Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Doug Davidson Interview, Part Three

In Part One of our interview with longtime THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS star Doug Davidson, the actor talked about his background and early years on the soap. In Part Two, Davidson discussed the controversial "was it rape?" storyline with Christine and the recent twist in Paul's storyline with Nikki. In this final part, Davidson shares his thought on the future of daytime, web soaps, almost hosting the daytime version of THE PRICE IS RIGHT, and reveals some wonderful advice he received from his TV mother.

We Love Soaps: You hosted an evening version of THE PRICE IS RIGHT in the 1990s. Were you up for the hosting job on the daytime version after Bob Barker left?
Doug Davidson: I tested for it.

We Love Soaps: I think you would have been a better choice [than Drew Carey].
Doug Davidson: [Laughs] Thank you.

We Love Soaps: Nothing against Drew Carey, and I wouldn't watch the show every day, but I used to enjoy turning it on from time to time with Bob. But I don't have any interest anymore in checking it out.
Doug Davidson: I will say that it's not easy to replace an institution. In the hosting arena, there aren't a lot of people better than Bob Barker. It is an incredibly complex show to do and he was doing at 83 and 84 with new games and energy. I think the decision was made way, way high up at Viacom and CBS that they wanted a big name, and Drew was one of the biggest that came along and they jumped on it. Probably in retrospect, I don't know if they would change their [minds]. But knowing him as I do from watching the show, it's probably not the vehicle I would have picked for Drew Carey either. But it is the way it is, and I'm sure he's doing the best he can, and people are getting used to it. I don't know the numbers are, but it seems to be moving along.

We Love Soaps: Lauralee Bell has developed a web series, FAMILY DINNER, and Martha Byrne and Crystal Chappell are developing new web soaps. What are your thoughts on new media and would you consider acting on an internet soap?
Doug Davidson: I think we're in a time now when all the entertainment industry is up in the air. There is so much new media that they really don't know how or what direction to go in. I think we'll have to see what happens. I've heard it said the networks are the new junk bonds. But I think it's way too early to say what people are going to be comfortable watching and doing. But it is changing, and changing fast. Whoever is going to make the leap in technology that brings the computer to the TV will enable these webisodes to find success or not. I've heard Apple is working on that right now with ITV. Once that happens, all bets are off.

I think advertisers don't even know where to advertise anymore. There was an article in the L.A. Times six months or so ago where Madison Avenue agreed that the importance of the 18-49 demographic was overrated. So even the rules of how things are being judged are being questioned. With so many intangibles, I think it's incredibly hard to say where it's all going to land.

But of course I'd be interested. It doesn't matter what it is as long as you are doing what you love, and are able to do what you love. I have no snobbery attached to doing a webisode or this or that. And if it's fun and you're working with good people, you're not here very long so you might as well enjoy what you do.

We Love Soaps: Do you think the remaining daytime soaps can survive past the next few years? What do you think needs to happen to keep them alive?
Doug Davidson: There is a huge hurdle to jump, and that is finding out who is watching and if advertisers want to support those kind of shows. I can't even tell you if it's a transition like we had in the 40s and 50s from radio to television or if this is a phase, but it's a significant adjustment. Advertisement is down an astronomical 40%, so if you look at any other businesses like car sales, that is catastrophic. We have to figure out how it's going to work. I speak for everyone at THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS in saying we're doing our best to keep it on the air and keep it going as long as possible.

I think they made some decisions with GUIDING LIGHT that probably weren't as prudent, and more risky than they originally thought. That was a tough call. I thought part of it was really unwatchable. I watched the last week and thought, "If they had been doing this the whole time, it may have been different." It's amazing to me that we forget what we're doing. We're telling a story, and if we start to please too many groups or who we think are the best audience for our commercials, it's pretty dangerous territory and the tail starts wagging the dog.

