Catching Up With ONE LIFE TO LIVE's Jerry verDorn, Part One
Posted by Damon L. Jacobs
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Jerry it is so nice to meet you. I have admired your work on GUIDING LIGHT and ONE LIFE TO LIVE. You have been on our screens consistently now for 31 years, playing two very different characters.
Jerry verDorn: Oddly enough, Ross Marler, who I played [on GUIDING LIGHT], was more of a stretch. People had a hard time imagining me as anyone else. But I’m essentially a North Dakota cowboy who was asked to play this Kennedy-esque person. And that was fine, I got into it. I wore a lot of suspenders and a lot of suits. I gave a lot of speeches during a lot of trials, memorized a lot of words. But when I got the role of Clint I thought, “He can breathe, he can relax.” Plus, I’ve been wearing the most comfortable cowboy boots in the world the last five years. It’s been a wonderful change.
Jerry verDorn: Clint has a great deal of power. And I’m just privileged to play the role. Clint Richie did such a wonderful job for so many years. I got to work with Phil Carey when I first came on. And still with Bob Woods. To walk into a historical show like this and play a historical character is quite intimidating because you don’t want to mess it up. In regards to Clint, he has an agenda. It can go down several roads, and some of that could be pretty rough. The things he has got his fingers in now lead to Viki, Dorian, Matthew.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How does Matthew [Eddie Alderson] play into Clint’s agenda right now?
Jerry verDorn: We had a scene some years ago where Asa looked at Matthew, who was eleven or twelve-years-old at the time, and said, “You’ve got something in you, boy. You look like a Buchanan that can actually run the place.” This is wonderful because the story comes out of past history. Matthew has been “Buchananized” and he’s now an intern at Buchanan Enterprises, fulfilling Asa’s prophesy that he is the one who will lead the next generation. This, perhaps, will cause conflict with his parents (laughs).
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It certainly could. Bo has already stood up against that kind of wheeling and dealing.
Jerry verDorn: And Bo once did what Matthew is doing now. Asa brought him in, tossed him around, and tried to figure out if he was any good at business. Bo did not have a good experience. So Bo was very weary when I broke the news that I had offered Matthew the job and he accepted. And I’m sure down the line Nora won’t be too pleased.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And that could bring Clint much enjoyment.
Jerry verDorn: Yes, the revenge factor may not be out of the question.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Clint got a pretty raw deal in that whole marriage to Nora.
Jerry verDorn: Yes, even though he should have known in his heart of hearts that it wouldn’t work. But she said “yes,” they walked down the aisle, and that came to no good. Even while we were taking vows she was making eyes at Bo!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Was Clint oblivious? Or in some kind of denial?
Jerry verDorn: I think he was in denial, and also a victim. If love is blind, he really led the cart. He saw what he wanted to see and would overlook a lot of other stuff. Bo and Nora were doing a lot of things to help injured Matthew at the time. Clint would say, “Okay, use my plane, do what’s best for your kid.” Then with the Kim situation, talk about a broken heart going into flames! Right on the heels of Nora this thing walked into his life, it kind of worked for some reason, and then to have it disappear in a week, that could set a man off. Especially a man who happens to be the son of Asa. I think the sins of the father are coming to visit the son. And that happens so much in life, especially with the oldest son. You can see the Asa parts popping out of Clint, much to everyone’s chagrin. Viewers will find it very tasty because it involves so many of the veteran characters. All the Buchanans, my daughters, I’m going to make a mess of a lot of things.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In your mind, does Clint still have feelings for Viki?
Jerry verDorn: In my mind I play that all the time. He has a deep seeded feelings. In their youth they really hit it off, shared children. Even after all the things that have happened. If she can survive me being with Dorian she can survive anything.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How about somebody new catching Clint’s eye?
Jerry verDorn: That’s always a possibility that I yearn for. And Clint has an old friend that is about to show up in Llanview.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That’s right! Kim Zimmer is returning to ONE LIFE TO LIVE. You two worked together a lot at GUIDING LIGHT.
Jerry verDorn: We worked together over two decades. I did a lot of story with Kim back then. I think she is a great addition. She is so much a good energy. She works fast, which you need, we sometimes shoot multiple episodes a day. It goes 100 miles an hour and she can handle that. She always gets along with the people on the floor, it’s a huge addition. Plus I think she is going to bring along with her thousands of orphaned GUIDING LIGHT viewers who got their visual novel taken away from them and are still in mourning. I still see them at events, some of them really don’t know what to do. It’s like the book was only half done and somewhat took it away from them. In a way it’s just sad.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Something that I thought was sad about the ending of GUIDING LIGHT was that we never got closure with Ross. He was the soul of that show for so many years.
Jerry verDorn: I was the way Bobby Woods is on this show. As a matter of fact, we came on our shows the same month and same year in 1979. They did the best they could. I was under contract at ABC so I couldn’t go do the show. The odd thing is, they did the final show in my hometown, Sparta, New Jersey. The Vanessa/Billy wedding was at the country club there. I drove on my boat and waved.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So Ross might have been there somewhere at the end?
Jerry verDorn: (Laughs), Maybe somewhere. But having Kim come back is so nice. In the past six months or so, ONE LIFE has turned into a really good soap. It’s what people like. A lot of infighting, a lot of characters from all the generations on the canvas, it’s good stuff. Kim is reprising a character she started 20-some years ago, some viewers may not know that. I had to go to the show historian, Erika Slezak, who remembers everything. In illuminous detail. She filled me on Echo. It sounds delicious.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What did you learn about Echo?
Jerry verDorn: She came between Clint and Viki, and not good things happened.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That sounds like it will be interesting. It’s been a treat to see other GUIDING LIGHT alums show up in Llanview, including Jessica Leccia.
Jerry verDorn: And my daughter on GUIDING LIGHT [Gina Tognoni], is now my ex-daughter-in-law here. That was the tough thing about coming to this show. It would have been fine if you come to a show that is older than 20-years-old and you play a new character. But when you play an established character like I did, it took my a full calendar year to figure out everything, just statistically, then emotionally. And like I said, Erika with her vast knowledge, filled me in quite a bit. But for the first year I played scenes in neutral trying to not to screw things up.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It was bittersweet. It was sad to see you leave GUIDING LIGHT, yet it was nice to see that if one show wasn’t going to use you, another show would. At the same time, that first it seemed he was doing un-Clint like things.
Jerry verDorn: I did have a nice sidebar to it, that Clint hadn’t been on screen for about five or six years. The character had been in London, so lots of things could happen to the character, and that helps with the recast. Sometimes with a recast if one ends on Friday and it picks up on Monday, the audience is up in arms. This go-round the audience was a little kinder to me. There was always that [response], “That’s not Clint..” But I saw that happen at GUIDING LIGHT. We had a couple of Ed Bauers, who was a tentpole character. We only had three Eds in thirty years, but it was one of those things where one ends of Friday and the new one starts on Monday, that’s hard to do.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back tomorrow for Part Two in which the courageous actors speaks about his struggles with prostate cancer, gives Damon advice on early detection, as well as his perspective on how to keep daytime alive. Or, go to WE LOVE SOAPS TV #1.72 to watch the entire video of this interview.
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."