has been playing the role of Paul Williams on the Emmy Award winning show The Young and the Restless
since 1978. With over 3,000 shows to his credit on the number one rated daytime drama, Davidson has personally ranked in the top ten of the TVQ ratings for a decade and has amassed numerous awards in his career. Davidson took some time to talk to BuddyTV the other day about his career and Young and the Restless.
Read the full interview transcript and listen to the mp3 audio below.
This is Royce from Buddy TV, and I’m here with Doug Davidson, who plays Paul Williams on Young and the Restless. How’s it going, Doug?
Hey, pretty good, Royce! How are you?
I’m doing great! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.
Well, it’s a beautiful summer day, so I don’t mind at all!
Fantastic. So Doug, you’ve been playing Paul Williams for almost 30 years now. Is it still fun for you?
We’ve gone through enormous changes in the last seven years or so. Our owner and co-creator passed away in ’05, and he stepped down I guess in ’97. He had such a stable show, and for so many years we’ve had a period of transition. So as you probably know nothing stays the same in the universe, and so it is with our show now. We’ve got a new executive producer in the last couple of years, Lynn Marie Latham who, probably her biggest claim to fame was Home Front, a highly acclaimed television series in the early 90’s. She’s at the helm now, so hopefully we’ll be cracking them out for another 30 years.
You mentioned a lot has changed going on. How would you say the overall landscape of the show, how has that changed since you first came on?
Well, pretty much when we started, we had two core families and it was about the trials and tribulations of the people of the core families. When we went to an hour in 1980, the core families changed. It was the Abbott’s and the William’s, and the Newman’s were just a couple, Victor and his wife - I think it was Julia. There was the emotion involved in the growing and the development of the core families. It stayed pretty much like that, essentially until ’97, and then different things began to evolve and change. I think our viewer ship is changed to some degree, and people are looking for different things on television, and the pace of the show has changed dramatically. I mean, when we first went to an hour, I think we had 10-12 page scenes, two people scenes that were 10-12 pages. I think a long scene now is three pages, so just the pace and the rhythm of the shows have changed, and then the budgets have changed as well because of the change in our viewer ship.
When we went to number one in ’89-’90, we were high 9’s and 20-30% viewer ship share. It was a lot different than it is today, so places like BuddyTV certainly help, it allows us to branch out. You can get the scenes on Youtube, and the same day you have episodes on SOAPnet, so pretty much the whole landscape has completely changed since it began.
You know, Young and the Restless is still the highest-rated soap opera on daytime television. What do you attribute this success to?
Well, Tony Geary once said the story, story, story are the three reasons that people watch soap operas. I do continue to agree. We had a man by the name of Wes Kenny join our show in ’82 and ’83, and he changed the way we shot our show, so it made it possible to continue on a show for a long time without going insane. It used to be that we would rehearse all day long and tape the show in a couple of hours, which meant the actors had to be there all day long, had to learn all that dialogue, and the day-to-day routine was debilitating. He changed this, he split stages, made it a lot more actor-friendly. So consequently we were able to keep a core cast much longer than most shows. He was an executive producer who sat in the booth all day long, so we could tape all day long. A lot of them will do whatever they want to all day long, and then come in for an hour of taping. He kind of changed that whole dynamic, and in so doing, I think that our viewers could tune in to the Young and the Restless and see all the familiar faces. We didn’t go thru a huge transition of who’s playing what character now, and oh is that the new so-and-so. We didn’t have to have those transitions, because it was indeed actor-friendly, so I think it was those two things: the story and a stable cast platform were the secrets to our success.
You’ve been with the show for a long time. How emotionally invested are you in your character?
I think at this juncture, it’s hard to separate. Pretty much my entire adult life I spent on this show, and from arriving at my early 20’s and until now, there is a separation between Paul and Doug, but it’s pretty blurred. There’s certain things that I just innately know, like how he’d react to things. It’s hard to, after so many years, it’s truly hard to separate the two.
Yeah, yeah. Well, your character’s been through a lot. You know, from dating strippers and prostitutes, to faking a suicide and a possible rape. What’s been your most favorite moment playing Paul Williams?
I usually claim that the most exciting story for me was Cassandra’s storyline, simply because it was the transition from Paul as a young man to an adult, and a lot of things happened in that period of time. The show went number one, I had the highest TVQ, and I had the birth of my first child. All those things all at once was pretty exciting, I knew at the time it was a special time, and I did my best to appreciate it as much as I could. In retrospect, I think it still stands as a huge highlight.
Is there anything that your character hasn’t done yet that you’d like to see him do?
Well, there are so many shades of things that go on at any given time, and right now it’s probably… the structure of Paul’s character is as loose as it’s been in its entire history. Just because of the changes at the helm, we’ve probably had I think three or four executive producers in the last 10 years, and before that two.
