Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holding "Sessions": The Robert Newman Interview, Part 3

In Parts One and Two of my interview with Robert Newman, the ex-GUIDING LIGHT star discussed his role as a therapist in the wonderful show "Sessions," thoughts about the gaps between one's public image and private life, as well as how he learned to accept the elements he could not control while playing Joshua Lewis for the past 28 years.  In this final part, he shares his thoughts about the state of daytime soap operas, and hopes for his future.  Plus, which GUIDING LIGHT star is still planning to come see "Sessions"? Find out here. 

We Love Soaps: Dr. Peterson [Newman's character in "Sessions"] has a bit of a meltdown.  What do you think Dr. Peterson could have done to avoid these catastrophes in his life?
Robert Newman:  He probably needed a friend, or his own therapist.  I have a couple of really good friends in my life.  Believe it or not, I’m really introverted, and I don’t do a lot of socializing.  But I have a couple of people in my life who have helped me make good choices from time to time.  Because he’s dealing with his own superego, it’s like talking to himself in the car.  It’s like you always talk to your wife in the car and you always win the argument because you’re the one making it up.  That’s what Dr. Peterson is doing here, and he really needed some outside presence.  And he needs encouragement.  What he gets from his patients is that what he does have value.  That’s another thing he is questioning in this whole piece.  “Why am I doing this? Does it really help anybody?  I don’t think I really am helping anybody.”  But that’s why we’re telling the story now.  If we were telling the story of Dr. Peterson at a time when his life is great then it wouldn’t be much of a story.

We Love Soaps: Yesterday the news came down that AS THE WORLD TURNS has been canceled.  Many of our readers are taking this hard, especially so quickly after the loss of GUIDING LIGHT. Anything you want to say to them?
Robert Newman:  I just feel bad for them, I really do.  In the same way I felt bad for the fans of GUIDING LIGHT.  We have been doing these series of appearances called, “So Long Springfield.”  You really do see how people were so touched by the years that they watched the show, and they’re just devastated to see it gone.  There’s a sense of a sort of disbelief.

Again, we’re back to death.  There’s like this death of a thing they’ve had in their life for so long.  And now they can’t be a part of it anymore, they can’t watch it anymore.  During the appearances, we do a thing on Saturday night where we all sit up on couches on the stage and we just start telling stories about actors, funny things that happened.  And I’m telling you for an hour and a half you can hear a pin drop in this place.  They’re just on the edge of their seats listening to backstage stories.  They’re very weepy, they’re very sad, and that’s what the AS THE WORLD TURNS fans are going to go through too.  I’ll step into Dr. Peterson for a minute and say, “Grieve, let it happen.” Don’t shut it down.  Let your grief process happen.  I’m sad too.  I see the whole genre falling apart.  It’s not a surprise to me about WORLD TURNS.  They basically went the same route we went, where they were given a renewal date, and it’s come and gone, and they’ve been told “no.”  I imagine they’ll replace it with some cheaper show. 

We Love Soaps: We’ve been talking a lot at We Love Soaps about Martha Byrne and Crystal Chappell taking the continuing story format in a new direction on the internet.  GOTHAM and VENICE, and several others, could be new opportunities for new creative storytelling.  Any thoughts?
Robert Newman:  Well, the internet is where everything is going. 

We Love Soaps: Would you do a webseries?
Robert Newman:  I’ll have to.  If everything is going to the internet, that’s where I’ll have to be.  If Crystal asked me about coming onto VENICE I would do it because I love Crystal and I would do that for her.  I’m a big fan of DR. HORRIBLE.  Neil Patrick Harris plays an evil super hero, and it’s a musical.  They did four episodes of that.  It’s very clever, and very funny.  I look at that and think, “I’d do that in a second.” 

We Love Soaps: As sad as the death of GUIDING LIGHT and AS THE WORLD TURNS are, we are learning that they are not the end.  Your play "Sessions" really shows that new life can come from career changes, as well as the internet series that Crystal and Martha are bringing on life. 
Robert Newman:  It sometimes propels new life.  The internet may be the next stop for this kind of stuff.  Whether or not GUIDING LIGHT and those characters will ever find a place to be, I don’t know.   I was a huge DARK SHADOWS fan and still think we should go back to that. 

We Love Soaps: Have your GUIDING LIGHT costars come to see Sessions?
Robert Newman:  A lot of them, most of them actually.  They love it.  They like watching me on stage.  It’s nice when they come.  Ron Raines still hasn’t come but he’s promised to come in the next couple of weeks.  I think he’s been away doing another theater gig.

We Love Soaps: So people coming to see "Sessions" before January 3rd may run into Ron Raines in the audience.  Good to know. 
Robert Newman:  Yes.  Kim [Zimmer] has seen it, Bradley [Cole], Jeff [Branson].  A couple of the writers came to see it.

We Love Soaps: What kind of show would you like to do after this?
Robert Newman:  I’ve worked in musicals and non-musicals.  This seems to be the road I’m on now with musical theater.  And I do love it, I always have.  I like plays like this where there’s a lot of reality in it but there’s also this fantastical thing that happens.  People start singing and dancing, there’s something about that I enjoyed. 

We Love Soaps: If you could go back 27 years ago, to the beginning of your run as Josh Lewis on GUIDING LIGHT, and you give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?
Robert Newman:  I was a crappy actor, I’ll tell you that.  I just watched a couple of scenes from my first year on the show and [makes a groan sound].  But I also have trouble watching myself anyway.  Man! I was sitting with Tommy Pelphrey and Jeff Branson in Vegas the other day, and I said, “I wasn’t even as close to being as good as you guys are at the ages you were when you started.”  They are so good at what they do!  And then I watch myself in those clips when I was roughly their age and I’m like [groan]. 

We Love Soaps: Is that you being hard on yourself again?
Robert Newman:  It was also learning.  I would like to think that in the last few years there have been actors that have come in, watched me and Kim work, and learned their craft.  I learned my craft from Chris Bernau, Jane Elliot, Don Stewart, Charita Bauer.  I had these amazing people to just watch.  And I had never been in front of a camera.  The first time I ever stepped in front of a camera was to audition for Joshua. 

We Love Soaps: So what advice would you give?
Robert Newman:  Twenty-eight years ago.  I don’t know.  I enjoyed it.  I was about to say, “Live in the moment and enjoy it.”  But those first three years single, living in Manhattan, working on a soap opera, I had a great time.  I really did.  I’m glad I left [the show] when I did.  And I’m glad I came back married and experienced that way too.  I’ve got no complaints, other than I wish I was a better actor then. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Now that you've read this interview, don't delay in getting your seats for Sessions.  If you are in the New York area over the next few weeks, this play is highly recommended.  Click here to get your own tickets.  If you need more convincing, click here to read the WLS theater review of "Sessions."

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 www.shouldless.com.


  1. Who'd have thought that Robert would be so critical of himself about his early days in front of TV cameras? I thought that he was good from the very beginning. Keep Up Your Great Work, Robert! :)

  2. Fantastic interview, with the always entertaining Robert Newman. Love how he is so reflective and enjoyed his thoughts about his time at GL, in particular.

    And btw, it's Chris Bernau, not Bernaud (from a long-time GL fan).