Eric Braeden (Victor)
I was very lucky to interview actor
Braeden. He is best known for his role as Victor Newman on
"The Young and the Restless" for almost 30 years. Before that,
however, he had been in many TV shows and movies, including starring in
"The Rat Patrol" in the
1960's and in the classic sci-fi movie
Colossus: The Forbin Project
in the 70's.
His character on Y&R, Victor Newman, is a very stern and intimidating man,
and he spends a lot of his time on the show yelling at people and plotting
revenge. I'm relieved and happy to say that Eric Braeden is nothing like
that... at least when I spoke with him. He couldn't have been more charming
and gracious. Braeden helped create the role of Victor, and it's clear he
did put a lot of himself into the role. I had to chuckle to myself many
times when he used some phrases in his speech, just like Victor does, like
"Well, I'll be damned" and "Are you kidding me?" But clearly, Victor is just
one small facet of the very complex man that is Eric Braeden. He is not only
a great actor and an icon in the soap industry, but he is a very
accomplished athlete and clearly is interested in many things and in other
people. He works very hard and has done that his whole life.
He took time
out to ask me about myself and where I lived, which I found very endearing.
I told him where I live and that we moved here because my husband is a
political science professor. He was interested in that, since he has
opinions about the issues (as you will later see). I'm sure that in
part it was a tactic to put me at ease and to develop a rapport, but I also
got the impression that he is just very interested in people in general.
Braeden mostly spoke about his movie, "The
Man Who Came Back", but we had some other interesting topics to chat
about, as you will see. This was my first one-on-one phone interview, and
not my last, but it will probably be one of the best I will ever have.
First I asked him about his movie. I have not yet seen it, so he told me the
basic plot. It's a revenge movie of the type that Clint Eastwood often makes. As
he noted with a chuckle, "It's not a Disney film," which I took to
mean that it's
violent. It takes place during the Thibodeaux uprising in the south. The
sharecroppers wanted $1 a day instead of 75 cents (it was the first strike in the
US), and the cruel landowner punishes them (by executing them) as well as
sending Braeden's character to jail. His life is destroyed, and then he
comes back for revenge. If you read the info below, or follow the link after this article to his
interview with soaps.com, you can find out a lot more about it.
praised the cast and crew at length. He told us how the movie came about
after he read a historical story and then gave it to the writer to make into
a screenplay. He hired friends of his to make the movie. One of the
producers is John Castellanos, whom Y&R fans will remember from his days as
lawyer John Silva. Braeden really liked making the movie and having creative
control over it. "I had enormous joy doing this," he confided. He was
executive producer, so I asked him what that meant in this case. He said
that producer is a more difficult job and does more work than executive
producer. He also noted that executive producer "is sort of ill-defined, to
be honest with you." It sounds like he participated in a little bit of
everything in the project as well as provided financing, and he learned a
lot from the production.
One of our regular
message board members, Wendy, knew that he made this movie during one of
his annual breaks from filming Y&R. She noticed that he was not taking a
break this year and wondered why. He laughed at that, confirmed it, and
wondered, "How did she know?" Fans know everything, Mr. Braeden! We had a
good chuckle at that one. He also admitted that it takes a long time to make
a movie and that this one took a good two years. However, he made sure the
shooting was quick and efficient. He did not want it cutting into his other
work. He said, "I work very fast, so I insisted on very fast work...I don't
like to waste time on the set." He says that was never a problem at all. He
would definitely like to make another movie some time in the future. It
takes a long while to get just the right story and to develop it.
I asked him what his fans, particularly soap opera fans, would like about
"The Man Who Came Back" and whether it had any romance in it. He replied, "I
do revenge well" (That's for sure). He pointed out that revenge and justice
are very universal themes that he enjoys tapping into. Speaking as his
character (and sounding a lot like Victor), he explained that there was an
"egregious affront against my family" that brought about the revenge in the
movie. As for romance, he says that "it is sort of indicated as a
possibility". I asked him about the ending of the movie, which he says "is
realistic." My guess is that it's probably not a really happy ending.
He very kindly did not want to ruin the movie for me or anyone else who had
not yet seen it.
I asked if he had any difficulties in making the movie. He didn't give me
any specific examples, but he said there were difficulties "every step of
the way". He said it's tough whenever you make any movie that will be seen
nation-wide, but "these are all obstacles to be overcome" and "a
challenge". He agreed that he
learned a lot from these problems. He kept stressing, though, that mostly it
was just a joy to make the movie. Besides the cast and crew, he praised the
people they worked with in Texas that helped make the movie with them.
