July 11, 2014 - 15 years of Santa Barbara : le site Francais
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2014 - 30 years of Santa Barbara

Vincent Irizarry : «It's been an honor to be a part of this excellent show.»

 By Nicolas, exclusively for Santa Barbara : le site Francais, July 2014

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On last July 28, Vincent Irizarry agreed to take on his time to answer exclusively the questions of Santa Barbara : le site Francais. The actor talks about his beginnings, of his time on Santa Barbara as Dr. Scott Clark, and at last about his career since his departure of the show.

The beginnings before Santa Barbara

At first, I'd like you to tell us a little about you : where do you live ? And how old are your children now ?

I'm living in Calabasas, California, in Los Angeles. I have four children : my son, Ash, is 25 years old, my daughter, Siena, is 24 years old, my daughter, Aria, is 16 years old, (soon to be 17), and my youngest, my son, Elias, is 12 years old.

To know you better, what did you bring from yourself in the character of Scott Clark ?

My hair style from the 80s : ) But, seriously, although I was never trained as a doctor, I tried to bring my professionalism, commitment, and passion for knowledge and life to the role, as I viewed all of those qualities as being present in Scott. I also endeavoured to identify personally with any of the emotional challenges he was going through in his own personal life, and his compassion for those he treated.

Before Santa Barbara, you already became very popular thanks to a first daytime soap-opera, Guiding Light. How did you start your career as an actor and start on Guiding Light ?

I started my acting career while attending Berklee College of Music, in Boston. It was there that I performed one of the leads in a school production and fell in love with the process, subsequently performing in other productions around Boston for the next couple of years. After that I decided to move to New York City to pursue it as a career, performing in numerous productions, one of which was Off-Broadway as Paul McCartney in a play called Lennon.
I was hired at the end of 1983 for a three day job on the Guiding Light to play the role of "Lujack." The producers liked what I brought to the character so they offered me another three days work. Liking the potential of the character, they offered me a contract, which I agreed to for a two year duration. That was my first television job ever, after six years of theater, one that changed my career for many years after because of the popularity of the character, "Lujack." Thirty years later, there are still people who call me by that name who see me on the streets of New York, Los Angeles, or even around the country. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity that show presented and for the challenge and excitement I enjoyed creating that wonderful character.

 

The time of Santa Barbara

How did you start in Santa Barbara ? Did you ever watch the show before ?

I started on Santa Barbara I believe in 1988 ? (actually in 1987) Before that, I was invited by Harley Kozak, who was currently on the show the first years and whom I had worked beside on Guiding Light in New York City before she went to Santa Barbara, to go to Santa Barbara's first Christmas party at the Playboy Mansion. I had just ended my contract on Guiding Light before moving to Los Angeles. At the party, Mary Ellis Bunim, one of the first producers of Santa Barbara approached me and offered that if I ever wanted to return to a Daytime show to please let her know; she'd be happy to have me on Santa Barbara. Two years later, I was exploring that possibility when my manager contacted Ms. Bunim. She responded the same day by offering me a wonderful contract, before even having a role for me to play. It was an offer I couldn't pass up. It was weeks later that the Dobsons felt that I would be a good fit in the role of Dr. Scott Clark.

How Scott was introduced to you at first ?

As I mentioned in response to the previous question, I was hired before a role was available for me to play. After I was hired, the producers had me come in to do a scene opposite Robin Mattson to see how we played together. They liked what I brought to the role of the good doctor and offered me that role to play.

Scott was a quite macho and stubborn character. How did you manage to make him attractive and at last lovable for the audience despite that ?

Honestly, I never really perceived him as being all that macho, or even stubborn for that matter. Maybe that was the trick to the question you're asking. I do try to find those qualities that I can personally identify with in a character. They're always there, from greater to lesser degrees. Even when the character has extreme tendencies, it's my job to find a rational reason why that particular characteristic is appropriate, which is something one can only do if they put themselves in the mind-set of the character, appreciating their unique world view while embracing his needs. It starts, first and foremost, by not being judgmental of the character as I approach him, no matter how dissimilar he may be to what others may see as appropriate or the norm.

At the beginning, Scott was Gina's doctor, and he fell in love with her. How was it to play opposite Robin Mattson ? Did you regret that this storyline ended up so quickly after only a few months ?

Of course, I enjoyed working with Robin, but I had no regrets about the story ending after a few months. Personally, I felt that the two characters weren't exactly well suited for each other, just as in life there are times when you come to realize that you have little in common with that other person; that whatever initially brought you together isn't enough to carry you happily through an enduring relationship together. Ce' la vie... I was happy that they segued me into another story that seemed more fitting for my character, and in fact brought in a past that gave the audience more of an understanding of who Scott really is and what makes him tick. At the end of the day, I feel that the Scott/Heather coupling was the more suitable one for Scott.

In 1988, Scott met Heather Donnelly, and his "real" big storyline began. Heather and Scott became a strong couple, until Celeste came back in Scott's life in early 1989. What was your opinion on this love triangle at that time ? What did you think of Scott's choices ?

