Ben Masters
Happy Hour with Julian Crane, #4

May 31, 2000


Ben Masters of NBC's "Passions," answers questions about acting and his role as Julian Crane on the hit soap opera.

NBC-Live: Welcome to #NBC-Live and our final Happy Hour with Julian Crane! We hope you've enjoyed spending these evenings with Ben. Tonight is your chance to ask Ben anything and everything you haven't yet had a chance to ask! Once again, we will be joined by a special mystery guest in our second half hour. The first person to guess the guest will get a special "Passions" prize! Welcome, Ben!

Ben Masters: Welcome everyone! I'm so glad you could join me again for our wonderful hour together. Let's hope our conversation will be both stimulating, and perhaps exotic!

Buffy 2315-2: How did you hear about/get the part of Julian on "Passions"?

Ben Masters: My agent called and said there was interest in me for this role, so I had a meeting with the producers and we spoke for an hour, and they said, "Would you like to play this part?" And I said, "Yes!" Then, of course, they made me test for it, because they don't give you anything for free in this world! And that's it!

AZYank: Ben, when you first got the role of Julian, did you try to create a family or character history for him, or base his mannerisms on anyone specific?

Ben Masters: Good question! Your question sounds like you're perhaps an actor or actress. (that's why I can't answer it!) I did, subconsciously. I didn't write out in a journal where Julian went to college or if he ever rode a bicycle - all of those things I used to do as a younger actor, when you're trying to make a character have a bit of history. This was more osmosis, where the lines written for Julian in different situations carried me 'into' the man. I guess. Whatever that means.

LindsayKorman: What was your first acting experience?

Ben Masters: Actually, it was a play in a community theater in Corvallis, Oregon. The play was "The Tender Trap." I was 15 years old, and I played a 50-year-old jazz musician, Sol Schartz. I was the only one who showed up for the audition!

Emilee79: Ben, I'm a student at the University of Oregon, where I believe you also went to college. Any memories you'd like to share?

Ben Masters: Many, many wonderful memories! I hope the Villard Hall is still there, and the theater. I was in a number of plays there. I think playing Romeo in that play of Shakespeare's was one of the high memories of my life at the U of O. Just great times - working in the set department - and just beautiful. And I've been back.

Starshine Tw: Ben, what were you like when you were a teenager?

Ben Masters: Kind of a smart alec. I was not interested in sports. I was more of a trouble-maker, you could say! And then, of course, that old clichéd statement - when I got interested in the theatre, that's when I straightened out, and it led my interests to be an actor.

SorJuanaC: How does it feel to be one of the 'senior' actors on show full of 'freshmen'?

Ben Masters: I enjoy it! I've enjoyed watching the younger people on the show grow as actors, and it's sort of like a large family. We all have been sharing this experience for the last year together.

Buffy 2315-2: Ben, do you spend time with your co-stars off the set?

Ben Masters: I had dinner with Dalton James (who plays Hank) and his wonderful wife a couple of weeks ago. Generally we don't spend a lot of time when we're off the set together. On occasion, someone throws a party, and we always have a good time when we see each other away from work.

Mckenzie20: What are the disadvantages of being on a soap?

Ben Masters: The advantages so far outweigh the disadvantages that, for me, the disadvantages don't really exist. You have very little free time to spend in your personal life, but that's compensated with THE MONEY YOU MAKE!

Daisy: Are you currently working on any other projects?

Ben Masters: No, I am not. This takes up all of my time, and I'm happy to be doing it.

Buffy 2315-2: Ben, you are great as Julian. I think you're the best actor on the show. What are your co-stars, like Molly, Jesse, and Galen) really like?

Ben Masters: Molly is a sweet, kind, young woman who I have a lot of respect for. She thinks that I look exactly like her stepfather, and I guess she likes him, so that's good! Jesse is a great young guy and real funny - we have a nice time together. And, of course, Galen is just a male angel sent from above. He's a great, kind-hearted, smart man!

Uhluis: Ben, do you have a special lady in your life?

Ben Masters: Yes, I do.

Samantha Lynn: Hi, Ben! Thank you for joining us for this final happy hour! It's been a blast! So any hints for the mystery guest?

Ben Masters: Hmmm.a hint. Okay. It's a man.

Wilimina3: What do you like best - film, TV, or theatre?

Ben Masters: To be completely honest with you, and you can believe this or not, the last year playing Julian on this soap has been the most enjoyable acting experience I've ever had. It's been the hardest experience, but it's been the most fulfilling. Another hint - It's difficult to determine his height!

Emilee79: Ben, which character would you like to see Julian hook up with?

Ben Masters: I look forward to the day when Julian can straighten out Tabitha and Timmy, because Lord KNOWS they need to be straightened out!

Tabitha Crane: What cartoon character would you say relates to Julian? Dare I ask that?

Ben Masters: That's funny, Tabitha Crane! What's the name of that cat? Oh, I think Foghorn Leghorn! But you won't remember that! Oh, that rich duck, who used to roll around in his basement full of money! Scrooge McDuck?

