We Love Soaps: Some fans have watched for 30 years and some for two years. It must be hard for the writers to tell stories to please everyone.
Doug Davidson: I think Tony Geary explained this at one point in his long, illustrious career that sometimes it's not always good to give the fans what they want. I think that's where the genius of writing is. I don't know in this day of instant polls, tests and focus groups that you get better drama necessarily.
We Love Soaps: One thing I don't like as a soap viewer is if I feel the writers are changing the direction of a story midstream.
Doug Davidson: Well, things surprise them like actors become unavailable, or they dropped a contract and didn't want to, or they liked somebody they didn't expect to like, or they just haven't figured it out when it started. Writing a continuing drama for 36 years and having all the points connect is not an easy task by any means. Even Bill [Bell], the genius that he was, made adjustments if he felt things weren't working. With Cindy Lake, it was a relationship that was supposed to be built with Pam Warren, and Cindy was nothing more than a sidekick to Pam and the mob storyline. But he couldn't get the performance he wanted out of the girl who played Pam Warren, so he flipped everything to Cindy Lake and stuck with that, and let Pam Warren go. I think the girl that played Pam Warren was really just trying to do the best that she could, and once she got fired the performances he wanted started to come out. Sometimes there are so many intangibles you don't see as a viewer, and a ton of stuff you don't see behind the scenes, probably less now because we have people within the show that seem to be bloggers. I find out some information I haven't even heard about on the internet.
We Love Soaps: Back in 2002, Paul was involved in a very controversial storyline with Christine where there was some question about whether he forced himself on her or not. I really didn't like that story.
Doug Davidson: That was Jack Smith. He was our executive producer then. He had written BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL for years and hadn't been doing RESTLESS, and they decided to make a switch at the top and brought him in. I don't know what happened or how it happened. It was an incomplete story. I had to think about it quite a bit to validate that kind of behavior. If you look at the beginning, and, of course, the viewers didn't because they didn't know what was coming up, they had been manipulated apart by Michael Baldwin and Isabella. Michael Baldwin hired Isabella to break us up so he could make his move with Christine. They were two characters going through a lot of stress and strain. She was working in Hong Kong, and Paul, as many red-blooded Americans would, fell victim to the charms of Isabella Braña, played by Eva Longoria. As so often happens, he steps out of the relationship as the door opens and Christine sees the two of them in a loving embrace. And then from then on there was this love/hate thing. I don't remember the wedding but Chris pulled me into a room and smacked a huge kiss on me telling me she still loved me and wanted me. As time progressed, she wasn't completely sure about it and was hurt. He behavior was suspect too in terms of tempting and sending messages that were mixed. Then she did evil things like moving Michael into our house.
I think it all came to a head when Michael showed up at a baby shower at Gina's. We got into a fight there and I came home and was upset that she would let him show up at such a private event. I brought it to her attention that the chemistry between us was still there. I kissed her and she didn't say no. She put her hand on me, and kissed me again. If you look at it, she never said, 'No," once, she said, 'Wait.' At that point it dissolved into what was considered the forced sex thing. They never really resolved any of it. They kind of just let it go. I felt they never seriously resolved that story at all. They had my brother Todd, the priest, come in and say that was a sick relationship that should have never existed, but that didn't really tie it up in a bow for me. Consequently, that's now part of Paul's history. Not that I'm condoning the behavior because I'm not, but it was a lot more two-sided than if you just watch one or two episodes that were on the internet.
We Love Soaps: I always say I want soaps to honor their history but that is one story I like to pretend never happened. I've always seen Paul as the hero of the show, and I didn't view Paul and Christine's relationship as sick all those years.
Doug Davidson: I was incredibly nervous at the time. I called Jack down when we taped it. [Lauralee] was nine months pregnant at the time and it was all set up to enable her departure. We had a body double that stepped in at the opportune time when I lowered her to the bed. It worked pretty seamlessly. You'd never know there were two different people. What do you do as an actor? Those were your pages and you're on set and it's time to go. I talked to them about it. I remember the day. I was sick about it. But when the tape rolls you have to commit to what is on the page.
We Love Soaps: Which brings to mind something we've heard a lot about this year. Should actors have a say in their storylines? We've heard it on your show, and also on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Has there ever been anything you said you wouldn't do?
Doug Davidson: No. Those scenes we just described were the ones that I had the biggest questions [about], and it wasn't a matter of doing them or not doing them. I'm hired to do it, not make judgments on how my character is to be portrayed, other than within the limits of taking it off the page and making it as real as I possibly can.
We Love Soaps: In your recent story, Nikki left Paul right before they were to be married. How do you feel about that twist?
Doug Davidson: Even in her mind, the question of whether she could leave Victor behind was huge. I think she was wondering that the whole time. It was in many respects, and is, a toxic relationship. The fact that you get to a certain age, and you are not necessarily looking for what you were looking for in your 20s. I was perfectly willing to accept that Paul wasn't the love of her life but we had a great relationship, great history, trust, friendship, companionship, we loved each other. The character felt she was at least able to let go of some of that with Victor and start a new relationship. As the day grew closer, she realized she couldn't make that break for whatever reason. He took her from being a stripper and made her a woman and gave her a family and all the things she wasn't ready to let go. I don't think it was at all intentional or manipulative, and Paul understood that as well. He thought it was a subject that may have come up earlier, but sometimes you don't see it until you're on the eve of where there's no turning back. I think Paul said somewhere in the dialogue in the church that he wouldn't want her to be unhappy, and that maybe somewhere down the line, and then realized this was somewhere down the line. If it was going to happen, it would have happened this time. He didn't get much time to brood over it because he ran into other issues with Mary Jane Benson.
We Love Soaps: You have won four Soap Opera Digest awards and, after 25 years, were nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 2003, but in recent months you may be doing your best work ever. My partner at We Love Soaps, Damon L. Jacobs, has commented that he feels you are reaching new emotional depths with the character. Do you agree? And what would you attribute that to?
Doug Davidson: I don't know how it came to be but it was always their intent to have Mary Jane Benson be my sister. I just didn't know how it was going to be revealed. But there is so much that goes into a collaborative endeavor such as a television show. There are so many intangibles that are hard to measure - you get good scenes, you get an appropriate director that day, you work with someone you really connect with. We live in an age now where it's really in one take unless you fall dead on the floor. There's not a lot of time to get notes, good or bad, or think about it. I remember reading that particular scene where Mary Jane Benson was revealed as my sister, and it was an incredible challenge from my left brain, "How do you make it work?" There was a track of nursery rhymes, then it all comes together. But finally, at the point of taping, you have to turn it over to your creative self and be as free and let go as you possibly can. I think it had been six years since I had a legitimate storyline. As of my producers said something like, "It must be nice to say something else besides, 'They went that way.'" I've got to tell you, it was. All those factors play into the moment. I'd love to take all the credit for it, but there was some pretty good writing in there, concepts, dialogue, ideas, some pretty incredible acting that I coming back at me from Stacy and Eric and Melody and Thad, the list goes on and on. I stopped watching because I wanted to stop judging. Because we're on such a tight budget and working so quickly, all the things I would see I couldn't do anything about anyway. So it just became a negative I wish I coulda, woulda, shoulda. For an artist that is the kiss of death. And there was nothing I could do about it either. So I threw caution to the wind and went for it.
In the final part of our interview coming soon, Davidson discusses almost hosting the daytime version of THE PRICE IS RIGHT, and what he thinks about the future of daytime.