ALL IN THE FAMILY AT “GUIDING LIGHT”
Tom Pelphrey, Daytime’s Hottest Bad Boy
By Art Swift
January 18, 2005
Seated in the Green Room of the GUIDING LIGHT studio in midtown Manhattan, Tom Pelphrey announces what he would like to see his character doing within the next six months.
“I would like to see Jonathan sleep with all the women on the show. All of them. They’re all lovely ladies.”
Pelphrey’s piercing, devilish stare erupts into a bellowing, jovial laugh. This is Jonathan Randall, the newest bad boy on GUIDING LIGHT and one of the most fascinating characters to enter Soap Land in a while.
Today he is looking like a typical, hip 22-year-old would look, with flowing long hair, baggy pants, and a dark cap with the letters “FDNY” in white across the top. Yet there’s one touch that belongs to this bawdy, charismatic newcomer: a T-shirt featuring the slogan “It’s All Relative in West Virginia,” emblazoned across an outline of the Mountain State.
“Always staying in character,” he quips, again with that mischievous look on his face.
“In character” is right. Since arriving on the show in September, Jonathan has slept with his cousin Tammy (Stephanie Gatschet) and his aunt Cassie (Laura Wright).
Furious at his mother, Reva (Kim Zimmer), for giving him up for adoption when he was a small child, and incensed at Sandy (Scott Bailey) for impersonating him years later, Jonathan has been hell-bent on revenge and bedding his relatives is only part of his blitzkrieg. The way Jonathan is going, Pelphrey may indeed get his wish for the next six months.
Whatever the outcome, Pelphrey is thrilled that his character has been the talk of Daytime and he projects the pulsating confidence of a young man on the verge of stardom.
“I’m a catalyst for a lot of different things because I can mess with people,” Pelphrey said. “It’s not just somebody who’s come off the street, some scumbag that they can dismiss. Because I’m Reva’s son I get to stay around and there’s a push and pull.”
In the coming weeks, Pelphrey says Jonathan’s badness will continue in full swing, though he’s tight-lipped about any specifics.
“He’s got a lot more buttons to push, as far as Cassie goes, and playing Reva and Cassie off. Always pushing Josh’s buttons, just for the sake of it. And it starts to go more into that, pulling Reva in and kind of setting her at odds with everyone else. That starts to be prevalent.”
Pelphrey, who is of mostly English descent, was born in Northern New Jersey and grew up by the Jersey Shore in the town of Howell. His father is a salesman, his mother is a bookkeeper/secretary and he has an 18-year-old brother who just began college. Interested in performing from a young age, Pelphrey attended Howell High School, a performing arts “magnet” school. He decided to stay in state and go to college at Rutgers, mainly because of an acting professor there, Kevin Kittle.
As he honed his acting skills, he also plunged into shorinjuryu, a mixture of judo, jiu jitsu and karate. Various plays at Rutgers followed, along with some commercials, and by the time he reached his senior year in 2004, Pelphrey was ready to test the Manhattan casting circuit.
In the busy spring of last year, Pelphrey sent his headshots around to various casting directors. One of these casting executives was Rob Decina from GUIDING LIGHT, who asked to meet Pelphrey in March.
“It was just a general meeting,” Pelphrey said. “It wasn’t even about this part. It was like, ‘my name is Tom, here’s my picture.’”
But Decina liked Pelphrey’s look and kept him in mind for a part he knew was coming up soon. To have a record of him handy, Decina referred Pelphrey to an executive in CBS Daytime who put Pelphrey on tape doing a “generic soap scene.”
At the end of April, Decina called Pelphrey’s cell phone and asked him to read for the newly created role of Jonathan. His agent began negotiating with Decina and later on that spring, Pelphrey was hired.
It has now been five months since Pelphrey began his three-year contract on the show, which is taped on two floors of an unassuming office building not far from the United Nations. He commutes everyday from Hoboken in New Jersey and shares an apartment with his best friend from college. Pelphrey is proud to mention that his roommate and his friends watch GUIDING LIGHT religiously.
“It’s funny when I hang out with my boys from high school and they’ll start arguing about something on the show, like, ‘Can you believe Edmund?’ and I’m sitting back thinking, ‘Wow, who would have thought that my friends would be arguing about a soap.’
His friends’ fervor is so passionate, Pelphrey says, that they will often call him with tips and requests.
“'Oh yo, the girl who plays Tammy is so hot,'” Pelphrey said, adopting a “slacker” tone of voice. “‘The girl who plays Lizzie is so hot; you should hook me up.’”
On this day Pelphrey has just finished taping an “AM session” of GUIDING LIGHT. Hours for the morning scenes run from roughly 7 am to 12:30 pm, though if an actor is up first he could be finished at 10:30 am. Actors for the “PM session” arrive at 11:15 am, do hair and makeup, and rehearse during the lunch break. They usually are finished by 6 pm, but could end as early as 4.
Because of the AM session, he wasn’t able to watch the show today, which airs at 10 in the New York area. But Pelphrey’s mother was watching; in fact, she tapes every one of his shows and keeps them as a virtual library. When he went home for Christmas last month, he caught up on some of the shows and discovered the zealous online support he’s receiving, because he doesn’t have a computer in Hoboken. He has been enjoying the snail mail he’s receiving, though.
“I’m flattered, honored, that they’d take their time out to write,” Pelphrey said about the fans. “It’s always sweet things, even though I’m such a bastard. They’ll write, ‘Be nice to your Mom,’ but it’s always very supportive. ‘Stop choking your mother,’ ‘Stop having sex with your cousin,’ now it will be ‘Stop having sex with your aunt.’ Ha ha ha.”
When he’s not working, Pelphrey has been learning to play an acoustic guitar he got for Christmas, rides his black 2002 Honda American Classic Edition motorcycle and enjoys movies such as the current award-winner, Million Dollar Baby.
He stresses that he’s not only interested in the films of Steven Seagal, and that he may have gone too far in a recently published interview.
“I was doing an interview on the phone and my roommate’s sitting next to me and I was trying to make him laugh so I started talking about Steven Seagal excessively, like he was my hero and my roommate was dying. So I think it got a little blown out of proportion.”
All joking aside, Pelphrey cites Sean Penn, John Malkovich, Billy Bob Thornton and Al Pacino among the stars he looks up to. As for the actors he’s around everyday, he said that he’s closest with Doug Hutchison (Sebastian), Stephanie Gatschet, Crystal Hunt (Lizzie), Scott Bailey and John Driscoll (Coop).
He said he likes calling up Bailey and Driscoll for poker games and in addition to sleeping with every woman on the show, would like to finally have a scene with Driscoll.
“My buddy John, I don’t think I’ve even been in the same room with him yet,” Pelphrey realized. “I’d love to have a scene, I don’t know what about, but then it might be like, ‘Cut! Stick to the script please. Stop laughing.’”
Pelphrey stresses that he loves everyone in the cast and greatly enjoys working at GUIDING LIGHT. One of the ways he’s bonded with his fellow actors is through his pet snake, a Brazilian red tail boa constrictor named Mitch, who happens to play Jonathan’s pet snake, Lou, on the show. Pelphrey inherited the snake in August when his brother Bobby couldn’t take Mitch to college, and is proud to note that Mitch is home right now with the two pet cats he adopted from an animal shelter, Dick and Bert.
Rob Decina worked his magic again and suggested Mitch become a recurring character. Pelphrey laughs uproariously when told some fans have taken to calling him “Snakeboy.” True to Jonathan, he immediately hatches a new pickup line:
“Hey ladies, want to see…” Use your imagination.