Remember, we're talking about a storyline that was approximately 25 years ago, so my recollection may not be so acute at this point. What I do remember about the storyline is that it was a very honest story in the way the characters related to each other. I felt, as I mentioned earlier, that Scott was well suited with Heather and that the characters were very sweet together. When the Celeste character was introduced into it, I again believe it was very honest in that young love from one's past can sometimes hold an allure, almost like an unseen gravitational pull, that can draw one to that other person. And in true dramatic fashion, for Daytime as well as any other dramatic format, into each seemingly idyllic life a little conflict must be introduced to keep it interesting for the viewers. Obviously, that was no different for our good doctor Scott and Heather and Celeste.

Who were your favorite male and female acting partners as Scott Clark ?

It was a wonderful cast overall, therefore, I don't remember having any favourites over others. I did enjoy working with Jane Rogers at the time, since we were working so closely together, but again, it was so many years ago, my recollection is more general on this point.

You remained two complete years on the show. What were the reasons of your departure ? What did you think of the end which was reserved for Scott ?

My contract was for only 1 year and a half, which was my decision before signing to do the show. I was all prepared to leave the show at that time, in fact even had plans to move to Italy to work there because of the popularity of my character "Lujack" from Guiding Light which was very popular in that country. I even had an agent in Rome who was going to represent me there. But Jill Phelps, our Executive Producer, convinced me that they had a wonderful storyline written for me and asked me to stay for another year at least to play it out. Once I agreed and signed for another year, NBC changed their head of the Daytime division to someone who came in and abandoned the story they had asked me to stay for. After that, there really was no reason for me to continue on the show, since there was no longer a storyline I would be excited to play.

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

I think just the overall experience of working on such a unique show in that genre. Santa Barbara really defined itself, rather than being defined by the genre. It was obviously still a Soap Opera in the traditional sense, but I appreciated that it was a show that also knew how to be more "tongue in cheek," having a sense of humor, and not taking itself too seriously.

Except Signy Coleman of course, did you keep in touch with members of the cast or the crew after your departure ?

I have had the good fortune of working with several Santa Barbara alumni over the years on other shows. I've also recently been reconnected to Nicolas Coster and his lovely wife, Elena, who graciously invited me and my son, Elias, to spend the day on their boat, sailing off the coast of Los Angeles. It was a perfect day and it was great to spend time with Nick again. He's as spirited and charming as ever !

If you hadn't play Scott, what character would you have liked to play on Santa Barbara ?

I'm sure there isn't an actor who was on that show who didn't wish, at one time or another, that they were playing the role of "Cruz." But of course, that role was perfectly tailored to the wonderful acting skills of one A Martinez. He truly was magnificent in that role.

 

These 29 last years after Santa Barbara and now

After Santa Barbara, you went back to Guiding Light. Then, you played for many years on All my Children and The Young and the Restless, two great soap-operas. How would you compare these different programs ? What are your feelings about the future of the daytime soap-operas media ?

I feel very fortunate to have worked in such a unique genre all these years, and alongside such incredible talent, in front of, as well as behind the cameras. The Daytime community of talent is truly some of the hardest working and most talented this industry has to offer. Every one of these shows you've listed has been a joy to be a part of.
As for the medium itself, obviously it's reshaping itself, but is still strong. In fact, in this country, the shows that are remaining are showing great numbers in viewers. We also have the potential of even more growth when it comes to internet programing, where many new shows in our medium are finding a home. I was fortunate to be a part of All My Children as it was produced for Hulu and iTunes last year.  That show was number 1 on those platforms for weeks during our run, never slipping below the top 5 of programing among all their content, which included all of their Primetime programs as well. That says a lot in answer to the question people keep asking : "Are Soap Operas a dying form of entertainment ?" It appears the genre is doing what it had done all those years ago during its conversion from radio to TV - it's reimagining itself.

I watched you on Homeland last year. And now, do you have upcoming projects for this year ?

I recently co-starred in an independent feature entitled, Clarissa's Gift, which was accepted into the 168 Festival here in Los Angeles during mid-September. I just learned last week that I was nominated as a Supporting Actor for the Festival as well. I'm also in the process of finishing a screenplay entitled Parallax, based on a true story surrounding a murder that took place in Texas. It's an adaptation of an original manuscript that has recently become an e-book and audiobook. Once finished, I'm hoping to produce this as well.

What would you like to say to all the Santa Barbara fans all over the world who didn't forget you as Scott ?

Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful support of our work on this extremely unique show, Santa Barbara, throughout all these years since its first airing, and for those of you who have supported me personally in my work as "Dr. Scott Clark," as well as throughout my career in other roles. As all of us that have been privileged to work in this medium know all too well, the fans of this genre, local as well as international, are without question, the best fans of any other genre out there. It's been an honor to be a part of this excellent show and to have worked among such gifted actors and production staff during my two years on the show. It's an experience I will truly never forget... Blessings to you all...
Group hug : )

 

Once again all my thanks to Vincent Irizarry for his kindness and his nice memories.