Wednesday, August 18, 2010

THE BAY The Series Interviews: Lane Davies, Part Two

In Part One of our interview with Lane Davies, the acclaimed actor, who will be appearing on the new web series THE BAY, discussed his drive to perform, and how that led to his first daytime role on DAYS OF OUR LIVES.  In this revealing second part, Davies shares aspects of his time as Mason on SANTA BARBARA, as well as a turbulent relationship with his costar Nancy Lee Grahn.

We Love Soaps: SANTA BARBARA, especially between 1984-1989, remains such a beloved gem of daytime history. 
Lane Davies: That’s nice to hear you say that.  I’ve heard it in other places but you are never quite sure if people are just saying that because you’re standing there and they have to say something nice to you.  I do think we had something unique going on. 

We Love Soaps: The pacing, the dialogue, the rhythm of the dialogue was so different.  Were you aware of what a unique and non-typical daytime show this was going to be when you agreed to do it?
Lane Davies: No, I don’t think anybody knew.  The Dobsons [SANTA BARBARA'S creators] met resistance when it wasn’t formulaic.  But the audiences responded to it.  I think it was the humor, that we had a sense of humor when it was sadly lacking in the rest of daytime.  We all had great respect for the nature of the work, but with out tongues-in-cheek when it came to the storylines we were playing out.  We didn’t spoof them.  We were just always aware that we were having fun and creating fun, as opposed to taking the material too seriously.

 We Love Soaps: The caliber of much of the acting was unusually high.  There was you, Nicolas Coster, Louise Sorel, Nancy Lee Grahn, Jed Allen, the list goes on and on.
Lane Davies: In all modesty, I think we had the best ensemble cast in daytime. It didn’t last, but we were hard to beat.  We had tons of energy and lots of humor. 

We Love Soaps: You said earlier you made novice mistakes on DAYS.  By the time you started on SANTA BARBARA, did you feel more secure with the cameras?
Lane Davies: Somewhat, but I was still apprehensive since things hadn’t gone that well on DAYS.  Early on we were losing lead time.  The first executive producer was trying to give it a film look with all these long shots that had to be done over and over.  We got behind, and it started costing huge amounts of money.  So they started loading the show on a few of us that could handle heavy loads of dialogue.  Besides learning the work itself, we earned a lot of favors early on.  It’s much more relaxing to be on a show that you have been on for several years than to go on and be a guest star because you have earned the right to screw up.  You’re not as worried about screwing up.  Plus, we were good at learning dialogue.  We had massive amounts of dialogue on that show.

We Love Soaps: Especially Mason!
Lane Davies: I was always complaining to A [Martinez] about that.  I had scene after scene of these long diatribes and then he and Marcy would have a love scene at the end and just do, “Kitchy, kitchy, poo-poo...” The show would end on them after I worked my ass off all day long.  They’d give us 70 pages a day, and I’d have 20-30 of that on an average day. 

We Love Soaps: Clearly the writers were writing to your strengths, which was the ability to convey so much subtext with the words.  One of my favorite scenes took place in the summer of 1985, when Mason revealed to C.C. that Channing was gay by bringing his ex-lover to the house.  C.C. starts to register who this guy is, and Mason offers him a piece of fruit while saying, “Fruit? Have one, I mean.”
Lane Davies: [Laughs] I don’t remember that.  It's amazing, there are things that are burned in to my memory.  I watch The Mason Chronicles, which is basically a collection of tapes of my story that our nanny had.  Some of the scenes I can watch and remember what side of the stage that set was on that day, and others things I watch and it’s like I’m seeing it for the first time.  It’s like watching yourself in a dream, a much younger and handsomer self. 

We Love Soaps: What made that scene and so many memorable is that Mason could be horrifying, cruel, even homophobic, yet we still enjoyed him, we still rooted for him.  You couldn’t help but be on his side.  That’s a delicate balance. 
Lane Davies: That was the fun of him.  He was a vulnerable villain.  You always understood why he was the way he was.  For that I credited the Dobsons.  Bridget Dobson had similar issues with her own mother and transferred that into Mason. Because I was able to get those layers across, she kept writing it. 