Usually, it comes with the title of head writer, so each new executive producer has his or her vision of how they see all the characters. If you haven’t followed the show for long, then you have the tendency to develop how you see certain chars. So that said, I would have to say that he’s probably more flexible now than he’s ever been.
He’s lost a couple of wives, his daughter’s returning to the scene, the daughter that was born out of wedlock then a failed marriage. Having been raised in his absence and now attends to the show as assistant district attorney, there’s all kind of stuff wrapped up in how he feels about that. So to be specific, I think we’re in pretty fertile territory.
I’d like to explore the father-daughter dynamic, especially when does she feel abandoned, was it the right thing to do? She’s not aware than I am her father, we’ve kept it a secret, because it was having her born out of wedlock. It was really just a fun time when Paul was very young. The only reason they did end up getting married was because he came from a strict Catholic background, and the daughter was for all intents and purposes, terminally ill.
She ended up recovering, and we tried to make it go into marriage, but it didn’t tape. So I think that’s, to be able to play any of that father-daughter dynamic considering those parameters, would be pretty interesting.
About five years ago, your character married Isabella Braña, played by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria in one of her first television roles. What was she like back before she was this huge megastar?
From what I could tell, exactly the same. I’ve seen her like once or twice after her rocket has taken off, and I got to tell you, she’s the same girl that I had met when she first came in to read for Isabella. She is very kind, sweet, positive. She’s got laser focus on things she wants.
She’s kind, compassionate, warm… I can’t really say enough about her, and from my perspective, I have not seen her change at all. And let me tell you, that’s amazing. You gotta have really strong family and faith, and everything else that goes along with it to maintain your center, when you’re hanging on for dear life.
It seems like soaps always have a lot of actors that come and go after a few years. Can you tell which ones will go on to be big international celebrities, or is it just a matter of luck?
Both. I’d think that, to use her as an example, I’d think that was one of the most amazing things about her. She was so focused on having a successful career, and even from the very beginning, even when she was released from Y&R and even after the cancellation of Dragnet, there was always a positive outlook. Not that she wasn’t disappointed at some of the bumps of the road, I think anyone would be, naturally. But she has sparkle and a forward direction that I rarely see, so I think in terms of that… I mean, did I know that it was going to happen at this magnitude? No, but I knew that she was going to be a success. I think you can tell this by the way the way that you do screen tests. (Aaron) Spelling used to have that catchphrase, he’d “See stardust and aim higher.”
When he saw stardust, and he had a pretty good track record of picking people who would go on to great stardom. It was obvious that Eva had, it’s just an energy, a sparkle in the eye, a glow. If you’re attuned to seeing it at all, it’s hard to envision people actually missing it, I mean to you, it’s that obvious.
Right, right. Well you know, you briefly hosted a primetime version of The Price is Right, and you were in the early running as a possible replacement for Bob Barker. How do you think Drew Carey will fare as the host?
I think he’s going to do very well. I can’t say I’m not sorry it’s not a position I could take, so that said, he really is a guide. The host of that show is a guide, it’s not really a star vehicle, it’s a guide to make the contestants a star. That’s what appealed to me mostly about that show, is that there are always new games.
There’s around 70-90 games that change in any given episode. Only two elements, two or three elements that remain the same. The One Bid and the Showcase Showdown and the Showcase, those were the only things that are in every show. He has got a homespun quality, and I think he can relate to the contestants really well, he could be anybody’s neighbor.
So I think all those things are positive, certainly he’s got enough experience and brainpower to handle the format. Bob made it look so easy, one of the things that anybody could do, and I gotta tell you from experience, is the hardest one out there. Because you’ve got new elements as I mentioned in every game, and you have to do the backwards and forwards, so you can take any contestant and help them do the best they can do.
I think Drew Carey meets all those qualifications, I think they were looking for a big name and they certainly got that in him as well. I truly wish him the best of luck as, it is a show first of all that’s really close to my heart, and two, I really think it’s part of Bob’s legacy to see that show go on as well. You know what, is he 83? He made it look like a walk in the park.
Doug, outside of The Young and the Restless, do you have any other projects in the works that you want your fans to be aware of?
No, I think. I’m always open to new things, and my heart lies with our show first and foremost, but I enjoy dabbling in things on the outside as well. You know, the game shows being one, and a few movies and television shows along the way.
That’s always fun, you get to know new people, and in today’s TV environment I don’t think you can be too broadly prepared. You never know where the industry’s going, what we do, especially in today’s changing market. It’s just, everything’s happening so fast.
Alright, well, thanks again Doug for your time. And from all of us at Buddy TV, certainly wish you the best of luck.
My pleasure, Royce! But anytime, I’d love to come back, so you just invite me and Ill be there.
OK, we’ll definitely be in touch!
(Interview conducted by Royce Yuen)