Budget was the only problem he could think of, saying that with any movie that is not a
big studio picture, there are budget constraints.
George Kennedy, who briefly played his father on Y&R, also stars in the
movie. Braeden says that he was very happy to work with him again. "He is an
icon, and I have enormous respect for him", he noted. Kennedy told many
stories on the set about various big movie stars he's worked with over the
years, which everyone enjoyed hearing. He also lavished praise on the other
actors in the movie, such as Billy Zane, Armand Assante, Sean Young, James
Patrick Stuart, and Carol Alt. "I just can't say enough...it was a pleasure
to do this film with them,, he said. It's clear that he really admires his
co-stars and is very gracious about them. I mentioned that Stuart had been
in "All My Children," and he was surprised but pleased to hear that. Stuart
has quite a long list of credits, so it doesn't surprise me that he might
not know that. On AMC, he played Will Cortlandt, who was evil (as I believe his
character is in this movie, too).
When asked what he learned from making the film, Braeden stated that "you need
absolute pros. In other words, it is penny-wise and pound foolish to not pay
and have cuts in the technical staff because it bites you in the ass." I
couldn't help but think that he was partly referring to all of the budget
cuts in soap operas these days, but I didn't mention it.
As he said, "You need all pros in each department. It may be more expensive,
but it saves you time and money in the end." He agreed that having people
who know what their doing is much better in order to make it run like
a well-oiled machine.
The only problem he had with making the movie was the process of distribution. That is the
one area that he couldn't have any control. "You have command of it all, and then
suddenly you hand it over to the distributor, and they essentially change
it" (marketing-wise). He has no suggestions about how to change that system,
though, because it's just the way it works. "It is one of the most
disheartening parts of the film business," he said candidly. He also agreed
with me that it affects the fans if they don't get to see all of the movies
because the distributor decides only to show it in certain theaters or only
to DVD, etc. He hinted that because he's a soap star, the film did not get
distributed the way it should have been.
This led to a conversation about how soap stars are under-rated, especially
by people in the film business. He gave an example of this. When he
has been out in a restaurant with film people, or at some other public place,
they are shocked when fans flock to see him or the other soap stars, and "they
stand there, there mouths agape, and they have no clue" that soap actors
have this big following. I commented that one would think that by now, the
industry would have gotten a clue about this. "No, it hasn't yet because
very few people make that jump successfully to films." I think there
are more movie and primetime TV stars now than there used to be, but he is
still right that people distain soaps and don't take them seriously... or
value the stars or their fans.
He added that he's been offered plenty of other shows or movies over the years, but he
doesn't want to leave Y&R. "I've just done it too long." He wanted something
more challenging, where he would be in control, so that's why he made this
movie. He then went back to talking about how great an experience it was.
Switching the conversation a bit, I asked him some other questions, not
related to the movie. I asked him if he visits Germany, his hometown, often,
when he does take time off. He confirmed that he does. He goes there with
his family. Some of them would rather go to other places more, but he enjoys
going home most. We talked quite a while about his trips home. They do
travel to other places around the world, and he's been all over the U.S.
When he goes home, he sees all the people, the farmers, etc., and it has not
changed a bit, according to him, in all these years. I asked if they treat
him any differently, like a soap star, or like just the boy who used to live
there. He says, "No, not like [a star] at all. I mean, they are aware,
obviously, but as a kid I was already sort of [well known because] I'd won
the German Youth Championship in Track and Field," so he was somewhat famous
around the area anyway because of his sports accomplishments. One thing that
really stands out in the interview with Braeden is that he is very proud of
his hard work and accomplishments over the years. It's not boasting; he's
done a lot of things in his life and he makes no bones about it.
Braeden admitted that he is not very good at relaxing and doing nothing (he's not
the type to lie on the beach). He enjoys traveling but would rather be
working, working out, playing sports, or doing something productive when he
does travel. "I'm not very good at vacationing...I need to do things." He
doesn't like to just sit around. When he's at home, he does relax, but one
of his favorite ways to relax is to go into his garage, put on some music,
and work out with weight-lifting or hitting the bag by himself. He did share
that he has varied tastes in music, everything from Johnny Cash to Gregorian
chants. He has a home gym in his garage. He does "Olympic weight-lifting" which
he is quick to point out is not the same as body-building. He mentions some
friends that he exercises with. One he sparred with recently was a retired muay
Thai boxing champion (I did not get his name, even though he spelled it
for me, sorry!). I jokingly asked how he did against the champion, and he
replied, "Oh, he's obviously very nice", meaning that he goes easy on him.
