Ben Masters On Love, Loathing and Lust – Harmony Style
Julian Crane is an anomaly in the daytime world: he’s a member of the over-40 crowd who would make a career out of cuddling up to young, sexy chickadees if he could, his closest relationship plays out via telephone (paging enigmatic, “voice-like-silk” Alistair) and his idea of fun involves reading his sister’s will! Despite these peculiarities, it’s hard to tell where Julian stops and Ben begins. Masters clearly relishes limning his alter ego; in fact, he slips into character so seamlessly that chatting with the actor is akin to having a one-on-one with his always-irreverent other half. But as much fun as it is to play the Q&A game with Masters, it’s also extremely difficult. The thing is, Masters’s true responses lie not in what he says, but in how he says it: one moment the actor mocks Harmony’s eligible bachelorettes, adopting a romantic, breathy tone; a second later he’s gravely dishing the details of Julian’s underhanded schemes. In other words, there’s no other way to write about Masters than to get the scoop straight from the wacky, witty, sarcastic source.
KEEPING LOVE AT BAY, KNOCKING PEOPLE OFF AND OTHER ASSORTED EVILS
Yup, Julian will fight to the death to keep Theresa and Ethan apart, though Masters wryly notes that “nothing I do ever works! Because in the end, as they always say, ‘Loooove wins out.’”
Digest Online: Last week Luis stormed into the Crane mansion with a gun to bring Theresa home. How do you think Julian would do in battle if he had to go up against Luis?
Masters: [Laughs] Well, I've always wondered why Julian's so stupid not to hire some bodyguards to kick Luis's ass! But I guess if I had bodyguards the audience wouldn't get to see Julian getting what he deserves so much of the time. But obviously Julian would be a very dirty fighter and when Luis wasn't looking he'd probably, like, stab him with a letter opener or something.
Digest Online: What if there were actually a Crane/Lopez-Fitzgerald marriage down the line? How would Julian deal with Alistair?
Masters: That will never happen, my dear. Trust me. I don't know. Alistair really is the devil incarnate, so I think he would literally have Luis murdered, or Theresa murdered. I think that he has that capability, and [he would do that] before a wedding ever took place. But if it did take place, I think it would be very interesting because it's kind of like The Beverly Hillbillies. You get Jed Clampett in there if you let Luis Lopez-Fitzerald into the mansion, and then what are you gonna have? [Laughs] Alistair would go totally insane and he would try to get me to stop it at all costs. I think the Luis impostor should come back again, 'cause I still have the mask in the desk. It used to be in a wall safe but that safe isn't there anymore. Hmm, oh well.
Digest Online: How is Julian going to deal with the fact that Ethan is -- or seems to be -- a Bennett?
Masters: I get to keep acting out these scenes in fantasies with Rebecca and Ivy, where that truth does come out and I'm always very upset and calling Ivy a lying slut and throwing her out of the house and everything. I think that Julian would be very upset and destroyed about the fact that Ethan wasn't his son, because it's the only thing that he has -- besides drinking and chasing young women.
Digest Online: But what will it mean for the future of Crane Industries if there's no Ethan around to run things?
Masters: Hmm. Well now, maybe Julian would be back in Alistair's good graces then. Maybe he should get rid of the boy! [A sinister laugh] Get rid of Ethan, get rid of his lying slut mother, and move Rebecca into the mansion!
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL... What in the world is going on between Rebecca and Julian? Sure, there’s sexual tension, but this is Julian Crane -- sex is always on the brain, and it doesn’t take much for the patriarch to, um, breathe in, breathe out.
Digest Online: How do you feel about the idea of a pairing between Rebecca and Julian?
Masters: You know, Julian is always up for any sort of little tryst with a female. I think it's exciting, and I think deep down Julian still has a lot of feelings for Ivy and he can use that to make her upset. He thinks that she must really care for him somewhere.
Digest Online: What has the fan response been to the possibility of having Rebecca and Julian together?
Masters: You know, on some of the message boards and chat boards that I sometimes frequent, a lot of people get upset because they say they like Julian and Ivy together. They have a little acronym of Juvy, for Julian and Ivy. "What about Juuuuvy?" Then some say, "Oh no, Rebecca and Julian are both evil and funny, and that's good." It seems to be about a 50/50 split.
Digest Online: Well, if anyone can juggle his women, Julian can!
Masters: Oh, I think so! He's always talking about [how] he wants to divorce [Ivy] and kick her out of the house because she's made his life a living hell, but I think that after you live together for 25 years or however many years they've been married and live together, you kind of get used to each other's little quirks, and you know how to make the other person feel pretty badly if you want to. And it makes Julian happy when he can do that, but I think they should stay together. I don't really know what's gonna happen on the show. I assume that I will learn, probably sometime in the future, maybe, perhaps [Laughs] that Ethan is not Julian's son. I don't know how Mr. Reilly [James Reilly; Passions’ head writer] plans on playing that one out, but I'm always fairly interested in what James Reilly has up his sleeve. I'm never bored by it and it's always a surprise.