Back in the '70s we essentially had no sets. The biggest set in the history of daytime television at the time was Katherine Chancellor's estate. It was huge. But if you go back and look at that footage, the sets were so dark, and close-ups were from the top of your eyebrows to maybe a quarter of an inch below your lower lip. It filled the entire screen. It was about two people in a room with an issue. That is the genius of soap opera. If we deviate from that and think it's all about sets or all about fashion or a bunch of people in the room, it's not. It's about the heartbeat of these characters and how we follow their lives. The moment of discovery like, "Oh my God, this crazy nut is my sister," is what fuels soap opera. "Oh my God, we're' losing Colleen, and we've got Victor with three bullet wounds," and the transition from one moment to the next moment is really what fuels these shows. If you forget that and become too much about the bean counting, and the "I think this will really drive them nuts" [mentality], as a performer, if I think that, way I'm dead.

I have to speak the truth, and if I'm not speaking the truth, I bet you dimes to donuts I'm going to give you a bad performance. The same thing goes for writing and producing. You need more than a MBA to produce a show. Bill [Bell] was creative. He had a brilliant business mind as well but was a creative. If you look through the history of Hollywood, we didn't have these troubles when we had creatives running the business. In the worst economic times the movie business was incredible. Because everything is so corporate now, we are subject to the whims of the general economy. But if we forget what we're doing, we're dead in the water.

We Love Soaps: You did a great job hosting the evening version of THE PRICE IS RIGHT and you've hosted other various events. But do you have any aspirations to go behind the camera to write, direct or produce?
Doug Davidson: The thing I enjoy about writing is that I don't have to leave the house. [Laughs] Which is great in one aspect, but the discipline in that same thing is tough to make work. Eva Longoria gave me a tip to make an appointment with myself for my project. You have to sit down and do it. The phone will always ring or you'll be hungry. That's the hard part about it. But definitely, I think I'd even enjoy directing. I produced a talk show, DOUG AND LAURALEE, back in '96 or '98 when they had nothing but those hardcore talk shows on. This was light and frivolous. We sold it to the Family Channel, and did a pilot, and they went under. There are tons of things like that which happen that you can't anticipate. You just have to keep plugging away and know somewhere in there, if you're at it long enough, you will meet success. But yes, I have interest in all those things.

We Love Soaps: If he could go back to 1978 when you first started on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, what advice would you give Doug Davidson?
Doug Davidson: I was so immature and there was so much development from '78 to '89, and I'm marking '89 as the birth of my first child, that was an incredible ten years, the advice I'd give myself is what my television mother told me, "Everything you believe is wrong." [Laughs] Because it does a couple of things. It opens your mind up to look at everything, "Do I buy this or don't buy it?" And in retrospect I have to think she was right. There is so much about life and the things I thought to be true that just aren't. I don't believe in luck anymore. I don't believe in coincidence. I think with a proper mental attitude, and meditation and focus, you can make unbelievable things happen. All the people I've known in my life that have done those things have followed those steps. They're incredibly focused and driven like my father-in-law that created Century 21, a neighbor whose grandfather created Mission Linen, Eva Longoria, Rick Springfield, the list goes on and on, and the steps to achieving what they want are all the time. It starts with a great mental attitude and discipline. And I don't mean discipline putting your nose to the grindstone, but discipline in sticking with things you love, following your heart, never giving up, and not letting negative thoughts affect how you see the world or your place in it. I don't know that the Doug in 1978 would be any more willing to hear those things now than he was then. It just didn't match what he was thinking and what his reality was at the time. I was driving a taxi cab, and I started a karate class, and in the class during the day were two other gentleman - one ran a restaurant and the other was the husband of Victoria Mallory, a co-star in THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS. I got a job waiting tables which got me off the streets of Hollywood driving a taxicab into a restaurant business where I could make enough money three nights a week to support my acting and living expenses. I ended up meting the executive producer through those two lovely people so in retrospect, that was coincidence? I don't think so. Some people mature sooner than others and there were plenty of twenty-somethings that were able to hear those messages, but for me it came much later. Even my evaluation of how Bill worked and what he did and how he held onto the throne for so long, all those things in retrospect are fascinating to me.

We Love Soaps: Maybe you should write a book.
Doug Davidson: [Laughs] Or a few! I hope I do.

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