Q&A: Eric Braeden on soap operas, hockey and Canadians (apparently we’re really nice, or something)
Eric Braeden is probably best known for his iconic role as Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless. That, and his moustache. But he’s also an accomplished athlete and an impassioned political activist. Oh, and he loves Canada, too. We caught up with the actor, who’s due to appear at this weekend’s National Women’s Show, to discuss his 51 years in show business, politics and why soap operas have all but disappeared from our televisions.
You’ve had a very lengthy career and have worked with many legends on the screen in an array of projects. Which experience has had the most profound effect on your career?
There was an early Combat! episode I guest-starred on. A Broadway play with Geraldine Page. The film Colossus. One of the most memorable TV shows I did was Gunsmoke – I did five episodes of that and then The Mary Tyler Moore Show. One of the most important shows I did was Mission: Impossible. The most memorable experience where language is concerned is performing Shakespeare. And of course the part I’ve been playing for 31 years [Victor Newman] has been, for the most part, a very enjoyable experience. Then there is the time when my team won the National German Youth Championship in track and field, and winning the U.S. championship when I played soccer. I remember my sporting events very well.
As you mentioned, you were an exceptional athlete growing up (discus, javelin, shot put, soccer). Are sports still a part of your life?
Sports are the fundamental part of my life. I work out everyday. I’ll never give it up. It’s good not only physically, but psychologically too.
Toronto’s a huge hockey town. Do you like hockey?
Hockey is great. It’s a wonderful sport. We used to play it on frozen ponds in Germany when I was a boy. I like it very much.
Outside of acting and sports, what are your other passions?
I love to read – foreign books and publications, some German newspapers, The New York Times. I love to have political discussions. I like to enjoy the basic things in life. I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a special bond with my son. I’m a grandfather and I love being a grandfather. I love good food. I love working out. I love all the basics of life.
You’re very politically active. In Toronto, like many other cities across the world, we are dealing with the Occupy movement. What are thoughts on that topic?
I’m fully in agreement with those who are outraged with big businesses, big banks, and the government. I am outraged. Without regulation, so-called unfettered capitalism will no longer survive because it will lead to a monopoly, therefore regulation is necessary. The Republican mantra of “no government, no regulations” is bullshit. You need regulation so that those who have power can’t abuse it.
You’ve received many accolades (an Emmy, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the People’s Choice award) throughout your career. What has been the most special to you?
The star on the Walk of Fame. It was only the second time it was awarded to a German. Also, I remember arriving in 1960 [in L.A.], having no money, and, to be honest with you, it was just deeply moving.
You’re appearing at the National’s Women Show. What do you think it is about the character of Victor Newman that is so appealing and iconic?
I honestly don’t know. I’d have to ask the audience. I think partly is has to with the fact that he doesn’t take any crap, and he gets even – which is what most people would like to do. At the same time, he’s vulnerable.
Over the last year or so, soap operas have all but disappeared from television. Why do you think that is?
It’s a simple question of economics. It’s cheaper to produce those stupid talk shows. [Networks] don’t realize the importance that people want to see evolution of a character. Storytelling is innate in all of us. But big corporations own these networks and they do things based on the bottom line. That kind of thinking applies to the economy at large. Life — society — is about maintaining the bottom line.
You’ve been to Toronto more than a few times over the years. What do you most like about the city? And Canada?
I always like to go to Canada. Generally, the people are very nice. It’s a damn well organized society, it’s humane, and the people are nice and very hospitable.
National Women’s Show, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, Nov. 11-13