Ron Hale: The We Love Soaps Interview, Part One

Any ABC soap fan worth their bubbles recognizes the names "Roger Coleridge" and "Mike Corbin."  These are two staples of ABC daytime history brought to vivid life by the talented and fascinating actor Ron Hale.  But how does he see the impact of his creations, and what is the next step in his long career?  The answers to all of these are coming up over this series of interviews.  Please enjoy!

In Part One, Hale discusses his pre-RYAN'S HOPE career, including hanging out with Robert Redford.  For what role did he have to gain 40 pounds? Find out below!

We Love Soaps: I am so glad to speak with you Ron and to use this space to celebrate your contributions to daytime.  You recently came in [at #47 on] our Best 50 Soap Actors Ever list.  This was based on rankings by 15 different soap critics and journalists who have covered the genre over the past 35 years. 
Ron Hale: That is quite something.  One of our directors came up to me the other day and said, “Hey, you made the Top 50!”  A lot of people saw that and heard about that. 

We Love Soaps: Let’s go back 41 years ago to when a young actor starting out was cast on SEARCH FOR TOMORROW
Ron Hale: Which I remember basically nothing about.  Honest to God, it was such a short stint.  The main thing I remember was being in awe about how they did this thing with three cameras so quickly.  A lot of the older actors had been for years, it was such a learning experience.  Learning to tone everything down, I remember, because I was not on stage. 

We Love Soaps: You are primarily a theater trained actor.  Did daytime work help support your theater work?
Ron Hale: I think so, sure.  I did SEARCH, LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING.  I don’t know if I want to say those two shows gave me a leg up on other people, but at least I had done it enough that I knew the drill.  I knew how hard I had to prepare.  It’s just technical things like if you’re sitting down on a sofa, or getting up from a sofa, don’t do it too fast so the camera guys can follow you.  Just little stuff like that.

We Love Soaps: Did you have to change the way you speak or articulate for television versus theater?
Ron Hale: Back in the day when I was doing live theater, nobody was miked.  Of course now everyone is miked in all musicals.  It was all about projection, you had to fill a one thousand seat theater and make sure the “real theater lovers,” that is, those in the balcony, could hear everything.  Of course when you are projecting like that, you are trying to be honest and real in what you are doing.  That’s a whole different art form because you have to speak rather loudly, with feeling, and make it real.  So going into daytime, today you could practically whisper in a scene today and they are going to pick it up.  But back then you had to speak in a conversational tone.  That was difficult I think for most actors coming to daytime with theater training, that the first few times you can just talk like a person.  It’s kind of a relief after awhile, to realize you don’t have to have people half a block away hear you.  So when I got to the point when I was doing the auditions for RYAN’S HOPE, I had some confidence going into it from that standpoint. 

We Love Soaps: What do you recall about working on LOVE IS A MANY SPLENDORED THING?
Ron Hale: John Conboy was the producer.  He was a good friend of my agent.  He had seen my theater work, and really wanted to get me on the show.  He brought me in for two different roles over a year and a half and I just wasn’t right for any of them.  Finally he called me in for Dr. Jim Abbott.  I got the role, and everyone was excited.  I had been on the show for a month when I was called into his office.  I thought, “Oh my Gosh, am I screwing this up badly?” He told me that they were very happy with what I was doing, and he was thrilled I was there, but that the show was going off the air.  Apparently they all knew this when I was hired.  They knew that we only had about another six months, which I obviously didn’t know.   He told me he was going to go out to L.A. to start producing a new show, which I’m sure was YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS.

In hindsight, it was quite tense around there.  A lot of these actors had been on there a long time and they were going to be unemployed.  Over the years people tend to get along with each other in a work situation.  But when they know it’s going to end, sometimes they stop being as polite as they used to be.  So there were some tense moments with actors going at each other.  But again, it was a great experience. 

We Love Soaps: Unfortunately, this has become more and more commonplace in recent years.
Ron Hale: Oh yeah.  It’s getting scary out there.  I heard yesterday that GH is only going to be filming like three weeks out of the month.  That it’s going to be taking  a week off every frigging month! I guess this saves money.  I don’t know how this saves money, but that seems to be what they are going to do.  Again, this is just what I hear, and I don’t have my ear to the ground when it comes to what’s going on in the business.  And certainly I don’t know what’s going on with other shows.  But it seems like with the bits and pieces I get that daytime is having a rough time. 

We Love Soaps: You were cast in what myself and many other readers consider to be one of the very best soaps, at one of the very best times to be working in daytime.  Tell me what you were doing when RYAN’S HOPE came your way.
Ron Hale: I was in Washington, D.C. doing All the President's Men. It was a very rainy day when I auditioned.  I got there a half hour before my interview with Robert Redford.  The appointment was 1 p.m. in the afternoon, and he didn’t show.  It became 45 minutes later, I’m still sitting there.  All of the sudden, the doors open in this beautiful office and he comes running in soaked to death, apologizing to me up and down.  Remember, it was 1975, people didn’t have cell phones.  He was apologizing because his meeting ran late, he couldn’t get a cab.  He said, “Come with me to the office,” and he kept on apologizing for holding me up.  This is Robert Redford!  So we chatted, and we talked about everything in the world except acting.  We did not discuss theater or movies or movie stars.  We talked about politics and sports.  I don’t know if it was out of kindness because he was so late, but I must have sat there for 40 minutes, we just talked.  He basically said to me, “This role I’m interviewing you for, to be completely honest, is really a ‘nothing’ role.  You'll be seen for  a few seconds.  The characters is 20 years older than you and 40 pounds heavier.”  We ended the interview, shook hands, and again he apologized profusely.

Then about four weeks later my agent called and said, “I have a message for you.  Mr. Redford says to age 20 years, gain 40 pounds, and head on down to Washington, D.C. in a week.”  I played one of the Watergate burglars.  You don’t really see me, you get a glimpse of me here and there.  But this was a two week gig that turned into four.  One day we were doing a location shot.  We were outside the trailers.  [Redford] came out of his trailer, asked me if I was a good catcher, went back into his trailer, threw me a mitt, and he started pitching to me.  We spent a half hour there throwing the baseball.  That was really cool.

So I was doing that when I got the call to come to New York to audition with Shirley Rich for RYAN’S HOPE.  She said, “Great Ron, I always love your work.”  I went back to Washington and a week or so later my agent called and said, “They want to see you again.”  I went back, read with Paul [Avila Mayer] and Claire [Labine].  They put me on tape.  I guess it was a Roger/Jillian scene.  I did my thing on tape, they were all sitting there watching.  Claire was very effusive, saying, “Oh, that was wonderful.”  I said, “Thanks a lot.”  I was getting up to leave when they said, “We know you have to go to Washington, but would you mind staying and doing the same scene with a couple more actresses?” I said, “Sure, no problem.”  Something  inside me said, “This is really a good sign.”  A few weeks later I got the call, “They want you.” That was the beginning of a wonderful run.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Two in which Hale discusses what made RYAN'S HOPE so magical from his perspective, and how the Roger/Delia relationship came to flourish.  Plus, is that really a twinkle in his eye that you see on screen? Find out in Part Two!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve," currently available at Amazon.com. For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at Shouldless@gmail.com.

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