His track record in daytime is legendary. He is the self-proclaimed holder of the most daytime roles in history. His scene stealing turns on each of these soaps have earned him critical acclaim and fan loyalty. But how does the profoundly gifted Nicolas Coster perceive his career, and his responsibility to give back to others? Please join me for this revealing interview in which we review Mr. Coster's nine television soaps, plus his exciting new role as the Mayor of THE BAY.
We Love Soaps: We are so excited about the beginning of THE BAY. How did this project come your way?
Nicolas Coster: Gregori Martin is adventurous and I just love his spirit. He has this friendly and assertive manner. I’ve been so fascinated by the internet and Facebook. I have a whole legion of new fans, young women and men, as well as some of my more mature audience from yesteryear with whom I correspond. Some of them have become such good friends of mine. So it’s kind of terrific at my advanced stage of disrepair to have a whole new legion of interested people. They are interested in what I’m about to do. So Gregori asked me if I was interested. I saw him create stuff so quickly and with such craftsmanship. I’ve rarely seen anybody his age with such sharp craft in his writing, his plotting, and character development. I really wish him well.
We Love Soaps: You are playing the mayor of THE BAY?
Nicolas Coster: Yes, Jack Madison. There will be a spin-off.
We Love Soaps: Is he on the up-and-up or does he have some skeletons in his closet?
Nicolas Coster: He's got a whole lot of things in his closet. He has a secret agenda, or agendas. I don’t think he’ll be boring.
We Love Soaps: It’s so great to see you see in this new medium of internet storytelling. I’m not sure a lot of people realize that you started on soaps when television was a relatively new medium.
Nicolas Coster: You’re right. I was on the first color soap opera in history, YOUNG DOCTOR MALONE [in 1962]. It was out in Brooklyn. That was live TV. Jada Rowland was one of the most delicious actresses I had ever worked with. She played Amy on THE SECRET STORM. She was a child when she started on the show, and then she was only 19 by the time I got to her [in 1964]. I was 29, and we played the first professor and student that ever got naughty together on daytime television. We had an affair and eventually got married, but not before the U.S. Senate brought us up as an example of immorality on daytime television. We were not even allowed to take off any article of clothing. We never did any more than hug and kiss a couple of times on a bear skin rug. That was considered immoral at the time. Isn’t that amazing how television has either gone up hill or down hill, depending on how you see it?
We Love Soaps: Were you on THE SECRET STORM when Joan Crawford made her infamous appearance?
Nicolas Coster: I was there indeed. Keith Charles was a very good friend of mine, I think he and I hold the record for appearing on the most soaps. Keith was the guy who got to play opposite Joan Crawford. Now, her daughter had been on THE SECRET STORM before her, that’s how this happened. So he was playing opposite Joan, and he was most tactful. He was a Southern gentleman. He and Lane Davies were the two southern gentlemen I have worked with. I did not actually work with her.
We Love Soaps: Here was a Hollywood actress coming into to replace her daughter in a soap role. What was it like on the set given the circumstances?
Nicolas Coster: It was grotesque [laughs], an example of vanity run amok. She certainly didn’t need the money. Years and years later I was appearing opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the play “The Little Foxes.” She and I were very good chums. We had gone on to the same private school in England before The War. We went back to London, had a great time. When we got back to the L.A., she said to me, “Nicky, come here I’ve been offered a soap opera, what do you think?” I said, “Oh Elizabeth, you don’t need to do that for God’s sake.” She said, “They’re going to give me $40,000 of clothes, I’m gonna do it.” Then I watched her on GENERAL HOSPITAL. The next performance I said to her, “Elizabeth, I know how to be an actor, you know how to be a star.” I have kept that idea in mind. She created a whole new audience for herself in just a couple of days. Millions of people who really weren’t that familiar with her got to know her instantly. She said, “Nicky, I had so much fun.” I learned that from her. So when Gregori Martin called me for THE BAY, I did not pull a Nic Coster, I pulled an Elizabeth Taylor.
We Love Soaps: Did Gregori give you an entire office for your fish aquarium as well?
Nicolas Coster: Yeah, sure.
We Love Soaps: Speaking of memorable soap roles, you were on the only primetime spin-off of a daytime soap opera. OUR PRIVATE WORLD spun off from AS THE WORLD TURNS in 1965.
Nicolas Coster: With Eileen Fulton. I was playing Lisa’s husband, John Eldridge. It was not the big hit we anticipated. So I went back to AS THE WORLD TURNS as her husband. I don’t know about Eileen at that time. She was terribly disappointed the series wasn’t a hit. I guess we all were, but I didn’t think it was that tragic or anything. And then again, it wasn’t my only way of making a living.
We Love Soaps: Did she take it personally?
Nicolas Coster: I think so. I didn’t see her for years until I was hired to be her boyfriend and eventual husband Eduardo. But I guess it was a major career disappointment for her. So I went back to THE SECRET STORM after that. Gloria [Monty] was very creative. She could be difficult, but never uncreative.
We Love Soaps: Then you went on to ANOTHER WORLD and SOMERSET as Robert Delaney in the 1970s.
Nicolas Coster: Oh boy did we have fun doing ANOTHER WORLD. Susan Sullivan (Lenore) and I had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. People asked, “What is it with you two?” It’s that we showed that making love can be fun, not just serious stuff.
We Love Soaps: Did you find that the television standards were becoming more relaxed?
Nicolas Coster: Definitely. I think husbands and wives could be shown in the same bed by that point. When I was on THE SECRET STORM and YOUNG DOCTOR MALONE you couldn’t be in the same bed, even if you were married. And you couldn’t use the word, “pregnant.” You had to say, “with child.” That was fifty years ago. Weird.
We Love Soaps: Your character Robert went from SOMERSET to ANOTHER WORLD. How did that change come about?
Nicolas Coster: Lyle Hill (Executive Producer), who I shall say very little about, except he was, shall we say, somewhat autocratic, and we’ll leave it that; he and I didn’t get along terribly well. But Paul Rauch, who had taken over ANOTHER WORLD, was wildly creative. He said, “Nicky, you wanna come over here?” I said, “Damn right!” He talked Procter & Gamble into writing my character into ANOTHER WORLD. And, of course, Lenore and Robert became quite well known because of it.
The show was the #1 daytime show in the country at the time. We had all sorts of fun. I got to judge Miss America contests. It was the first nationwide celebrity status I had obtained. Simultaneously I was starring in a Broadway show with Sada Thompson called “Twigs,” for which she got the Tony. I was her leading man. I represented the United States in a play in Europe celebrating our bicentennial in 1976 written by the great Robert Lowell. I was starring opposite Roscoe Lee Brown, the great African-American actor. It was my heyday.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for Part Two in which this distinguished actor shares memories of ANOTHER WORLD, including working with Beverlee McKinsey, Douglass Watson, and Paul Rauch. Plus, what devastating accident nearly cost him his arm in the early 1980s? Find out in Part Two.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and is now taking new clients 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."