Monday, December 14, 2009

Holding "Sessions": The Robert Newman Interview, Part 2

In Part One of my interview with longtime GUIDING LIGHT star Robert Newman, the talented actor shared insights into his current musical "Sessions," as well as his struggles playing Josh Lewis as a "hero" on GUIDING LIGHT.  In Part Two below he talks more about his inner struggles, as well as life lessons learned from less-than-stellar story telling on GUIDING LIGHT.

We Love Soaps: What would you change about yourself if you could?
Robert Newman: That’s a huge question.  [Pause] I’m probably harder on myself than anybody [else].  I’ve had voice teachers say that to me, I’ve had therapists say that to me.  I have great expectations for myself.  And when I fall short of those I just beat the hell out of myself in twelve different ways.  I wish I had less of that.  I wish I could allow myself to be flawed, to be who I am, and that’s okay. 

We Love Soaps: Do you feel that accepting yourself would impact your acting?  In other words, many artists feel they must be hard on themselves or they won’t be good.
Robert Newman: We artists are pretty messed up.  I think actually all of those parts of me are what help in me acting.  And that’s probably why I do embrace this.  I haven’t thought this through.  But there’s something about how I get to work all that out on stage in a way perhaps I wish I could work out in my real life.  On stage, and usually on soap opera, there’s closure.  There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end.  We don’t know what happens the next day here [in "Sessions"].  We don’t know if he calls Lyla the next day.  We want to believe that he’s settled everything through and he’s doing well.  I think the writer structured it so that everything is okay at the end because it’s a musical.  I like it more ambiguous than that.  [Dr. Peterson] has learned some things, but he’s still a mess.  And that’s similar to the other stage roles I have chosen.  Guido Contini in Nine is a basket case.  It’s a two hour nervous breakdown with that character, and at the end he still doesn’t have the answers, he’s just ready to face the next day.  That’s as good as it gets. 

We Love Soaps: It seems you really enjoy playing these ambiguous characters with shades of gray.
Robert Newman: And if they don’t I bring it to them anyway. 

We Love Soaps: Yet with GUIDING LIGHT Josh seemed at times pious, with less shades of gray.
Robert Newman: That showed through though.  I’ve read enough fan opinions to know that when Josh got up on his soapbox, they didn’t like it.  He was preaching about something when his own life was screwed up. 

We Love Soaps: How did you deal with that when the role of Josh wasn’t going the way you had preferred?
Robert Newman: I’ve told the story many times in the press about when they told me about the [Reva] clone storyline and I was like, “These people are out of their minds.”  But that was a turning point for me, honestly.  I really felt I had a choice to embrace that story 100 percent and just enjoy it, or to hate it the whole time.  I chose the former.  I thought, “This is up to me.  I can be miserable for the next six months. Or I can just dive in 100 percent and just do it.”  And that opened me up for a lot of other storylines that came afterward.  And a lot of theater work.  There’s a freedom in just accepting something and just diving in and doing it.  Larry Gates [H.B. Lewis] taught me a lot about that.  He used to say, “An actor has to be willing to make a complete horse’s ass of himself.”  I believe that to be completely true.  If you’re not willing to go there and make a fool of yourself then you’re holding something back.  He was instrumental in a lot of the work I do today as an actor. 

We Love Soaps: How so?
Robert Newman: He taught me about listening.  Which is also a technical thing.  People always ask me about memorizing lines.  The secret to memorizing lines is forgetting about your own is listening to what the other person is saying.  That’s the trick.  And then your own comes naturally and freely.  But there’s the old joke about actors [saying], “My line...blah blah blah.”  He was completely the opposite of that.  He didn’t drill this into me, he was always so kind and loving and wonderful.  But he and I talked about that approach to the work at length.  He just went for everything all the time.  Kim [Zimmer] does this too, she just dives right in.  She’ll bitch about it all day long, and then once that red light goes on she’s [snaps] on it, she’s committed 100 percent. 

We Love Soaps: So when you started accepting it and stopped fighting it, it brought you more peace.
Robert Newman: Yes.  So when there were storylines that I wasn’t thrilled about... 

We Love Soaps: Can you tell me which storylines there were?
Robert Newman: [Pause], The reason I can’t answer that question is because I’ve always taken the track that what I think about the story doesn’t matter.  What matters is how the fans respond to the story.  And even that becomes complicated.  Some fans love a story, some fans hate a story.  Often I found over the years that when we were in a story it was hard to tell if it was a good story or a bad story.  That was true when Cynthia Watrous played Annie.  We got so much mail about that, people were so upset about that story.  Now, if you talk to most fans, they’ll say those were the golden years of GUIDING LIGHT when the show was so great.   So it’s never been up to me to decide if a story is good or not. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here for your tickets to see Sessions. Act fast, the show is only running until January 3, 2010!!  Then stay tuned for the final part of our interview in which Robert Newman discusses the cancellation of AS THE WORLD TURNS, and how he feels about the future of web soaps.  Plus, which older canceled soap is Robert missing the most? Which GUIDING LIGHT star will be coming to "Sessions" before the end of the play’s run?  Come back to find out!

Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is blogging about surviving the holidays at


  1. I was never a guiding light fan.But what strike me about Robert Newman was his looks he is very handsome and he look even better as he get older.I think he sings to.

  2. Robert really seems to admire his late TV father Larry Gates! :)

  3. Robert Newman has a great attitude about the stories! He is so right that some fans would hate and some fans would love, a story.