We Love Soaps: Do you think doing something to help others can help someone who is coping with a situation that might otherwise seem hopeless?
Trent Dawson: Yes. It’s a karmic wheel. We are coming up on the 9/11 anniversary. A few years ago I went to a fundraiser after the tsunami, in lower Manhattan. These people who lived down there organized this fundraiser to send bicycles to all these folks who had been wiped out. They said, “We’re doing because the world came and helped us after 9/11.” It’s a karmic wheel.
We Love Soaps: A lot of times when people are upset about changes in daytime my response is, “Do something helpful.” Rarely do you see people proactively engaged with helping others feeling depressed in that moment.
Trent Dawson: Very true because it takes the purpose off yourself and the “Why me?” and “Poor me.” That’s a little spiral that goes down and your ego goes crazy. If you want to talk about how [helping others] can help you, I call it, “Don’t stand in your own fart.” Get out!
We Love Soaps: So as people are reading this and feeling sad about the loss of AS THE WORLD TURNS, what piece of advice might you give?
Trent Dawson: I was struck at the Paley Center how affected people are by this. It’s not just that they are losing the show, they are losing the mom show, the grandmother show. For many this goes back three generations. It’s not just that the show gave people a break in the afternoon, it is, “I was on my mother’s knee when we watched this.” And that again is the uniqueness of a show like this. How you deal with that grief I don’t know because it is like having old family albums destroyed. I don’t know what to tell people. You saying this, and hearing from people, I’m just realizing the depth of this. I thought it was like, “Hey the show is going off the air. LAW AND ORDER is going off the air too...not the same thing.” This is much deeper and generational.
We Love Soaps: I often tell people they can take away the show but they can’t take away the memories. They can’t take away what’s in your heart.
Trent Dawson: Great. That’s the mantra. That’s how you deal with it.
We Love Soaps: Another phrase I use in my practice in, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” Meaning the pain of losing a show is inevitable, nothing is permanent in this world. The suffering we do have control over. Suffering, in this case, are the thoughts, “This shouldn’t be happening; life is so horrible; this is so bad.” As we talk about Katrina and other tragic events we can recognize that there are ways to help, that the world goes on. The "World" on TV is ending. The world we inhabit, the world that connects us, will go on, and there are still ways we can make that good.
Trent Dawson: And I often come across this phrase, “It’s going to be better a month from now.” It looks really bad now, a month from now it’s going to look really different. I remember that a lot when stuff goes down.
We Love Soaps: After GUIDING LIGHT ended, a lot of the cast got together for fan events and did a So Long Springfield tour which has been going on and on wonderfully this past year. It’s really given fans some closure and a chance to share these stories about their grandparents with the actors. Any thoughts or plans about AS THE WORLD TURNS doing that?
Trent Dawson: I think the same people that organized that are starting to approach folks. I think we’re just waiting for GUIDING LIGHT to stop so we can start (laughs). I think there are plans for that. Loosely. There is an organization that puts that together. I think that would be really enjoyable. If the desire it out there then I could see doing it.
We Love Soaps: One thing people can do is to come see you in “The Revival” starting September 14th. I’m guessing that because you were on the show for over 10 years, and you were very well liked by your costars, that a lot of them will be in the audience of “The Revival.”
Trent Dawson: I hope so. I know Colleen [Zenk] is going to be there. She’s been talking about it since I first got cast. I’m sure Teri [Colombino] will be there and Austin [Peck]. Michael [Park] will be there. If you don’t want to see me then come sit next to someone who was on the show.
We Love Soaps: And people who are missing AS THE WORLD TURNS really will want to support the creative efforts performed by actors on the show. That is also a way to stay connected and be proactive in keeping that energy going.
Trent Dawson: And it’s a really good script. I find it very interesting.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to 1999, starting on AS THE WORLD TURNS, and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?
Trent Dawson: “You don’t have to try that hard.” I tried very hard. I cared a lot about doing the right thing. Or, “You don’t have to be perfect,” let’s put it that way. I wanted to be perfect all the time. Perfect in it’s execution. One of my mottos was, “No one is getting overtime while I’m acting.” On first take I know what I’m supposed to do. Now I would give myself a break. I probably would have enjoyed it a bit more instead of saying, [Angrily] “Oh I didn’t...that moment didn’t go...” On daytime they say, “Well it worked for us, we’ve to get going.” I would have given myself a break. Less “shoulds”, I definitely would have gotten rid of the “shoulds.” “You should have done this, you should have done that.” I would have [responded], “Shut up, I shouldn’t do anything.”
We Love Soaps: Are you able to take that advice into your creative work now?
Trent Dawson: Yes. I am. And toward the end of WORLD TURNS I was as well. I said to myself, “You have either got to relax and stop pressuring yourself to be perfect all the time, or you are just going to explode.” Once I did that it became that Al-Anon thing, love with detachment. I found I could love my job and do all the things I did before, but not throw in my entire heart, and not take it home with me. That made it more pleasurable. I’m able to do that now in this role in this play. I’m constantly thinking about this role, I have a lot of responsibility in this show, but I’m not beating myself up about it.
We Love Soaps: The one thing I’ve learned from so many actors on GUIDING LIGHT over the past year is how this ending has propelled creatively to try doing things they may not have tried otherwise.
Trent Dawson: I think that’s true. As much as I enjoyed playing Henry, it become a grind. The last thing you are thinking of is other creative outlets. You are focused on, “I have six scenes today, I have 40 pages of dialogue...” You become narrowly focused creatively. Now the world is my oyster.
We Love Soaps: Might that include another soap at some point?
Trent Dawson: It might if they quit leaving New York. We’d have to see what it was. I wouldn’t turn it down.
EDITOR'S NOTE: To watch the complete video of this interview with Trent Dawson, please watch WLS TV #2.01. Then Purchase your tickets to "The Revival" here.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families 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."