WE LOVE SOAPS: Great start on GENERAL HOSPITAL so far. How did this role come about for you? Was it a long audition process?
WILLIAM DEVRY: It was actually pretty long. I just wanted to make sure they weren't trying to get somebody else to sign by having an open call, one of those ulterior motive situations. They assured me they weren't making offers and, in the new process with the new regime, they were going to test everybody. It was about a three-week process from my first audition with the producers, [casting director] Mark Teschner, Frank [Valentini, executive producer] and Ron [Carlivati, head writer] to the screen test. It was about a three and half day wait after the screen test.
WE LOVE SOAPS: What was it about playing Derek Wells/Julian Jerome that appealed to you?
WILLIAM DEVRY: There were a few things. They were not going to give me too much information [about the character]. It was sort of a vague description originally, and then a few days before I went in I got a heads up that he potentially could be the head of a crime family. They said it might change at the last second, if he was indeed going to turn out to be this Julian guy. They still didn't know which direction it was going.
I've been working heavily in primetime over the last four to five years and keeping busy. I've been traveling a lot for work so the idea of shooting 15 minutes away from the house was appealing. I have always missed daytime, the pace and the challenge of doing 25 pages a day if you're one of the lead characters.
And also the fact that daytime ratings are going up, specifically in the 18-49 demo, which means profits are going up, so it was a good time to get back in. And I don't think there was really any fear of it being canceled in the next couple of years. That was definitely a huge factor for me. The new regime was also appealing to me, and that there wouldn't be any disruptions with another regime coming in over the next few years.
WE LOVE SOAPS: A story came out this week about daytime ratings and GH is growing in several local markets (Jackson, TN is up 79%; Springfield, Mo., saw a 360% increase). It's great to see that turnaround.
WILLIAM DEVRY: It's exciting. And I don't know if everybody is aware of this. And with social media [as well]. My PR gal was insistent I get on Twitter, and I can see the benefits of that now. The demo the advertisers want is all on social media. I'm having a good time doing that stuff.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Now you can get instant feedback, as it is airing, on a performance. I'm not sure every actor would want to read that.
WILLIAM DEVRY: I've been in this business for a long time and I'm pretty confident in my ability as an actor. I think people that are saying kind of negative stuff in general aren't really fans. Some are just there to cause trouble and with others, for whatever reasons, there is just this fan war between character fans or actor fans. They're not even looking at the work; it's sort of a knee-jerk reaction. It's almost like it has been indoctrinated in them and they are going to root against anybody who's taking screen time away from somebody else. But it's water of a duck's back because it is 90% positive.
WE LOVE SOAPS: You've already worked with some of the best and most popular actors in daytime at GH in Maura West, Nancy Lee Grahn and Kelly Monaco. What has that been like for you?
WILLIAM DEVRY: We're actors, we do it for a living, we go on set, but it's a little bizarre even as an actor who's been making a living at it 16-17 years or longer. It's kind of weird to be working with another actor that you see on TV all the time. You just have to take a breath, admire it for a couple of seconds, and then get back to work. [Laughs] But I'm impressed with how good everybody is.
Kelly Monaco is a super-talented actress. I hope she gets the recognition that she deserves. Maura West obviously has two Emmys and Nancy has got some wins under her belt as well. I think it is fun when everybody can just work off each other so well. It's a blast.
WE LOVE SOAPS: They are really tight-lipped about spoilers at GH which I think is a great idea. But is there anything you can tease for us about what's ahead?
WILLIAM DEVRY: I don't think it's malicious is any way, but I think some people get excited about stuff and can't help themselves and tell a couple of confidants, and those confidants can't help themselves and they tell a couple of people. Then before you know it, it's front page news on Twitter. [Laughs] They don't really tell you too much. They gave me a bit of an idea when I first came to work about what's going to come down the pike but since then every day is a page turner for me.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Might we see some comedy or a more comedic aspect of this character? Ron's writing is known for having a comedic element.
WILLIAM DEVRY: I think when they see an actor that has some humor or comedic talents to his game they might add some of that in. With some people there's nothing humorous about the situation the way it's written but they are able to find that humorous element and pull it off. Sometimes it's in the writing, and sometimes it's the actor and the way they are able to deliver those lines. I think they recognize when somebody's got some humor in their work and will try to add it in where they can.
There are a lot of times an actor might try to bring humor to a particular scene but Frank has a definite vision and may say, "Hey, I need this to be dark right here." And he won't tell you why. But I've learned Frank knows what he's talking about, and his notes are pretty dang on, so usually that means something is coming out in two weeks that you have no idea about. You're constantly trying to make the audience guess where this guy is going.
WE LOVE SOAPS: You were involved in two of the most memorable moments in daytime history. Last month in our Soap History column we marked the 10th anniversary of Michael Cambias raping Bianca (Eden Riegel) on ALL MY CHILDREN. We tend to think of it from the victim's perspective and how emotional it was for the actor playing those scenes. But how was it for you playing the man who raped her?
