"Reviving" Trent Dawson, Part One

The ending of AS THE WORLD TURNS is no doubt a devastating loss creatively and emotionally to the daytime community on all sides of the camera.  However, with every loss comes a new opportunity for expression and creation.  Trent Dawson is one of many talents we will be spotlighting over the next few weeks who learned to triumph over the tragedy of having his show canceled.  We start in this part by discussing his exciting new play "The Revival" beginning in New York City on September 14.

We Love Soaps: Trent, it is so great to talk with you.  Let’s start by talking about your play.
Trent Dawson: It’s called, “The Revival.” I play an an academic of sorts who returns to his father’s church in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  His father wishes for him to take over the church so he does.  But he’s not exactly the hellfire and brimstone minister that the folks are used to.  In the meantime, a drifter comes into town and starts to stir things up.  It’s a very interesting play, but I think it will also challenge the audience. 

We Love Soaps: You play the son of the minister?
Trent Dawson: Yes, you don’t see the father. I went away to school, was going to be a scholar.  They want a revival and I want them to think about religion with their minds, not just with their hearts.  There’s some conflict there trying to convince them. He’s not very good at it.

We Love Soaps: Some of the themes that come up have to do with religion and celebrity?
Trent Dawson: It does.  People in the congregation see that he could be that minister that they want.  They see someone who can lead a megachurch.  They see that in him, but he avoids that.  He thinks it’s wrong, that it’s not the right path to go down. 

We Love Soaps: That seems timely.  We are living in a time where people who achieve a certain level of fame are perceived as deities. A lot of young gay people I know think Lady Gaga is a deity of all things political and cultural.
Trent Dawson: There’s the obsession of fame.  I know a lot of young people who don’t say they want to be an actor or a singer, they say they want to be famous.  They don’t want to go through the work of telling a story, they want to be famous.  There was a famous Brit who came over here in the '50s and toured all across the United States and wrote a book about it.  He said, “What I discovered is that all American women want to be movie stars.” Now that’s a really big blanket statement but I’m reminded that we have an obsession with being famous, and I’m not sure why.  There’s a lot of garbage that goes along with that, a lot of nonsense that goes along with that.  It’s interesting you bring up homosexuality because that’s a major conflict in the play.  The young drifter is gay and how the minister deals with that in a very homophobic community, and what kind of questions he asks himself because of that, relates to the spine of the play.  It’s less about celebrity than who he is.  That’s the exciting part of his journey. 

We Love Soaps: Interesting.  It sounds like it will definitely appeal to audiences that are going to miss you on AS THE WORLD TURNS.  How are you dealing with the loss of this show?
Trent Dawson: I’m okay.  We had a long time to prepare for this, and I think that helped.  The weirdest thing has been not having that structure for awhile.  The rehearsals for the "The Revival" started about a month after we stopped shooting.  For a month and a half it was no structure.  That may sound great, but after three or four days I was sleeping in, not doing anything. You turn into a bum.  So that was the oddest thing.  I don’t know how much it has sunk in.  We’ve gotten together, we’re going to get together for the last air date.  For me it’s just been, “What a great gig.” To have come on for a few weeks and last over ten years. 

We Love Soaps: So let’s talk about that.  You started on the show for a brief run in 1999.
Trent Dawson: I realize I based him on Addison DeWitt from All About Eve.  Katie was my little Eve Harrington and I was the Svengali that was manipulating her. There were three major female characters that went on maternity leave all within two months of each other. So they had a sort of a storyline vacuum and I think that’s how it all went down.  It just blossomed from there.  I didn’t get sign any papers for about five years.  All I knew was what was going to happen three weeks in advance.  I just assumed that he would go to jail or something like that.  That’s been my mentality for the last ten years, that they would kill him off or he would get in too much trouble.  So the idea that it is over hasn’t affected me as much as most people.  I miss it very much.  But I just never assumed it would go on. 

We Love Soaps: And as you said, for the first five years you weren’t on contract.  You were not around at times, or left on an island somewhere, yet they kept bringing Henry back.
Trent Dawson: And I have the fans to thank for that.  A huge part of that.  The letter writing campaigns, writing online.  I never knew exactly what effect that had on the powers that be, but it kept my name in the ether, as it were.  Plus, I was going off and doing a lot of theater and touring which was a logistical nightmare for them. So they said, “Let’s put him under contract so we can hold onto him before he gets other jobs.”

We Love Soaps: Why were fans demanding their Henry on their TV?
Trent Dawson: I don’t know.

We Love Soaps: Really? Come on, why do you think?
Trent Dawson: At first I think he’s the guy you love to hate.  And that was great, I loved playing that guy.  He was about money and about power, and would do whatever it would take to get money and power.  Then I think about when the Katie and Henry stuff started.  I think why that was so interesting, as opposed to so many relationships you see on daytime, is that there had been five years of friendship.  We had been stranded on a deserted island, we had been through all these crazy adventures and then Henry fell in love. 

We Love Soaps: One of the things I’m going to miss about daytime is seeing these relationships evolve over years and years, versus a two hour movie. 
Trent Dawson: We were talking about this at the Paley Center.  Here on this play I’m working with this creative team of people I’ve never worked with before and we are just figuring out who we are.  With Terri [Colombino], I can just look at her, and I have years and years of experience playing Henry with her.  There is a trust that is there, and it’s odd to be outside of that trust bubble.  Instead saying, “I don’t know who you are but I’ll go there with you emotionally and see what happens.” 

We Love Soaps: Has this kind of change forced you to learn or grow as a person? That is to go from working with people you’ve known for ten years to people you don’t know?
Trent Dawson: Well, I’ve been prepping myself for that.  That’s how every gig is going to be.  I’m not going to get another gig that lasts ten years.  It’s unusual, even for episodic television.  I can emotionally prepare for myself for the fact that I’m going to step into so many other creative situations.  But Ellen Wheeler, the producer from GUIDING LIGHT who had been a director on our show explained to me.  I was so caught up in what we were doing, trying to think straight, working hard. She said, “You need to understand how special and unique working in daytime is.  It’s like nothing else.”  And she was right.  It’s taken time to reflect on that.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back tomorrow for Part Two in which Dawson discusses Henry's evolution in Oakdale.  Was Henry supposed to be gay? How did Trent make Jon Hensley (Holden) nervous? Come back and find out! Purchase your tickets to "The Revival" here. 

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals, couples, and families 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."

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