By Connie Passalacqua
June 17, 1992
To me, there are no soap actors, no movie actors, no stage actors. There are just well-trained actors and Nick is certainly that. So says SANTA BARBARA executive producer Paul Rauch, revealing the key to the endurance of actor Nicolas Coster, who currently plays Lionel Lockridge on the NBC daytime soap.
Coster is daytime's most prolific actor - he has appeared on a record eight soaps since 1962. For his SANTA BARBARA role, which he has played since the show's debut in 1984, Coster is a nominee for Best Actor at The 19th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards (airing in prime time, Tuesday, June 23, on NBC). This is his second consecutive nomination.
Even if your not a daytime soap viewer, Coster should look familiar. One of the few daytime actors to ever be able to escape typecasting and jump freely from medium to medium, Coster has scores of prime-time television, movie and stage credits. He played Blair's father on THE FACTS OF LIFE, the groom's father in Betsy's Wedding (1989) and a cooked lawyer at the beginning of All the President's Men (1975). Coster even appeared on Broadway last summer in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's "Getting Married."
While conversing with the man of a thousand roles, one might expect a sense of jadedness, but Costner is charming, modest and full of affectionate anecdotes.
He is honest - but in a gentlemanly way. When Coster is asked if SANTA BARBARA's Lionel - a middle-aged libertine who had no major story-line this year - is his favorite soap role, he replies, "Lionel is my favorite role, but there are times he hasn't been. From time to time, you get disappointed. Actually, in that way, soaps are analogous to real life."
Around 1986, the eccentric Lockridge clan was cast into the SANTA BARBARA background. "I was sort of squeezed out, but they're the bosses," Coster shrugs. In 1989, Coster took a long hiatus from the soap. "I was lucky, because I got one movie and TV role after another," he says, "I never stopped working."
Coster says it has been his theatrical training and experience that have sustained him throughout his long career. He studied at both the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and at the New York University Film School. He was hired for his first soap, the New York City-based SECRET STORM, in 1962 because HE was a founding member of the prestigious Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
In the '60s and '70s, Coster bounced between theater and such soaps as YOUNG DR. MALONE, AS THE WORLD TURNS, ANOTHER WORLD and SOMERSET. In the '80s, Coster worked on ONE LIFE TO LIVE, and, during his hiatus from SANTA BARBARA, he came back to New York to portray, on ALL MY CHILDREN, the outlaw lover of Erica Kane (played by Susan Lucci, who is co-host with Phil Donahue at this year's Daytime Emmy Awards).
Coster thinks there is one continuing thread between the early days of 15-minute black-and-white soaps and today's soaps, which are megaproductions. "Quality acting is quality acting, anywhere," Coster says. "Through the years, styles change, but talent and fine work don't."
Coster made the crossover into films during the '70s, when the film world wouldn't hire most soap actors. He maintains that even today, film directors have divergent opinions on soap actors. "I had one movie star (director) in a white linen suit leaning back in his big old chair and ask me, 'You're very well know from daytime, aren't you?' And I said, 'Yeah,' and he said, 'Then I don't want you.'"
But Coster insists, "Soap-opera actors can be the best, which is why I'm thrilled that it was my colleagues who nominated me."