Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Christian LeBlanc: The We Love Soaps Interview, Part Four

In Parts One, Two, and Three of our interview with Christian LeBlanc, the Emmy-winning outspoken talent discussed his hosting and participating in both the upcoming exciting Soap Star Spectacular and Soap Cruise Fourth Voyage, as well as keeping Jeannie Cooper out of jail, his take on the Indie Soap Revolution, his self-expression through his art work, and how he has prevented himself from becoming one of soap's "walking wounded." In this final part below he shares about his new foray into stand-up comedy, and the tragedy that fuels his drive to push new boundaries. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You sound so humble as you talk about your craft.
Christian LeBlanc: There is nothing more humbling than being out on a stage.  There isn’t.  It’s the risk of failure.  I lucked into my first acting class.  I was into medicine at the time.  Someone had to miss an audition and said to me, “I cant give this up, you’ve got to take it.” Bobby Lewis, who founded the Yale Drama School, asked me if I had a monologue.  I had learned this [saying] from New York, “Give me thirty seconds and I’ll give you a monologue.” He said, “You’re brave,” and he put me in a Masters class.

There’s Sally Field, there’s Karl Malden.  They are going on stage and they are sucking! Sally Field had just come off of Sybil [in 1976] and she was doing a scene as Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull.   And every time she would say, “The Seagull, the seagull...” it sounded like, “Sybil, Sybil!” She was trying to get out of this character she had been working on, and she was awful! If you’re out there on stage, you are pushing the envelope.  That’s why I love standup so much.  I’ll watch that, and think, “Man they are bombing,” but that’s because they have to push.  They have to test themselves.  If you’re not testing yourself, then it’s not exciting to me as an actor.  Acting is such an awesome profession and such a high art.  You take the risk to go down in flames. 

I just hosted ACME [SATURDAY NIGHT] comedy, because I think stand-up comedy is one of the bravest things you can do in life.  I hosted their improv show, and I’m hosting it this week.  It’s one of these dares I made for myself.  They are always out there.  Elizabeth [Hendrickson], Billy [Miller], Michael [Muhney] were all there.  Plus, tons of fans.  It’s brilliant but hard. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What is that like for you to take such a risk in front of your coworkers and fans?
Christian LeBlanc: It was terrifying because you’re not writing the sketch.  For the Creative Emmys I wrote that stuff in the two days they gave me to pull it together.  But these are somebody else’s words.  Some of them I have trouble saying.  Hard, nasty, words.  [Laughs] It was part of the sketch, but part of that sketch meant I was playing this hard nasty person saying awful things.  I thought, “Wow, if this was really a character, I’d really have to work on this.” And it is! Sketch comedy is hard acting.  You see it with Alec Baldwin on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. Comedy is such a hard thing to do.  Bill Bell had a real mistrust of writing comedy because it is the hardest things to do.  Death is easy, comedy is hard. 

When they first let it out that I was hosting ACME I got all these calls and emails from people saying, “Oh that’s great, he’s the funniest person in the world.”  And I thought, “What a kiss of death.”  Because I can be funny in life, I can be funny on set.  But it’s not the same as getting on a stage.  So it was exhilarating, terrifying, and I was an awful person to be around the whole week before.  Try talking about someone who was supposed to be funny, and was being miserable to others the whole time. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Why do you say that?
Christian LeBlanc: I was just nervous.  This was sketch comedy.  I don’t do teleprompters well, so I memorized everything.  They pitch it to you Monday, on Wednesday you get the cuts, and Saturday you run it twice, then you’re on stage.  It makes doing a soap look lackadaisical.  Plus you have  a live audience, plus you’re streaming live to video online.  So they are going to see you.  Forever.  So it was nerves.  I was jumpy, doing the soap during the day, memorizing those lines, I was just like a whirligig.  Again, if you want to be good, and if you want the opportunities that being good gives you, you have to try these things.  As an actor, what you want are opportunities.  You want chances to do your very best.  It behooves you to ring some doorbells, and take some risks. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I admire that you never stay in your comfort zone, or become of one of the “walking wounded” you mentioned earlier.  It seems like you are constantly pushing yourself to try new creative expressions.  You started as a premed student, became a kindergarten teacher, to modeling, to acting, to art, now to comedy.  What drives you to constantly push down boundaries?
Christian LeBlanc: To tell you honestly, and not to be morbid, but my brother passed away.  I don’t want to present this as a down thing.  It’s hard for me to think back to it as it was.  It was hard, he was ill for a long time. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How old was he?
Christian LeBlanc: He was 25 years old. A beautiful, beautiful boy.  I remember him saying, “If I only had another chance.” He wasn’t wailing it, it wasn’t anything like that.  But I remember that stuck in my head.  Out of all the conversations we had toward the end.  You had to cram in a lifetime of conversations into about a year.  It’s an awful thing to say.  I remember thinking that I didn’t want to ever have that feeling, or ever have to ask that question, or to wish that.

I’ve been so so blessed.  So why not give yourself all the opportunities in the world and take advantage of them? I am not digging ditches.  I have been given so many things.  And I’ve worked hard.  I’ve worked extremely hard.  But I have been very lucky with things.  Why not take advantage of things?  This is the most bully pulpit I can have to get out there and try new things.  But I get the other part too.  I get the part that wants to be still and to hide. I was being really loud and crazy on the set.  Michelle Stafford turned and said, “He’s not like this at home.” It’s true! I’m very sedate at home.  I get the part of us that wants to get away from the hardness of things.  But second chances don’t come around.  Why spare them? Sleep when you’re dead.  You’re called to do what you are called to do, and it takes all different forms.  I can never judge anybody else’s forms.  But if you ask me what I’m most afraid of? It’s not living my life the way I know it could be lived.  Not using it up.  You don’t want to be the one on your deathbed saying, “If I coulda shoulda woulda...”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading! To meet Christian upclose and personal, please attend Soap Star Spectacular and Soap Cruise Fourth Voyage

Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City.  He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." He is especially excited about hosting The Third Annual Give Up Your "Shoulds" Day on November 1st.   

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