Villain of a different color

 By Pat Broeske, Soap Opera Digest, 1986

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Lane Davies is the first to admit that his character, Mason Capwell, the devilish eldest son of C.C. Capwell on Santa Barbara, is the kind of lovable villain who used brains, as opposed to brawn, to muscle his way to popularity. "I always knew it was a part I could sink my teeth into. Mason is dry, he's bright and, well, he says all those things you wish you'd though of saying. He's an expert at cutting somebody down," Davies says, then hastens to add that Mason does show occasional glimpses of humanity. Ex-nun Mary McCormack (Harley Kozak) is especially adept at bringing out Mason's good side. "But the audience doesn't want to see Mason be too good," says Davies with a knowing smile.

As one of the show's original cast members ("there aren't many of us left"), Davies has held a front row seat in the often painful process of launching a new soap. There have been countless cast changes (Jed Allan is the fifth actor to take on the role of C.C.), a myriad of short-lived story lines (the producers once came up with a killer story to rid the show of an excess of blondes whom viewers couldn't tell apart) and, concurs Davies, some pretty far-out plots. "I've been fortunate not to have gotten any of the really silly stories. I mean, I've done some silly stuff, but it was sort of fun-silly. I've escaped the intrigue sort of story lines-adventure things that never quite get off the ground. If you're one of those strapping leading men types, you get thrown into those a lot. But I'm not one of those types."

Oh really ? We beg to differ. Yet, on this particular afternoon, the six-foot-two, 165 pound Davies is not exactly the picture of energy. Nestled in a reclining chair in his publicist's Hollywood apartment, Lane has a polite, low- key demeanor as he sips a cup of tea and admits, "I usually work four or five days a week. So, it's just nice to have a little time off." Reserved about his private life (he admits he is in the midst of a romance with a model he would rather not name), Davies chooses instead to open up about the demands of being an actor - the long days, lots of dialogue which, in his case, is sometimes 25-30 pages daily - and gives an introspective view of the man he portrays.

From the start, says Davies, he was drawn to Mason, the black sheep with a tendency to berate others but who also longs for acceptance. It all stems from the fact that Mason has a different mother than his siblings. ("I'm sure she'll turn up at some point in the show," predicts Davies.) To hear Lane tell it, Mason's abandonment as a child, his lack of motherly love and the fact that his father saw him "as a kind of possession rather than a person," contributed to his character's psychological profile. That profile includes a mean streak of considerable proportion - and ingenuity. Thus, Davies doesn't falter when asked about Mason's most malicious act. "It was when he told C.C. that his favorite son was gay. And later, he told C.C. that that son wasn't his son at all. That was something done deliberately to hurt another human being. Just out of meanness. But the sneakiest thing Mason has ever done, well, that was when he changed his stepmother's pregnancy test so that she'd sleep with him to get pregnant (she didn't know it, but she was already pregnant)." Davies laughs when recalling the consummation of that relationship in the back of an ambulance. "We had just been rescued from a hotel fire. So there we were, in the heat of the moment so to speak. She had just sprained her ankle, but she wasn't too seriously hurt !"

A native of Georgia (his voice carries only the faintest hint of his Southern roots), Davies and the rest of his family were active in their hometown community theater. His father was the head announcer at the local radio station. Still, Lane was the only one to turn professional - beginning with dinner theater right out of high school and continuing with summer plays sandwiched in between semesters at Middle Tennessee State University. Following graduation, Davies headed for Atlanta, where he continued his work in the theater, made some commercials and tried his hand at modeling. During this time, Davies acted and sang in such musicals as Camelot, Man of La Mancha and Kiss Me Kate. Afterwards, Davies headed for Hollywood, where he guest-starred on such prime time series as CHiPS as well as in two TV-movies, The Gift of Love (1978) with Marie Osmond and Timothy Bottoms and The Suicide's Wife (1979) with Angie Dickinson. Around the same time, he starred opposite that most famed of canine stars, Lassie, in the family feature, The Magic of Lassie.

The film found Lane romantically paired with Stephanie Zimbalist (now of Remington Steele fame), with whom he croons a tune. The songs originally recorded for the film, however, were later scrapped in favor of voice-over songs by Pat and Debbie Boone. Lane also has the distinction of buying Zimbalist her first legal drink during the 1977 shoot. ("She turned 21 on the way back from location.") And then there were his scenes with Lassie. "I hit Lassie on the head with an orange - by accident," Davies laughs. "It was my second day on location. I was supposed to help Stephanie with a bag of groceries. An orange was supposed to fall out the top of the bag, roll down the street and Lassie was supposed to get it." Instead, Davies dropped the orange on the dog's head and Lassie began to run, a bit dazed. "Here was this million dollar dog, running up the street with cars going by. I thought, "This is it. I'll just leave my clothes in my dressing room and drive back to LA.""

It was with his role as Dr. Evan Whyland on Days of Our Lives that Lane Davies's career really took hold. (Trivia buffs might recall that it was Whyland who, through artificial insemination, provided the sperm that impregnated Maggie. They later fell in love - until Whyland turned crazy.) According to Davies, Evan suffered when a new writing team came in and had the character doing things that weren't true to his history. Davies provided his own theory of why plot/character changes occur when new writers come aboard, saying it is due, in part, to the royalties the writers receive for the new characters they create. "On the soaps, these are sacred cow - characters that really can't be touched because they have such big followings. But if you can kick off others and bring in new ones who catch on, you make more money. So, smart writers have a tendency to make some characters (that they did create) expendable."

Still, Lane Davies is happy working in daytime. "I like the nature of the job because I like to work a lot. And there's no other medium where you can do this much material this often," he declares. Davies also tries to remain active in theater and film while doing the soap. This past March, he appeared opposite his good friend and co-star Louise Sorel (Augusta Lockridge) in a production of Hamlet. He's also done some dabbling in screenwriting and confesses that he and his buddy/co-star A Martinez (Cruz Castillo) have talked about how they'd like to one day team up in prime time doing either action-adventure or even a Western - as opposed to a nighttime soap. His recent feature films have included : Impure Thoughts, a modestly budgeted film set in purgatory, in which the characters ponder the events that led to their deaths; Funland, a black comedy about an amusement park; and Kissable, about a serial murderer. Atlanta filmmakers were behind the aforementioned titles, which were filmed in Davies's home state. That is one reason he agreed to do them.

When he's not working, Lane heads for the hills. Literally. He has a cabin near Lake Arrowhead in the San Bernardino mountains, where he fishes, works on scripts and, more or less, kicks back. Though Davies relishes his days off, he is a go-getter who has sketched out his plans for the future. What makes him unique is the fact that he refuses to play the part of hustler in a town overrun by hustlers - which make Lane Davies somewhat of a show biz rarity. "What can I say ?" shrugs Davies. "I want to do things the way I want to do things."