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DC EXCLUSIVE: Robert Newman, Tragic Hero

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The cast of Guiding Light recently spent some fun in the sun at Universal Orlando, filming on location episodes to air later this spring. Robert Newman took time out of his busy schedule to visit with me about Guiding Light, the investment of the network in the show, the impact of the new production model and what the future might hold for one of daytime’s legendary couples, Josh and Reva (Kim Zimmer).


Daytime Confidential: Now I understand you aren't filming here?

Robert Newman: No. I'm just here for the PR part of it.  

DC: How have you adjusted to the new production style?

RN: Well, it took me a while. I'm not gonna lie about that. I've been in this game for a long time and I've been through a zillion changes. This one by far has been the most extreme. I think it was hard. I've heard Alan say before that one of the most difficult things was that we had to go through these changes in front of the audience. We couldn't just shut down for 6 months and figure out how to do this. It was a lot of growing pains, adjustment, and difficulty.

For a while I felt really kind of out of sorts with it. I couldn't figure it out. One of the biggest changes for us as actors was zero rehearsal. I mean we had no rehearsal whatsoever. There's something that's kind of exciting about that and then there's something kind of really scary as hell about that. You just don't know. I mean you start a scene and you really don't know where it's going to go.

Now in the past, Kim and I have had many scenes like that. I mean we've surprised each other, we've surprised the director, and things happen that didn't happen in rehearsal at all. And some of those were some of the best moments and most memorable moments between those two characters. But to do that full time on every single scene is kind of a scary concept. But now, I'm down with it. I love it. I think I actually enjoy shooting outside more than inside. Which is a big change. There are so many things that changed for us. I mean for years we shot proscenium style so we have this line and the camera and booms are there and here's my space and we do our thing. But now they’re just here and here and here. And you’re just surrounded by people. And yet you’re still trying to keep this sort of focus here and do what you need to do. And that took a little while.

DC: Was that the hardest thing for you, to switch over?

RN: No rehearsal. I'm a huge fan of rehearsal. I mean I do a lot of theatre work and I'm a big believer in rehearsal. I feel like there's a purpose to the process. Each time you rehearse something it evolves and evolves and hopefully by the time the red light goes on and your taping, it's gotten to the place it needs to be. Or at least it's, I like to think of it as you get it to 75 percent of where it needs to be and that other 25 percent comes from any surprises that are gonna happen when you actually shoot something. So I miss that process. But even that I've sort of adjusted to. And I always find my other actors in the scene I'm about to shoot, you know Jeff [Branson], Jordan [Clarke], well Jordan I've always done this with, and we just sit in the dressing room and run through scenes. It just helps you get a feel for how the rhythm of the scene is gonna work. That's how Jordan and I have always sort have worked out that Josh/Billy banter over the years. That's where we do most of our work; sitting in a dressing room. And then we get on camera and just do it.

DC: Just let it flow.

RN: Yeah. But I feel like we've gotten through a lot of different growing pains, and the such, but I think the show looks great. I really do. I think it looks terrific. We're still tweaking, I mean we’re always tweaking.

DC: I think it has come a long way from when it started the new style.

RN: Oh yeah. Compared to a year ago, it's much better. It's great. I also think we have a phenomenal cast with good people and nice people and great crew and everybody is good at what they do. And we've all been challenged in different ways. And everybody has stepped up and we're just making it work.

DC: What does it mean to you that Guiding Light is shooting here?

RN: First of all, I see it as a really positive thing. I mean this genre is fighting

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DC: For its life.

RN: Yeah, and it's not just our show it's all of them. I'm on the board of AFTRA, which is the actors union that represents soap operas. I was in negotiations with the producers a few months ago so I've heard all sides of it. We're fighting. We're all in this fight together. You’re in it, I'm in it, the fans are in it, we're all in it. I hate to repeat myself, but it's definitely a genre worth saving.

There's been a lot concerns about this show, but I think the very fact that were coming down here and shooting at this time says that we have CBS behind us, we have Proctor & Gamble behind us, they’re putting money into the show. I mean if we were going off the air why would you be putting money into something like this, why would you be doing something like this? So, it gives me a really good feeling and I think were in a very positive place. I'm reading more positive things about the show and we need that.

DC: It's gotten so much better.The show is on fire right now.

RN: We've got great people. Jeff has been a great addition to the show. Having Grant [Aleksander] back has been great. It's been great to be with him and watch him work. And then it's combinations of people. Jeff and Gina [Tognoni] together have been phenomenal. Having David [Andrew MacDonald]back for a while was fun but he's off doing theatre again.He's a terrific guy.  

DC: So what do you think about your current storyline?

RN: There's stuff coming up that you haven't seen yet that we've shot with Edmund that's really kind of cool. I feel like right now I'm sort of sitting back a little bit and I'm okay with it. I mean Josh has been in the spotlight lots over the years. Right now the nice thing about what I'm doing is that I'm working with a lot of different people. Sometimes I open a script and see that I get to work with people I normally don't work with. Like maybe I'll have a scene with Justin [Deas] or maybe something with Crystal [Chappell].  

They have this odd chemistry together. It's such a weird relationship. Here's the current husband of my ex, ex, ex, wife. I love working with Bradley [Cole] and he's such a calming presence. He's obviously so good at what he does. We just get along and enjoy working together. You know, I've had a couple of scene with Liz Keifer, a while back. That's the nice thing about this. Then of course working with Jeff, Kim, and Jordan. Every time I open a script it's like "Oh I get to work with this person, or this person" That's the good thing about it.

DC: Can you give us any insight into your character's future?

RN: I don't have any.

DC: Oh come on.

RN: No, seriously I don't. I don't know what I'm shooting next week. I have no idea. I used to make a point of sitting down with Ellen or one of the writers or something, about maybe three times a year just to see what's going on and what's coming up but the last year or so I haven't been doing that. I don't know what that's about. I just feel like I don't need to know. But whatever they do, like I don't know where they will go romantically with Josh, but I want the writers to be sure they know where they want to go with him. I don't want them to test the waters here and try that. I want them to really take the time to get whatever they need to figure out where they want to go with this guy next. Then, go out and do it. I'm okay with that. I got no complaints.  

DC: Any chance of Josh and Reva?

RN: I haven't the faintest idea.

DC: You’re like "I don't even know."

RN: I don't. I really don't. Every time I talk about Josh and Reva I get in trouble with the fans. So I'm always hesitant to comment on them. The only thing I will say is that Kim and I have both talked about a fourth wedding theme. It just seems like whatever they do they’re clearly not good at being married. So they probably shouldn't consider that as an option. I don't know if the writers are planning on getting them back together.

It's an interesting relationship now. I see Josh as, actually, really sort of lonely right now. He'll probably throw himself too heavily into his son's life or too heavily into Jeffrey and Reva's life because he doesn't know where he's going. His life as a minister didn't go to well. Then, he kind of made one last ditch effort to get Reva back the day she got married to Jeffrey. Then he kind of chose to step back and say "Ok this is what's best for her now". Then he got hit with Reva's cancer returning while she's pregnant. There's all that stuff he's sort of dealing with and his own life is sort of sitting on the back burner. I don't know. He seems like sort of like a tragic character.

DC: Yeah, he's kind of like that tragic hero. That's why we love Josh.