"Comedy is basically life on steroids" thus says Days of Our Lives hunk Eric Martsolf. The actor, who is as good-natured as he is good looking, will get a chance to prove his theory this weekend, when he hosts ACME Saturday Night, L.A's hottest sketch comedy show, at the ACME Comedy Theatre in Hollywood.
I caught up with Martsolf to discuss his hosting gig. We also chatted about what it was like having to play "the wall" on Passions, while so many of his costars got to tickle viewers funny bones on the supernatural sudser. Then we talked about how skeptical critics (like me) were when news first broke that he and fellow Passions alum Galen Gering were joining DAYS. Does he feel vindicated now that the sudser is experiencing a creative and ratings renaissance?
We also discuss the legacy of his former boss, the late James E. Reilly; how he is "carrying the torch" for Drake Hogestyn; Brady's "addiction" to Nicole Walker (Arianne Zucker) and how Martsolf's amazing life adventures, including marriage to wife Lisa, with whom he shares twin sons, Mason and Chase, has brought so much comedy to his soap jumping life.
Daytime Confidential: You're hosting ACME Saturday Night this week. How did the gig come about?
Eric Martsolf: Well, actually it was a through a friend of a friend through a friend. [Laughs]. No, coincidentally, Arianne Zucker had done it. I knew another one of the girls involved, I had done this crazy, little Christmas show called "Jingle Bell Rock", and she told them, "Hey, I know this guy who would be willing to make a fool out of himself for an hour or so on stage." So that's how it came about.
DC: In your two soap roles, you've always had to be the straight man, while others around you get to be more comedic. First on Passions, then on DAYS with Molly Burnett. How did you play your scenes on Passions and keep a straight face?
EM: That's actually an awesome question! I had to play the wall. I was the guy saying, "What do you mean there's a witch in the other room? What do you mean there are bleeding walls?" I say this all the time, you take any soap opera Emmy winner and give them a Passions script and they would sink. It takes a special talent to bring some sense of reality when you're asked to do the stuff we did on Passions. [Laughs] But I loved it. I was so happy to be a part of all of that. It was an amazing experience.
DC: I bet appearing on a show like Passions had to bond you with your costars for life?
EM: Oh yeah, definitely, even on the set of DAYS now, Lindsay [Hartley] and I have inside jokes that only we are aware of.
DC: You know, I have a confession to make...
EM: What's that?
DC: I was one of those DAYS fans who bitched and moaned when I found out you and Galen Gering were coming to the show. I was like, "Here we go, the Passions actors are gonna eat Salem!" But you guys have more than proven me and other naysayers wrong! "Safe" is one on of my favorite couples on the show, and I love your interpretation of Brady Black. I was always a big fan of Lindsay Hartley's, but I was skeptical about you guys. When I told Galen this on the red carpet last year at the Daytime Emmys he started dancing!
EM: [Laughs] Yeah, that's Galen for you!
DC: Today, when you look at the ratings, which most critics attribute in part to the three of you joining the show, along with the return of Crystal Chappell and smarter storytelling for vets like Alison Sweeney, Peter Reckell, Kristian Alfonso and Suzanne Rogers, does it give you a sense of pride to have proven skeptics like me wrong?
EM: Well, in fear of waving our own flags, sure it does. I think it's a fact that we helped boost the ratings, don't you?
EM: I mean, the Passions fans were very die hard, and they needed a new home. I don't think it's a stretch to assume Ethan and Theresa's fans followed us to Salem. Then Crystal, with the Guiding Light fans, they needed a new home too. That's the thing about people who follow soaps. They need their stories. It seemed to all happen simultaneously. Plus, as you mentioned, the show just got better, the writing, everything, and so yeah, I hope we helped the ratings go up.
DC: Speaking of ratings, your boss at Passions, the late James E. Reilly was the last writer to help DAYS spike in the ratings significantly before its recent renaissance. With Reilly's legacy it seems people either loved him, and saw him as someone who bought soaps another decade of time, or they hated him, and blame him for the genre's downfall. Personally, I am a card-carrying fan of Reilly's first stint on DAYS, although not his second. I readily admit I wasn't much of a fan of Passions, but I know the show had legions of cult fans, including my late grandparents. What is your take on Reilly?