We Love Soaps: One of the reasons I believe they gave you so much dialogue had to do with the musical cadence in your voice.  The way you speak words is nearly melodic.  Is that from training, or is that natural?
Lane Davies: It’s probably a little bit of both.  After awhile you lose track of what is learned behavior and what came naturally.  Acting was really never all that hard for me.  I’m still of the opinion that you can’t teach it.  You can improve somebody’s acting, but if they can’t act, you can’t teach them how.  There comes a point where you’ve been doing it so long you can’t remember what you learned how to do and what you did because you were born to it.  I came to that show having worked with some of the better dramaturges in this country.  They paid close attention to words and to nuance.  They were big on dictionary work, right down to grinding the word down to its etymology.  I always put great stock in nuance of the individual word, and that was a learned behavior.  By the time I got on SANTA BARBARA, I had been doing it so much it was second nature. 

We Love Soaps: That certainly explains why you were the go-to guy for long passages of dialogue.
Lane Davies: One day they wrote me into 58 pages.  A lot of it was trial stuff.  I went up to Jerry Dobson and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t do this. I’m sorry you have finally written one I can’t do. I’ll have to read half the show off [cue] cards. 

We Love Soaps: Do you remember which storyline that was for?
Lane Davies: It was probably during Ted’s rape storyline.  It was a big trial scene.  So Jerry cut the speech, and then the show was ten minutes short.  It gives you an idea of how much material I had.  But all they did was load that material on to a different day.  I didn’t really get out of the work.

We Love Soaps: Part of what worked well was the chemistry you had with so many of your costars.  The fireworks between you and Nancy were electric.
Lane Davies: I watch them and I find myself trying to remember if we were even speaking off camera at the time.  We always had this chemistry that audience liked.  But we are both such hard headed individuals.  We often crossed lines in terms of personal and work relationship.  It led to fireworks on and off screen.  My running joke is that no one could tell if we were closer to copulation or strangulation.  But they seemed to like it, whichever one it was. 

We Love Soaps: Of course, love and hate are opposite sides of the coin.  What kind of things did you argue about?
Lane Davies: At this point I don’t even remember.  I was constantly fighting, not just her, but the domestication of the character.  Here was this guy who started out changing pregnancy tests so he could sleep with his stepmother, and later on they had me folding diapers.  I’m afraid I resisted it a bit too vocally.  Looking back, I would have been more diplomatic about it.  But I was getting really frustrated because the writers and Nancy wanted Mason to be a lot more domestic than I wanted him to be.  That was really what led to a lot of friction between us. 

We Love Soaps: And you were there 12-16 hours a day.
Lane Davies: There was always a fatigue factor.  There was a blood sugar factor.  A lot of dynamics at work.  Then you try to maintain some sort of personal life outside the studio and it can lead to some behavior that is less than professional.  I look back on a lot of those times and there were times when I would be less than professional.  Not that many, but enough that I would apologize. There were times I could have behaved better but I was just so frustrated.  It was difficult. 

We Love Soaps: Are you talking about tantrums, outbursts?
Lane Davies: No, I tend to be more passive aggressive.  Once I learned where Nancy’s buttons were, I would push those buttons and sit back and let her throw the tantrums.  If you look at the genesis of the tantrum it was me getting her to do it.

We Love Soaps: That is passive aggressive!
Lane Davies: It was very Machiavellian.  And then there was the boredom factor.  We had been doing the show for four years or so.  I have never been a person to create drama for the sake of creating drama.  But I think there were times we were so bored, that’s the downfall of daytime.  That’s the drawback of daytime, you can get bored with the routine, so any drama becomes exciting.  Even if it’s inappropriate. 

We Love Soaps: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently on SANTA BARBARA?
Lane Davies: There is stuff I would have taken less seriously.  I would have said, “They are paying me a lot of money to do this and I should just do my job.”  I would have picked my battles more carefully.  I am very good at picking my battles now.  At that time I wasn’t as good at it.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please come back for Part Three in which we discuss Davies' exit from SANTA BARBARA, and the dumbing down of daytime.

