Exclusive Interview with Doug Davidson: Veteran soap actor discusses daytime pay cuts

Doug Davidson - File photo
Doug Davidson - File photo

Doug Davidson plays the role of self-employed private investigator and all-round good guy Paul Williams on the The Young and the Restless, the highest rated drama on daytime television.

During his thirty-one years on the soap, he has been nominated twice for a Daytime Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actor category and was honored with Soap Opera Digest Awards as Best Supporting Actor in 1992 and 1997, as well as Outstanding Hero in 1990 and 1991.

Davidson served as a host for the annual Tournament of Roses Parade from 1998 through 2003 and was the host of the nighttime version of The Price is Right.

The actor has been married to actress Cindy Fisher since 1984. They have two children, daughter Calyssa and son Caden.

Davidson spoke with Our Prattville on Thursday about his role on The Young and the Restless and the future of daytime television:

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): First, happy belated birthday, Doug! Did you do anything special to celebrate the day (on October 24)?

Doug Davidson: Thanks. We had an event in Los Angeles. Prince Albert was in town and he threw a little celebration for the 50th anniversary of the television festival (which happens in June) at the Beverly Hills Hotel so that’s what we did.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You are from Glendale, California?

Doug Davidson: I was born in Glendale, but raised in La Canada Flintridge between Glendale and Pasadena, and I have two sisters. One was in show business for a brief time as a model in her teens and twenties.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Have you always known you wanted to be an actor?

Doug Davidson: It was never that clearly defined until I was in high school, but I enjoyed living in a fantasy world. I had a hatbox and I would take hats of different periods and then I would play pretend (in my primary years). And then … it just never stopped (laughs).

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So, were you in school plays?

Doug Davidson: No acting per se until high school. So, the hatbox was merely pretend to play outside … take myself into imaginary type worlds, put it that way.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What was your first professional acting job?

Doug Davidson: It was a TV movie called The Initiation of Sarah.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You just celebrated your 25th wedding anniversary in May. What advice would you give newlyweds who want to have a lasting life together?

Doug Davidson: Marry the right person (laughs)!

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, you know, even then it can be tough.

Doug Davidson: Yes, it is a very tough institution. I don’t know if that’s how we’re naturally designed and I think therein lies the problem. That’s why the divorce rate is over fifty percent.

It’s something you have to be fully committed to through good times and bad if it’s that important to you. And most people do it because it’s the thing to do and that’s not a good enough reason.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You wife was also in show business, right?

Doug Davidson: Yes, Cindy was a child actress. She was in The Waltons and all kinds of stuff. She was in The Stone Boy with Robert Duvall and Airplane II, Magnum, Murder She Wrote, Liar’s Moon with Matt Dillon. She gave it up to have kids.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You have been on The Young and the Restless for 31 years. How did you get the job?

Doug Davidson: It was a convergence of a lot of events in my life. It created an opportunity that, in retrospect, I think is all in how you set yourself up and believe in who you are and what you do.

I was in a karate class that two other guys were involved in … I was driving a taxicab at the time and was studying acting in Hollywood. The taxicab job was from five in the evening until five in the morning. I was thinking if I worked nights I could be free for interviews during the day. But, the fact that it was a twelve-hour job didn’t leave much time … by the time I slept and woke up again it was noon, then I got something to eat and it was time to drive back into Hollywood and get back into my cab.

In my karate class there was a restaurant manager and the husband of a soap opera star and I got a job in the restaurant and became friends with the guy who had the spouse on the soap opera. As a favor one day we drove down because they were having car trouble and picked his wife up at the studio and I met the Executive Producer. He called two weeks later to have me read for a role. I read for it and got the part.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You have enjoyed all of your years on the show?

Doug Davidson: Yes, very much.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): But, poor Paul … he has lost the girl again and I feel so bad for him!

Doug Davidson: It actually works out for the best (laughs)!

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I always thought that his true love was Cricket.

Doug Davidson: We were together on the show for, I think, twelve years so that’s a long time. She (Lauralee Bell) quit for a while to raise her family and have other adventures. She owns a clothing shop called On Sunset and she’s doing webisodes on a comedy called Family Dinner – it’s on the Internet.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): How did you feel about the controversial “rape” storyline in 2002 with Paul and Cricket?

Doug Davidson: Well, the problem was that they didn’t write the conclusion. It really wasn’t a rape. She never said “no” … if you look at it, it was a little different than it was perceived.