EM: You know, James Reilly was one of a kind. I think it's often forgotten that Passions came about because of the popularity of Marlena's possession on DAYS. NBC literally handed Reilly their daytime lineup and said, "Here, steer the wheel", or so I've been told, and sure, a lot of people complained, but since then you've had vampires in Port Charles and other wacky stuff on Passions of course. He kept us entertained. You definitely couldn't call the guy unoriginal. It took courage to stand out from the crowd and say, "I'm gonna do it this way". I've been to Canada for several fan events, and there seems to be more Passions fans there than Y&R fans. It's insane. The fans of the show really loved it, and that's a testament to James Reilly.
DC: Well, it's a testament to you keeping in such good shape that soaps always seem to have you half dressed and in love scenes! I was talking to one of our site's bloggers, who recently started watching DAYS, and she said the reason the ratings are up is because you guys are always having sex!
EM: [Laughs] Really? Brady? Now I know Ethan was always naked. On Passions we took off our shirts for any ridiculous reason. "Oh look, there's a fire-breathing werewolf, let's take off our shirts!" but I haven't been getting that much action on DAYS, have I?
DC: Uh, you and Arianna? The one preview they use all the time of you sitting Indian style naked, under sheets. Not that I pay that much attention! [Laughs]
EM: Oh, yeah, come to think of it, Brady has been having a few escapades, and that could increase pretty soon.
DC: Are you talking about with Nicole coming back?
EM: Could be. [Laughs] We'll just have to wait and see. Right now he's really into this Arianna chick. They keep goofing around about proposals.
DC: Marriage proposals?
EM: Yeah, you know, teasing about "Why does every couple in Salem have to get married?" But the more they spend time together, the more they think, "Maybe?"
DC: So Brady could be walking down the aisle again one day?
EM: You never know! [Laughs]. I mean Nicole is still in prison, and she's a small addiction, this tall blonde who's locked up.
DC: When you first started playing opposite Arianne Zucker was it weird since her husband, Kyle Lowder was the original adult Brady? Did she ever say, "Kyle did it this way"?
EM: You know, I can honestly say that never came up. I was aware of Kyle's portrayal of Brady, but I was determined to make the character my own, and Arianne was amazing from the start.
DC: You've definitely made Brady your own. He's much more like John Black, Jr. now. You've brought that Drake Hogestyn swagger to the role. Was that intentional?
EM: I appreciate you for recognizing that, because I have definitely tried to incorporate Drake's swagger, as you call it [Laughs], into Brady. One of the last things he said to me before leaving [the show] was, "Carry the torch kid" and I knew exactly what he meant. He meant don't let the whole John Black persona die. So I said, "Let's bring in some of John's traits. Let's bring in the leather jacket." That was important to me, and I felt it would be important to the fans.
DC: Earlier you mentioned Brady being addicted to Nicole, before that, he was addicted to drugs. In story, this happened after Kyle's version of the character left the series, and before you assumed the role. Since Brady's battle with his addiction happened off screen, would you relish the chance to play a relapse for the character?
EM: Are you kidding me? I would love for Brady to fall off the wagon. Every actor wants to play a character's downfall. It's all been back story at this point. It would be amazing to see Brady stumble, and if anyone can make him go back to doing drugs, it's Nicole! [Laughs]
DC: So, back to ACME. What can you tell us about the sketches you're going to be doing when you host?
EM: The best thing about ACME is you go in, get your sketches just a few days before, rehearse on Friday, then do them Saturday. Anything can happen, you never know! I know its cliché, but comedy is so much harder than drama. Comedy is basically life on steroids. There's so much truth in comedy. Being married, having twin boys, having been on a Broadway tour, and jumping from soap to soap, you can bet my life is full of comedy!
Be sure to check out Eric Martsolf, this Saturday night, Feb. 27, at 7 pm at the Acme Comedy Theatre, located at 135 N. La Brea Avenue in Hollywood, CA. For those of you not in SoCal, you can watch the live streaming show online by clicking here tomorrow night! We will be posting a reminder on the blog!