Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thorsten Kaye Is Still The "Occupant" Of Our Hearts - Part Two

In Part One of our interview with Thorsten Kaye, the beloved and funny actor discussed his role in the new thriller Occupant, working with ATWT's Van Hansis, and the incidents and accidents that shaped his acting career.  In Part Two below, we delve deeper into the current state of daytime television, the misguided focus of "explosions" on soaps, what went wrong with the lesbian wedding on ALL MY CHILDREN, and reflections of his stint as Patrick Thornhart on ONE LIFE TO LIVE.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One of the reasons why I love soaps is because I believe they have to power to promote mental health and emotional resilience in a way that no other art form can. 
Thorsten Kaye: I think you’re right.  It’s a great platform for that.  But with that possible success comes possible failure.  I’ve been in story lines, and I know Van has [as Luke on AS THE WORLD TURNS], where that possibility was great, but the ball got dropped somewhere.  That is just as disappointing as it is rewarding when it does work. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You’ve seen that happen in your roles?
Thorsten Kaye: You always think you can do better.  We had the lesbian storyline on ALL MY CHILDREN and the first lesbian wedding.  But it was about the event, not about the characters.  I think they could have gone so much further.  They had an audience that was willing to listen.  I don’t know why they didn’t push it through the way they had talked about it. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We have seen more of that in recent years.
Thorsten Kaye: You know why that is? The writers don’t trust the audience, they think you’re going to get bored.  They think they have to move fast because it is 2010 and people don’t have that attention span anymore.  But if something is good they will listen.  If you rush them through it they won’t.  You can’t create something if you are scared.  You can’t create something out of fear.  And sometimes that's what happens.  Everybody is worried about their jobs.  When you look at Hollywood you see the producers are just remaking things that were already hits.  Then when they don’t work they can say, “It’s not my fault, it was something that worked before.”  New ideas are put on the shelf for that reason. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Which is why we are so excited about the potential of the internet to tell continuing stories without censorship and corporate interference.
Thorsten Kaye: Absolutely.  I went to the [New York] Rangers game last night with a friend.  These two guys came up who have a treasure hunt on the internet.  They buried this treasure of 10,000 one dollar coins somewhere.  It was the idea of giving an audience what they want.  I don’t know how they’re going to make money on that though.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It seems that even 15 years ago the networks trusted the audience more.  Susan Haskell's [Marty Saybrooke] rape story and her healing process on ONE LIFE was told slowly over several years.  We saw her work through trauma and fear in real time.
Thorsten Kaye: And that is what all drama is about.  It's not about the event, it's about how people are affected by it.  It does seem that networks shy away from that and just want to get to the event every Friday so people can get to the explosion.  And you know, daytime doesn’t do explosions very well.  We all have limitations, even in Occupant.  If you don’t have ten millions dollars then you have to create something with the money you do have.  You can’t say, “I want Titanic.”  You have what you have and you have to work with that.  Sometimes soaps try to create something and it’s just not going to look as good. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: For me, the problem with soap's over emphasis on tornadoes and explosions is that they take away from the characters, from the relationships, from the psychological dynamics.  The story is no longer about people, special effects become the star. 
Thorsten Kaye: Right.  And the special effects don’t look good.  They don’t have the money for it.  If they had the money they could do it.  What I tried to do on a daily basis was to show how the character feels about it.  If you want to see explosions, watch at night.  Watch CSI. That is what they do. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And again, Susan's story is one of the last great examples of great psychologically complex story telling.  It was constructed in such a way so that the moment Patrick rushed into the Irish pub to kiss her in 1995, the audience was so ready for her to be swept away.  You seemed to step into that role seamlessly.  What was it like for you to start on ONE LIFE?
Thorsten Kaye:  It was great to have a job first of all.  But I can’t take credit for all that.  It was all about the setup.  Like if you tell a joke in the right way, the punch line gets the laugh, but the setup sells it.  If she and Roger Howarth [Todd Manning] hadn’t done such a great job then that punch line would not have worked either.  So I can’t take any credit for that.  I just walked in and let my hair grow.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You had short hair before you took the role of Patrick?
Thorsten Kaye: Yes, I usually do.  I look like an ugly woman with long hair. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And part of the story was that there had to be a physical resemblance  between you and Roger Howarth, who had longer hair at the time.
Thorsten Kaye: Yeah, I don’t know how you were going to make that mistake.  But it was a good time.  Susan Bedsow-Horgan was the executive producer at the time, and Michael Malone was the writer.  They took some chances.  Then the show kind of went overboard with Irish terrorist stuff.  And I said, “That’s not something to take lightly and talk about it like it is some little thing.  It is a big deal.”  The IRA at that point were still doing their thing.  And it's not something you can just throw out there.  If you are going to tell a story then you have to take responsibility for it.  I feel that they didn’t. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is that what lead to your leaving in 1997?
Thorsten Kaye: I’m a real bitch like that.  If I don’t get something, or if I feel like something is going the wrong way, then I’ll move on.  I didn’t think we could save it. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One of the great things about that was meeting your life partner Susan Haskell.
Thorsten Kaye: That was the best thing, of course.  And now we have these cool little kids running around.  There’s nothing like that. 

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So between ONE LIFE in 1997 and PORT CHARLES in 2001, what did you do keep your busy?
Thorsten Kaye:  I am always doing something.  That was a long time ago.  I did what I could to stay on top of things.  I’m a little bit older now and probably going to take jobs that are not going to change the world.  I was just in Detroit and talked to my alma mater. I went to graduate school there.  It was funny because you can hear yourself in it when they say, “I just want to change the world.”  I thought, “Or, just work, get paid for it, and find your fulfillment with your family.”

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Just showing up to work every day with integrity can change the world.
Thorsten Kaye:  And it doesn’t mean that it will either.  I don’t know if you have to look for that.  I took this job with Occupant because my friend Blair [Treisman Rosenfeld] was producing it and I thought it would be a good fit. It was a fun deal.  Do I think it’s going to change the world? No.  Do I think it’s going to make people think about war and world hunger? Probably not.  But it will give them escape and let them enjoy for a little while.  It’s scary and freaky and you don’t know what is going to happen next.  I guess that can give you fulfillment, but that’s not why I do this anymore.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Why do you do this work?
Thorsten Kaye: I like it. It’s fun.  I was told Van was going to be in it and I thought, “Okay, let me watch this.” I like watching actors going through it and figuring stuff out.  I like the process actors go through and how they get to a certain point.  I like seeing the technical aspects of it through the actors, the writers, the directors, and the lighting crew, it’s all kind of fun to me.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Three in which Thorsten reflects on his time in PORT CHARLES, insights into the highs and lows of Zach Slater on ALL MY CHILDREN, and why he really left the show. 

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." For more information about scheduling an appointment, please email him at [email protected]. Late night appointments are available.


  1. Great interview, Damon. Thorsten is so refreshingly honest, it's a real treat to read his thoughts.

  2. Great interview. Funny and intelligent.

    And he's right: he looks better with short hair. ;)