When we initially did it she was taunting and teasing Paul, which were the scenes that aired, and there was a part of her that was not opposed to the relationship. But, what happened is, for whatever reason, they never wrote the conclusion or really explained how it came to be. So, I was pretty disappointed in the way it was unresolved.

But, the truth of the matter is that the two characters were still in love and Michael Baldwin hired Isabella to break us up. Cricket was living in Hong Kong at the time and she came home and found Isabella and Paul in an embrace, but she had also been gone for three months … and didn’t leave on the best of terms. So, she was angry when she came back so he was set to go on with Isabella, marry her, and have a family.

Remember, too, that during one of the Victor and Nikki weddings she pulled Paul into a room and gave him a huge romantic kiss that started the fires of love going once again. So, when you look at it as a separate episode then, yeah, it looks ridiculous, but when you look at everything else … well, what they should have done is concluded it and explained how these two characters got to where they were and how they were going to resolve it and they didn’t. They just dropped it. As it turned out, Cricket was pretty upset about the experience … but it wasn’t as though he broke into the apartment.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): The scene where you find out that Mary Jane is actually your sister, Patty, was so very emotional. Are scenes like that typically hard to prepare for?

Doug Davidson: Well, I tell you, when I first read it we were shooting out of sequence and I really didn’t know where it came from. The way I approach my work is not unlike what I did when I was a kid with the hatbox. I create the environment and believe in the environment that I have created and let the rest of it happen naturally.

So, I think what happened to me was … if you set it up and your focus is keen, then you have to be free enough and comfortable enough to let the rest happen without left brain thought. And there were a couple of key triggers in there that … you know, the nursery rhyme and the remembering when we were kids and the fact that I thought she was such a devious person poisoning the kid.

It was such a huge shocker that same person was someone in my immediate family that it was beyond words. All of those things went through my mind and the result is what you saw on television. You know, if you over think it, you’re in trouble and if you under think it you’re in trouble. You just kind of create a natural balance.

I gotta say that when I first read it I found it difficult, but when I performed the scene it was very effective for me and also my compatriot in the scene, Stacy, was exceptional I thought after everything was said and done. And the reason I say after everything was said and done, was that I didn’t know what to expect from her either. We’re working on an incredibly rapid schedule when there is no time for much rehearsal, so it’s one take and barely a rehearsal, and you get what you get.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I think both of you were phenomenal in that scene. I can’t believe Mary Williams (actress Carolyn Conwell) isn’t in Genoa City cooking spareribs and sauerkraut for Paul while Patty is in the mental institution.

Doug Davidson: Well, they tried to get her there. I will say that Jeanne Cooper makes the rest of the 80-year-olds look bad (actually she was 81 on October 25).

But, I personally called Carolyn when she had refused the first time and she just said that it would be very difficult for her to work anymore. She’s on a different schedule and she was just in a car accident … she’s just getting older and learning how to deal with all of those things.

So, it wasn’t as though she wasn’t approached. She was … and they were willing to do all kinds of things, but you know as you get older it’s just not as easy to jump back into the work force.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you find it odd that Paul never mentions his son? I think we’ll see him soon as a rebellious teenager!

Doug Davidson: Well, I can only hope! But, yeah, I don’t understand, but it’s not easy to write an hour of television a day. They’ve got so many storylines going now that it’s hard to bring something like that up without delving deeper. I always make the assumption that I am communicating with him off screen.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I also have this storyline in my head that Isabella (who’s in a mental institution) will run into Patty (who is also in a mental institution).

Doug Davidson: Yeah, I can only hope that, too (laughs)!

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What has been your favorite storyline?

Doug Davidson: Well, I enjoyed the Isabella storyline because that was bringing Lauralee back. But, I think my all-time favorite was a transition between Paul as a younger leading man to a leading man with Cassandra Rawlins and George Rawlins and there was a convergence of events that happened.

Our show went to Number One and I went to the Number One TVQ overall. I had my first child and it was all in a particular year, so it was a great convergence of all of those things. And Bill went nuts with the story and bought me a new set, a new wardrobe, and made me a leading man. Our ratings had been so-so since we went to an hour and that was the straw that kicked us over to Number One … a position we have not relinquished in all that time.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I recently interviewed Rick Springfield. How did you and he become friends?

