Doug Davidson Talks Life, The Young and the Restless, The Future of Soap Operas, and More! (EXCLUSIVE)

Doug Davidson Talks Life, Paul, The Future of Soap Operas, and More! Read more here --->>>

Photos: CBS

We had the pleasure of chatting with the Daytime Emmy-winning veteran actor of The Young and the Restless, Doug Davidson! We had an interesting talk about his beginning, the serendipitous way he found his way to the number one daytime drama, and what’s missing in the genre today. 

“Growing up I was living in a fantasy world,” Doug expressed about his childhood years in La  CaƱada Flintridge, California. “There were aspects of school that were very difficult for me. I think it would probably be easily remedied now, but this was a long time ago.” He noted the irony that his father was a Caltech man and numbers were “not [his] forte.” Away from the pressures of school, he would climb on his hatbox and act out things for his friends that were inspired by what he had seen on television. “The 50s, 60s, and 70s were really the golden age of television.” In high school, his sister suggested that he take drama instead of the normal metal or woodshop class. “The drama was just a natural extension of the pretend I was playing as a kid.” 

When he was older he began taking an acting class in Hollywood three nights a week and was working as a taxi driver to pay for it. He also started taking a Taekwondo class, which would prove to be one of the best decisions he made. While in the class he met and became friends with Mark Lambert, the husband of the late actress and singer Victoria Mallory. Mallory was playing Leslie Brooks on The Young and the Restless at the time. One day while he was hanging out with Mark, they received a call from Victoria saying her car had broken down. The two drove over to television city to help. While waiting for her outside the executive producer came out and he was introduced to him. “I didn’t think any more about it until I got a call and they asked me to come in for an audition. Now, I was studying and I had an agent and all that. But it was kind of a divine way all this worked out.” Doug went in to audition with his best friend Rick Springfield and sister in tow for moral support and landed the role of Paul Williams in 1978. 

Recalling his first day on set he laughed, “Oh, I was scared to death!” The show shot live on tape which meant that the actors would have to wait for the two to three minutes for commercials to start their next scenes. “It was just nonstop. We taped a half-hour show in half an hour.” The character of Paul has certainly had an interesting life over the last four decades. While the epic tales of his private investigator days and his not-so-storybook romances have left a lasting impression on viewers. The relationships that Davidson had behind the screen impacted him the most. Especially his connections with Brett Hadley (Carl Williams), Carolyn Conwell (Mary Williams), Eric Braeden (Victor Newman), Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman), and the iconic Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine Chancellor. 

After about a year on the series, Bill Bell expanded on his character after Paul became involved with Nikki. Davidson talked about how bringing Melody Thomas Scott on the series as the second Nikki Reed in 1979 was instrumental for the show’s success. “She had a lot of experience and really hit the ground running.” The show began building and added families like the Williams and the Newmans into the world of Genoa City. 

After portraying a character for as long as Davidson has, many would assume that he might have an idea of where he would like to see the character go next. But he gave an interesting answer. “When I started this show. Bill [Bell] would talk to you about everything except story. He never wanted any storyline suggestions. So, I never thought in those terms. My job is to give life to the material that is given.” Comparing it to taking on too many hats, “ You just figure out what will make it real for you and go from there.”

It’s no secret that the daytime genre is a dying breed. And getting the chance to speak with an actor who has been there through the ups and downs of the business, I was curious about Doug’s thoughts on how to bring soaps back to the level of popularity they had in the heyday. He began his explanation by telling me about a series on Netflix titled Mr. Sunshine. The series was set in South Korea during a time that several other countries were fighting to colonize Korea. The series told the story of the lives of a handful of major characters from childhood in a turbulent time. With the struggles, discrimination, and love affairs between social classes interwoven into the story. “You had to tune into the next episode. And when it ended it was like when you finished a good book. You want to re-read it. You want those people back in your lives. And I think we’ve lost the ability really to tell compelling stories.”  If the creators of this series could make someone like him, who had no true connection to the people or the stories told, could become so invested in the series...then there is no reason why we can’t do that with soaps. “When I look back at what Bill [Bell] did. There was so much at stake for so many characters that people became involved.” In Mr. Sunshine “every shot has a purpose. And back in the golden age of daytime and our show in particular. We spent time making a beautiful picture.” 

Watching many of the storylines today it’s hard not to agree with him. As someone who loves to go back and watch clips and episodes of soaps from days past, there is a clear difference in how a story was told. The time was truly taken to explore characters, what drove them, and how they were affected by the plots around them. The Young and the Restless “was not a bullet point show. Bill would focus on a particular storyline and when it came to an end. Rather than a huge climax, it would branch off into five more. It was just his passion and it showed.” Passion. That is what I believe is a keyword here. The audience shows their love and passion for their shows. The actors show their passion through their performances. But if we don’t have the passion of the ones behind the scenes then we are just stuck. As Doug perfectly expressed, “the sparkle is gone.”

As the world turns and the stories evolve, we see the casts of soaps change. And when the character of Paul began to be phased out, it set a few things into motion. The first being a period of adjustment for Doug. “Whenever they cooled off my character it was an interesting psychological exploration for me because I had for all those years my family and the show as my total focus. And suddenly my kids are grown and I have a lot of time on my hands.” He got into his gardening and volunteering with his church. “It happened at a particular age for me where I can change the word fired to retired. And now I’ve sort of come to peace with whenever they want to write me in and I’m available. I’m not sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring anymore. I’ve made peace with a lot of it. Sometimes it will get under my skin, but usually, I’m better equipt now to let it go.”

While Davidson has made peace with his situation his fans have not. His loyal supporters continue to not let a day go by without expressing their love for him and his character. “I have been so touched and amazed by their loyalty, kindness, and sensitivity. Some of the messages I get are overwhelming. They’re so kind and loving. They have touched my life and I certainly hope through the forty-one years that I have touched theirs as well.” And as a bit of good news for those amazing fans, Doug will be back on The Young and the Restless on December 19th and 20th! 

I want to thank Doug for the thought-provoking chat. It was an honor and a pleasure to speak with you. We at Soap Opera News wish him well as he spends the holidays in London with his family! And here’s to never giving up hope that we will see more Paul Williams on Y&R!



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Soap Opera News: Doug Davidson Talks Life, The Young and the Restless, The Future of Soap Operas, and More! (EXCLUSIVE)
Doug Davidson Talks Life, The Young and the Restless, The Future of Soap Operas, and More! (EXCLUSIVE)
Doug Davidson Talks Life, Paul, The Future of Soap Operas, and More! Read more here --->>>
Soap Opera News
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