Please check out Parts One, Two, Three, and Four of my interview with the wonderfully talented, articulate, and funny actor/writer Don Hastings. In this final part, he shares insights into keeping Dr. Bob interesting for nearly 50 years, as well as what the future holds for Mr. Hastings himself. Could this pioneer of radio and television take his craft to the internet next? Read below to find out!
We Love Soaps: Any thoughts about what you would like to do after ATWT as far as television or theater?
Don Hastings: I don’t know. I haven’t done a play in about 30 years. I’ve done some readings, everyone has done "Love Letters." Marie Masters and I did that.
We Love Soaps: We were speaking earlier about how you were on television even before most people had a television. At We Love Soaps we are looking at the future of the continuing story format and how the web is becoming a part of that.
Don Hastings: I think Martha Byrne is getting involved with that.
We Love Soaps: Right, she is producing GOTHAM. Have you ever considered doing a web series?
Don Hastings: I probably would if it was something that somebody wanted me to do. I really haven’t done anything about looking for continuing employment but I guess I’ll have to think about it. I would do something like that. I think right now it’s a difficult thing to do because we’re still under contract at Procter & Gamble. I would think that there would be some conflict on that.
We Love Soaps: You have been working consistently on television since 1949. What is this going to be like for you?
Don Hastings: That’s an interesting question. I don’t really know. My wife said, “You don’t know what it’s like being an actor.” [An actor] works a day or a week at a time. I’ve always gone from one job to another. That will be interesting. Though my lack of use on WORLD TURNS has not dampened my ardor for the show. I’ve always said that I would like to work more. But then it gets to the point where they say, “We can’t afford to use you more than we use you.” That comes into play, the economics of it. And sometimes it effects story. So that’s why you don’t see as much of us older players as much as you used to. They’ve got to use us kind of sparingly. But if someone came to me and said, “Here’s a project I think you would be interested in,” I would certainly be interested in continuing to work.
I used to do commercials, but I really don’t like doing that. I stopped doing them because I wouldn’t do them on camera. The only ones I ever did were years ago. Thirty or forty years ago I did cigarette commercials and beer commercials. Then I thought, “I don’t really want to do that.” I had kind of a nice voice-over career, but when you get older that disappears unless you are Michael Douglas or George Clooney. They’ve taken over all the stuff I used to do. All the really good commercials are taken by movie stars now because it’s easy money and they pay them a lot more than they would pay me. They’re not interested in older actors. They are kids and if they can get a movie star to work, that’s great. A guy who has been around along as I have has an idea of how something should be done. They don’t want to hear that. Not that you’re smart ass, but sometimes you go on an audition and they say, “We want it done this way.” And you think, “Geez, this is terrible.” But that’s show business.
We Love Soaps: Any thoughts of what you would like to see happen for Dr. Bob as we move toward the end of the series? How would you like him to end up?
Don Hastings: On his feet I guess. That’s about all I can think of. It’s out of my hands. I have no say in that, or whether they put us on a bus and drive us all off a cliff. I think they are trying to sell the show somewhere. They tried with GUIDING LIGHT and that was unsuccessful. But you never know. There’s libel to be a package of the two shows. That would change the economics of the show, but at least the stories would continue, and a lot of people would be happy with that.
We Love Soaps: Your co-workers have always talked in interviews about your sense of humor and how you bring humor every day to your work.
Don Hastings: I've always thought that was my job, too, to relieve the tensions. The way we do it is very quick and stressful, especially if you have a lot to do. I enjoy it. It’s a captive audience, so if I do a little clowning around I’ve got a friendly crowd.
We Love Soaps: You hold the record for holding the longest role continuing on a daytime soap.
Don Hastings: I know, I don’t think it’s in the Guinness Book. I should look that up. I know they did a campaign to get Helen [Wagner] in there. But that was the publicity department, and I don’t think we even have a publicist anymore.
We Love Soaps: Going back to 1960, starting on AS THE WORLD TURNS, is there anything you would have told yourself then knowing what you know now?
Don Hastings: I think I made the right choice for me. I think actors much better than I have moved on and been successful, or not been successful. But the kind of part I play, the kind of show that it is, would drive some people nuts. Playing a good guy is a lot harder in a sense than being Dracula, or being the real pain in the ass. To keep Dr. Bob from being really old and stodgy and boring, that’s been my chore. And I think I’ve done alright, as far as audience reaction to the character. Most people like Dr. Bob.
We Love Soaps: I think Bob has become a much needed symbol of stability and calm within the storm. Soaps used to give people a sense of comfort and optimism, and Bob personified that in many ways.
Don Hastings: I’m glad you feel that way. I hope a lot of people have.
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 is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.