Doug Davidson: We were in an acting class together way back in 1974-1975. We’ve been best friends for a long time. There was a period of time when he was dating my sister, but we were friends before then and friends after.

Then when he discovered his life partner … Cindy and Barbie get along so well, so we became a couples group and we travel and do things together. He was best man at my wedding, so it has been a long relationship.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I mentioned your name the day that I interviewed Rick and he said he was going out to dinner with you that night. I thought that was ironic!

Doug Davidson: Oh yeah (laughs)!

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Rick said that he thought everyone in the entertainment field had problems with stalkers or at the very least “over zealous” fans. How about you?

Doug Davidson: I did have some problems in the 80s and 90s. After my first few experiences with that, I learned how to not give your address out and make it harder to be as accessible.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Anything that could have turned out to be dangerous?

Doug Davidson: Well, when people show up at your front door unexpected, you never know. I mean, it’s hard to say. I had a woman rip my shirt off at the top of a skyscraper in Chicago. But, most people are more than terrific. I had one of my friends set up a Facebook for me on their own and it is kind of a forum for me to contact and keep in touch with my friends that watch the show.

People are incredible! They’re sweet, supportive, kind … I can count the bad experiences on probably three fingers and I can’t count the number of fans that have picked me up off the ground and dusted me off and set me straight back on a path of confidence and positive energy.

I don’t really even call them fans because it’s more personal and I think that after 31 years on the same show that I’m more than a celebrity with them, too. It’s more of a personal relationship.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): True, when you watch someone every day you almost feel like you do know them. What do you think of the recent incident with Eric Braeden and the pay cut?

Doug Davidson: Well, it’s not a recent incident. It’s just recent to him because it involved him. It has been happening with the cast for years. Nothing that he’s experienced the rest of the cast hasn’t also experienced. I mean, at least in terms of the veterans.

Some of the rest of us decided that the fact it went public may or may not be appropriate. He chose that path and Sony chose that path so, you know, that’s what they got. And, let me make sure that everyone knows that there are a lot more people involved than just those two.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You would have handled the situation differently?

Doug Davidson: Not only would have, I did. There are a few that took it public and a few that didn’t. So, I’m not criticizing because he is who he is and he does what he does and I don’t think you can debate his contribution to the show – it is very significant, but when I hear that it’s all new … it isn’t.

It has been something that the show has been going through and the people on the show have been going through for I’d say five years or more. He was maybe lucky enough not to be involved in any of that.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): It didn’t happen at the end of his contract, correct?

Doug Davidson: No, but it wasn’t for any of us. The reality is that it starts from CBS who slashed our license fee. When you have an established budget and they slash your licensing fee … a licensing fee is what they pay for the show to run it on the network. Then, suddenly you’re bringing in less money than it costs to make the show … well, it is a for-profit endeavor, so we’ve cut everywhere.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So it’s not just the bad economic times?

Doug Davidson: Well, it is linked to advertising rates dropping forty percent for the network. But, it’s not really as personal as they make it sound. All of the networks are finding out what’s happened to their revenue stream. So, I mean, the way that they handle it is inhuman within that concept of sagging profits. And that is my issue.

The reality is that television is not the cash cow that it used to be, but that’s been happening for a long time. But, how they handle it on both sides is very corporate. Feelings are raw and are easily offended. Nobody wants to have it in this time in their career, it’s just a reality. I’m sure all of the radio shows didn’t want to go through it when television came on.

But, when you look at it as an Eric Braeden incident, it’s somewhat shallow and I’m a bit offended that the media, in particular, doesn’t look at the whole picture and address that. It’s not Sony versus Eric by any means … it’s not anywhere near that personal. And the fact that it appears like that, to me, is a little self-serving from both corporate positions and the performers’ positions.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): It very much appeared like that when it first came out in the news.

Doug Davidson: Yeah, and it isn’t like old-time Hollywood where they’re just not going to pay him because they are making money hand over fist. I don’t know what they’re making, and I can’t say that I agree with any of the corporate decisions on how they are resolving their problems, but all of those things are factors in what we are going through now.

I have heard numbers up to forty percent of network revenues have dropped because … well, just the fact that GM goes under. They had an enormous amount of advertising time on all of the networks. So, when that just goes away … and that’s just one advertiser … well, there are tons of them like that.

We’re not getting the results of our advertising and we’re going to try other things. We’re going to try signboards; we’re going to try billboards on the Internet. All of this takes money away from commercial television. And I don’t know how much it was slashed, but it was slashed.

