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

Mark Arnold : «I consider myself fortunate to have played Joe.»

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

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On last August 06, Mark Arnold agreed to take on his time to answer exclusively the questions of Santa Barbara : le site Francais. The actor talks about the Santa Barbara years as the second interpreter of Joe Perkins, his vision of the work on daytime soap-operas, 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 ? Do you live in couple or have children ?

I live in Pasadena, CA. Divorced, single, no children.

To know you better, what did you brought from yourself in the character of Joe ?

I don't really remember what I brought of myself to playing Joe. It was instinctual.

When did you know you wanted to be an actor ?

I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was a senior in High School, and I had to decide what I wanted to study. My first play was in First Grade.

How did you start your career ?

I got my first job a couple of days before graduating college, and it was a TV Movie of the Week called My Old Man, starring Kristy McNichol, Warren Oates and Eileen Brennan. It was adapted from a Hemingway story.

 

The time of Santa Barbara

How did you start in Santa Barbara ? Did you ever watch the show during its first months ?

I did not watch it beforehand. They called me to offer me the role before they let go Dane.

Dane Witherspoon was the first actor to play Joe during the very first months of the show in 1984. Is it difficult for an actor to play a character that was already played by another actor ? Do you remember how your arrival was perceived by the audience ?

It was uncomfortable to replace an actor the day after he'd been fired. The character was in disguise, so that they could reveal me out of the makeup. Characters get replaced all the time in daytime dramas, and in movies franchises now, as well. From an acting standpoint, I had to play catch-up to understand the history of the relationships. From a personal point of view, if I remember correctly, Robin was either dating or living with Dane, so that must have made it uncomfortable for her. It's not as clean as walking in on a new role.

How did Joe was presented to you at first ?

I don't really remember. In those situations, it becomes more about them getting someone to take over. There was no selling job made to me.

Robin Wright once said in an interview that, among the "crazy" things she did on Santa Barbara, there was a bed scene she had to play with a newcomer she only knew for a few minutes - you ! Do you also remember your first scenes on the show ?

Yeah, I do remember having to do that scene. It was awkward. I was older, and a little more seasoned in the format of daytime drama, which made it a little easier for me, but still - it's your job, but still awkward. At least it wasn't a nude scene. I've heard stories of more awkward moments for actors.

The period you played him was very charged for Joe : an earthquake, a wedding, at last a death after a last confrontation with Peter Flint... What were your favorite storylines and the ones you particularly disliked ?

I don't know that I judged the story lines. That's something that fans tend to do. Santa Barbara was good to me. They kept me challenged as an actor. It's such a heavy workload, you just do the best you can. Daytime dramas are shot so quickly that it becomes about time management and memorization more that about acting. That's what makes it so difficult.

Can you describe your relationships with the actors who played the other Perkins siblings and Joe's friends ?

From what I remember, we got along well. They were very good to me.

What were your favorite male and female acting partners as Joe Perkins ?

I loved working with A Martinez, Marcy and Robin. I felt that A, in particular, was better at it than I was, and therefore could teach me things.

Joe was the main character of the show and a character very appreciated by the audience. According to you, what were the reasons of his sudden death ? How did you learn that Joe wouldn't survive ?

Before I took the job, I had recently finished the film Teen Wolf. When my contract was up for renewal, the producer called me into her office to ask me what I wanted to do. I wanted to be free when the film came out, so they decided to kill me off.

What storyline would you have seen for Joe if he hadn't been killed and stayed in the show in 1985 ?

My story telling abilities aren't as good as the writers, so I won't venture a guess. God know they would have come up with something good.

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

I was grateful to have the job. I was never as emotionally invested in daytime dramas as others were. It was something that I had fallen into, and had a hell of a time getting away from them and being taken more seriously as an actor. I don't mean to put them down - it just wasn't a medium that excited me artistically, and at the time, the rest of the business really looked down on soap actors. I had trained in the theatre, and wanted to stretch my wings with better material with more time to work on it.

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

I didn't really keep in touch with anyone, which had more to do with me than them, I should think. It was a difficult time for me. I've since recently worked with John Allen Nelson on an episode of Criminal Minds. It was a delight to catch up with him. I also recently reconnected with Marcy Walker on Facebook, if you can believe that.

