In Parts One and Two of our interview with Ian Buchanan, the abundantly talented actor discussed his early modeling career, leaving home at seventeen, and getting caught in a whirlwind of popularity as Duke Lavery on GENERAL HOSPITAL. In Part Three, he shares aspects of his experience playing virginal psychiatrist James Warwick on THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL, winning an Emmy, and how his own therapy has helped him to make positive changes.
We Love Soaps: After experience on primetime and cable, how did the role of James Warwick on BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL come your way?
Ian Buchanan: Someone had pointed Brad [Bell] in my direction. I was about to start a revival of “Equus” playing a psychiatrist. They were interested, they saw the play, and then I started on the show, which I loved being on for seven years.
We Love Soaps: Did you have any concerns about returning to daytime after your experience as Duke on GENERAL HOSPITAL?’
Ian Buchanan: Not at all. I think I was older and a little more sensible. I knew what to expect. It was huge around the world, and I was a little more responsible in choices I made. I was a little more committed on a daily basis instead of, “Let’s just try to make the best of this and then get the hell out.” That served me very well and served them very well. It was a very different experience because I was going into a show that had a strong core group. There weren’t too many people that got in and stayed but I did and I loved it.
We Love Soaps: You certainly had a longer run than most non-Forresters on the show.
Ian Buchanan: I did. It was such a great character though. It was so well written. They maintained his integrity, even though he got in trouble and did some things he should not have done, especially in the Maggie/ Sheila story. For me he was all around decent guy.
We Love Soaps: When he came on the show we saw him as a lost soul.
Ian Buchanan: They wanted to create that mystery thing, to make him almost like stalking Taylor. They weren’t quite sure who he was or where he was going to go. I think when they realized he could last and stick around they made him what he became.
We Love Soaps: What did you like about James?
Ian Buchanan: Interesting enough, he was the sort of person I’d like to have as a friend. I was so used to playing these quirky bad people. James would take the high road. I liked him, he was decent.
We Love Soaps: Do you see yourself as someone who takes the high road?
Ian Buchanan: I certainly try. God knows I love the low road. I will take the high road when I have the courage.
We Love Soaps: When you were hired did you know that James was going to be this adult virgin who is in therapy with Taylor?
Ian Buchanan: Those things just have a way of appearing. I thought, “That’s a very odd choice.” But at the time there was a sports athlete in his late 20’s who had been very vocal about the fact he was virgin and wasn’t going to have sex until he got married. That gave it a little more credence for me.
We Love Soaps: What are some fond memories you have from BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL?
Ian Buchanan: I loved the whole story with Brooke. I loved the fact that with James and his lack of experience was swept up by this vixen. I loved working with Susan Flannery. She’s someone who sets the bar so high every single day.
We Love Soaps: Susan Flannery recently made our Critic’s Choice for #1 Greatest Soap Actress. What is it about her that makes working with her so great?
Ian Buchanan: I love her commitment to telling the story. I love the commitment to her character. There’s nothing false, and she demands the same from others. She wants the best and she fights for it. Not just the best for her but for everybody around her. I love that. I have learned so much from her. You have to fight to make it the best. She loves soap opera but she doesn’t want things to be soapy. She loves great storytelling. She really thinks character and telling the story are incredibly important.
We Love Soaps: What have you learned from her?
Ian Buchanan: She’s very enthusiastic, and she’s very passionate. I generally take things for granted and I’ve learned from her to appreciate things more fully. And the way she deals with people, she’s gracious with absolutely everybody.
We Love Soaps: What kind of fan general did you get during your time as James?
Ian Buchanan: It was really very good. I started at the same time as Michael Sabatino. People would always ask, “Why are you there, why didn’t you go back to GENERAL HOSPITAL?”
We Love Soaps: How did you answer that?
Ian Buchanan: I said that these kind people made a very nice offer and nobody else did. It took about a year, and then it was a very positive reaction. And it was an international reaction too. My family in Scotland finally got to see me on television. I came here to do television to get away from them. Suddenly there I was popping up in their home more than I had ever been in person.
We Love Soaps: You played a psychiatrist.
Ian Buchanan: A very imminent Scottish psychiatrist who was not adverse to making mistakes and taking responsibility for them. I had the great pleasure of having James Doohan who was Scotty on STAR TREK, playing my father which was great fun. But he was abusive my father so the joke was always, “Beat me up, Scotty.”
We Love Soaps: Did you study much about mental health to do this role?
Ian Buchanan: A part from my own experience of having been in therapy, when I worked on “Equus” I worked with another therapist for six weeks. Then we had Carole Lieberman as our psychiatric advisor, she would help Brad with the writing. We handled things well like teenage pregnancy and mishandled other things.
We Love Soaps: Such as?
Ian Buchanan: Like sleeping with patients.
We Love Soaps: That is definitely a no-no. In what ways has therapy helped you personally?
Ian Buchanan: It helped me in many ways. It helped me not to be reactionary. Now I take full responsibility for stuff, and understand what part of it is mine. I’ve learned what’s important, what doesn’t really matter, and to let stuff go.
We Love Soaps: You had been reactionary to what?
Ian Buchanan: I used to be pretty explosive. If I thought I wasn’t being understood I would blame other people for being stupid, which was not the case. It was simply my inability to communicate properly or fully.
We Love Soaps: When in your life did you learn how to make these changes?
Ian Buchanan: It was around forty. Which was probably ten years later than it should have been. But I know people older than me who have yet to learn them. I always think men don’t really change, they just grow up, if they’re lucky. I think I had a hard time growing up completely. I think now for the most part I’m adult about things. But I can sometimes have immature responses. I’ve learned to take a breath.
We Love Soaps: Nearly every year on BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL you were nominated for an Emmy. Finally in 1997 you won for Best Supporting Actor. What was that like?
Ian Buchanan: I was sitting next to Michael Tylo, we were in the front row. They said my name and I was still sitting there. He said, “They said your name, you have to get up!” I thought, “Really? No” It was very suprising, but it was such a wonderful and great feeling. It lasted for a very long time. Dick Clark was still producing the show, it was at Radio City Musical Hall. I got backstage and the production people said, “We want you to run out in the street, all the fans are out there, we want a shot of all the fans cheering.” I said yeah, okay. So I ran out into the street and all I could hear was people yelling, “Does this mean Maurice lost? Oh no!” It was all Maurice Benard fans outside Radio City. I was like, “Yeah, get over it. I won. Hello? Look!”
We Love Soaps: What did it feel like to get that kind of fan reaction right after winning?
Ian Buchanan: It was totally fine, I didn’t care.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here to read Part Four in which Ian shares his thoughts about being an "outsider," a botched guest appearance on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, and his take on his ill-fated role on ALL MY CHILDREN.
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.