July 11, 2009 - 10 years of Santa Barbara : le site Francais
July 30,
2009 - 25 years of Santa Barbara

Lane Davies : «It was a great time in my life.»

 By Nicolas, exclusively for Santa Barbara : le site Francais, July 2009

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On last July 29, Lane Davies agreed to take on his time to answer exclusively the questions of Santa Barbara : le site Francais. The actor talks about his debuts, about the Santa Barbara years as the first interpreter of Mason Capwell, and at last about his life since his departure of the show.

The beginnings before Santa Barbara

At first, I'd like you to tell us a little about you: How old are you today ? Where do you live ? When they were kids, we saw pictures of you and your children in the press. Of course, they must have grown up since then. How old are they now ? What do they do ? Do any of them want to start an artistic career like his father ?

I'll be 59 on July 31st. I have a house on a lake in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of North Georgia. Nathan is 17, may go into film or television, Thatcher is almost 19, and pursuing a degree in bio-medical and nano-technology.

I always thought that, especially with a long time part, the personality of an actor always shows through. What would you consider to have brought to Mason's personality ?

Probably his sense of humor - I tend to have a somewhat ascerbic wit.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor ?

When I was about 15 years old. I did a play in high school which was well received. It was the only way I could get attention, since I wasn't on the football team.

How did you start your career ?

Doing theatre wherever I could, studying in New York. Moved to Los Angeles in my mid-twenties, and just kept at it.

 

The time of Santa Barbara

How did you start in Santa Barbara ?

I auditioned for the writers and producers, and then screen-tested. They saw a quality they thought would work for Mason. (who was originally named "Martin"...)

How did Mason was presented to you at first ? Did you imagine he would quickly become one of the deepest characters of all the show ?

He was presented as the black sheep of the family, sort of like "J.R." in Dallas. Those parts always present opportunity to a resourceful actor...

Mason knew many adventures through the years. What were your favorite storylines and the ones you particularly disliked ?

I loved working with Harley Kozak in the Mason-Mary story, though I didn't like all of  twists and turns. Killing her off was a huge mistake. I hated the Lily Light storyline. The Sonny Sprockett story was silly, but a lot of fun to do.

During summers of 1986 to 1988, you get free time away from Santa Barbara to play in Shakespeare plays. How did you succeed to obtain this free time ? And what do you think of the storylines which explained Mason's absence in the show during these times ?

Actually, they were pretty good about letting me out at first, because I had earned a lot of favors from the Dobsons. Later, I had to negotiate pretty firmly for the time off. I made it a deal-breaker in one negotiation. New World television didn't understand an actor who wanted to give up a large income for a small one doing Shakespeare, so they eventually gave in. As I said earlier, killing Mary off to give me a reason to leave in '87 was a really dumb idea. They could have just said, "Mason's been under a lot of stress, and has gone to Hawaii for a month", or something like that, but I guess that's not dramatic enough for Daytime Drama.

Did you like to "forget" Mason for a few months in 1988 and to play funny Sonny Sprockett ? Was it a choice from your part to "change" of character for a while ?

Sonny wasn't my idea, but making him Southern was.

In your opinion, what character has not been deepened enough and what character should not have existed ?

I asked them to keep Téa Leoni when she filled in for Tawny Kitaen for a week. I would have liked them to use Dame Judith Anderson more - she was an icon, and should have been a bigger part of the show. I also felt they could have explored the sibling relationships more between the Capwell kids.

What big society subject should have been tackled by Santa Barbara ?

I thought an incest storyline would have been fun to explore, but the writers were afraid of it. I thought they spent too MUCH time on Mason's alcoholism. Other subjects were probably better left to CNN than Santa Barbara - we sort of had a 'tongue-in-cheek' attitude toward the scripts.

What were your favorite male and female acting partners as Mason Capwell ?

A Martinez and Jed Allan, though I would have liked more to do with Todd McKee. Harley Kozak for the females, though Nancy Grahn and I had a lot of fun until the relationship sort of  "went south", as we say in the States.

What was your best remembrance from the show, on a relational and on a professional level ?

