Kevin Spirtas is known to soap watchers as the deliciously manipulative Craig Wesley on DAYS OF OUR LIVES [1997-2003] and the evil Jonas Chamberlain on ONE LIFE TO LIVE . He is currently starring in the Off-Broadway show “Loaded” in New York City, revealing more physically and emotionally to audiences than ever before. Please read on to learn more about how Kevin approached his role in “Loaded,” as well as reflections on his career on soaps and stage.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I really enjoyed “Loaded.” What kind of response have you gotten from others so far?
Kevin Spirtas: So far I’ve gotten a very “loaded” response. I have received emails, posts on my Facebook page, and so has my co-star Scott Kerns. People also come up to us after the show. They are very moved, they feel pushed, and they are very intrigued by the content of the piece. There is a lot here. They are listening to the struggle, to the generational divide between two individuals separated in age. Because of that, it brings up a lot of stuff. It’s causing them to go away from [the show] and continue with that conversation. They ask, “Do I see myself up there? Who do I know like that?” It’s very interesting. The piece focuses on these two men who each have struggles in their own life. My character [“Patrick”] feels very comfortable in the bedroom. He’s comfortable with this younger character [“Jude”] in bed but he also wants more. I think both want more but they just don’t know how to come to a common ground as common as under the sheets.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What are you hoping will come from people seeing “Loaded”? Do you hope they will communicate more with their partners? Or think more about what they’re doing before they do it? What do you want people to take away from this?
Kevin Spirtas: All of that. I can’t go into a play or a part or a role without thinking, “What do I take away from it?” I have a lot of similarities to this characters on some level. And what I don’t have similar with him I have enough in my life to associate the disappointment, the suffering, the loss.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Are those ways you are similar to Patrick?
Kevin Spirtas: Yes. In all these ways. I’m playing a 47-year-old character, and I’m forty-seven. The AIDS epidemic was right there at the beginning of my career on Broadway. So I saw all these people die. And Patrick has lost all these people in his life. There’s all these commonalities. In any relationship, gay or straight, you have the need to communicate. And where do you take the middle ground to accommodate the other person or to understand the other person’s view point? Every role one can take on is a way to heal something. There’s got to be a reason that we do this. I have to find some arc, some sort of way to heal myself. Maybe through that Patrick gets healed. Or maybe Patrick learns something, or takes something on.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What part of yourself gets healed by playing Patrick?
Kevin Spirtas: It changes. [Pause] You know, we’re not machines. Every day is different. It’s not like I set out to learn something each night. But I will ask myself a question in the beginning of the show, it’s there over my head like a bubble. I’ll ask, “What am I not understanding about this person? What is he saying? What am I not communicating? Where I am not giving?” I think Patrick is hurt and he’s finding a way to get through that hurt. I think I’m trying to find some understanding, some peace of heart and heal that pain of loss. That’s a struggle in everyone’s life.
And what Scott Kerns and I have discovered in this piece is that yes, there is the great play. But there is also a relationship between Kevin and Scott as Patrick and Jude. You’ve seen the show, you have to have intimacy in the show. We’re not just two people clocking in and out. There has to be intimacy created. I’m learning about Scott, I’m learning about Jude.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What ways are you different from Patrick?
Kevin Spirtas: Well, I’m a believer in marriage equality and gay marriage. It’s about civil rights. It’s not about male/male, I’m for love. And if you love someone, and you want to make that your life together, why should someone judge that? Why should I be able to judge that, why should I be judged for that? But it brings up a great thing to play against. Because Patrick is against gay marriage. That’s one major thing. Everyone is equal. Everyone puts on their pants one leg at a time...and...[laughs] you know.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Speaking of which, you are fully naked in this show. The Full Spirtas.
Kevin Spirtas: I am?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You are.
Kevin Spirtas: No one told me that!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I guess they forgot to tell you. Have you ever been...
Kevin Spirtas: Naked in public before?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Well, I meant naked in a performance piece before.
