Lightning in the Bottle

 By Henry Darrow and Jan Pippins , 2012

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(...) Patrice Martinez notes, "He is so genuine an actor that he makes every role his own." He did just that with another dashing, somewhat disreputable, somewhat heroic character - this time on the quirky, often comical soap opera Santa Barbara (NBC, 1984-1993). He played the father of A Martinez for the fourth time and it would be one of the most significant roles of his career.

Produced by New World Television, Santa Barbara was the first daytime drama with prominent Mexican-American characters and romantic partners from different ethnic groups. It won numerous Daytime Emmys and other honors while enthralling viewers with the lives of the wealthy Capwells, the working class Mexican-American Andrade family and other dysfunctional fictional residents of coastal California.

A Martinez starred as hunky spy turned detective Cruz Castillo and about a year after the show's debut, chemistry between Cruz and socialite Eden Capwell (Marcy Walker) sparked Martinez and Walker to push a star crossed love angle. Resistant at first, the writers eventually made Eden and Cruz central to storylines. When they did, the two fan favorites became a 1980s soap "super couple", jetting Walker and Martinez to megastardom. Like every super couple, Cruz and Eden had passion and problems enough to keep every psychiatrist at General Hospital busy for all the days of our lives. Along with the kidnapping of their baby by Eden's rapist / obstetrician and other troubles too numerous to list, Cruz had Daddy Issues. His father Rafael Castillo had abandoned the family and relocated to Acapulco where he started a new life as Senor Mago the Magician. After Cruz, his brother Ric and Eden tracked down the elder Castillo (played by Henry Darrow) in Mexico, he returned to Santa Barbara eager to mend his relationship with his kids.

As Rafael Castillo, Darrow was suave, tough and mesmerizing. "He was still the lady killer and just fearless as an actor," says A Martinez. When Santa Barbara did a "What if Cruz had never been born ?" retelling of It's Wonderful World, the scene with Rafael took place in a bar. "He was a ruined man, but he didn't have any self-pity. He played the ruination with a sense of indignity that was so compelling." Martinez credits Darrow's positive impact on his own work. "Henry would show up, totally steel trap knowing his stuff. When you're working with someone day after day, that kind of work ethic makes your job so much easier. You know if things get a little squirrelly, he's got your back. That makes you braver and when you're brave, you do better work."

Darrow, who appreciates Martinez' humor and his vision of acting, says the most pressure he's ever felt was in doing soaps. "Shooting an hour's show every day and being on the money is grueling and I had no time to memorize every single day," he says. "Once I had my character down, it was okay. At first, it's easy to forget your lines and you don't know your character well enough to adlib. A Martinez and Marcy Walker said, ‘When you're lost, whatever happens don't break up. Don't say cut. Just keep it going and we'll step in." That made it possible for me to relax."

"I was going to cover him as best I could," says Martinez. "'That's essential in soap, because the actors are utterly dependent upon each other. It's like you cough and everybody catches a cold immediately. There's nothing in acting that takes your measure quite like a challenge of that magnitude." After nearly six hundred episodes of Santa Barbara, Martinez recalls an unforgettable scene with Darrow. "We were in the desert and Rafael challenged Cruz to stop whining about his broken heart and come to grips with himself. I think he actually knocked me down in one part of the scene and then he threw a bota full of some hallucinogenic concoction at me. The next thing you see, Cruz is in a cave out of his mind." Cruz eventually emerged to face ongoing heartache, drama and his father. While he and Rafael explored their tangled onscreen relationship, Henry Darrow negotiated real world complexities with his real life grown children. Television parenting took less of an emotional toll.


"I try not to focus on the difficult aspects of life or I'll talk myself into a depression," Henry says. "What I like is getting into a part that's really cooking, one that starts the juices flowing, something positive that I can sink my teeth into." He had a substantial role as a corrupt vice cop in the feature film The Last of the Finest (1990), but Santa Barbara's reformed reprobate Rafael Castillo was truly Darrow's kind of role. Santa Barbara's audience loved the character. Darrow got a kick out of playing him. Then at the end of the day, he could turn Rafael off and go home. Santa Barbara was such a good gig that when Gary Goodman offered Darrow the part of Zorro's father in the new Zorro project, he turned Goodman down again.


Meanwhile, after a very good year on Santa Barbara, Henry Darrow's contract was coming up for renewal. Santa Barbara's producers were noncommittal about extending his option. "Suddenly, I was approached again by Gary Goodman, the executive producer of Zorro. We had lunch at the Polo Lounge and talked about my pay and billing and we were in agreement." Darrow watched several episodes with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and liked his genteel quality, but felt the father of Zorro should have more vigor and spirit. "I wanted to keep the Spanish gentleman aspect, but to give Don Alejandro my interpretation of a more physical man. They were good with that and I was in." He was the first Latino Zorro and now he would one of only two to play both Zorro and Zorro's father.


Even crusty television critic Cleveland Amory once wrote that Darrow should have gotten an Emmy for his portrayal of Manolito Montoya (in The High Chaparral). Other roles like Harry O's Manny Quinlan garnered applause from reviewers and audiences, but through years of outstanding performances, Henry Darrow was never even nominated for an Emmy. Again and again, he was passed over. Finally in 1990, he received a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Rafael Castillo on Santa Barbara. He was in Spain filming Zorro, but following his nomination had a full page ad with photo in Variety :

To the academy...
What a delightful surprise... Thank you, Jill, the Castillos and the entire cast and crew of Santa Barbara. It was a wonderful year.

Being nominated was itself a huge honor and Zorro's producers were willing to work around Henry so he could fly back to California for the awards ceremony, but he'd have to pay for his flight. It was a lot of money to fly to Los Angeles and fly right back to Madrid, especially since he figured he wouldn't win. The Daytime Emmys came and went and Darrow had no idea he won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. A Martinez had picked up his award for him. The Academy sent a telegram to him at the hotel in Madrid where it sat... and sat... and sat until finally someone got around to handing it to him.

"Damn if I didn't win !" he says. "And I could've been up there for my fifteen minutes of fame to show everybody I really made it." His mother and Lauren were both visiting, so those two very important women knew almost as soon as he did. The ladies were so thrilled they bounced around until they were breathless. "Gloria and I just kept hugging Henry and hugging each other and she and I jumped up and down on the beds like children," (Lauren) Levian recalls. Again, Darrow made television history, this time with A Martinez.

Martinez had been nominated several times for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of Cruz Castillo and 1990 was no exception. The difference was this time he won. "He submitted film clips of scenes with me," says Darrow. "Always before, he submitted scenes with Marcy Walker. She would win and he wouldn't. I think he realized that she was the favorite and it was better to show off with someone else !" He laughs, then adds proudly, "That was the first and only time that two Hispanic actors had won Emmys for lead and supporting from the same show simultaneously." When Zorro's producers discovered he won the Emmy, they sent a limo to take him from the hotel to the set. On the set they unfurled a red carpet for him to walk on. After Zorro's second season wrapped and everyone said their fond farewells, Darrow returned to Santa Barbara for an encore year as Rafael Castillo. He had another ad run in Variety thanking everyone for his win.

To the academy...
What an even nicer surprise... Again... thank you, Jill, the Castillos and the entire cast and crew of Santa Barbara. I'm truly grateful. (...)

Lightning in the Bottle
By Henry Darrow and Jan Pippins
© BearManor Media, 2012