He added that his son,
Christian Gudegast, also plays that sport.
I asked him if he still plays tennis, and he said he did. He also plays
soccer still. I learned something new - he was on the U.S. Soccer
Championship team in 1972-73. Wow! I didn't even know the U.S. had soccer
way back then. He told me about some other former champions he played with
(tennis stars). I joked that he doesn't play with amateurs, but he demurred,
saying these are "regular people." It's pretty obvious how Braeden looks so
young and fit, even though he's in his 60's. He stays very active - works out
twice a day. This led to a discussion about diet and exercise. He likes to
eat a lot, so he has to work out if he wants to do that. He declared that
the only way to stay in shape is to reduce calories by exercising and
watching what you eat. He said, "There's no secret to me, all this bullshit.
As you get older, your metabolism slows down..." He works out hard in order
to justify all that he wants to eat. "I think that as you get older, the
best way is lifting weights...because your muscles decline as you get
older," he shared. I promised to pass that on to my husband, who does a lot
of exercising but doesn't lift weights. "Trust me, it works," he said. When
hearing how my husband runs and walks, he replied, "That's fine, that's
cool, but to be honest with you, [weight-lifting] helps with your joints,
helps with everything. You need the muscles to support your joints." He
watches what he eats to a certain degree, he admits, but he loves foods like
Italian, sushi, German, and even down-home American food and cheeseburgers.
I felt like we'd had a nice, long interview, but he was in no hurry to
end it. I said, "I don't want to keep you if you're pressed for time." I
figured he would thank me and that would be the end. He said, "You're not at
all, and it was a pleasure talking with you." But that was not the end.
Braeden asked if we could talk about the health care system. I was shocked,
but intrigued, so I asked him to continue, not knowing what he would say. He
stated that "it has to change, obviously." "I just wish that people wouldn't
believe this notion that universal coverage means the government takes over.
This is B.S. It's bullshit." I whole-heartedly agreed, and he continued.
"It's unmitigated nonsense. What, we want to maintain this system where
insurance companies are allowed to suddenly say, 'We'll no longer cover you
because you have a pre-existing condition'? Or because you're not getting
sicker than you once did...what, are you kidding me? That's highway robbery.
That's outrageous. That is outrageous." I couldn't argue with him because I
believe the same way. I admit I was a bit tongue-tied, not knowing what to
say, but he just seemed to want to vent, anyway. I said that I don't know why
people are believing what insurance companies say. He went on to say, "It is
beyond me, it is sometimes just sort of...just beyond me." He was a bit at a
loss for words in his anger... not that I blame him because it is pretty
He compared the possible universal health care bill to the European health
care system. "You have a choice - if you want to have private insurance, you
can get it. That's not a debate. It's nonsense, absolute nonsense. It is so
skewed along ideological lines, that it's obnoxious." I pointed out that the
people who need the insurance the most are some of the same ones believing
the wrong people. They're ignorant. He agreed, saying, "Morons! And that's
all I can say. I just don't understand the fervor of those who have only to
gain by the change in the system...it's just beyond me. I tell you, partisan
politics is just abhorrent. When I hear these talking heads on
television...it sickens me. I'm so fed up with it." I sighed and said that
the news used to be objective. They laid out the facts for you and you could
then decide for yourself. He said, "It all changed with FOX news and Rupert
Murdoch. Why it changed is because they are simplifying complex problems. It
is more palatable to the audience to listen to a simpler news, than to have
to think, so the ratings went way up, and now all the news and television
business is contingent on ratings. That's why they all follow suit."
We discussed that for a moment, and then
he said that health care is a complex problem and that calling it
"socialism" is ridiculous. That reminded me of a graph I had seen in Time
Magazine that showed how far each of the presidents had gotten on the health
care issue. Our current president has gotten furthest, but the second
farthest was Richard Nixon, which shocked me at the time. He agreed that it
was shocking, and he also pointed out that "people forget that government
has always bailed out these huge corporations." He chuckled and said, "Talk
about socialism, how about corporate welfare? Are you kidding me or what?" I
guess he'd had enough venting because he said, "That's a whole different
conversation". He said, about the country, "Let's just look at things
objectively and try to solve them. Keep partisan politics out of it." I said
that it seemed self-defeating, putting politicians in charge, since they are
the most partisan of all, and he agreed. He also agreed with my husband's
theory (he's a political scientist) that they probably won't pass the bill,
or if they do, it will be watered-down and not too effective. Braeden said
that it will "probably be so compromised that not much will change."
