Braeden talked to us about everything from his role in Titanic, his thoughts on the Kobe Bryant, his stance on the legalization of marijuana, and of course, his role as Victor Newman. We hope you enjoy!
Listen to the Full 45 minute interview here
JK: When you first moved to the United States in 1959, was the plan always for you to be an actor or did you have other ambitions as well?
EB: No, it was to adventure more than anything. I wanted to study economics and political science and who knows what would’ve happened with that.
JK: Well thank god you got into acting then, eh?
EB: Well yes and no. It’s something that I obviously enjoy doing and after I did my first play or two I realized that [acting] was something that I wanted to do.
JK: Let’s talk about the 2008 movie you starred in, “The Man Who Came Back”. The movie featured some great actors and did exceptionally well as it was among the highest DVD rentals and purchases in the country upon its release. What was starring in that movie like? If I’m correct, this was the first film you were in since “Meet the Deedles” in 1998
EB: I actually put this film together and I was very interested in the story and as well as shining some light on a part of American history that many people don’t look at critically. [The movie] took place after slavery was supposed to be over, after the Civil War. There was a book that came out here a number of years ago called “Without Sanctuary”, and it’s a photo documentation of lynchings, and burnings alive that took place in the South during the latter part of the 19th century where people came with their cameras and took pictures of the events. The pictures came in by the hundreds of thousands, so this [film] is a microscopic view of that.
JK: You worked with Billy Zane in this movie for the first time since Titanic. What was that like?
EB: It was great. He’s a very nice man and a great actor. Billy and the rest of the cast were great to work with on the film [The Man Who Came Back]. However, distribution of the film was a different story. That’s the bane of the existence of independent producers in Hollywood. You hand it over to a distribution company and then you don’t know what happens.
JK: Sticking with Titanic, you played the role of John Jacob Astor. What was it like being part of one of the most successful movies of all time?
EB: Not very nice. It was ok. I didn’t want to do the part to be honest with you because it was too small. I was talked into it by my wife and my son who said you’ve got to work with James Cameron. [Cameron] was great to work with for me. He had remembered a movie I had done called “Colossus” which I had done in the late 60’s. He was a very nice man to work with and I have tremendous respect for him. Was [the role] interesting for me as actor? No it was not because the role was too small.
JK: Moving away from the big screen, you’ve become arguably the most iconic man in daytime television with your role as Victor Newman in the Young and the Restless. What’s it like playing such an iconic role?
EB: Well I’m very grateful to have been employed for the last 31 years on the show. It has mostly been a very good experience and I’ve been surrounded by very good actors. Our head writer now, Bill Bell Sr., was the head writer for the early 20 years that I was there, and then came Maria Bell who took over the helm, and she has done a hell of a job. I feel very comfortable with her as the lead writer and what can I tell you? It’s been a joy to have been doing this for 31 years.
JK: What is your favourite all time Victor Newman moment?
EB: A series of moments involving a storyline that Bill Bell came up with because after about a year or two I was sick and tired of playing this rather one-dimensional bad guy and he came up with a brilliant story of Victor Newman having grown up in an orphanage. The storyline involving that has been the most interesting for me.
The first time that my mother [played by Singy Coleman], who I hadn’t seen in 30 years after she abandoned me at the steps of an orphanage when I was 7, came back into my life after I was very successful was a very interesting storyline because I didn’t trust her and I didn’t believe that was indeed my mother. But then she said something that only she could’ve known, and that is one of my all time Victor Newman stories. This storyline was also partly replayed on the 23rd, and emotionally this is a very deep seeded story with me.
Obviously stories including Melody Thomas Scott [Nikki Newman] are some of my favorites as well.
JK: Now for all the Y&R fans out there, can you give us a little preview as to what we can expect from “The Dark Knight” in 2011?
EB: Probably more darkness I suppose [laughter]. Interesting stuff is all I can really say. You know he [Victor Newman] will never rest. Victor Newman and Eric Braeden are truly Young and Restless.
JK: Last question about Y&R, last year there were several rumors about you leaving Young and the Restless. Eventually you decided to take a pay cut and remain with the show. What were those negotiations like and how close were you to leaving Y&R?