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

I wouldn't have had a preference, really. I consider myself fortunate to have played Joe.

 

These 24 last years after Santa Barbara and now

Joe was your second long-running character in a daytime soap-opera (after The Edge of Night). Can you tell a little about what it is to play in this kind of program, comparing to prime-time dramas or movies ?

As I said earlier, doing a daytime drama can be grueling. It's about memorization and time management. The most difficult thing to do is play thin or barely believable story lines. The writers are grinding them out quickly too, having to repeat themselves over a five day period, so their job is very difficult. I prefer films and theatre. I was taught to honor the writer, and there is nothing like working on a script that has been well-crafted, with time to discover the deeper recesses of the material - the deeper waters. Playing daytime dramas is best done, I think, playing the surface of it. I don't feel that I ever did it well. I've never done a regular role on a night time drama, so I can't really address that. I feel very comfortable doing feature films, however.

Can you come back on the following years of your career after your departure from Santa Barbara ? I saw that, for a few years now, you turned to be very active as an actor again...

Yeah, I had a hard time getting hired for many years, and didn't know why, and if you look at my IMDb, there's a gap of about six years. I drifted further and further out the business, and as painful as it was, I couldn't seem to figure out why. Eventually, I was forced to take a job in a post production company which made trailers, TV ads and radio ads for films. It was an advertising company. It was during that time that I got married. I eventually quit that job because I hated that part of the business. I continued to drift professionally, and then in the summer of 2001, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer, and I flew back to Philadelphia to take care of him and my mother, who had been battling ovarian cancer. Then, in August of that year, my mother decided to stop chemotherapy, and my wife and I flew back to say goodbye. Then 9/11 hit. Then, at the end of September, I flew back to help take care of her in hospice. She died October 1.

About 4 1/2 months later, my father died of his cancer - same hospice worker, same minister at the funeral. It was all very surreal. I was unemployed and in very much an existential place. Around July of 2002, my wife was quite angry with me, understandably so, and she said I needed to get a job. At the time I said, "You're right, but I'm unhirable." The only feeling I had was that I couldn't find a substitute for acting. I said, and I had no basis for saying this, "All I know is that I want to come back as an actor, but two things have to happen: Divine Intervention and I have to come back a different man."

One month later, and almost 5 months to the day my father died, my wife served me with divorce papers, telling me that I was an alcoholic. That was my Divine Intervention. I had no idea, as denial is a hallmark of the disease, and I went into recovery immediately, and haven't looked back. I had been suffering from the disease for so long, without knowing it, and suffering from the disease was why my life had been going the way it was.

I prayed for two things in early recovery. 1. The ability to work on my marriage. 2. The ability to come back and fulfill the God given gift of my acting ability, which I had abused. Although I was given the ability to work on my marriage, my wife was done, and there was nothing I could do about it. As much as I didn't want the divorce, and as painful as it was, I now see it as a blessing, and the second best lesson of my life, after sobriety.

I then went about trying to resurrect my career. I have gone at it with a vengeance - I feel that I have a lot that I want to accomplish, and that I was spared death for a reason. Recovery has been the best gift I've ever been given. Most alcoholics will tell you that they live two lives in one lifetime.

I have been blessed in sobriety. All I've focused on for the last 5 years has been my work, and rediscovering my real craft. I've done over 150 projects in that time, and feel that I am now the best actor that I've ever been, and I've been blessed with working on very interesting material
.

What are your projects for this year ? The IMDB lists a lot of new movies...

You can see or buy the following features on line:
Love Conquers (
http://www.loveconquersmovie.com/LC/MAIN_.html)
April Showers (
http://www.aprilshowersmovie.com)

I have the following feature films in post production:
1.
They Came From Outer Space
2. Jack Rio
3. Who Shot Mamba ?
4. The Last Stop
5. What Would Jesus Do ? (Starring John Schneider) (
http://www.wwjdmovie.com)
6. Dwelling
7.
Reconciliation

I'm attached to 9 more feature films, possibly 11, and am slated to for my next film in the fall or winter.

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

Thank you for your enduring support. I'm very grateful.

 

Once again all my thanks to  Mark Arnold for his kindness and his sincerity.