INTERVIEW: Robert Newman on going from Guiding Light's Josh to Y&R's Ashland, his Emmy nomination, and... what kind of resting face!?

Posted Saturday, May 13, 2023 1:22:35 PM
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He's been known to daytime fans for years for his work on Guiding Light, but fans saw a whole new side of Robert Newman as Y&R's Ashland. Now, Newman talks about the material that earned him another Daytime Emmy nomination.

Robert Newman: Hi, Dan! How are you doing?

Soap Central: I'm doing really, really well. Thank you. I wanted to start things off by saying it has been 14 years, almost to the day, since we last had a chance to chat. So, congratulations on avoiding me for 14 years.

Newman: Wow. (Laughs) That was not my intention.

Soap Central: I appreciate that. It was one of those random things. It was on a roller coaster in Orlando for the Guiding Light Florida thing. So, I feel like we have 14 years to catch up on, but the most important thing is, how does it feel to be a Daytime Emmy nominee this year?

Newman: It feels great. It's nice to know that your peers acknowledged that you did some nice work. That's always a good feeling. And that's... That's it. That's all I got for you.

Soap Central: (Laughs) That's fine. And I brought up the Guiding Light thing because I have been looking back at some of these old photos from when the Daytime Emmys were in New York. In Florida, you were kind enough to say, "Hey, you know what, why wait in line? There are empty seats -- come on, ride the roller coaster with us." Looking at these old photos from New York from the Daytime Emmys there, I see photos of you in the background, sort of moving over the barricades so that you could talk to fans who were assembled, but barricaded away from everybody, but you took time out to talk to them. So, we've got this perception of you as this really nice guy. And then you come to The Young and the Restless, and you play a character who... I'll let you describe, how do we describe Ashland Locke?

Newman: He's a misunderstood, sad soul. I mean, you know, he was a good enough guy. He just had some faults and some issues, some hopes and some fears that didn't quite work out the way he wanted. I joked quite a bit in interviews while I was playing the character, that it felt like, yes, he was a bad guy, but he was in a sea of bad guys. Everybody in Genoa City is awful! (Laughs) Just degrees of like, who's the most awful on any given week or any given day of a storyline? And you understand I'm talking about characters?

Dan: Of course, absolutely.

Newman: I didn't know the show very well [when I first joined]. But the more I got to know about the history of Victor or Adam, it's like, wait a minute! You guys all did these terrible things over the last few decades. Why am I [Ashland] the bad guy? You know? Because aren't you all bad guys? And I kind of ad-libbed a line, I think to Adam, that I stole from a Clint Eastwood movie called Unforgiven, where he says, where Adam said to me, "Well, you had it coming." And I said, "Hey, we all got it coming." And that was directly stolen from Clint Eastwood. It was really fun to play the character, and kudos to Josh Griffith for putting together this really interesting guy and then to his team for writing him in such an interesting way. And it was just fun to step out of the general good guy-ness of Joshua, that I did for so long, and play something completely and utterly different. Guys like Ron Raines and Michael Zaslow, they'd always told me, "Man, playing bad guys is really fun." And playing Ashland, I was thinking, "Yeah, they're right. It is really fun." You get to say a lot of really nasty things to people, and they just have to sort of stand there and take it. It's fantastic.

Soap Central: And the thing that's interesting about the folks who you mentioned, and I think of also people like David Canary, people who play these dastardly sort of characters, particularly soap characters, and they really are nice people in real life! So, it's got to be this outlet to be a nice person and when they say, "Action!" to just flip that switch and get to, like you said, say all these things, and people just sort of have to stand there and listen to you. I'd imagine that's fun on a lot of levels.

Newman: Yeah, and bad guys, particularly on soaps, they change whatever room they walk into, which is kind of cool. When Josh [Lewis, Guiding Light] walks into the Bauer barbecue, it's just another guy walking into the Bauer barbecue. But when the Alan Spauldings of the world or the Victor Newmans of the world walk into a room, the room changes. You feel a little more like you're driving storyline. I think Y&R, they write a fairly equal ensemble sense to everything. But when you're driving that kind of manipulation story that we told a lot with Ashland Locke, you feel like you're driving many of the scenes, and it's just a lot of fun to play. And I play, I play a lot of bad guys on stage, too.

I play a lot of bad guys on nighttime and guest spots. Almost every guest spot I get, it's either the really nice dad, which I just shot a scene yesterday for a Hallmark movie playing the really nice dad, or I'm playing the evil EPA agent or the evil administrator. My daughter Kendall, who, of course, I adore, she told me when she was probably 20, she told me, "Well, you know, Dad, as you've gotten older, you've developed resting asshole face." That apparently works very well for me when I'm auditioning for sleazy characters.

Soap Central: I was going to joke that when I speak to actors who play these types of characters the first word they almost always use, you used it, as well, is "misunderstood." I don't know that in 30 years of interviews I've ever heard "resting asshole face." It's the first... it was worth the fourteen-year wait.

Newman: Well, and also, if you come in in the morning, and you're just tired, and you just had a bad night's sleep, it really works for the character. So, that's good.

Soap Central: With all of that said, may I ask, what scenes or what bits of scenes actually landed on your Emmy reel this year?