EB: A hair’s breathe. That close. Very, very close. And who made the difference? Eventually it was Leslie Moonves [Chariman of CBS] and Maria Bell. And the rest to be completely honest, I don’t want to talk about. It’s one of the most unpleasant episodes I’ve ever gone through while being with the show.
JK: You were an outstanding athlete growing up as you excelled in several sports including discus, javelin, shot put, and Tennis. Do you still have a love for sports till this day?
EB: I love it. To me, sports are the normalizing influence on my life. I think without sports, who the hell knows what would have happened to me. I grew up with it from a young age. During the frozen winters we used to play ice hockey on the frozen ponds in Germany. We played soccer and handball as well. Then I went into Track and Field because I had too many brain concussions between the ages of 9 and about 12. Everyone was quite worried about me continuing on in any contact sport so they told me not to, so then I went into Track and Field. We won the German Youth Championship in 1958, a year before I came to America. Sports have meant an enormous amount to me; it’s been a life saver. I grew up in extreme poverty when my father died when I was 12 and sports is what kept me out of trouble.
JK: You mentioned Hockey in there. Are you still a hockey fan by any chance?
EB: The thing with hockey is, I got to be honest with you, I’ve seen one game live in L.A. and I absolutely loved it. On television, it’s a little too fast for me. You have to get used to the enormous speed at which they play. I have the greatest respect for hockey players. Actually, one of my worst concussions came from Hockey. However back then we played without any helmets or padding.
But yes, I have enormous respect for hockey players and if it wasn’t so difficult to get to Downtown L.A. I would probably see more games.
JK: Given that you’re a tennis fan and you’re known as a very good tennis player, I have to ask for your opinion on this one matter: Who’s the better Tennis Great, Roger Federer or Pete Sampras?
EB: I would go with Federer. But man, Pete Sampras was a hard, hard fighter and a great Tennis player. But Federer is just so damn gifted and extraordinary. He’s so light on his feet and so quick and he’s a phenomenal tennis player. I think most Tennis people will tell you that they think he’s the greatest tennis player of all time.
JK: Given that you live in L.A., have you had a chance to go see Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers?
EB: Yes, I go quite often.
JK: Did you catch that Christmas Day game against the Heat by any chance?
EB: No I didn’t make it out to that one; I didn’t want to take that time away from my family. And of course they got their ass kicked so I’m glad I didn’t go!
JK: I think they got a real good shot to win it again this year though
EB: They do. Miami looks intimidating and the Celtics are damn good. And then out West, San Antonio looks good and the Mavericks look tough. It’ll be a tough fight. The most amazing thing about athletes that repeat as champions is first that they have the physical ability, but also the emotional ability. The emotional tenacity to keep on coming back in sports, in anything where the adrenaline flows, you get so emotionally drained. To have that kind of reserve, to keep on coming back, especially at times when you’re so exhausted that you say “to hell with it”, and then to come back and win is amazing. That’s the greatness about Kobe Bryant. First of all he’s an extremely gifted player. And secondly, the guy has an emotional makeup that is just so tough. I admire that enormously.
I can talk sports all day. Do you like soccer? Let’s talk soccer.
For Eric Braeden’s thoughts on Manchester United, Champions League Soccer, and the English National Soccer Team, listen to the clip [6:20 - 9:05]
JK: You’ve received countless awards throughout your career. Is there one that sticks out?
EB: The People’s Choice Award.
JK: Why so?
EB: Because, the whole Emmy and Oscars situation, a lot of people in this business will tell you, it all seems not rigged but it seems like they play favorites and its more about voting for the people you like rather than who you respect as actors. It’s a popularity contest in many ways, certainly in our business it is. I don’t give a damn about popularity amongst actors.
But to get the People’s Choice Award meant the most to me. It’s the audience that votes for you and that meant something to me. They no longer have it anymore. They had it that one time and Susan Lucci and I won it and I’ll never forget it. It meant more to me than anything else. And then the Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame meant a great deal to me as well.
JK: I was just going to get to the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. You won the award in July of 2007. How much did that mean to you, especially since you became the first German actor since Marlene Dietrich to receive a Hollywood Walk of Fame star?
