Tuesday, May 4, 2010

FLASHBACK: Charles Keating 1994


By Marla Hart
Chicago Tribune
February 16, 1994

It helps to have a secret weapon, and Charles Keating is ANOTHER WORLD's.

Dressed in black, his gray hair pulled back in a ponytail, his wild dark eyes punctuating his darkest schemes, the 52-year-old London-born Keating plays Carl Hutchins on "AW" (noon, weekdays on WMAQ-Ch. 5), delivering the European-up-to-his-mustache-in-dangerous-possibilities to Bay City boardrooms.

He's the perfect antidote to daytime's All-American cutesiness-a Lothario beating a path to the good Rachel's door who is part Daniel Day-Lewis and (with arched-eyebrow asides) part Captain Hook.

Keating, who earned a Tony Award nomination in 1986 for his work in "Loot!", also spent six years with England's Royal Shakespeare Company and three years in repertory at the famed Guthrie in Minneapolis. But he says his best hopes as an actor are being realized in soaps.

"It's strange. I've had a lifetime of classical revivals," he says. "You go in with all the hope and someone like (critic) John Simon tears it apart. There have been very few roles in recent years that have been as creatively (challenging) as Carl Hutchins."

Co-stars say the highlight of their working day is doing a scene with Keating, known for sprinkling conversations with bawdy language and raising the stakes in every scene.

"Are you kidding, working with Charles Keating?" enthuses Paul Michael Valley, who plays Ryan, Carl's son. "He challenges me beyond what I think is my limit. When I get as angry as I can for a scene, he comes up to me with a big grin, gets right up in my face and calls me a wimp."

"People will take a scene as seriously as whoever takes the scene most seriously," Keating says.

"If (soaps) are rooted to the ground and they want to play for real, a different thing happens in the space. It's exhilarating."

"I'm sick to death of actors who say it's exhausting (or) actors lamenting as if their mothers have made them do it. Hard work is being down on a coal mine floor." He mocks, "Do you have to ideally feel a lot?" Then he answers with dramatic angst, "Yes, yes."

With a temperament suited more to the pub than to the classroom, Keating was expelled from college in Canada, which led to acting.

In 1983 he played "the knuckle-cracking dipso Newman Noggs" in "Nicholas Nickleby" at the Blackstone Theatre, during which Keating and local theater impresario Bernie Sahlins made plans to start a classical company here.

But another offer from a soap on the East Coast came in and, Keating says, "you end up going where they tell you to go."

In 1983 the actor took possession of Carl the merciless on "AW," which he played through 1986. Then, as he has done several times since, Keating bowed out from daytime to do other projects including the BBC's BRIDESHEAD REVISITED and EDWARD AND MRS. SIMPSON. It is the wise producer who always asks him back.

In 1992 Keating tried prime time. GOING TO EXTREMES, a John Falsey/Joshua Brand production, took him to Jamaica to star in the series, which lacked the characteristic sarcasm and charm of the Falsey/Brand ("Northern Exposure") team, and bit the dust.

"I was very disappointed," the generally upbeat Keating says of the outcome.

"In the early goings (of the series), instead of taking on sacred cows, they had white kids suffering in paradise."

But Keating left part of his heart in paradise. "Jamaica is, well, you start having fantasies of going islander."

Keating and his wife of 29 years, Mary, live in Connecticut, "up to our tuchus in snow," he laughs. They are the parents of two sons, ages 27 and 28.

Last August, following his roles in the feature films Awakenings" and The Bodyguard, Keating returned full time to the soap. In the next two weeks, he will face rejection, love and the ultimate-consummation-as Carl continues to act on passion, but without conscience, on ANOTHER WORLD.

"Look at the roster of talent that has come out of daytime, from directors to writers to actors," Keating says.

"This should not be a stepping stone. This is it. Make your stand. I could envision a career-even if there were to be film roles-where I would always come back, where I would not wish to sever my relationship with ANOTHER WORLD. I think it would be lovely to continue."

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