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April 25, 2014

Q&A: Eric Braeden Returns to 'Young and the Restless'

by Chris Jancelewicz, posted Dec 8th 2009 11:59PM


Known as 'The Moustache' and 'The Dark Knight' on long-running CBS soap opera 'The Young and the Restless', Eric Braeden's character Victor Newman is the very definition of daytime TV icon. Even people who have never seen an episode in their lives know his name, his face, and his powerful low voice.

In the fall of 2009, 'Y&R' announced that Braeden would be leaving the show, citing contractual differences. What followed is perhaps one of the most raucous, vehement reactions to a soap star exiting in television history. People wrote; people blogged; people vented the world over – what would 'Y&R' be without Victor Newman?

After filming his last episode, which, for the record, runs through the actor's tenure on the show and compiles a series of clips ranging from his first appearances in the 80s to his latest conquests in the 00s, Braeden and the studio reached a last-minute agreement to keep him on the show. No details have been released, but Braeden seems amicable about the whole thing. If only we were that forgiving!

AOL TV Canada sat down and spoke with Braeden about what's it like being back on the show, whether Victor is a changed man after his various ordeals, and what he thinks of his cast mates.

Known as 'The Moustache' and 'The Dark Knight' on long-running CBS soap opera 'The Young and the Restless', Eric Braeden's character Victor Newman is the very definition of daytime TV icon. Even people who have never seen an episode in their lives know his name, his face, and his powerful low voice.

In the fall of 2009, 'Y&R' announced that Braeden would be leaving the show, citing contractual differences. What followed is perhaps one of the most raucous, vehement reactions to a soap star exiting in television history. People wrote; people blogged; people vented the world over – what would 'Y&R' be without Victor Newman?

After filming his last episode, which, for the record, runs through the actor's tenure on the show and compiles a series of clips ranging from his first appearances in the 80s to his latest conquests in the 00s, Braeden and the studio reached a last-minute agreement to keep him on the show. No details have been released, but Braeden seems amicable about the whole thing. If only we were that forgiving!

AOL TV Canada sat down and spoke with Braeden about what's it like being back on the show, whether Victor is a changed man after his various ordeals, and what he thinks of his cast mates.

How does it feel being back on the show? Are you glad to be back?

Yes. There was a period of time where I thought, 'This is it, it's over.'

How did it feel for you to see all that archival footage for your 'final' episode?

I didn't see it, I just remember doing it. It was after that episode that I said goodbye to the crew and some of the cast. It was a very emotional moment.

I was probably too young to see it when it actually ran, but there was a clip of you in that episode on a beach, and you were shot with an arrow. Is that right?

Yes – I got shot in the balls with an arrow. And amazingly, I produced children after that. And then I had a vasectomy, so the plumbing must have leaked. [Laughs]

You look like a completely different person in those older scenes. When you first arrived from Germany in 1959, did you ever envision that you'd become such a TV icon?

No, I had no idea, to be honest with you. Not even the vaguest notion. I wanted to study political science and economics. America was an adventure to me. I was a cowboy in Montana, and I worked at a lumber mill at night, pulling lumber, to support my studies. I had a track scholarship at the University of Montana, in discus, javelin, and shot put, since I won the German Youth championship in those disciplines.

I eventually came to California when I was in a documentary film about Idaho's Salmon River, the river of no return. The press conference for the documentary was broadcast on TV, and so I was called in to talk to people from Warner Bros., and they suggested that I be in film. I looked at the whole thing rather sceptically, and while working for a furniture-moving company, I realized I needed more money. The film people had told me they needed more German actors on the various TV shows, like villains and cops and what have you.



So did you have an interest in acting at all?

I was always fascinated by plays like Hamlet and Richard III. What's interesting about plays to me is that they express deep emotions and conflicts that you have, and I grew up with a lot of that stuff. I was a very angry young man after the war [WWII], and so I sort of felt drawn to it. Things went rather quickly after my first successful audition, and myself and a couple others opened the Santa Monica Playhouse. After I'd done a couple of plays, I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I gravitated subconsciously towards something I was meant to do.

What do you think it is about Victor that's so appealing to the 'Y&R' audience?

I really don't know. I hate to be coy, but I honestly don't know the answer to that. I've always been a very emotional actor, in other words, the only criterion I go by when I film scenes is to make them as believable and real as possible. Maybe it's that. Maybe – and I'm not sure if there's any truth to this – but people can perhaps sense that I've seen a lot in my life. I've been through a lot, and maybe for that reason I can feel empathy. I can be very tough, very ruthless, but I can also feel an enormous amount of empathy for people going through hard times, because I've been through them. I don't take any s-t in my personal life, and nor do I take any in my character.

Is Victor really a changed man after his [heart transplant] surgery?

I certainly hope not. It won't change my character, that stuff. [Laughs]

This is a tough one, but is there any particular storyline that you have an affinity for, or feel strongly about, in your 30 years on the show?

There's one particular storyline that comes to mind over and over again is when Victor met his mother for the first time, because she had left him at the doors of an orphanage when he was 7 years old. The very first time I told that story to Nikki [Newman, his long-time love interest on the show] was at Christmastime, and she never knew about my background. I revealed to her my story, and something in that storyline just got to me, and...I knew that was the turning point of my career on that show. I just knew it. It was a deeply-felt scene. I will never forget it.

The scene was just full of anger and sadness, all at once. It touched me because, when you grow up during the war as I did, you never forget such massive destruction around you. Such tragedy. All of this horror is indelibly imprinted on your brain. What insanity that war was, and all because of a man with a huge superiority complex.

Are there any particular 'Y&R' cast members, past or present, who have impressed you?

[Here, Braeden goes on to name every single cast member he's ever worked with – not wanting to single out any favourites.]

What do you think about Don Diamont leaving the show?

I thought it was a mistake.

Do you have any upcoming projects outside of 'Y&R'?

Not really, I've been involved in a lot of stuff outside the business as of late. My son is doing what I've secretly wanted to do for years, which is write scripts very successfully. His name is Christian Gudegast, and he will direct a film very soon ['Shotcaller'].

Have you ever had any weird fan experiences?

Yes, someone is impersonating me right now, and has a Facebook page in my name. I need to pursue them legally. It's outrageous, I tell you! [Laughs] It's just incredible. I looked at it and thought, 'You must be kidding me.' It is dangerous, and they make themselves liable. It's identity theft of the worst kind. It's the modern world. But I'll get to him.

Catch Eric Braeden as the unstoppable Victor Newman on 'The Young and the Restless' at 4:30 PM on weekdays on Global (Canada) and 12:30 PM on CBS (U.S.).

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