I very much enjoyed talking to the very charming and interesting Eric
Braeden. Now I guess I'm going to have to pull for Victor over Jack!
interview with Eric Braeden
More information about Eric Braeden and his
THE MAN WHO CAME BACK
Internationally-known television and film star Eric Braeden stars alongside
Armand Assante (Mambo Kings), Billy Zane (Titanic), Sean Young (No Way Out),
James Patrick Stewart (Pretty Woman), Jennifer O’Dell (The Lost World), Ken
Norton (Mandingo), Carol Alt (Private Parts) and Academy Award-winner George
Kennedy in the western thriller THE MAN WHO CAME BACK.
Braeden plays a no-nonsense Confederate Army veteran whose defense of black
workers in the post-Civil War south has deadly consequences. Glen Pitre (Belizaire
the Cajun) directs from a script he co-wrote with Chuck Walker (Rings) who
produces with Steven Bowen (Mexican Gold), Sam Cable (Mexican Gold) and John
Castellanos (The Attendant).
The Civil War may be over but life in a small southern town is hardly
emancipating. It’s the year 1876 and one black family is setting out from
Duke Plantation to exercise their new found freedom in the north. They don’t
get very far. Hot-headed Billy Duke (JAMES PATRICK STEWART), the miscreant
son of plantation owner Judge William Duke (GEORGE KENNEDY), doesn’t like
“negras” leaving and he shoots their mule in the head to make his point. He
then takes his whip to a young man named Junebug and leaves him a bloody
Deprived of their only transportation, Junebug’s father, Winton and the
family retreat to their sparse quarters. Junebug is brought to the modest
house of worker overseer Reese Paxton (ERIC BRAEDEN) a fair-minded
Confederate war hero who is married to beautiful Angelique (CAROL ALT) and
has a nine-year-old son named Gabriel. Angelique treats Junebug and Reese
tells Winton that he will complain to Judge Duke about his brutal thug of a
But that implies justice and there is none in this part of the world. Judge
Duke isn’t interested in disciplining his son and he doesn’t like men who
stand by the “negras.” So Billy Duke gets away with his latest act of
mayhem. Later, he shows up at the plantation store and announces that the
workers will no longer be paid in real money. They must use the script
handed out by the Dukes and they must buy their goods at the plantation
store at inflated prices.
Reese and Billy tangle in a bloody fight in the store one morning after
which the black workers go on strike and refuse to work in the Duke fields
until the script money situation is fixed. Reese is then arrested by corrupt
local sheriff Amos Hopkins (ARMAND ASSANTE) and forced to leave his home and
move into a shack. When Billy Duke orders a posse to bring the workers back
to the plantation, only Winton stands up to them. In return, he’s hanged and
shot to death by Billy and his posse – and Reese is framed for the crime!
Hauled into a courtroom, appropriately set up in the lobby of the town
brothel, Reese is poorly defended by lawyer Ezra Tarwell (BILLY ZANE), who
is helpless against the bogus testimony of Billy Duke’s posse and Judge
Duke, the plantation owner, who is determined to get rid of Reese. Only
Caleb, a cowardly young man who knows that Reese is innocent, can help the
situation. But he begs off and is replaced by, Kate (SEAN YOUNG) his
mercenary of a wife who knows that the Dukes are their only hope for a
decent post-war life. When she backs up Billy Duke’s testimony with more
lies of her own, Reese is convicted, caged and sent to prison.
His prison wagon escorted by Billy Duke, Amos the Sheriff, deputies Lyle,
Delbert and the Preacher, Reese bound and gagged is driven by his own home
where his wife and son protest his treatment. In return, young Gabriel is
struck unconscious by the butt of Billy Duke’s bullwhip and his wife is
gang-raped in front of his eyes. With a cracked skull, young Gabriel is then
thrown into a well and drowned, where he is joined by his mother who is shot
to death. A broken man, in body and spirit, Reese is sent to prison.
Prison is no respite for the revenge-crazed Reese. It’s a territorial
hellhole where prisoners are worked like coolies and left to rot without
medical attention. An abortive escape attempt lands Reese in solitary,
which, in this prison, is a salvaged locomotive container box where the
sweating ex-Confederate can neither stand up nor lie down. However, a
flicker of spirit keeps him alive and slowly he makes his plans to break
jail, which he does by masquerading as a corpse.