It’s like your personal budget. You lose your job and suddenly your costs are more than what you’re bringing in. Everybody is affected by that. I will say that Eric is probably the last of a 40-person cast, so the fact that they held it off for so long for whatever reason … I’m not criticizing them personally, but it’s not like it’s new news. This pattern has been established for some time.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, I’m sure what brought it to the forefront right now is, of course, Eric Braeden.

Doug Davidson: Right. Well, he decided to go public with all of that.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): And his status in the soap community made it big news.

Doug Davidson: Right.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you think soaps are in trouble?

Doug Davidson: Oh, I think they all are, very definitely. I think part of what has happened to the entertainment business is that we’re all now corporate entities.

In the old days the entertainment business was separate from the corporate world. So, you had creatives running the entertainment business. Now, we’ve got movies coming out like Saw VI and Spiderman X and then Rocky XIIs and Battlestar Gallactica saw another incarnation … so we have a lot more rehash than we do creative product. Why? Because they are looking at numbers. We’re not really employing the creative people that got us here in the first place.

Bill Bell was a very fine businessman, but he was a creative man. He was producer and head writer of his own show. He had a vision, knew what he wanted and didn’t want. Listen, he didn’t meet with the network, he didn’t meet with anybody. He put on a show that he would like to watch … and as it turned out, so did the rest of America.

But, when you do everything by committee and you’re a slave to polls thinking that’s what the audience wants to see, then it’s very dangerous territory. There are too many factors really to make all of these decisions based on facts and figures and polls because if that were the case, there would be no flops.

Believe me, they spend a ton of money on focus groups to get all of the right answers and it really comes down to something they don’t understand. And this is where we are with that.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): So you think there is a short future for soaps?

Doug Davidson: I think there will be a big change with all of television. It’ll be some creative mind somewhere that finds out how to utilize the Internet and television … what people want to watch.

Storytelling has been around as long as man, so don’t tell me it’s gone out of fashion. Someone will know how to say what needs to be said and get it out there. But, I don’t think it will be a committee or an MBA.

If I sound a little bitter there, I am, because these people running corporations never made anything. You know, it’s not the guy that created the little teeny transistor radio that’s running Sony anymore. And I’m not criticizing Sony, I’m just saying that’s where it has gone.

It will take a mind like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or somebody like that to say this is how we want to watch stuff. They used to say that nobody wanted to watch stuff on a handheld device. Well, they’re wrong, because people are stuck on planes and waiting in offices and on subways!

But, I remember when they asked, who’s going to watch a program on such a small screen? And, of course, it depends on where you are. If I’m stuck in a twenty-inch airplane seat, you bet your ass I’m going to watch it on a small screen.

Anyway, whether or not it’s going to be in the same way we watch it now, I don’t know. But, there are plenty of good minds that are in the network community and in production communities that are spending a lot of time and money trying to figure it out.

But, to say that it was a new thing with Eric and Sony, no it has been happening for some time. Nobody ever really addressed the problem in that we’re in a huge transition area. I mean, even in the country … if you want to expand it beyond that … we’ve got to change some of the ways we do things.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): From what I read, he was angry because they asked him to take a pay cut in the middle of the cycle instead of at the end of his contract.

Doug Davidson: But, there again, he’s the last of many. I mean, everybody did it.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): It was alluding to the fact that this was rare.

Doug Davidson: Well, it was self-serving for both sides. And I don’t know that anything has changed. We’re still trying to eke out a profit. So, unless we can get into a position where that happens on a regular basis, we’ve made it through the tough times. But, until then it’s still a challenge.

I mean, yes, our ratings are twice that of the Number Two show but they are still not anywhere near what they used to be. And, yes, CBS is the most watched network, but it is not secure. Yes, Sony makes profit in some of its businesses but overall I’m not sure that it’s in great shape.

I mean, if I had a problem, I knew I could go talk to Bill Bell and I’d get an answer. It wasn’t always one I liked, but I knew it was coming from the man in charge.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Have you ever been so unhappy with a decision that you wanted to leave the show?

Doug Davidson: Throughout my career, certainly, but we’ve always been able to resolve it.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Have you ever wanted to be in films?

Doug Davidson: Oh sure, but part of that is your mental approach as to how you see yourself. And where I was … I was happy and I enjoy it to this day regardless of my pay scale, enjoy our show.

