Michael O'Leary Reflects On Guiding Light & Dishes On His Law & Order: Organized Crime Role! Check it out here --->>
The beloved and long-running soap opera Guiding Light cemented itself in the hearts of viewers. The same could be said for Michael O’Leary, who played Dr. Rick Bauer on the CBS soap for nearly three decades. A self-professed class clown, he admitted that while acting wasn’t always his dream, his need for attention was a huge part of his success. “In Kindergarten, the teacher wrote on my report card ‘Michael does immature antics to get attention.’ And I thought that was a compliment,” he joked.
He began modeling as he got older, which led to commercial work. Deemed just a hobby, it wasn’t until he took a script interpretation class in college that he truly caught the acting bug. “[My teacher] had done A Streetcar Named Desire, where she played Blanche. I saw this woman show how she created this iconic character and I was totally hooked.” His big break came when he heard about an open audition for Guiding Light while he was working as an usher on The Price is Right. Michael wasn’t shy in admitting that he had crushed the audition but was told there wasn’t a part for him. However, he was asked by casting director Betty Rea to stay and read lines with the actresses coming in to audition for the parts of Beth Raines and Mindy Lewis, which included Judi Evans and Krista Tesreau.
“That was it,” he recollected. Little did he know that two days later his life would be forever changed. While sitting at home with his mother, who was watching her stories and upset about what Phillip was up to on Guiding Light, he got a phone call from his agent revealing that he was being offered the role of Rick Bauer. “Holy crap! I turn to my mother saying ‘They want to hire me for Rick Bauer. Can you believe it?’ And she goes ‘Shh! Michael, please not now. I’m watching the show.’ I was like ‘Mom, I’m going to be on your show!’ And she just flipped out,” he laughed. “That was on a Wednesday and by Friday I was on an airplane to New York.”
Michael shared that the first few weeks were such a whirlwind between the move and diving headfirst into the work. “I did my first scene with Grant Aleksander. I call him my brother, but I can’t bring words to what he meant to me in that early time. He took me under his wing. Even though he’s a year or two younger than me, he was much more seasoned. So we connected right away.”
While he has wonderful memories from his time on the soap, he told us that the early years with Beth, Phillip, Rick, and Mindy hold a special place in his heart. “That had fairy dust all over it. It was just magical, that whole storyline. And I think that Pam Long did an absolutely exquisite job at capturing the yearning of young love and heartbreak. The four of us… it just worked. It was just a period of time where I couldn’t wait to show up to work every day.” He recalled that the show was able to capture such a captivating story by developing the plot and the personas around the actors themselves. “I truly was that kind of all-American young man who was just so naive. I can’t tell you how green I was,” he continued. “But I had a good sense of humor and was personable. They allowed me to have a sense of humor and what emerged from that was what I think is probably one of the most successful storylines for young people that the show ever had.”
As a lifelong soap opera viewer who has watched her fair share of daytime dramas, I feel confident in saying that Guiding Light was the best when it came to honest portrayals of family dynamics. And that is something that many alumni from the show agree with. “I think that what the audience really appreciated was the respectful idealization of a generation of families. We weren’t trying to be the flashy show. We were trying to be the human show,” he acknowledged.
“And God, I can’t believe we were the young people when we started the show. That is what is so amazing. People like Beverlee McKinsey and these other iconic people that we looked up to really took on the role of mentors for us. We wanted to do our best for them. Guiding Light was my family. I couldn’t wait to show up to work and be around everybody. We laughed all the time. And to this day, we stay in touch with each other.”
Currently, O’Leary is enjoying the attention that has come his way thanks to his recurring role as Father Brendan Hogan on Law & Order: Organized Crime. “It’s just been awesome how this sort of came my way. I auditioned for it back in the middle of February and was told from the very start that this would be a recurring role, but you never know until you get the next phone call. I was just thrilled that I got another day. We’re on hiatus now and we just got renewed.”
Having recently joined Twitter, he has discovered the fervid fan base that surrounds the series and its characters. “Well, it’s been eye-opening how passionate these fans are,” he quipped as he told us that his daughter is a member of the EO fandom. “You see how fervent and passionate these fans are about this couple. Now, here I am, the family priest and they’re probably thinking that Father Hogan is going to marry them. They’re connecting all these dots and theories and I’m like, what have I gotten myself into?”
His time on the series also reunited him with star Mariska Hargitay, who by happenstance worked with the same acting teacher as him years before. “My first day on set was the first time I’ve seen her in 25 years. She was absolutely lovely and engaging. She made me feel right at home on the set. It felt a lot like Guiding Light because you can tell that this is a group of people that have been together for a long time.”
While he is unsure of his future on the show, he is hopeful for more scenes between Father Hogan and Elliot Stabler. “My character has known Stabler since he was a kid and I know his whole family. His faith is very important to him. I think based on all of those things I feel pretty confident we will be interacting more in the coming season. And I would love to do a crossover with Olivia because my character would know her too. With Dick Wolf’s shows, there’s a lot of crossover events, so while nothing has been promised to me, I feel pretty confident that there are going to be some more shows coming.”
We certainly hope so! Thank you, Michael, for the lovely chat!