Digest Online: What is your working relationship like with Andrea Evans (Rebecca) so far?
Masters: Oh, it's fabulous! I mean, Andrea's been doing it (daytime) a long time. We have a good time together and we have scenes where we have to kiss and all that, you know? The older people kissing! [Gasp] She's a real trooper. She's got a really nice sense of humor, and she lets me do the sort of strange things like Julian does, and she comes right back at me with her angle on things.
Digest Online: So she's equally as willing to go completely over-the-top.
Masters: Excuse me?! What does that mean? [Laughs] Yeah, she is. She's all fun and games; she's up for anything.
Digest Online: The question is, do you think that Julian would wine and dine Rebecca? Is he a romantic guy at heart?
Masters: Of course it goes back to Eve, who put the X in X-rated [Lascivious laugh]. Julian, I've said before, is kind of an amoral five-year-old, and I think things just don't compute for him like they compute for other people where romance comes into play. He's a very horny fellow. I learn things in the scripts [about the way that] certain things happened in the past that I never knew, that really make Julian sound disgusting. I keep getting deeper and deeper into a bucket of disgust, [so] I try to make it so he's almost an innocent in it. It wasn't his fault, you know what I'm saying? There's this book that's coming out called Hidden Passions: The Diary of Tabitha Lenox. I've talked to a couple of people and they said, “You can't believe the stuff that Julian was doing when he was younger, like when he was in college.” [Laughs]
Masters is known to be a fan favorite, perhaps because he logs on to Passions message boards and enjoys connecting with the show’s viewers. So while the actor loved meeting the audience at NBC’s first annual Fanfest in Orlando this November, he had to be creative about keeping a major storyline under wraps.
Digest Online: Was it very hard to keep the secret of Sheridan 's “death”?
Masters: Yeah, it was, because coincidentally it fell on the Soap Fanfest Weekend in Orlando . You'd sit at these autograph signings and you'd probably go through five hundred people, and they'd say, "Well, is Sheridan really dead?" And I'd say, "Well, as McKenzie [Westmore; Sheridan] says, 'True love wins out.'" "Well, what does that mean? How could she be dead?" I said, "Well, I really can't say, they won't tell me." To make it work the way we all wanted it to work, we had to be quiet about it. There's some chat boards that I go on sometimes and they know me in there. A lot of them are teenage girls and stuff, and they're like, "Oh, please, Ben, just give us a little shred of hope!" and I would say something sort of enigmatic, like, "Well, just stay on this wild Sheridan/Luis ride. I think you won't be disappointed at the end of the road." What did that woman that created All My Children [Agnes Nixon] used to say? "Make them laugh. Make them cry. Make them wait."
WRAPPING UP THE ANNUAL CHECK-UP
It’s time to find out what’s coming up for Julian. Maybe the love of a good woman will tame the randy patriarch. Maybe we’ll find him humming Barry Manilow and cooking candlelight dinners in the Crane kitchen. Then again, maybe we won’t.
Digest Online: Do you think that falling in love would soften Julian up at all?
Masters: [Breathy voice] Love? Love, shmove! You mean if the character were really smitten by someone? That would be interesting, wouldn't it? And then he would be nice and everything?
Digest Online: Yeah, but that could get boring pretty fast.
Masters: It would, but then she'd obviously cheat on him and dump him and be a lying witch like all women are, and [Julian would] get back to his old ways.
Digest Online: Maybe Julian needs a hobby.
Masters: Well, I think he has an arts-and-crafts shop in his garage. I think he likes to make pot holders, you know, with those little square frames...? No! I don’t know, he doesn't do anything very well. I think he better stay away from the bottle! [Laughs] Julian is just so busy deflecting everyone's hatred of him, and he's gotten himself in so many bad situations that his hobby is staying alive, I think.
Digest Online: Ben, do you ever worry about going too over-the-top? It doesn't seem like that could happen!
Masters: I think I have gone too over-the-top a number of times in the last year and a half, in different scenes and stuff. But it wasn't so bad; it's like, "Well, you know? That's over. We don't have to watch that again!" I know what I'm doing is not like normal daytime drama acting sometimes. And sometimes it gets too strange and I make some bad choices, and I say, "Oh, why did I do that?" But, you know, on a soap opera you always get another chance. I always say it's like a box of tissues: you just keep pulling one out every day and throwing it out and watching the wind take it away.
Digest Online: How has Julian changed since the show debuted?
Masters:I guess since we all started on the beginning in this, we've all changed in a way. I think that the writing has contributed to a majority of the change, but I think that some of what we do with the characters also influences the writing, you know? I think Julian's a little more out there than he was in the beginning, 'cause I know I'm playing him more out there. He's getting more and more unredeemable, so I hope they come up with something to make people feel sorry for me again [sniffling].
Digest Online: Well, I feel sorry for him. He's always getting beaten up and abused over the phone! It’s unfair, that’s what it is.
Masters: Well, honey, life’s not fair.