James Scott made something of an impression on daytime soap audiences when he appeared as Ethan Cambias on ABC’s All My Children for two years starting in 2004. However, Days Of Our Lives knew a good thing when they saw their opportunity and, within a few months of Scott’s AMC departure, Days snatched the actor for the role of dashing – and often dastardly – EJ DiMera. With four years under his belt on DAYS, there’s no sign of disinterest from Days fans and Scott is as popular as ever. In fact, with my recent interview postings of cast mates Galen Gering and Eric Martsolf, it was James Scott who hands down has been the most requested as the next interview I feature. (Do I listen to my fans or what?)
Before we get to my chat with James, I want to make sure you know there are two upcoming chances for YOU to hang out with the stars of Days. The first will be happening right here in Los Angeles this weekend (June 5th to be exact). The day will feature many of the stars from Days of Our Lives and benefits The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. For more details visit www.dayscharityevents.com.
Then on the East Coast next month you get another chance in Greenville, SC on July 23-24th. The Days Into Night Charity Event benefits a local non-profit organization Taylors Youth Association which teaches children sportsmanship, team work and physical fitness through organized sports. Scheduled to appear are Nadia Bjorlin, Eric Martsolf, Galen Gering, Shawn Christian, James Scott and Mark Hapka. For more details visit www.daysintonight.com.
Now…let’s go talk to James Scott!
During my recent visit to the Days set in Burbank, I sat down with Scott after he’d finished a long day of filming but he still managed to be as friendly and charming as possible and, yeah, he looked pretty damn good, too. During our chat, Scott talked about how soaps are perceived in his native UK, working with stars Alison Sweeney and Gering, how gay-related storylines are perceived on UK television as well as what else he would be doing (and where he’d be doing it) if he were not acting.
Jim Halterman: Going back to the time before you came to the US, you studied acting in London. How does the British culture feel about soaps? Do they respect the work?
James Scott: No, I don’t know if they’d understand the genre because it’s very American in the same way if you were to take a British soap like Coronation Street I don’t think Americans would get it. ‘Why is everyone poor and hungry and have bad hair?’ they’d ask. Such different audiences with different wants and needs and their expectations are very different from what they want from television.
JH: What are the differences between American and British actors?
JS: British actors tend to over-intellectualize things and American actors tend to over-emotionalize things. Both, in my opinion, are weaknesses.
JH: When you started working in American soaps, was it a big learning curve for you with your British training?
JS: When I started working on All My Children, it was still moving at a relatively slow pace compared to how quickly we shoot now. I had a good amount of studying under my belt but I didn’t have a lot of real experience. When I came to the States I had a good friend of mine who was a successful actress and she said ‘You’re new in town, you’re young, you’re good-looking, everyone will see you once.’ So I got here and as opposed to everyone else who tries to get an agent, manager, go on auditions, but in two years I didn’t look for anybody, I didn’t go on a single audition, I just studied so at the end of two years I was a decent actor.
JH: How do you get used to the incredible amount of work you squeeze into every day?
JS: There are some opportunities on soap operas to do some really amazing work. The volume of work you do, generally speaking…I shot 22 pages today…next week I shoot at least 50 pages every single day…so what you do is when you thumb through it you think ‘What are the really good, meaty scenes?’ A lot of soaps are exposition so you find the moments in the script that really sing. You really put the work into those and the rest you learn the lines and you do it. You can make it work for you by really picking out the places where there is an opportunity to do good work, extract that from the machine and sit down with that for a day and then you go through the process you’d normally go through for everything.
JH: In your opinion, is there much you can you do to help the chemistry really spark between you and whoever you’re sharing the scene with?
JS: You can do something with it. Soaps are about sex and relationships and romance and a lot of other stuff but you really have to try to find that spark between you and the other person. I’ve been lucky with most of the actresses I’ve worked with and we’ve always been able to find that between us. I do know of actors who have been in relationships on the show where they have just had no attraction to the person they’re working with and didn’t even like them as an individual and that makes things very difficult. I’ve worked with Alison and she’s fun and it’s really a great privilege to work with her.
JH: How does that work when you’re acting in non-romantic scenes but you still want a similar spark?
JS: Galen and I, as we get to do more and more together, I’m getting to learn more about him and I really like him a lot and that’s really important. I’ve been in situations where the male character you’re playing opposite and there is some kind of rivalry, threat or competition. If you don’t have the right person working opposite of you it can bleed off camera quite easily. My character is a dick so when I’m on set and we’re filming I try to be a dick. I will quite happily do something in the middle of a take that I haven’t told them about just to throw them off. That’s a nasty, shitty thing to do but the way I see it is my character would do it and if someone does it to me, I’m totally open to that. I’m very happy to fall on my own rules. Galen is great. Considering there is so much potential for two guys to bang heads on set and you’ve got egos getting caught up in it. I’ve had situations where it’s been very challenging to maintain a friendship or even a decent relationship beside the storyline but Galen is so easy. It’s really so nice to have that knowledge to go to that place, push buttons and know that he’s going to come back and do the same thing to you. As soon as the cameras stop we’re both going to laugh about it and it’s going to be fine and that makes a huge difference. Not all guys are able to do that.
JH: I also asked the guys about why gay themes are still taboo in some daytime shows and has yet to really be a part of DAYS. Why is it still that way in 2010? Is it the same in the UK?
JS: In England, we dealt with gays, lesbians, AIDS a long time ago. EastEnders was the first show back in the early 90s and they had a character Mark Fowler on the show and he became HIV-positive. First of all, they made him a heterosexual male as opposed to gay. They weren’t afraid to have a gay relationship on the show because they’d already done that. Secondly, the character is still alive and living on the show today. He’s gone through all the huge story arcs but they’ve chosen to be really responsible in how they’ve dealt with it. I mean, 20 million people watch this show in a country with 69 million people. It’s a great educational resource.
JH: But it seems that American soaps have a hard time incorporating the issue into the shows as naturally as it is a part of our real world. Why do you think that is?
JS: I think soap operas are a very strong medium to address issues but soap operas in America are fantastical so how do you portray serious issues? How do you really give it legs and ground it and how do you maintain drama in the storylines? It’s not that easy. Then you have to start writing responsibly, doing research and these guys don’t have the time and budget to do that. It’s more of an uphill battle in America to tackle these issues. There’s nowhere near the reaction over there that you’d get here. People don’t find it to be an affront to have these images brought to their living room in the way that they do in America. There’s something about this country that tends to be very afraid about what it doesn’t know and understand and reluctant to learn about them. It’s a uniquely American thing.
JH: With the fan response to you, it seems that you’ll be acting for some time but if you weren’t acting what would you be doing?
JS: If I were to not be acting, the first thing I would do is move out of LA and I would move to New Zealand or I might move to Colorado. I have looked at buying a Bed and Breakfast in New Zealand. I looked at that a year ago. Not for me to run but as an investment. If I couldn’t have this career, I’d massively simplify my life. I have a lot of stuff going on and it’s a wonderful thing and I really enjoy it but if I were completely able to take the impulse to do this right off the table I think I would downsize my life quite a bit.
Days Of Our Lives airs weekdays on NBC with re-airings daily on SoapNet. Please check local listings for airtimes in your area.