There are too many to pick a favorite. It was a great time in my life - steady, interesting work, lots of money, good friends, and a sort of dysfunctional but happy creative family.

How do you consider the evolutions Santa Barbara knew through the years ? Also, what was for you the Dobson's touch on Santa Barbara ?

I felt like the show deteriorated after the Dobson's left. What made Santa Barbara different from other serials was it's sense of humor - the show never quite recovered that once the Dobsons left the show.

What did make you decide to leave Santa Barbara in 1989 ?

It was simply time to go. I was very tired, needed new challenges, and I felt the show had lost its heart.

What storyline for Mason would have decided you to stay in Santa Barbara ?

I'm not sure there was one. I was really ready to go.

What do you think of the choice of your substitutes as Mason (late Terry Lester and Gordon Thomson) ? In your opinion, were they different Masons than you were ?

I was good friends with Terry, a wonderful actor who worked in my theatre company. I met Gordon on a couple of occasions - a very nice man and a good actor. But I think the Mason that the Dobsons and I created was such an original character, that all another actor could do was create their own, which is what Terry and Gordon did. They also brought into the Mason/Julia love story more than I did - I never made Mason completely available emotionally after Mary's death.

Have you been contacted by the producers in 1990 to come back as Mason when Terry Lester left the show ?

Yes, I had lunch with the Executive Producer, and was offered a great deal of money to return. It simply wasn't time - my prime-time career was doing well, I still had issues with the story, and just wasn't ready to go back.

If you hadn't play Mason, what character would you have liked to play ?

Probably Keith Timmons. As I said, those bad boys are fun for actors to play. Justin Deas is a first-rate actor, and I loved what he did with the part.

Did you keep in touch with members of the cast or the crew after your departure ? Did you continue to watch the show ?

I didn't watch the show, though I have kept up with some of the cast over the years. I recently got back in touch with Marcy Walker.

At your departure from the show in 1989, you travelled for weeks through the world with Todd McKee. You came in France, with Louise Sorel, and learned a little French. What remembrances do you keep from that time ? How do you explain that Santa Barbara was so popular in France ?

Actually, we travelled for months - I was gone from July of '89 to February of '90. No idea why the show was such a hit in France, but I have many fond memories of my time there - too many to list.

 

These 20 last years after Santa Barbara and now

You played in daytime soap-operas, sitcoms, movies and of course a lot of plays... What difference do you find in all these kind of programs as an actor ?  Which one do you prefer ?

Pace of production is the biggest difference in the process for an actor. The work itself doesn't change much. Theatre is and always will be my first love.

I read a few years ago that you have participated to a Russian TV series... Tell us more about that !

A great experience, working with Rodion Nehapetov both as an actor and director. It continues to show up on Russian channels from time to time. I'd love to do more, but spend more time in Russia than Los Angeles.

In 2002, you joined General Hospital. How was it to experience a daytime soap-opera and play with Nancy Lee Grahn again ?

I liked the part, but the writers never really got the story off the ground with Nancy - her character was either obsessed with her baby, crazy, or dressed like a man the whole time I was on the show. Difficult to get a romantic story off the ground.

Do you have projects for this year ? This summer, are you going on stage again with The Santa Susana Repertory Company ?

Just finished the second season of my latest venture, the Tennessee Shakespeare Festival. The Santa Susana Repertory Company no longer exists, as almost all of my theatre work is on the East coast now. I'm in rehearsal to play Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady this September, and will play Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  in late October. I have a nice part in film called Elide, a Russian project written by Pier Luigi Bruno, which is in pre-production.

Do you find it easier or more difficult to be an actor today than at the time of your beginnings ?

It's easier now for me, as I consider myself semi-retired, and only work on projects that either interest me or that I create. I can't speak for young people starting out - reality shows and game shows have eaten up a lot of work, but the new media are opening up fresh opportunities.

What would you like to say to all the Santa Barbara fans all over the world ?

I'd like to say that I am touched, honored and flattered that Mason and his colleagues are still so fondly remembered around the world all these years later. It was a great time in my life.

 

Once again all my thanks to Tracy (Lane-Davies.com : the official website) who was a great help in the realization of this interview, and of course to Lane Davies for his time and his kindness.