We Love Soaps: Anything you can tell me about your least favorite stories, or stories you weren’t happy about?
Don Hastings: There were so many of them. There are some that you object to but you do them. I remember one back with Irna [Phillips] which facilitated a call to my home from her saying, “I hear you don’t like this story.” That was before I had started writing, and I had only been on the show about four or five years.
We Love Soaps: Do you remember what that was?
Don Hastings: It was a religious thing that I took exception to. I’ll never forget it because Bill Bell wrote the episode I objected to. It was not a storyline, it was an incident in the hospital. It had something to do with a patient and some kind of religious speech I had to make. I was opposed to the rationale of why this young doctor would say this to this woman. I thought it was in bad taste. When we read the script several people said, “Geez, this is really bizarre.” I had asked for changes and they wouldn’t do it. I said, “Someone’s got to do something because I’m the one who has to say this. This is going to offend a lot of people.” Ted Corday had already left the show. I have a feeling he might have changed it. Ted used to rewrite a lot of [Irna’s] stuff. So sure enough, I got a call from Irna. I remember saying to my former wife, “Pack your bags, we’re going back to Brooklyn, it’s all going to be over.” But she rewrote it, she changed it.
We Love Soaps: Was it a punitive religious speech?
Don Hastings: It had to do with the crucifixion. It just didn’t go down well, not only with me, but with other people. It was a compromise.
We Love Soaps: We talked about Dr. Bob’s cognitive impairment this past summer. As a 38-year-old viewer, I can tell you that the scene of you confused and disoriented in the mall with ice cream dripping down your hand was one of the most realistic and disturbing things I’ve seen on soaps. And I mean “disturbing” in the best way possible.
Don Hastings: Oh really, well, thank you.
We Love Soaps: It was your ability to show this strong man and pillar of the community losing his way in his own mind. How did you approach this story?
Don Hastings: The thing that was hard was that this man who is so ethical in so many ways to ask this little nurse to cover for him. That really did become a problem in how to deal with that. It’s like doctors are the worst patients, they say. And denying some of the stuff that he realized he had done. Finally it came out that he had almost killed his wife by overmedicating her.
We Love Soaps: How did you feel about that part of the story?
Don Hastings: I didn’t have any problem with that as far as finding a way to do it. What’s the prognosis was my concern. This could have been played out a lot longer. The recovery was instantaneous. And there’s no easing back other than saying, “You’re working too hard.” It doesn’t play out. That’s the kind of thing that abruptly ends, and everybody goes back to square one. I’m back running the hospital. I guess approaching it, I dealt with my father passing and some of the things that happened to him. Although I must say I’m a very fortunate that both my parents pretty much finished at the finish line with all their marbles.
We Love Soaps: Have you considered submitting any of those scenes for Emmy consideration this year?
Don Hastings: No.
We Love Soaps: How come?
Don Hastings: I don’t do that. That’s for somebody else to do. I’m not about to submit myself.
We Love Soaps: Would you ever considered submitting yourself for the Emmys?
Don Hastings: They gave a bunch of us geriatric actors [a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2004 Daytime Emmys]. They put us on an elevator at Radio City Music Hall. A couple of people got really annoyed we never got a chance to say anything. It was kind of fun. I’m not even a member of the academy, except I took their prize, which George Scott didn’t do [George C. Scott declined an Academy Award nomination in 1962]. I used to play golf with him. I asked him, “If I ever win an Emmy, will you accept it for me?”
We Love Soaps: Fast forwarding to a few weeks ago. Learning on December 8th that AS THE WORLD TURNS was canceled.
Don Hastings: It was in the back of our minds when GUIDING LIGHT got canceled. They had been saying they were going to take that off for years. It used to be that they would renew us for two or three years. When it got to be on a year-to-year basis I think we all figured it was going to happen. The man who runs CBS just doesn’t want to have us there anymore. It’s not P&G. It’s Mr. Moonves who doesn’t like soaps and couldn’t care less about daytime.
We Love Soaps: How did you get the news?
Don Hastings: Actually I got it from Lynn Leahey, the editor of Soap Opera Digest. The reason I got it from Lynn was because Chris Goutman had called my cell phone earlier that day, and I don’t get cell phone service where I live. So Lynn called me and said, “I’m sorry to hear about WORLD TURNS.” I said, “Oh really?” I called Chris Goutman’s office. He didn’t realize I hadn’t gotten his message.
We Love Soaps: How did that feel?
Don Hastings: I always figured I’d die on the job. I still could actually [laughs]. It’s a shock. After having a place of business all these years, and all of a sudden it’s going to end. It’s been a great run. I have no complaints about the job.
We Love Soaps: A loss like this can bring up a myriad of feelings. It can bring up anger, sadness, even relief. Any of that happening?
Don Hastings: It’s a little of everything. My wife is encouraging me to get an agent again and go out and try to ply my trade. I don’t know. We’ve got until the end of June to figure out what we’re going to do. We haven’t made any plans about it yet. All my kids are grown, and all we have is this puppy at home. And this may ease up things my wife wants to do because I’ve been based here in New York. So there’s always a chance of going out West. I have more family there than I have here.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for the final part of our interview when we discuss future hopes for Mr. Hastings, final reflections, and if he would consider continuing his pioneering spirit on the web? Find out here!
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.