Kevin Spirtas: No, I have not.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was it like for you then to take on a role and realize you were going to have to be fully naked?
Kevin Spirtas: At first I thought, “I’ve got to stop eating sugar,” but that didn’t help [laughs]. I took on the script because of what it had to say. And I thought what it had to say was more important than the action or activity of clothes versus no clothes. I was actually supposed to start off [at the beginning of the show] in a jock strap. Which I thought was kind of odd since the play opens and we’ve just had sex. Why would I have put a jock strap on to be lying there in bed? If we’re going to be here in a real time, in a real situation, then I would just assume or prefer to be nude to get up and get dressed like you would do naturally. As you can see in the show, we have great “sheetography." Sometimes the sheet pulls away and you see a little bit more. But I’m focused on what I’m saying to Jude. It doesn’t bother me.
I think actors are mostly exhibitionists on some levels anyway. But I’m not doing anything gratuitous. If you look back on my resume you’ll see I did a couple of “Skinomax,” I mean, Cinemax films. And that was all simulation. It’s all choreographed. She’s wearing a patch and I’m wearing a jock-sock. You’re naked but you’re not, you’re simulating sex. It’s this pseudo porn movie where there’s no penetration. It’s all very scripted. The bottom line is, it wasn’t a problem for me when they asked.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So let’s talk about Dr. Craig Wesley. We’ve missed you on DAYS. I talked to Nadia Bjorlin a couple of weeks ago. I asked her if she would like to have [Chloe’s] family back, and of course she would.
Kevin Spirtas: I was back for that minute. But of course I missed working with Patrika [Darbo]. Who knows why they brought only one person back. But I was the doctor, she was in a coma, they had to bring me back. I missed having scenes with Chloe. I talked to her, I held her hand, but it wasn’t the same as having scenes with her.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you see similarities between Patrick in Craig Wesley?
Kevin Spirtas: Let’s talk about what Craig is. He’s straight, he’s married to a woman, with two daughters, in a committed relationship, he’s probably really well off, he used to run a hospital, he’s very understanding, and not a classist. Patrick is not any of these things.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: However, Craig is very much looking out for number one, and especially in the early years was willing to cut corners and do whatever it took to get what he wants.
Kevin Spirtas: Yeah, that was so Snidely Whiplash and Eddie Haskellish of him. Craig would do what he had to do to survive, which Patrick does too. But they changed him so drastically. They softened him up. I miss the old Craig Wesley, when he and Mike Horton were racing to become chief of staff. I miss Nurse Ali. God, Lisa Linde, did we have fun!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You and Patrika were so funny, but so mean! We couldn’t help but be on your side.
Kevin Spirtas: Kind of like Dexter. Have you ever wanted to see a serial killer get away with people? It’s the most bizarre thing in the world.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Craig, I believe is the only soap character on DAYS (aside from Tom Horton) to only ever have sex with his own wife.
Kevin Spirtas: Isn’t that sad? I tried. They once had me do a scene with Nurse Ali where they had me show up in her apartment. She was dressed in lingerie, and I was dressed in this leather blazer and slacks and open collar shirt. She said hi, and I said [in a low sexy voice], “Hello Baby.” And the producer, Tom Langan, came up and said, “You’ve got to play against it. I know it’s written this way, but you have to play against it or you’ll lose everything we’ve worked hard to get you on the show as far fans’ interest.” He was very smart about it. I was trying to seduce Nurse Ali to get her to do something, and they had even made it where Nancy said, “Go do you what you have to do.” And even though I was being sent off to take one for the team so to speak, they said play against it. So they never had me sleep around. Patrick would sleep around. Patrick wouldn’t even wait for permission.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back tomorrow for Part Two of our interview as we discuss Kevin's experience on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, and reflections on challenging career decisions. And click here for to get your tickets for "Loaded"! [Please note: Kevin will NOT be appearing in the show Dec 21, 2009 – Jan 2, 2010, Jan 12, 2010, and Jan 19 – 22, 2010]
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He has started blogging again at www.shouldless.com..