The quiet seducer of Santa Barbara

 By Joan Mac Trevor, Ciné Télé Revue, 1987

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He is Lionel Lockridge, the husband of Augusta and the father of Warren and Laken in the famous success soap Santa Barbara. Man of theatre and cinema (All the President's Men, Reds), New Zealander by his father, English of birth and American of adoption, he also nourishes a passion for deep-sea diving and antiquities. His bigger regret, paradoxically, is never not to have looked further into the French language, a heritage that a cosmopolitan mother and who had lived in Paris had bequeathed to him. He acknowledges that there are stages in his career of which he should be ashamed but he is not ashamed at all. "To pay the rent" he raises. But Santa Barbara is absolutely not part of these. He feels at ease in the show, comfortable, not concerned about the following day at all as the majority of the young actors who stop there more or less lengthily. He knows that there is not a physique to defend, that he does not have to play the seducers there, and that he can concentrate only on his play. It is, that is true, a considerable asset in a soap where the young actors are initially selected for their beauty.

When he is not Lionel Lockridge in Santa Barbara, who is Nicolas Coster ?

The father of two old daughters, a defender of the marine flora, a big admirer of Cousteau and in love with the French language which I regret not having practised enough. For me, it is the most beautiful language of the world, and my dream is of being able one day to play Molière in French.

How did you become a specialist in deep-sea diving and one of the founder members of the Cousteau company ?

It is a love at first sight. I was in Sainte-Croix, one of Virgin Islands, a few years ago. At the occasion of a show. One morning, I walk along the swimming pool and see a sign saying "free diving courses". I go there. At the end of one hour, the instructor proposes to me to go down to 20 meters, at sea. I take up the challenge. And this is when I had one of the most beautiful visions of my life : marine flora. A real thunderbolt, and yet it was necessary to wait two years before I become a professional of diving. At this point in time I started to get passionned for Cousteau and to interest me in the protection of the underwater life. Cousteau is one of the most brilliant beings that I know, and his example gave me the desire, by my small deep-sea diving company, to act concretely for the protection and the healthiness of our oceans.

Did you make use of your talents of plunger in Santa Barbara ?

No, but I taught deep-sea diving to a half-dozen of my partners in Santa Barbara. To John Nelson, in particular, who realizes one of his first dives in a sequence of treasure hunting that you did not see in Europe yet.

You played with Elizabeth Taylor, in London, in the part Little Foxes. What is the most beautiful memory that you keep of this temporary association ?

Our pilgrimage on the place of our childhood. We are both born in London and, by chance, we discovered that we had attended the same schooln : Byron House. Thus one day, in the arms of one another, we arrived in the playground. Nobody dared to believe that it was Elizabeth Taylor who was accompanying me. You know, you would not believe it, but Elizabeth Taylor has in herself an enormous capacity of joy and happiness. I realized there at this occasion.

Were your parents also in the show business ?

No. My father was a journalist, a cinema critic in the Evening Standard. He had even written a book, Friends in Aspic, which can not be found today because the publisher was bombarded during the war. My mother was an American journalist and worked for the magazine Nash before giving up this speciality for decoration. It is to her that we owe the design of windows of big London department stores like Harrod's and it is her who was responsible for the decoration of the British house at the Paris exposure in 1936.

Did you always want to be an actor ?

Not, I wanted to be a musician. My mother was a very cultivated woman. All the pretexts were good to get reunited around a table and to discuss. Thus I found refuge in music : it is an art you practise in silence and for which there is no need to speak. Unfortunately, I was not gifted...

Did you start in Santa Barbara as of the first episode ?

Not, I arrived approximately six weeks later. At the origin I had to play C.C. but I was in New York, for a show, and they had to start without me and to entrust the role to somebody else. To my intention, they then invented the character of Lionel Lockridge.

Is this easier or more difficult to play every day with the same actors ?

Everything depends on the environment which reigns on the stage. I am in fact well surrounded. But the partner I prefer is Louise Sorel. A charming, marvellous woman but especially of extreme generosity and great human quality. I seem to exaggerate but it is really one of the human beings the most accomplished it was given to me to meet in my life. Between us, it is like... a marriage.

Is there an actor or an actress you particularly admire ?

Yes, Robert Redford. I played with him in All the President's Men. It is really the kind of man who answers the image you can have about him when you do not know him : a great sensitivity, a great intelligence and especially a great integrity. Some people think that the sun rises and set down behind their head. Not him.