We Love Soaps: I remember your time on AS THE WORLD TURNS (1994-97), during which the show was going through a lot of backstage changes, and lots of experimentation with different story telling methods.
Shawn Christian: Right.
We Love Soaps: What are your memories of playing Mike Kasnoff?
Shawn Christian: I think the stock car racing and the garage, which to me both seemed like really unique sets for soap operas. I literally had a dirty garage, with a car parked in it, on the set. I’m like, “Wow this isn’t really glamorous, and I love it. It’s kind of raw, it’s kind of dirty, and it’s very real.” That’s what I loved about Mike. He was a guy from the wrong side of the tracks and had lots of issues, but he felt very raw and real. Like people watching the show really have husbands who work in a garage, and have similar struggles.
We Love Soaps: That was quite a contrast to most of the Oakdale population.
Shawn Christian: It was quite different from the high society of Oakdale. That’s what I mean by having both. People were in tuxes and gowns sipping champagne in mansions, that’s a beautiful thing to watch. But then you had the other side of that. The guy from the other side of the tracks living in the trenches. You harmonize both, and that was a wonderful thing for the show.
We Love Soaps: I think that contrast is what caught on so well for you and Yvonne Perry (Rosanna), that tension between the haves and have-nots.
Shawn Christian: And that’s classic story telling.
We Love Soaps: You were in one of Maura West’s very first scenes on the show. Did you have any way of knowing that she was going to become a lead heroine for the next 15 years at the beginning?
Shawn Christian: I just texted her yesterday. I said, “You are just a phenomenal actress.” Working with her, I got it. She has depth, understanding, she has many emotions at her disposal.
We Love Soaps: Did she have all those in 1995?
Shawn Christian: I’m sure they were in there. The role only requires you to bring out what you have in the moment. So now they know have a gold mine in Maura. They have tried to twist her and torture to see what is in there. And she has always risen to the occasion. She’s trained, so you know she’s got the goods. Then when she gets the material you are assured she has the goods and can deliver them.
We Love Soaps: You also did a fair amount of work during your last year with Martha Byrne.
Shawn Christian: Yes, she and I worked together! I think Maura left for a little bit, so Mike was floundering around as a single guy. I don’t think Holden was on at that time. But Martha knows her stuff too. She knows the genre, she knows the business, both aspects of it. She gets it.
We Love Soaps: What led to you to leave AS THE WORLD TURNS?
Shawn Christian: I was looking for new experiences. Nothing more. I had a great time. In fact, they asked me to stay a little longer and I was said, “Yeah, I’ll do it.” But I wanted to look for more experiences, that’s it.
We Love Soaps: One can see that you have since made dozens of appearances on primetime. Included in that list were appearances in the ninth season of BEVERLY HILLS, 90210. What was that like?
Shawn Christian: It was awesome. I met Aaron [Spelling] and he said, “I want you on this show.” He put me on CHARMED, PACIFIC PALISADES, he was so wonderful. He gets me in his office, puts his arm around me, and says, “Let me just tell you something, son. You are doing this role.” They asked me to do their final season of 90210, but there were other things on the table at that time, and I balked. I didn’t take that opportunity. But Aaron Spelling took great care of me when I came to L.A. for a variety of shows and roles.
We Love Soaps: What was it like around that ensemble on 90210 who had been working together for a decade?
Shawn Christian: Well, you come in, and these people have been working together for years, so it’s like clockwork. On FRIENDS it was the same deal. On WILL & GRACE it was the same deal. So as a guest star, you’ve got to jump in on a river that is already moving. And you have to act like you have been here all along. Anytime I’m on a show where there is a guest star I always welcome them in, “Come on in, the water is fine.” I make them comfortable, and let them play. That’s what these people have taught me when I jumped in on these shows.
We Love Soaps: You went from being the core of an ensemble on AS THE WORLD TURNS to being the guest on these well established ensembles. Was that ever intimidating?
Shawn Christian: One of the first shows I did was ELLEN. I didn’t know what to expect but they had been doing the show forever, and she is a genius. She’s so funny, and generous. This was my first sitcom. There’s a rhythm to it. You have to have these pauses, allow for laughs, let the audience jump in. Ellen got right with me and said, “Okay Shawn, when you open the door, let it sit. Just watch, we’ll get a huge laugh.” I thought, “Oh my God, she’s bringing me into her world.” Then she would talk with me off the set and I thought, “This is it, I am not intimidated.” [Watch this scene below]:
We Love Soaps: Then you joined the cast of ONE LIFE TO LIVE in 2002 as the character of Ross. What led you to return to daytime in New York after doing so much primetime in Los Angeles?
