Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eric Sheffer Stevens: The We Love Soaps Interview (1 of 3)

Eric Sheffer Stevens burst onto the soap scene in January 2010 as the snarky but lovable Dr. Reid Oliver on AS THE WORLD TURNS. His portrayal of the character won the actors fans far and wide. But who is Sheffer Stevens and how did he get into the acting game? Find out in this exclusive three-part interview with We Love Soaps. (Watch the corresponding video here.)


We Love Soaps: You were born in northern California, moved around and ended up in Connecticut.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I went to high school in Danbury.

We Love Soaps: Then you've pretty much been in New York ever since college?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: Yes. Except for a stint in grad school in Alabama for two years from '98 to 2000. I was at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, which is affiliated with the University of Alabama, which is why I'm a huge University of Alabama football fan as well, the Crimson Tide.


We Love Soaps: Oh wow. I'm originally from Tennessee...
Eric Sheffer Stevens: Uh oh. We can just gloss over that.

We Love Soaps: Although I was very contrary as a kid and sort of just liked Michigan to annoy everybody I knew.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: [Laughs] So completely out of the SEC.

We Love Soaps: It hasn't worked out for me in recent years though.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: It's going to come back around.


We Love Soaps: You came to New York and you've been doing mostly theater. You've done a lot of films...
Eric Sheffer Stevens: Not a lot. I've done a handful of projects.

We Love Soaps: I saw a few clips online that were kind of funny. There was one where you were at a table, there were two couples, and the waitress comes up and she's totally obnoxious.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: That's Hillary Duff. It's a film called Greta. That was a couple of years ago. I've never seen the footage from that.

We Love Soaps: I saw it on YouTube.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I'll go check it out.

We Love Soaps: She's very much like a Reid character.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: She's very crabby. At first we thought she was joking, and then she wasn't, she's just like that. I did one that is coming out now, Multiple Sarcasms, which is Timothy Hutton and Mia Sorvino. He's a playwright. He writes an autobiographical play that's produced, and I play him in the play. It takes place in the '70s with big hair. That was fun actually. It was a really interesting project.


We Love Soaps: As a New York actor, you've done the LAW & ORDERS. That's like a pre-requisite for everyone.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I'm sad that's no longer going to be around. CRIMINAL INTENT is still shooting but the original one is not.

We Love Soaps: Luckily those shows stay on forever so you'll have a chance to be it three or four more times before CRIMINAL INTENT goes off.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: [Laughs] Hopefully. They have an every two year rule so I'm just about up for it.

We Love Soaps: My friend does the special effects make-up so if you're ever a corpse, she'll be the one that does that.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I did! I got killed in one. They found me floating in the ocean for days so they had to do all this latex, and pop an eye out, and all that stuff. I sat there for four hours getting all the special effects make-up.


We Love Soaps: I think I saw in an interview you said your first love was doing theater?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I think that's how a lot of people come to it initially. But as I've gotten into other things, it's still something I always want to be doing when I'm an old man. I want to be doing theater. I started with that in college and that's been the majority of jobs I've done.

We Love Soaps: What did you want to be as a kid? Did you think about acting at all?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: Not until high school. But I don't know if I did more than anybody else does. That's a common thing like being a fireman or a surgeon that most people eventually let go of. I didn't do it in high school because they just did musicals and that's not something people would pay me to do. So I started doing it in college and really loved it. I had a fantastic teacher there and started to pursue it.

We Love Soaps: What did your parents say?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: They were very supportive. They never guided me. They just supported me with whatever I wanted to pursue. I went into college as a Math major. They were happy with that. Then I switched to a Lit major and was pursuing acting at the same time. They never discouraged me from it or told me it would be really hard to make a living. Those things are self-evident [laughs]. They would drive out and see my plays.


We Love Soaps: You debuted as Reid on AS THE WORLD TURNS in January [2010]. Did you start in November?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: Yes. We were about two months ahead.

We Love Soaps: Did you screen test with Van [Hansis]?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: The first time I read was with Mary Clay [Boland], the casting director. The second time [executive prouder] Chris Goutman was there, along with Mary Clay. I think the third time I'm pretty sure they brought Van in. It was down to three people.

We Love Soaps: Was the audition a really snarky scene?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: It was exactly who he is. It was not a scene that we ended up using. It was just something that somebody wrote, and changed the name. But it was exactly that character. Van is asking him why about he's leaving so soon and he wants to go play tennis or something. Tennis never figured into Reid's character, but it was the same kind of one-liners and sarcasm.

We Love Soaps: Have you done any soap work before?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I had done a day, three or four scenes, as a vineyard owner on something. Maybe ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Some couple runs away to California and they're in my shack and I'm upset about it. It was just one episode.

We Love Soaps: Have you played a character like [Reid] before?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: I don't think so.

We Love Soaps: So it's not typecasting or anything?
Eric Sheffer Stevens: [Laughs] No. I've definitely not played anything like him, probably characteristics that he has have been shared with other people. But he's definitely a unique character in my experience which is what made it so fun for me. It was really well-written and fun to do. I liked the way he didn't know how to interact with people. His only way of dealing was to be sarcastic or to say something funny. They wrote really good stuff. All the eating stuff and talking with his mouth full all the time started out as their idea, but as it went on, any time there was food on set I would grab it and start shoving it in my face.

We Love Soaps: Reid had battles with Luke, but he was also battling with Bob. I thought that made it really interesting and unique because Bob is the pillar of society.
Eric Sheffer Stevens: Right. He started out more well-rounded maybe than they usually do because right away he didn't just have the Luke and Noah storyline with the blindness, but he was clashing with Dr. Bob, which was really fun because I love Don [Hastings], that guy is amazing. I really admire him. And also right off the bat clashing with Trent-Henry. He had a foil to play off of instead of just being a third wheel in the Luke and Noah romance. It was really fun to do the stuff with Trent because he and I worked together six years ago. We did George Bernard Shaw's "Misalliance" in Baltimore. He's a great character actor. He's just a great actor. He's very inventive and comes up with really funny stuff to do. He does great "takes" and has a really solid background.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stay tuned for Parts Two and Three in which Sheffer Stevens talks about working with Larry Bryggman, as well as his current project, Vermont Shakespeare Company's "Much Ado About Nothing."

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