I remember first seeing Michael Woods when he played "Dr. Jim Reardon" on GUIDING LIGHT...during the Golden Years when kid sister Nola was running around Springfield causing mayhem and Philip Spaulding & Mindy Lewis were the picture-perfect teen sensations of Daytime Drama. Tall, dark and chiseled, Woods' matinee idols looks and manner brought sex appeal and authority to the Reardon clan and, as the son of a doctor in real-life, the actor thought he'd have some gravitas to play.
"After working with [producer] Gail Kobe on TEXAS, a lot of the GL cast and crew were already like family to me. I liked it a whole lot. Harley Kozak ("Annabelle Reardon") and I were already friends and always really close (and still in frequent contact)...Greg Beecroft ("Tony Reardon"), Robert Newman ("Josh Lewis"), Grant Aleksander ("Philip Spaulding"), Michael Tylo ("Quint"). Krista Tesreau ("Mindy Lewis")... we were all pretty close. [Susan] Pratt ("Claire") was a hoot. Interestingly, Michael had some real life medical experience, having worked as a Hemo Dialysis Technician...driving across his home state of Michigan in a van, keeping kidneys viable for emergency transplants. Reminds me of the old commercial, "I'm not a doctor... but I play one on TV!"
But plots eventually evolved into the outrageous or melodramatic and Michael wasn't comfortable having "Jim" commit adultery with his brother's wife (I was supposed to be 'the good doctor!')...even if it did get them a trip to Barbados for a location shoot. It further deteriorated when Doc Reardon was called upon to cure "The Dreaming Death" that seemed to be conveniently killing off unwanted characters (Remember, this was long before DOOL or PASSIONS style shark-jumping). "With that storyline," Michael notes, "it was like GET ME OUTTA HERE!" Ironically, his contact allowed him an "out" from the soap, if he booked prime time or movie work. And when the opportunity to star alongside Eli Wallach and Ray Liotta in OUR FAMILY HONOR presented itself, Jim Reardon made a hasty departure from Cedars Hospital. "Ironically, I started a revolution," he adds, referring to the fact that many of his daytime co-stars followed his example when it came time for their own contract negotiations. (Somewhere there exists an outtake of Michael getting tongue tied over some medical jargon, eliciting unending peals of laughter from costar Michael Tylo. "It was freaking ridiculous. I couldn't spit it out. It was hilarious!" Maybe Roger Newcomb can find it in the P&G Vaults!)
Michael says his first big break was landing the role of "Kent Bogard" on ALL MY CHILDREN. "I had auditioned for the role of a construction worker...but they thought I was better off playing a dashing millionaire. And I felt completely out of place." Out of place playing love scenes with legendary Susan Lucci!? That would be intimidating for almost any actor, but it didn't help that "we started with a location shoot in New Orleans. I made the mistake of eating oysters the first night and being sick as a dog the whole time...throwing up. My entrance to soaps. Not a great debut," he laughs.
Besides TEXAS, he also popped up briefly on PASSIONS but a dispute over an extreme haircut they wanted for him made it even briefer. AS THE WORLD TURNS wasn't meant to be, either. He came in as one character, then back again a few years later in another role stuck in a convoluted plot (imagine that!) that further deteriorated when the Executive Producer who hired him was fired herself! Ironically, his longtime buddy Chris Goutman was installed as the new EP but had the unpleasant duty of having to fire his friend because CBS wanted to kill the entire storyline. "So it was back to LA," he chuckles with the resolve of an actor used to the peaks and valleys of Showbiz.
But Michael's never "between jobs" for very long. A slew of primetime guest appearances and MOWs followed, all of which he acknowledges are "less of a grind" than Daytime. "Ive done a lot of Lifetime movies, which are very "soap opera-ish" and women-focused, A WOMAN's REVENGE was pretty good. And the [new TV series] HATFIELDS AND McCOYS is really good. We're finishing off the THE WINGS OF THE DRAGONS movie this summer. They're all very different roles."
After so many soap experiences, I asked him to address the decline of the genre. "It's the reality of whats going on in the world. Mothers arent home watching TV and there arent just the 3 channels to choose from, anymore. People are going to watch [content] on their ipads and the attention span [required for serial storytelling] doesn't exist any more." Michael sees a problem with web soaps in their current state. "You gotta get paid something. At some point, you can't give it away for free. It's the sad reality of what going on in TV in general...not just soaps."
At 54, he still has the rugged but WASP-y good looks of a Baldwin brother or Patrick Wayne. I asked him if there were any secrets he could share. "I keep the weight off...that'll age you quicker than anything. Im 185. I graduated high school at 170. I think that and good Irish genetics and a few glasses of wine or a Guiness or two and there you go!" Then he adds, "Trust me, there's a part of me that wishes I had my dad's grey hair...then I'd have more [commercial] range!"
So what would this classic "Dr. McDreamy" consider his DREAM gig? Without pause, he answered, "Something like John Slattery ("Roger") in MAD MEN where youre not carrrying the series, but you get to work with great people and have a couple juicy scenes every episode. But the weight of the thing is not on you. That would be terrific. Any time MAD MEN Wants to hire me, I'm there."
International entertainment journalist NELSON ASPEN got his start in Daytime TV and still keeps tabs on all things soaps! The author of several books, including DINNER AT NELSON'S and HOLLYWOOD INSIDER: EXPOSED!, he broadcasts the latest showbiz news and celebrity interviews around the world daily. You may visit him at www.nelsonaspen.com