Interview: Y&R’s Eric Braeden

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Eric Braeden

The Young and the Restless star and television icon Eric Braeden was in Toronto this past weekend for a fan appearance at OLG Woodbine and to help raise money for the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, as well as the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine. Mr. Braeden took some time to speak about the soap’s recent controversial storyline, the love affair between his character, Victor Newman, and Nikki and the complex relationship between Victor and his son, Adam.

Welcome to Toronto. We hope you’ve been enjoying your stay.
I have enjoyed the last few days in Toronto. I was stunned by the progress they’ve made in stem cell research and the new technological development here. It’s extraordinary. I have deep respect for the scientists and doctors that I met this weekend. The fact that we had an anti-stem cell regime for a while in America has moved a lot of the research to Toronto. There are enormous developments on the horizon. They have raised a lot of money and I’ve just been very impressed by meeting all those involved. I even met my old friend [boxer]George Chuvalo. The man had a hundred professional fights and was never knocked down! I know a bit about boxing and I can tell you that is extraordinary. He fought the best, from Muhammad Ali to Joe Frazier. I have the deepest respect for him.

The fan reaction here must have been very warm. Y&R is very popular in Canada.
Very welcome. The reaction here has been very wonderful here over the years. I enjoy visiting Canada.

There’s a very big male audience for Y&R – especially for your character. While daytime is usually regarded as a women’s medium, the character of Victor Newman has translated very well to the male audiences. Every man wants to be like Victor Newman.  
In the last few years, I’ve heard from males who are fans of the show. It’s no longer limited to women. A lot of athletes have watched the show and this has been the case for many years. They’ve been very open about it. What can I tell you? Some of the stories are very interesting.

Audience and critical reaction has been quite negative in recent weeks over the death of Delia Abbott. While the performances were riveting, many felt the death of a young child was unnecessary, especially after the death of Katherine Chancellor, which could have provided the show with the same type of umbrella storyline.
I don’t write it… I just know that the death of Delia was a very heart-rending story. I must say that I was very touched by it. The acting was very wonderful. Billy Miller (Billy), Amelia Heinle (Victoria) and Elizabeth Hendrickson (Chloe) have all done an absolutely wonderful job. To me, it was very good drama. Is it a pleasant subject? Of course not. It’s a horrible subject. It’s the worst thing one can imagine, but we are in the business of making drama.

And of course there’s more drama coming up with Nikki’s long lost son.
[Laughs] Well, you know…yeah, I guess so. Listen, I’ve been at it now for 33 years and I don’t question things anymore. I just trust the writers to do their job and it’s a damn hard job. They have to think of storylines continuously for so many characters. It’s a tough job.

It must also be hard for the new writers to come along and not be aware of all the history, because we now have Nikki attributing her alcoholism to giving away her cult baby, when we all remember her developing that problem because of a back injury.
Aha! You know more about it than I do!

You recently spoke out about the change in writers where you hoped Sony and CBS would hire someone who understood the history of the show. Since then, they’ve announced that Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman would be the new head writers while Tracy Thomson would serve as co-head writer. All three are relatively new to this show. While their material has yet to hit the airways, how have their scripts been?
So far, I have been okay with it. Look, I’m an actor. As long as you are just acting and not writing it, you have very little say over it…and you shouldn’t have say over it because it’s a difficult job to write that stuff. I mean, it takes enormous concentration – so if something goes awry, then obviously we will remind them of it and correct it. But [so far]I have not had reason to complain. I have great respect for writers. My son [Christian Gudegast] is a screenwriter and I think it’s the toughest job in our business. It’s a tougher job than directing and producing. Writing is the foundation of what we do, so I have enormous respect.

Throughout the recent changes in writers, the relationship between Victor and Adam (Michael Muhney) has been wonderfully complex.
Father and son relationships can be very difficult and can usually be more difficult when the father is very wealthy and has accomplish an enormous amount. Sons coming in after that often have a difficult time filling those shoes. Successful and powerful fathers are tasked to raise their sons in a way where they don’t feel lesser than. Is Victor very good at that? I don’t think so. Do I like that? No. I personally have a very good relationship with my son. I respect him enormously. I played sports with him from very early on, be it tennis or boxing, and got to a point where he took over and became stronger [than myself]. I remember when we were sparring once, he hit me with a right cross! He was about 20 and it shook me up a little. He stood up in front of me and said, “My god…that feels good!” I replied “You son of a gun!” but I understood. If you understand anything about psychoanalysis, you have heard about the Oedipus complex where the son subconsciously or consciously wants to undo the father and be better than the father. So, that’s the natural progression. How you deal with it as a father, that’s up to you. How does Victor deal with it? Not in a very satisfactory manner. I personally have never liked that but without that, you have no drama. So, do I agree with everything that Victor does? No, absolutely not.

Will we see Victor eventually step down a bit for the younger generation? His grandson Noah has finally taken a job at Newman.
I doubt it! [Laughs] I don’t know. Is Warren Buffet stepping down? No. Victor is not stepping down.

The love affair between Victor and Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) has captured audiences for over three decades. What do you think has made this pairing immensely popular?
To be frank with you, I don’t know. However, I think that the fact that they are both vulnerable to each has meant a lot to audiences. When something works in our business, I don’t question it or try to dissect it. The only thing that I can ascribe to these two is the fact that Nikki is vulnerable to Victor and that he is vulnerable to Nikki. Their relationship has been solidly mixed with reality where no marriage is just roses. It goes through enormous ups and downs. The more that people are in love with each other, the angrier they can get with each other. That’s life! We also both respect each other as people. We love working with each other. I love working with her and I think Mel feels the same. We have really deep emotional feelings to play.

As viewer of this genre, I just want to thank you as a performer. You are in our homes sometimes five days a week over the course of all these years. Families often grow up watching the show together. It’s an escape they can all experience together. There is a lot of gratitude to performers like you.
I must say that I appreciate that enormously!

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadian fans can also keep up to date with Y&R on GlobalTV.com, through On Demand and mobile devices using the Global Go app.

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About Author

Jeevan Brar is a digital content producer and freelance entertainment writer based in Toronto. Jeevan has managed The TV Watercooler since 2008, the Canadian blog has focused on daytime soaps, primetime hits and reality TV guilty pleasures. The blog has also connected Canadian soap fans with exclusive interviews with the cast of enduring daytime dramas The Young and the Restless, Days of our Lives, General Hospital and The Bold and the Beautiful. 'Like' The TV Watercooler on Facebook. You can also follow Jeevan on Twitter and Google+.

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