EB: Meant a great, great, great deal to me. I came to this town with barely a penny in my pocket and then to stand there and receive that award meant a great deal to me.
JK: A few months ago you were on Geraldo Rivera’s talk show discussing the legalization of marijuana. Being as we are from British Columbia, we couldn’t agree with you more on your stance that marijuana should be legalized! I’m curious as to your thoughts on the recent California vote on Proposition 19 and what do you think the future holds for the legalization or marijuana?
EB: That’s a good question. It seems sort of inevitable doesn’t it? In other words, if you think of how many people are incarcerated in California prisons because of the three strike rule, it’s unconscionable. We barely outlawed smoking in public places. I’m not sure what’s more detrimental to your health: pot or cigarettes. Am I for people walking around high all the time? No, I didn’t mean that. I simply juxtaposed it with the enormous strain on the budget in California and the ruination of so many lives because they were caught with pot. I mean, that’s ridiculous. Having been caught with it 3 times than go to prison, I mean you know what happens in prison. You don’t get rehabilitated in prison, it gets worse. You become criminals probably, most of the time. So simply, it just does not seem like an offense worthy of criminal prosecution to me. It simply doesn’t.
Smoking pot isn’t for me. I tried it years ago, and it just wasn’t for me. I enjoy eating and sleeping and all the other simple joys of life enormously. I tried smoking pot years ago, about 35-40 years ago and I thought to myself, “What’s the big deal about it”? It just sort of dulls the senses to me. Not to others, but to me. So I have no interest in it but am I a proponent in prosecuting people for it? Absolutely not. It’s ridiculous. However, I do believe that smoking is terrible. I don’t smoke and I think it’s the worst thing you can do. I’m glad they have outlawed in public places. In that sense, I agree completely.
JK: Lastly, what’s next for Eric Braeden? What can we expect in 2011
EB: On a somber note, the experience with “The Man Who Came Back” in terms of distribution has been a very disappointing one. It’s a problem in our business. A new paradigm needs to be developed where producers can have their hands on the distribution and attain more of the profits that come in. That film, to be very honest with you, I haven’t seen a damn thing yet. Nothing. It’s outrageous, but it’s the bane of the existence of independent producers. I would have loved to have done another film already, because I enjoyed doing the other enormously. I had some of the greatest times of my life doing that film [The Man Who Came Back]. The whole distribution business has to change and I have a feeling it’ll happen over the internet where you have direct access to the money coming in. It really is a problem. You talk to anyone who has made an independent film and they will all sing a terrible song. Now with the internet, a lot of things are being pirated so they have to think of something to stop that.
So 2011, the plan is to stay healthy. I just had my hip resurfaced. After playing sports for so many years, my hip sort of wore out. I had it resurfaced, not replaced, and unfortunately that’s a little more of an invasive procedure but I came back quicker than anyone they said. They said I had young bones so they were able to do a resurface instead of a replacement. So you see, I’m Young and Restless still [laughter]. Beyond that, I am close to my family and I just work out a lot. I work out every day, and without that I’d go nuts I think. So there you have it!
JK: Thanks a ton for doing this interview! It was an absolute blast and you’re a great guy to talk to.
EB: You’re absolutely welcome man.
To hear a clip of Eric Braeden talking about Canada, Sidney Crosby’s game winning goal, Christian Bale’s performance in “The Fighter”, and an epic tennis match he had in Lethbridge, Alberta, click here [8:25]
About Eric Braeden
Born in Bredenbek, German in 1941, Eric Braeden first moved to the United States in 1959 for an adventure, and to study. Little did he know that he would become one of the world's most famous Soap Opera icons.
Emmy Award winning and internationally acclaimed film and television icon ERIC BRAEDEN 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 for over 3 decades; and has over 120,000,000 daily viewers around the world and is syndicated in over 30 foreign countries.
Braeden has the highest TVQ in daytime television according to A.C. Nielsen and is one the most recognized actors in the world. 2010 marks Braeden’s 50th Anniversary in film and television where he has starred with the likes of Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, Leonardo DiCaprio, Geraldine Page, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper and more.