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."


  1. Love WLS and its contribution towards preserving the history of the genre.

    Lane Davies and Louise Sorel hands down carried this show in 1984 and continued to make it exceptional when Walker, Allen, Coster, Mattson, Martinez, and McConnell all finally joined the cast.

    Any chance of an interview with Bridget Dobson as well?

    Would love to know the real reason Santa Barbara 1984-1987 hasn't been on the rerun circuit in the USA after being #1 in primetime all over the world. Can't just be music rights for songs that are 25 years old now.

    A good opportunity to clear up the rumours surrounding the revolving casting door that contributed to Santa Barbara's demise.

    Why they launched too early; before Marcy Walker and Nicolas Coster were available to start?

    Why NBC/Columbia refused to allow Jed Allen to start as C.C. Capwell in 1984/1985?

    Was the part of Gina really originally created with Robin Mattson in mind but Ms. Mattson initially declined the offer?

    Is it true NBC pressured them to back off on the Mary/Mason storyline and they killed Mary off and as a result never recovered in the ratings?

    Brillant casting of Sherilyn Wolter as Elena - why they wrote her off after only seven months when the scenes with her and Marj Dusay as Pamela and Jed Allen/Lane Davies and all the other sibling rivalry repercussions could have driven storyline for 25 years?

    Was Brenda Dickson really approached in 1987 to join the cast after being dropped by The Young and the Restless?

    Did Genie Francis turn down the role of Kelly Capwell?

    Would be great to get this all on the record all these years later.

    Did I miss anything?

    Still lots of interest in this show all over the world.:-)

  2. I had quite a crush on Lane as Mason during his years on SB--Wow! :-)

  3. I love this interview so much, and like Michael I'd love to know what the hell caused the producers to overturn the cast so many times. God, I was furious at some of the casting decisions that were made. Short-circuiting Harley Kozak's run by killing off Mary was dumb, but then I suppose we wouldn't have gotten Nancy Grahn's fantastic chemistry with Lane Davies.

    It wasn't just Harley Kozak, though. We lost talented actors over the years like Jane Sibbett, Robert Thaler, Scott Jaeck, Richard Eden... and how could I forget Stacy Edwards? God, Hayley was so lovely to look at and such a sweetheart... I almost bailed on Santa Barbara midway through the show's run and tossed the TV set out the window. Santa Barbara was SUCH a solid show, but you learned not to expect actors to last a long time on it.

  4. Hi Michael, I am very curious about your thinking.
    I too would like an interview with Bridget and Jerry Dobson.
    It would be a long shot by We Love Soaps!
    I leave you my email so we can share a lot of curiosity about SB.
    I care.
    Pier from Italy

    [email protected]

  5. Sorry, I'm Italian and reading the interview, I failed to grasp the double meaning of the phrase "Fruit? Have one, I mean ..." addressed to Lindsay Smith, Channing jr. gay lover.

    Fruit is the fruit, but what else?

    The dialogues on homosexuality Channing Jr. were homophobic or not, for you?

    Channing Jr. was the first homosexual character (man) in the daytime. It's true?

    What happened to Robert Brian Wilson ..... his interpreter?


  6. @Pierin26 - Long shot interviews are our specialty!! Stay tuned.

    "Fruit" is a derogatory term for gay in the U.S. Mason was using a piece of fruit to taunt his father as he exposed that Channing had been gay. So yes, I perceived it as homophobic on Mason's part, but a hysterical scene nonetheless.

  7. thank you so much...
    surely the challenge is homophobic, but I think the goal was to hurt C.C. by any means and not to offend gays...
    Great SB.
    I always follow WLS, but I think if you were able to interview Dobson, I could fly from Italy only to be there for you and congratulate you in person.
    Please, do it.
    Please Please Please
    It's been 25 years and I believe that Dobson could tell us things about SB that perhaps at that time they could not tell.
    It would be a dream for many of us who still love SB.