WILLIAM DEVRY: It's a double-edged sword because you look forward to doing the scene, but it's not easy going to that place as a human where you're going to take advantage of somebody and make it look real. You have to give yourself permission to go there, and it requires communication with Eden Riegel to do it right, the way it is meant to be told, without pulling any punches.
It was actually tougher for me with Susan Lucci (Erica Kane) because that was a little more simulated, if you will. It got a little more violent with Susan. We had talked before as well but it took me a little more time to recover from that one than it did with the Bianca episode.
WE LOVE SOAPS: Five years ago on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, Storm Logan shot himself so that his baby sister, Katie (Heather Tom), could have his heart. What was that like for you?
WILLIAM DEVRY: That was a really interesting day. At the time THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL liked to amp things up a little bit. He just shot his sister but they wanted to see some energy. I sort of disagreed with that. He knows he's done wrong, and feels bad about the situation, and I think when you're in that position of knowing you've done something like that you disconnect from your emotions as a human being. That's how I tried to play it that day where he was very disconnected from his emotions and he was somewhat like a zombie answering questions.
And then when it got to the time where he made the decision to give his heart to Katie it was just a lot of fond memories there of the Logan family. It wasn't so much tears of sadness or 'I'm going to kill myself so I'm going to cry.' It was just 'I'm not going to experience these memories anymore.' That's what was going through my mind as I was playing it. And I can't believe five years have gone by.
WE LOVE SOAPS: When all is said and done Heather Tom will probably own all the Emmy records. She had an episode recently that probably wrapped up the Emmy for next year already.
WILLIAM DEVRY: They give her great material, no question. I think every year Brad [Bell, B&B executive producer and head writer] makes a conscious decision, together with the writers, to come up with an episode or two they would feel comfortable submitting. It's certainly by design.
WE LOVE SOAPS: You have a role in an upcoming film, The Outsider, which also features Melissa Ordway from THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in the cast. What can you tell us about that project?
WILLIAM DEVRY: The Outsider is the story of a soldier in Afghanistan who is now doing private security for some of the companies there. He finds out his daughter has been killed stateside and wants to go home to take care of the situation and bury his daughter but his superiors say no. So he takes off and does it anyway and finds out what happened is not what he thought happened. There's a huge conspiracy around what really did happen and James Caan's character is somewhat behind all that.
My character was a last minute addition. I knew the director (Brian A Miller) and writer and when they screened the first cut they thought a piece was missing. So they went back and wrote four pages to help bridge a gap, and he asked me, "What are you doing next week?" I said, "Nothing." And he said, "Okay, I need you to come in and shot this with Craig [Fairbrass], and I did."
WE LOVE SOAPS: You've played a lot of roles in primetime, and starred in daytime and in film. But is there some type of role you would like to take on that you haven't played yet?
WILLIAM DEVRY: I don't think we actively think about that. As actors if you're not working on your own stuff you're looking for material. Sure, sometimes we all do stuff for the money. But there's other times there's no money but you really need to do it because it would be good for you, and you want to explore that area of yourself. So I can't really pinpoint anything but I'd just say if it scares me, and my first reaction is to reject it, I will sleep on it and figure out why I feel that way and revisit it the next day.
WE LOVE SOAPS: We Love Soaps is located in the heart of the theater district in New York. Do you like being on stage? Are you interested in doing theater?
WILLIAM DEVRY: My teacher for many years has been Larry Moss who has a theater background. When we work we do classic scenes--Neil Simon, Tennessee Williams, Chekhov, August Strindberg--and that's the kind of stuff we do in class to work our muscles as an actor and push ourselves further. It's not about choosing a contemporary piece that will get you to cry and be vulnerable. It's about doing really good classic material.
When we're in class it's about owning the stage and knowing how to move around the stage, and making sure you are playing towards the audience without playing towards the audience. And really making yourself as big as you can be physically. I don't mean performance wise but just being as big as you can be physically on stage so that you take up the stage and own it and feel comfortable there. It's very important to know how to move about the stage, unlike film where you’re standing in one spot the entire time. I love it, I really do.
WE LOVE SOAPS: It has been 19 years since your appearance on SEAQUEST DSV. If you go back to the beginning of your professional career and give yourself a piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
WILLIAM DEVRY: The biggest lesson I probably learned during that time was making a first impression with people. When you're younger you do not realize things you aren't intentionally doing may be giving people the wrong impression about you as a person. I think that's just part of growing up. As with anybody that age, you have to experience that stuff. You can give somebody the best advice that would save their life but unless they are willing to hear it... They have to experience it themselves. I would probably just tell myself to be open to learning, open to listening, and open to growing.
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps, worked as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals. He appeared in FRANCOPRHENIA in 2012 and the documentary SOAP LIFE, out on DVD in 2013.