Surviving an impossible trek across deserts and swamps, Reese returns to
wreck havoc on the people who destroyed his life and family. While he plots
his revenge, he’s befriended by the black workers who are still toiling away
on the Duke Plantation. He’s also fancied by Elena (JENNIFER O’DELL), a
comely prostitute searching for her own salvation.
One by one, Reese tracks down and kills the townspeople who were once intent
on destroying him. The Preacher is nailed to his own cross, Deputy Lyle’s
throat is slashed, Deputy Delbert’s head is decapitated, Sheriff Amos is
shot in the crotch and Kate is drowned. Even the prison Warden and his
guards are useless against Reese and his allies – the black workers.
Eventually, only Billy Duke is left. Mano y mano on the streets of the town,
Billy and Reese slug it out until Reese triumphs.
His spirit and memories intact, Reese stops before his wife and child’s
graves, pays his respects and heads out of town. Elena packs up too. Whether
they will eventually meet again, no one can say.
Emmy Award winning and internationally acclaimed film star ERIC BRAEDEN
(“Reese”) has starred as arguably the most popular character in daytime
history Victor Newman on the #1 rated daytime drama series The Young and the
Restless as Victor Newman since 1980 and has become a favorite of over 120
million world wide daily viewers and syndicated in over 30 foreign countries
from France to Israel.
Braeden has the highest TVQ in daytime television (according to (A.C.
Nielsen) and is one the most recognized actor in the world.
2007 marks Braeden’s 46th Anniversary in film and television where he has
starred with the likes of Marlon Brando, Bette David, Leonardo DiCaprio,
Geraldine Page, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, James Earl Jones, Curt Jurgens,
Raquel Welch, Tyne Daly, James Arness, Mary Tyler Moore, Dennis Weaver and
Jack Lord among others.
Braeden has appeared in over 120 television series and feature films
including starred as Captain Hans Dietrich in the 1960 classic television
series The Rat Patrol.
He also starred as Charles Forbin in the science fiction classic Colossus:
The Forbin Project, directed by Joe Sargent as well as starring as John
Jacob Astor in the most decorated film in Academy Award history The Titanic
directed by James Cameron.
Braeden’s other credits include starring in 100 Rifles, Morituri, 100
Rifles, Escape From the Planet Of The Apes, Operation Eichmann, The Ultimate
Chase, The Ultimate Thrill, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, Meet The Deedles,
and Dayton’s Devils among countless others.
Braeden’s numerous primetime series credits include starring in the telefims
Jackie Collins Lady Ice, Lucky Chances as well as The Judge And Jake Wyler,
How The West Was Won, Perry Mason: The Case Of The Wicked Wives among
In addition, his guest starring roles have consisted of Gunsmoke, The Mary
Tyler Moore Show, Combat, Diagnosis Murder, The Nanny, Mission Impossible,
McCloud, The Night Stalker, The Man From Uncle, Vegas,, The Six Million
Dollar Man, Hawaii 5-0, Vegas,, Perry Mason, Mannix, Murder She Wrote, Matt
Helm and Gallant Men to name a few.
Braeden was born as Hans Gudegast in Kiel, Germany, a port city near the
Baltic Sea. In 1958, he won the German Youth Team Championship in Discus,
Javelin and Shot put. In 1959, Braeden immigrated to the United States.
Braeden worked in the University of Texas medical school lab before moving
to Los Angeles, where he attended Santa Monica College. In 1972-73 he won
the US National Soccer Championship for the Los Angeles Maccabees and in
1989, Braeden was chosen as the only actor on the newly formed German
American Advisory Board. The illustrious group has included Dr. Henry
Kissenger, Katherine Graham, Alexander Haig, Steffi Graff and Paul Volcher.
In 1995, Braeden received the highest honor from the Italian Television in
Italy from Prime Minister Berlusconi and in 1998 was honored at the 38th
Annual Monte Carlo TV Festival.
In 1998, Braeden received The People’s Choice Award as Favorite Actor In A
Daytime Drama Series and in 1998 was the recipient of an Emmy Award as
Outstanding Actor In A Daytime Drama Series.
In 2004, Braeden joined Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the Annual Tourism
Conference in Israel and the following year he joined Ariel Sharon, Elie
Weisel, The Prime Ministers of Poland and Hungary at Auschwitz for “The
March Of The Living” along with 20,0000 Christian and Jews.
Braeden twice received The Federal Medal Of Honor by the President Of
Germany for his contributions to German American Relations.
In 2007, Braeden was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the
nationally renowned organization The Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters
Association on Los Angeles. Braeden also was the recipient of The 2007 Ellis
Island Federal Medal Of Honor in May of 07.
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