Shawn Christian: My current executive producer Gary [Tomlin] was the executive producer of that show at the time. I had done a pilot for John Woo and was on hold. So it the role was a month, some in New York and some in Hawaii. They asked, “Do you want to do this role?” And I said, “Wait a minute? What? I’m going to be in Hawaii doing a soap? Where do I sign up?” That was a no-brainer.
We Love Soaps: Was there ever an option for your character to come back to Llanview?
Shawn Christian: I don’t know. I just knew we were going to be abandoned on that island and live like the Swiss Family Robinson for awhile. Then anything’s possible. But I had to go to back to work on the show “Red Skies,” which turned out to be a movie. We didn’t do the series, but we had to film more to make it a movie. So I wasn’t able to go back to ONE LIFE, and then SUMMERLAND came up.
We Love Soaps: What was it like to work with Roger Howarth?
Shawn Christian: We were in Hawaii, it was awesome! He’s another cool cat who has been around the block. He’s been on the show, he knows how to make this thing work, he knows how to deliver. I had been on a soap, so it worked out fantastic. We actually spent some real quality time together in Hawaii.
We Love Soaps: How about Florencia Lozano?
Shawn Christian: Same thing. We were on this island, all kind of thrown together. You’re on an island in the ocean all working together. In between takes we say, “Wait a minute, we’re out here on floating around on a beach, hanging out?” We bonded. She was fantastic. Emotionally, she had most of the legwork and she did it. I thought, “How can you act this sad, we’re on the beach!”
We Love Soaps: Both your soap characters, Mike Kasnoff and Ross Rayburn, were later recasted and became central catalysts for drama on each show. I think that speaks to the initial impression you made that the writers and fans were interested enough to bring these characters back in a different form.
Shawn Christian: Thank you. For me, I am serving this character. I am serving Mike, I am serving Ross, I am serving Daniel. That’s what the show is about. It’s not about serving Shawn Christian. It’s about the lives of these characters. It’s flattering that they continued with these characters. You hope you’ve created enough of a foundation and enough mystery about a character that people want to know more.
We Love Soaps: Now from what I understand, SUMMERLAND was a huge success in its first year. Then what happened?
Shawn Christian: It was powers beyond our control. That was a great show to do. I mean, we’re in Malibu three days a week, filming on the beach! But there were a lot of power shifts in executive positions at the network [W.B.]. I think at the time the new Executive Producer was trying to create a new identity with this show. I don’t know if they wanted to get rid of the frog or what. But like I was telling you, having a marketing degree, I didn’t take it personally. I think it’s a shame, because it certainly had a place it the marketplace of television. It was family drama. An unconventional family on the beach. But this is also what you are getting with Secrets Of The Mountain.
We Love Soaps: I’m noticing a bit of a pattern with all these roles you’ve described. They all involve scenes where you’re not wearing a whole lot of clothing.
Shawn Christian: [Laughs] I was on an interview this morning and was asked, “Do you ever have your shirt on?” I said, “No, I’m doing this interview shirtless as we speak.”
We Love Soaps: What is it like for you to be seen on these shows as, for lack of a better term, a sex symbol?
Shawn Christian: I’m going to take what I can get while I can get it. It ain’t gonna be there forever.
We Love Soaps: We’ve been talking a lot about marketing. These shows obviously see your body as a tool for marketing. How do you feel about that?
Shawn Christian: It’s part of the gig. Now, you have to something behind that. You don’t just want to be up there on the screen hamming it up without a shirt, you hope to have substance behind it, which is what I hope to bring to it. As long as I can back it up with the work I don’t care what I’m wearing...or not wearing. You also have to be able to laugh at yourself a bit and be humble.
We Love Soaps: Do you ever feel pressure to look a certain way, to keep your body in shape as a marketing tool?
Shawn Christian: No, I don’t see it as pressure. I have a lot of energy anyway, I need to burn it off somehow. But even when I was in L.A. someone said, “You’re working out too much, you don’t look like this kind of role.” So you tone it down to be lawyerish or doctorish. Maybe I give myself these mind puzzles, but I don’t feel pressure. For me exercising and working out is part of my lifestyle, it helps me feel better. I’ve got to burn this energy off or I will go stir crazy. But trust me, anyone who knows they are going to be seen shirtless in a week or two are like, “Man I’d better hit the gym.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for the final part of our interview as we discuss what makes Daniel tick on DAYS. We also explore how he has stayed grounded and resisted becoming a "freakazoid."
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".