Harmony or Bust
By: Deanna Barnert
Soap Opera Weekly Magazine
May 8, 2007
Passions will wrap up in August, but don't expect to see Ben Masters shopping his wares around town
Despite his character's dour demeanor, Ben Masters remains optimistic about Passions finding a new home. And if that doesn't work out? After eight years carrying on as Harmony's off-the-wagon cad, he's contemplating walking off into the sunset--though he'd prefer a different ending for Julian.
Weekly: What's your take on Julian these days?
Ben Masters: I've come to the realization that he's just not a nice person. I don't know if it's the Crane curse or what. Years ago, he was on a journey to becoming nice when little Timmy showed him the light. But he went south again when Eve decided to take care of TC after his stroke.
Weekly: Have you adjusted to Julian's fall from grace?
Masters: I'm always surprised with what Mr. [James E.] Reilly (Passions' creator/head writer) will come up with, so I just get on his train and ride it until it comes out at the other end of the tunnel. But I am a seeker of truth, just as the audience is, and sometimes it's difficult to divine what's really going on. I've felt confused about how things change for Julian and how to play the changes, yet honor what preceded them. I watch McKenzie (Westmore) deal with the changes in Sheridan and we're in the same boat. There are people who get frustrated by it, saying, "How can Sheridan be so bad?" but McKenzie's having fun. And these long-term changes could only happen on something like a soap opera, because it's ongoing and drawn-out.
Weekly: Speaking of drawn out: Are Julian and Eve setting themselves up for heartbreak in their quest to find their son?
Masters: It's the idyllic, serene daydreaming of two fools....I think they're setting themselves up to find out it's some form of Vincent! But Jim Reilly likes to mess with people's minds. Vincent could be a big red herring, because it's so well pointed out. You have a scene with Eve and Julian saying, "We hope our son has been treated well in life and found love," and the next scene is someone having sex with a prostitute and killing her.
Weekly: Julian is also trying to connect with his youngest daughter these days.
Masters: Yes, but where was he when Fancy was raped?
Weekly: Give us a few of your favorite Julian moments.
Masters: Kissing Ivy on the desk at the Crane mansion living room. Kissing Eve Russell outside The Lobster Shack. This was the first time they ever really kissed and Julian said, "I think I can get it right this time." Then there was saving Eve at 3,000 feet, 5,000 mph on top of a jet. That was fun to shoot! And all that time with Josh (Ryan Evans, ex-Timmy). Going to Oz was great. That fantasy stuff was difficult, but I loved it. The sets were so elaborate and strange, with dust and pine needles. Ah, and remember when Julian did the Toulouse-Lautrec with Rebecca. I was on my knees, running around. It was painful, but you forget about that afterward. Julian finding out Ethan was not his son was another big one. It was very well-written.
Weekly: Do you enjoy playing the "triangle" between Tabitha, Julian and their daughter, Endora?
Masters: I love doing scenes with them. The other day, Juliet (Mills, Tabitha) had all these lines, and I said, "When did you learn all this?" She said, "I worked on it because I was looking forward to working with an adult!" She has scenes with Endora all the time and has been working with Nicole (Cox, Endora) practically since she was born. It's a strange Twilight Zone. As an actor, you try to deliver lines as closely as written, but you have to go with the moment of what that little angel is doing. Working with a child can be difficult, but she's so beautiful and smart and loves to come to work. She calls me Poppa Julian. It's hard to understand what's going through her mind and what she thinks of all this.
Weekly: What would a night out with Poppa Julian be like?
Masters: The bad Julian would be the most fun to hook up with--as long as you didn't cross him! I would have him send one of the Crane fleet to pick me up at the airport. Then we'd go, just the two of us, to whatever is the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan. We'd have martinis and probably get very drunk together. We'd talk a lot about women and then go out and chase them all night.
Weekly: Now that there's an end in sight for Passions, what are your hopes for your character?
Masters: First off, we ain't dead yet. Second, if it is going to end...to the Evian lovers' dismay, I would like to see Julian go out as flamboyantly weird, whacked-out and fun as possible, instead of walking into the sunset holding Eve's hand.
Weekly: You still believe there's a future for the show?
Masters: Right now, I know I have a job for another few months and there's a good possibility the show will have a life after NBC.
Weekly: And you would be up for continuing Julian somewhere else?
Masters: The incarnation would be different than what we're used to here, but I think I would.
Weekly: In the meantime, are you auditioning?
Masters: No, not at all. A lot of the young people on the show are out there trying. Brook Kerr (Whitney) landed an Alan Ball HBO pilot. That's big. But sadly, in the hierarchy of respect in acting, being on a soap is at the bottom. The experience doesn't translate into any influence or cachet. If you go in and say, "I've been doing a soap opera for eight years," it's, "Next!" That's so wrong. I've ranted till I'm blue in the face about this. Acting on a soap takes a lot of work to make it interesting and real. I've been a regular on a one-camera prime-time series [Pensacola: Wings of Gold] and it's a walk in the park compared to this. The other day some girl from my agent's office called and said, "We're going to need some new headshots." I said, "Don't bother. I'm not going to play anymore." I'm done.
Weekly: Are you saying you'll retire if/when the show closes?
Masters: Yes. I'll do that whole boring thing, like travel and stuff like that. I just hope I don't start having Bloody Marys at 9 in the morning, in all honesty. I'm being a realist about the environment out there for an actor my age. I've got enough money to live on and I've got buddies who are still kicking around, never having had that eight years on a soap to save. I don't want that life. It would entail interviews and people mispronouncing my name. I've been so fortunate not to have to go through the humiliation of an audition in eight years. I just don't have "the chops" to go out and be hungry for it anymore. When I was 30 I did a movie (The Shadow Box) and all my scenes were with Christopher Plummer. Now, he's doing Inherit the Wind on Broadway, getting wonderful reviews, and I'm thinking, "How does he get his a$$ up on that stage at 78?" He screams and rants and raves for two hours! That's not me.
Weekly: You're over the Hollywood hustle.
Masters: It may be wrong, but my regular life is usually a mess one way or the other. The less self-delusional I can be about my place in the business at this time in my life, the better off I am. You can have people say, "Oh yes! I'm going to go write a screenplay and blah, blah..." You might as well sit in the room, look at dirty pictures and play with yourself.
Weekly: What if one of the soaps, like Days of our Lives or The Young and the Restless, calls to tell you they have a role for you?
Masters: I would consider that. That's more realistic. There's certainly nothing wrong with being in soaps. It's been very good to me! But I think the other soaps see Passions as a whack-job thing. They wouldn't be interested in someone who can balance a brandy snifter on his nose.
Weekly: What about Eze, France, which you cited as a place you'd love to live? Might we find you there in a few years?
Masters: Not unless I win the lottery! I love living in Palm Desert [Calif.], except for the couple of months when you can't go outside - it gets so hot your shoes start smoking when you're walking down the street. I'm in a great little neighborhood. I enjoy it... Watch, if Passions does in fact end, three days after it's over I'll be calling my agent saying, "What's going on? I gotta do something!"