Newman: Well, you gotta have weeping and gnashing of teeth, so there was one of the scenes from, I think it was my very last show between Ashland and Victoria. That was like his big cathartic moment of rage. So, you gotta have that kind of thing. But then, I also kind of went with a softer scene with Adam, that was not soft, but more like a... more like a bitchy kind of back-and-forth. I always liked the dialogue between those two characters, because it just seemed very, kind of, snippy. And smart, actually. And I wanted something that just kind of showed him just being... being bad. There was also a quick one, where there was just a little bit more of an emotional kind of piece where he gets a little teary eyed, that kind of thing. I kept it short, because I've judged many, many times. And I know for a fact that we judges, we like 'em to be short. So, keep 'em short.

Soap Central: I miss the days of NATAS sending DVDs to the press members, I mean, talk about old -- DVD, and sit and watch them and queue up the little, the DVD place. I miss that. But I agree with you that sometimes an hour of a reel is a really long time.

Newman: You used to have to send [all of the scenes you appeared in during] the entire [episode]. In fact, I was part of the board for the National Academy for a period of time when that policy was shifted. I kind of brought up that having us actors submit the entire episode doesn't really make sense. You know, you might have one or two scenes in the middle of an episode that might also be part of so and so's wedding [and] there's all this stuff that you're in, that's not really feeding into what you're trying to submit for Emmy consideration. Why can't we just put in the scenes that we want? There was some pushback on that, but eventually, they made that shift, and now you can basically just edit [the reel] into whatever you want, which I think is right.

Soap Central: And I also think that when you potentially have 200 episodes to choose from, it does make the most sense to be able to sort of pick and choose your best moments from the year because that's sort of what the whole point of the nomination is. It isn't best guest actor in a single scene. Speaking of which, I've been calling the Outstanding Guest Performer -- or rather sort of musing, and giggling to myself -- that it's the Outstanding Newcomer category. (Laughs)

We have you, we've got Steve Burton, who, you know, has appeared on a couple of soaps here and there, and we've got little Alley Mills, who, you know, may or may not have done some other things. There are all these big names that soap fans have loved for so long. And you all end up in this one particular category. What are your thoughts about the Outstanding Newc -- I mean, Outstanding Guest Performer category?

Newman: First of all, I like the fact that it's not connected to a gender. So, that's nice. I would have felt uncomfortable going into like a Lead Performer category, or a Supporting Performer category, having only been there for five or six months. I've got a lot of respect for people who are there all year and multiple years. I wouldn't want to put my short time there up against Peter's [Bergman, Jack Abbott] work. And you know, over the course of this entire year, that just to me doesn't make sense. So, it was nice to step into this category instead.

Soap Central: A couple more things for you. The first, for whatever reason, people love this question. I find it to be a lot of pressure. But have you given any thought to what you may or may not be wearing on June 16? On Emmy night? Is that something that goes into your mind of, "Hey, let me get set and ready"? Are you a very last-minute, "Oh, I better go to my closet and see if I have something to wear"? Where do you fall on that scale?

Newman: I haven't even remotely thought about that. In fact, you suddenly made me go, "Oh, right. I should probably think about that." I mean, I stopped wearing tuxedos to Emmys a long time ago. I don't know what people wear anymore. Fans who have followed me for 100 years know that I'm extremely colorblind. And so, I'm, I've always been very uncomfortable with color, even in the clothes that I wear. I'm almost afraid of it, you know. So, my guess is I'll probably be in a black suit. With even a black shirt and a black tie. It's probably going to be some version of black and white or gray.

Soap Central: I don't think you can go wrong there. And the last is going back to this history of fans knowing you, of fans following you, of fans supporting you. Is there a message that you'd like to give to your fans as you sort of think about this Emmy nomination and your career?

Newman: You know, I always, I always think about fans in this way. I think that what we do on our side of the camera or what we do when we're up on stage -- I do a lot of theater work -- it just doesn't have any purpose or meaning without the people who actually watch the show, or come to the theater to see. It would be in a vacuum. It wouldn't exist. And so I'm thankful for people who became fans of Guiding Light for all those years. I often joke with fans when I meet them on the street, "Thank you for helping put my children through college." But there's truth to that, you know. Without fans, I don't really have a career and I don't have a purpose. If I'm interpreting a character and telling a story, but there's nobody watching, what's the point? I'm thankful to fans not only of The Young and Restless, but the Guiding Light fans, who also tuned in to see me here and put up with me playing this other character. I think for some people, it was difficult to make that transition to see -- you said it right off the bat -- to see me go from Joshua to Ashland. It was a pretty big jump for a lot of people. And for Y&R fans to go from Richard [Burgi] to Robert was a pretty big jump. But ultimately, you know, I just felt nothing but support from the fans, as I worked my way through the journey and playing Ashland Locke, and so I'm thankful for that.

Soap Central: I'm thankful for you taking some time out to chat with me. And let's see, based on the calendar, I guess we'll schedule our next interview for May 2037. Keep your calendar open.

Newman: It would be ironic if I was nominated for a Daytime Emmy that year.

Soap Central: Listen, you know, you talk to me, and 14 years later, you get an Emmy nomination. It works out really well.

Newman: (Laughs) There you go. It was good to talk to you again, Dan. Take good care.

What were some of your favorite moments of Robert Newman as Ashland Locke on The Young and the Restless? Was it strange to see him go from nice guy Josh to bad guy Ashland? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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