We Love Soaps: On DAYS you are playing Dr. Daniel Jonas, a doctor / surfer.
Shawn Christian: My own backstory is that he was a doctor without borders. He traveled, he did great quality work as a physician in these countries, and then would have some free time to drop a board and hit a wave. It was part of his life style.
We Love Soaps: What made you want to return to daytime after doing so much primetime work and film?
Shawn Christian: They came to me with an opportunity, and talked to me about this character. Timing is everything. I thought, “Alright, let’s go to work, let’s play.” It wasn’t a hard decision. I still have had the opportunity to do films.
We Love Soaps: How would you describe the character of Dr. Daniel Jonas?
Shawn Christian: He’s impulsive to a fault, which is a blessing and a curse. If he feels it, it’s coming. He’s going to lay it out there for better or for worse. That’s where he gets himself in trouble, he doesn’t wrangle in a lot of those impulses.
We Love Soaps: Impulses?
Shawn Christian: Certainly with women. And for being a doctor. He wants that living on the edge life-or-death experience as a physician. He craves it. There’s a reason he’s a doctor. This guys needs to be in the O.R., and to know that someone’s life is going to be in his hands. He wants that pressure. He’s an adrenaline junkie, and that equates to surfing. One bad wave and you crash, you’re dead, you’re done. He craves that experience. Even when he ran into Chloe he was impressed she had traveled the world. He had seen her singing on stage in Austria. She has great passion, and you can see how these two characters crashed and collided and burned everything around them. And then be able to look at each other and say, “You’re still here.” That continues to play itself out.
We Love Soaps: Is Daniel’s desire to settle down with Chloe and be a stable father for Melanie in contrast with his need to wander and need for adrenaline?
Shawn Christian: No. What it speaks to is his desire to do it all. He thinks, “I can be a father, I can protect my daughter’s mother, and I can be the best husband you can possibly happen,” with that same vigor and passion and intensity. It’s difficult to juggle all that. Something has to give. So there comes in the depth and complexity. He thinks, “Melanie is dissatisfied because I can’t be the father she wants me to be, Carly is left empty because I’m not sharing myself as I did when we were friends, and I’m not completely available to Chloe either.” So now, thinking he can do it all, creates havoc in his entire world.
We Love Soaps: And he is now limited as a doctor.
Shawn Christian: Exactly! That’s all on the edge, and he loves it. He thinks he can do it all.
We Love Soaps: Initially Daniel seemed rather undefined, but that has changed since Gary Tomlin came on as Executive Producer.
Shawn Christian: Gary knows how I tick. They do a wonderful job of tormenting my psyche. They take me to some extraordinary places in my mind.
We Love Soaps: What was that like for you not to have much character direction in that first year?
Shawn Christian: You do a lot of backstory. You come into a scene loaded with backstory, something that is truthful for you. And then you hope that the people who don’t know you get to know you, and the writers have done a great job of that.
We Love Soaps: Many of your colleagues, including Martha Byrne and Crystal Chappell, have gone on to develop and produce internet web series. Is that something that has ever appealed to you?
Shawn Christian: Yes, absolutely. You see how successful Crystal is with VENICE THE SERIES.
We Love Soaps: Nadia and Crystal are both on VENICE. And it’s on the beach!
Shawn Christian: I said to them, “If you need a homeless man who is scrounging on the beach, like some has-been surfer dude who washed up on the shore and has great words of wisdom, I’m that guy.”
We Love Soaps: Even though it takes place on Venice Beach, none of the characters seem to surf.
Shawn Christian: I could be a has-been hippie guy who is trying to put his life together, and sees all these women trying to put their lives together. He can skitter them along with his own words of wisdom.
We Love Soaps: I have a quote from an interview you gave in 1994, during which time you said, “My buddies would say, 'Oh, you're going to get hooked up with the entertainment crowd.' That's kind of your biggest fear: 'Oh, my God. Am I going to become a freakazoid?'.” Do you remember that?
Shawn Christian: I was just having this conversation with someone today. Somebody in the midwest was asking me if I still have my midwestern roots. My family and friends told me, “Don’t ever lose who you are. That’s why you are where you are at. Once you lose who you are, the rest falls apart.” That’s one thing I hope that I have been able to hold onto. Who I am as a person, how I grew up.
We Love Soaps: What have you held onto?
Shawn Christian: My optimistic passion. My desires. Thank God I’ve been a working actor, and I have not been beaten down. I’ve been rejected on a daily basis for films and television. But I have been able to maintain my almost youthful passion and desire in knowing what I’m doing.
We Love Soaps: When you wondered in 1994 if you were going to become a “Freakazoid”, what did you mean?
Shawn Christian: The self absorbed narcissistic actor who ends up in therapy or rehab. It’s a cliché: that kid from a small town who has big dreams, gets hooked up in being a celebrity and then loses himself. And as a result he’s on, “Where Are They Now?”
We Love Soaps: Was that ever a temptation for you to go in that direction?
Shawn Christian: No, I’ve got a pretty solid foundation from my parents and from my friends.
We Love Soaps: How does a successful actor in Los Angeles not give into that?
Shawn Christian: You look and you watch some of these huge names. You decide, “I want to be like that... I don’t want to be like that...” Through observation, watching people, sharing the screen with people, I’m able to get a sense of what’s true to me and what’s not. It’s not easy, trust me. It takes personal work.
We Love Soaps: What is the personal work that keeps you grounded?
Shawn Christian: Part if it is playing basketball, part of it is working out, part of it is meditation. Getting involved in life and other things. It’s very easy to worry about the next gig. But then I need to take a breath, relax, mediate, chill out, do something not related to the business.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to the beginning of playing Mike on AS THE WORLD TURNS, what advice would you give yourself?
Shawn Christian: Stay true to who you are. That is a mantra.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve".