one to enjoy watching one…whatever the one specific thing is.

I don’t know if that’s true with any other show. When a primetime show launches it has a certain appeal and you get your core audiences, but soap operas are not like any other show. They’re slow to grow and you can have a character on 6-8 months before it’s accepted by your core audience. It’s just a different beast.

I think part of the problem when they make changes and adjustments to these classic shows, whether it is Guiding Light or As the World Turns, for people who’ve been watching for 35 years it’s a jolt. You just can’t keep shocking them in a bad way and I think that’s one of the things Maria brought back to the Young and the Restless. She didn’t abandon her older, core characters. I think our executives were shocked that Jeanne Cooper as Katherine Chancellor could carry a storyline at 80 years old and people found it compelling and interesting.

TVS: We always find it interesting when our readers comment on the romance between the characters. We actually get to see that romance and relationship being built. I think Maria has done a good job especially she began re-establishing Paul and Nikki as a couple. We saw them reconnect and saw their relationship grow. Their first love scene since reuniting received so much positive feedback.  It was really nice to see people over 40, over 50 finding love and being in love and having love scenes. It was a reminder that love doesn’t end once you reach 40.

DOUG: True but it has to be a different relationship than it was when the characters were in their 20’s. I think they captured that too. It was the other end of the trail and I don’t think for Paul, at this juncture, was the love of Nikki’s life, nor was Nikki the love of Paul’s. But they were together because they loved each other and wanted to share a life together. There were compromises and different things that you would do than at 25. So it was an interesting story.

TVS: What are your feelings on the show dropping the Paul/Nikki storyline so suddenly to accommodate Melody’s temporary exit?

DOUG: I think it was an eventuality from the show. I mean when we started the story that’s when I jumped thinking "Uh oh…Paul’s going to get hurt here because she’s eventually going to go back to Victor." I’m not sure that was the real reason it happened the way it did. I think it was bound to happen anyway. Whether or not it was moved along at a faster pace because of the realities of how they were negotiating. It’s not something I would know.

I think Paul knew to some degree that once he passed a certain point, he probably felt he had passed that point of no return so he thought it was in the clear. I think there was always a little voice in the back of his head that knew he needed to give her space.  Paul wasn’t involved in a relationship when they started dating, and she was coming off one. So there was a period of time where she needed to end one relationship with both before she started another.

In retrospect it’s hard for him to figure out the logic because there isn’t any in going back to Victor, but he certainly is well aware of the emotional commitment that she has for him. And still supports her to this day. He doesn’t hold it against her at all.

TVS: That’s one of the things I love about the Paul/Nikki dynamic. They’ve hurt each other over the years, but they’ve always remained friends.

DOUG: Yeah and I think that’s what started the relationship. They were friends first and there was a familiarity they were able to embrace. If it hadn’t have been for that obsession that she has for Victor, it probably would have worked out just find. If it had been different:  if he was deceased for example where it wouldn’t always be a lure or he’s always there, or he’s at the ranch, he’s got a message on her voicemail It just tugs at her heart every time she sees him and hears his voice. And it think even knowing that a reconciliation with Victor was improbable, it wasn’t fair for Paul to go away when she knew in her heart of hearts she couldn’t commit emotionally.

TVS: After Paul and Nikki ended, it seemed like the writers were heading towards Paul and Nina. What happened with that? Why was that dropped?

DOUG: I’m not so sure it is. I just had scenes with her last week in fact, on Friday. She’s great, a lot of fun.

TVS: Everyone knows that Lauralee Bell is coming back. Do you know if you’ll be working with her?

DOUG: I have. I worked with her on Friday. So it’s in the can, it’s on the way.

TVS: I know you can’t give away anything, could you preview a little of your upcoming storyline. Can you preview some of your upcoming storyline?

DOUG: I worked with Lauralee for…close to 1990 through until she left and in 2005. During the last 5 years she’d take leaves and whatnot, but you can assume you know…. that Paul and Christine will still have strong feelings for one another and how they manifest is anybody’s guess because I don’t even know.

TVS: A couple of months ago they did something that had a lot of fans excited when Daisy set up Paul and Lauren to make it seem like they had slept together. Have you ever wanted the writers to maybe go down the Paul and Lauren relationship road again? Or do you think they’re better off as friends?

DOUG: Tracey’s always great to work with, so I’m always open and eager to continue that working relationship in any form. But yeah I think it too was a major relationship that hasn’t been addressed in quite some time in fact. Because it was hot and heavy in the mid-80’s so that’s a long time in soap years that they’ve been apart. But it was similar in the fact that they’re friends now and friends first.

When Paul had tied one on because he was overly depressed about his sister, and then Lauren was under the influence of ecstasy, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that they got as close as they did. As a matter of fact, I think one of the original versions of their encounter went farther then it actual did, but they backed off. And it was a wise choice. No harm no foul and its fine.

TVS: What would you say, to the Y&R fan that may have tuned out for a while but is interested in returning? What is it about Y&R that you feel makes it #1 and has been #1 for so long.

DOUG: You know it’s no longer a ship run by a single person, the creator.  There are influences – the network, Sony pictures, our staff and everybody has an opinion. There are compromises that are made in today’s television that weren’t made pre-2000 for example.  I think that every entity in our show whether it be the network or our staff or Sony pictures, they all want the same thing. They want a character driven show that is compelling. How you get there may come under a difference of opinion but there’s not a single person on our show that isn’t trying to make it the best show possible.  I could bet you 99% of people on the show are really not self-centered at all and want it to be the best show we can possibly be.  Give us a try because we are trying – I mean we went far afoul of what the Young and the Restless was in the middle of our first decade of this century. And I think we have finally found some solid footing.

Personally there’s still some things that I would commit to that I think scares them [laughs] but we’re way much more classic Young and the Restless than we have in the last 8 years. And you can see your Victor, and Nikki and Jill as well as the new characters they’re introducing. We just brought back David Hasselhofff and Wings Hauser and Julianna McCarthy. These people were before Paul and that was 1978. So there is a respect to the lineage of our history.

That’s why I’d say we’re going go kicking and screaming. We’re not going to roll over and become a casualty. We’re going to give you the classic Young and the Restless that people expect. I don’t see us going back to anything other than what worked in the past. I think Maria’s goal is to take Bill Bell’s image of what he wanted in a show. I mean she’s got the same last name.

TVS: I think she’s done a good job, especially for this to be her first head writing position. I also think it’s important for the fans to allow her to get her footing and to stay along during the sometimes bumpy ride. She seems to have the best interest of the show at hand, and while fans may not like everything she does, she’s doing what she feels is right for the show.

DOUG: I agree. You also can’t forget that there are very powerful entities at all sides that she has to appease. So it’s not just her single voice. It just isn’t. Bill created a wall around himself because of his success in the beginning. In the 80’s and 90’s he was receiving no phone calls really on what they wanted to do. No meetings he was taking. It’s was his show, his deal and that was the end of story. You have problems with it? Here’s the remote control. His success gave him that.

It’s much like a monarchy. When the king passes, everybody wants the throne and it took a while for us to find the person that would inherit the position. Maria’s in there now and I think she will earn her stripes given some time. But it’s not the atmosphere that Bill had left. Television has changed. I tell you, they have meetings three times a week or more, and Bill never had them. So it was his vision, his flare pen, what he wrote went on screen. There are a lot of fingers in the pie now – good and bad.

But to think that she has complete choice in freedom, I think is not realistic.



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