I enjoy the work. It has made it harder to like when we’re doing it so fast and all of these expenses were very high. We just happened to be making more than we were spending.

But, when you’re not making more than what you’re spending you have to make adjustments. You know, I don’t know where their profit margin is but I certainly hope it’s commensurate with the pay cuts that we’ve taken.

I’d hate to think that they’re making more money and that all of us are suffering. That’s when it’s not fair. Look at the car industry … when you’re paying people fifty dollars an hour or whatever the rate is to assemble a car, but when they are not selling cars and have this overhead it’s tough.

And when people in China and Korea and Japan are making less or it’s automated when they can put out a product for less money, that’s your competition. So, really all of the deals with the unions are insignificant at that point.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Back to storytelling for a moment … I think that’s why The Young and the Restless has remained in the Number One position … great storytelling.

Doug Davidson: Yeah, I love this past summer because historically the things that I was involved in usually had something to do with my private investigation business and it always links to something personal. And when you’ve got that, you’ve got a story with heartbeat. I mean, the fact that the perpetrator we were looking for ended up being my sister was heart wrenching.

That’s the kind of thing that the classic soap opera is made out of when there is something personal involved … and that’s what people care about. They care what happens to all of their characters that come into their living room. And we just have to figure out a way to business-wise make that feasible for them.

I know in the 70s that it was all story … the expenses were not near what they are now. The close-ups were from the top of my eyebrow to the bottom of my bottom lip. So it was all about people.

People were in a room with an issue. And that’s the basis of storytelling. All of the other stuff is quite literally set dressing. You can forget what you’re doing and I don’t know as a culture if we’re training our people not to understand the narrative.

I mean, I think one of the best writers of our time is J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series. Are they kid’s books? They appeal to all ages. They are brilliant and beautiful storytelling. And I can’t think of a lot of things that I’m exposed to where I see people know what they’re doing like that.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I know what you mean. I have the great opportunity to interview Anne Rice in a few days. She has just released a new book, Angel Time.

Doug Davidson: Well, she has had a huge and varied career. And, I don’t know, for my money, if it’s ever transferred as well from her books to the screen. I mean, as well as her books are written.

Interview with a Vampire was a much better book than it was a movie. But, I have to say that they totally missed the point from the book in the last Harry Potter movie also. And all of the important morality tales just become a series of special effects.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I guess that sells.

Doug Davidson: Yeah, or so they think. I would like to know the percentage of people who read the books and who filled in the blanks when they watched the movie. I’ll bet you that the raw statistics on how many people she’s gotten to read a book are astounding … who normally wouldn’t read a book.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Well, Doug, what do you like to do in your off time? I read that you like to play the bagpipes.

Doug Davidson: I do like the bagpipes. That was the instrument that I learned how to play growing up. I rarely play, but I still do.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I suppose that comes from Scottish/Irish ancestry?

Doug Davidson: Yeah, Davidson is a s Scottish name. My grandfather was born in Toronto and my great grandfather was born in Selkirk, Scotland.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you and Cindy enjoy traveling?

Doug Davidson: Yes, we just got back from London and Paris, and Rome. Most of it was business related. My daughter (Calyssa) is a violinist and I think she is going to go to school in London in September, so we were exploring educational responsibilities on this last trip.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I believe Rick said that your daughter was playing the violin on his Christmas CD.

Doug Davidson: Yes, he has a Christmas special coming up in Little Rock, Arkansas and she’s headed down there to play the violin on that show. It’s a Christmas album and it’s really great if you’ve not heard it. You can see the video on the Internet. She’s actually in the video, too.

Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you have any upcoming events?

Doug Davidson: I have the cruise with Rick Springfield coming up.

Publisher’s Note: The 2nd annual Rick Springfield & Friends Cruise is scheduled for November 12-16. Along with Rick Springfield and Doug Davidson, Brandon Barash (General Hospital, Johnny Zacchara), Richard Marx, and host Mark Goodman will also be in attendance.

Interview by Melissa Parker

© 2009 Our Prattville. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the express written consent of the publisher.

3 thoughts on “Exclusive Interview with Doug Davidson: Veteran soap actor discusses daytime pay cuts”

  1. I enjoy DOug Davidson on “the young and the restless”.He is a great actor.Would love to receive an autographed picture of him.Thanks,
    Mark Fontenot

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