In Parts One and Two, and Three of our interview with Lane Davies, the critically acclaimed and beloved actor discussed his career on DAYS OF OUR LIVES and SANTA BARBARA, as well as thoughts about the dumbing down of daytime. In the final part below, Davies discusses his time on GENERAL HOSPITAL, his new role on THE BAY, and making peace with Nancy Lee Grahn. Plus, who did he almost play on GUIDING LIGHT? Find out here!
We Love Soaps: How did the role of Cameron Lewis on GENERAL HOSPITAL come about?
Lane Davies: I had a call from Jill [Farren Phelps] one day. We had stayed in touch over the years. She said, “I think I’ve got something for you.” At that time my friend Lucky Gold over at GUIDING LIGHT had also called and said, ‘We have something for you.” That went back and forth for a bit.
We Love Soaps: Do you remember what the role on GUIDING LIGHT would have been?
Lane Davies: They were looking for someone to work opposite Joan Collins (Alexandra). I’m not sure what happened with that.
We Love Soaps: That probably turned out for the best, she only lasted a couple of months on the show.
Lane Davies: That’s what I heard.
We Love Soaps: Over at GENERAL HOSPITAL you were reunited with many of your SANTA BARBARA costars, including Nancy Lee Grahn. What was it like to work with her again?
Lane Davies: It was fun. It was difficult to get the storyline off the ground. We were taking it very slow. I’m not sure if it was political, but there was always an obstacle to making our story move forward. Either Alexis’ child was at death’s door or she was suffering from Dissociative Disorder, or she was dressing like a man and wearing a beard. In the brief time I was on the show there were not a lot of opportunities to get a romantic storyline off the ground.
We Love Soaps: It seemed your character was ill-defined.
Lane Davies: They couldn’t decide. So I looked at it as a nice job for a year. I was at a point where I was ready to get out of L.A. anyway so I wasn’t crushed when it was over. But it was a little bit frustrating. The writers never got a handle on the character.
We Love Soaps: What surprised you about the way a daytime show was being shot in 2002 versus 1989?
Lane Davies: The way the shows were shot was different. We used to start blocking in the morning and not get around to taping it until four in the afternoon. It took your whole day, and you had no real life off the show, but you got a much more finished performance because you had the whole day to rehearse it. Whereas GENERAL HOSPITAL was block-tape. You go in, you get your blocking, you get your make-up, then you go out there and shoot it. I always felt a little bit like we were shooting a rehearsal. And it felt a little more mechanical than SANTA BARBARA did.
We Love Soaps: Some theater actors have told me they prefer the newer way of shooting, that it’s like doing live theater every day.
Lane Davies: It was nice because you could have a life outside of the studio. At the age I was, I preferred that schedule. That being said, if I had had the dialogue load that I had had on SANTA BARBARA, I don’t think I could have done it. We tried block-tape on SANTA BARBARA for about a week and we all went screaming. It just wasn’t written for block-tape. You could not possibly get a performance like block-tape together unless you went home and spent the entire evening learning lines. So you would end up with less of a life. You’d leave the studio, you’d go home, and you’d have to learn your lines at night in order block-tape them the next day. Whereas on SANTA BARBARA, I didn’t have to look at a script before I went in because I had all day to learn it. On a good day I would read through my stuff three or four times the night before and then not start learning it until after dry blocking.
We Love Soaps: So you’re telling me that some of Mason’s long monologues were learned the same day? How?
Lane Davies: [Laughs] Oh yes. And when I watch The Mason Chronicles I can see some of those days that I was more diligent by the whiteness of my eyes. A [Martinez] and I, just to keep the adrenaline in our system, would not learn a scene well, so we would get out there and be edgy because we were looking in the other guy’s eyes trying to figure out what our next line was.
We Love Soaps: Did it feel more peaceful with Nancy this time around?
Lane Davies: We got along fine. By that time it was her show, it was her part. I wasn’t going to rock the boat. Looking back I probably should have collared her at some point and said, “I think we need to do more to get us noticed.” But hindsight is 20-20.
We Love Soaps: You also had a lot of great scenes with Tony Geary (Luke).
Lane Davies: I loved working with Tony!
We Love Soaps: He is also known as an actor who is able to be spontaneous. Did you find you had a lot in common as actors?
Lane Davies: I know we had a good rapport. He is a very easy guy to work with. I have never met anybody more casual about the work, and as good at it. He has reached a point in his career where he can basically do it with his eyes closed, but his work is always worth watching.
We Love Soaps: He is also someone who has fought against the domestication of his character.
Lane Davies: We are kindred spirits in that regard.
We Love Soaps: Earlier this year, fifteen different critics ranked their choices for the greatest actors on daytime and you came in at #27 on our 50 Greatest Soap Actors ever.
Lane Davies: That’s interesting. That’s amazing, especially considering I was only on SANTA BARBARA for five years. A lot of guys have been doing this longer. I am flattered.
We Love Soaps: So now your work has brought you to THE BAY. Will you and Nicolas Coster be sharing scenes?
Lane Davies: I would assume so. I’m an upper level policeman, and he’s the mayor, so I’m assuming we will. I will also have scenes with Tristan Rogers. And Mary Beth Evans is tied into everyone on the show. I imagine I’ll be working with Charles Shaughnessy. We weren’t on DAYS at the same time, but we go way back. I did an episode of THE NANNY. It will probably be boring for the crew to listen to these old soap dogs trade stories.
We Love Soaps: Oh to be fly on the wall!
Lane Davies: It will be fun.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to the beginning of your career 30 years ago and give yourself a piece of advice, what would that be?
Lane Davies: Probably to “relax.” I think I was much too earnest early on, especially on DAYS. I would just relax and have more of a sense of humor about it. I would have watched myself more. But at the time I didn’t have the time, and I didn’t want to make myself self-conscious.
We Love Soaps: Is there anything you want our readers and future viewers of THE BAY to know?
Lane Davies: I’m just so flattered that Mason is still so fondly remembered and that somebody is interested in seeing me get back on a screen on a new soap.
We Love Soaps: Do you ever doubt that?
Lane Davies: Yes. You look at a calendar and you realize how many years it has been. You think, “Good heavens, there are only a few people alive who will remember that particular show.” When people say they remember me on DAYS, I am stunned. We started SANTA BARBARA twenty-six years ago.
We Love Soaps: Mason connected with the part of all of us that wants to be able to be clever, witty, even mean, yet redeemable. You’ve made an unforgettable impact.
Lane Davies: That’s always good to hear. You can never go wrong telling an actor good things about himself [laughs].
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples 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."