NBC-Live: Please welcome tonight's mystery guest, Alan Oppenheimer, who is known to "Passions" fans as the voice of Alistair Crane, Julian's demanding daddy. He has appeared on over 200 television shows, including "Passions" (although on "Passions," he doesn't exactly 'appear'!)

Alan Oppenheimer: I'm delighted to be here, and you still can't see me. Isn't that amazing!

NBCSoapFan: Do people ever recognize your voice as the voice of Alistair?

Alan Oppenheimer: Well, I'm not sure whether they recognize it as Alistair or from other work, but I know that recently I was on an escalator at United Airlines, and some people in front of me whipped their heads around. I don't know if it was because I was being loud and rude, or if they recognized my voice!

Ben Masters: Did you have your hand in their purse?

Alan Oppenheimer: I can't answer that - you know that!

Viola8ofmay: Alan, is it strange to be on a show in which your face is never actually seen?

Alan Oppenheimer: Yes, it's strange. It's a new experience. And quite truthfully, I love the mystery of it! I think it heightens almost everything that I say, because it's half-television and half-radio. You have to fill in what I look like; you have to participate more. At least that's my take on it.

Darnell: Alan, do you hope one day we will be able to actually see you?

Alan Oppenheimer: Yes. I think so! I don't have a deadline on that. I'll let the powers that be decide that. Maybe someday I'll stick my head in through the door, and then disappear!

Ben Masters: How's your tarantula?

Alan Oppenheimer: The poor darling is very, very expensive. And very fussy about what he eats. But, you know, I'm devoted to him! I call him Killer, and he reminds me of some people that I've had to do business with.

Sharalee: Alan, what was it like to do the scene with the tarantula?

Alan Oppenheimer: The tarantula was semi-cooperative. We had hoped that he would jump up off the floor and grab that fly. But he might have been too well fed before that, so he took his time getting it. We were hoping that he might perform some acrobatics in that aquarium he was in there. But he was too passive, and I had to take him out and spank him later!

Peekaboo: Do you have any theories about how Alistair knows everything that's going on in Harmony?

Alan Oppenheimer: I think that Alistair has many, many people in his employ. It's like a combination of The Enquirer and Star. And I think he takes care of his sources financially. People want to stay on the good side of Alistair because he has so much power, and therefore they feed him information.

Lissa1999: Has anyone ever played a practical joke on you while taping passions?

Ben Masters: Actually, there's not much time to play practical jokes. Usually the practical joke is what I'm doing that day! That's the joke I'm playing on myself, I suppose!

Starshine Tw: What is some of your favorite memories from your past year on "Passions"?

Alan Oppenheimer: I guess one of my favorite memories, which keeps coming up almost every time I appear, is being able to put down my son, Julian, and to try to find new ways to say how little respect I have for him. Also, the moment I had the Samurai sword and I split the apple as I said, "Kill him." A bit illustrative, but I'll take it anyway.

Ben Masters: Well, other than working with Alan, of course (ha!), I cherish my memories of Suzanne the French maid, and also my wonderful wife, Ivy. I like throwing her on the Louis XIV desk and attempting to kiss her. She always slaps me in the end. Stupid woman.

Sherridin: Do you have another profession besides acting?

Ben Masters: I'm a landscaper!

Alan Oppenheimer: It's not too late, Ben! I may go to med school, I think! My hand's still pretty steady!

Ben Masters: A brain surgeon!

Uhluis: What TV shows do you watch?

Alan Oppenheimer: I watch old movies, news and sports. And I watch reruns of "Seinfeld." And "Jeopardy."

Ben Masters: I've been depressed about television since Johnny Carson left "The Tonight Show," so I don't have any favorite shows - except "Passions."

ISPRINCESS: Ben Masters: In your last live chat, your asked for twenty dollars. Did you get my twenty spot from AZ?

Ben Masters: Not yet! But then of course, you can't trust the people who go through the mail here! One of these young lovelies who works around her probably ran off with your $20 bill!

Delynn: Do you think they will ever cast the role of Alistair and ,if so, who would you like to see in it?

Ben Masters: Neville Brand? No.Alan Oppenheimer!

Alan Oppenheimer: I'll pay you the $20 now!

Lacey: If you could travel anywhere you haven't been to, where would you like to go?

Ben Masters: I've been to the Orient. I would like to go to Amsterdam, Holland!

Alan Oppenheimer: I would like to go to the Galapagos Islands. I would also like to go to Australia and New Zealand. The Galapagos because I'd like to see my ancestors. That's where the Alistair Crane is! It's very, very large, flaps its wings, and says NOTHING.

Haveachat: Have you created any back story in your head for Alistair?

Alan Oppenheimer: No, I really haven't. I'm drawing on my years of experience and my bad karma. I'm just drawing on two things - on my imagination, which is the thing I always use in acting, plus I think that the writers give me a lot to work with here in the relationship with Julian, and Ivy and Sheridan. So I don't need a back story. It's right there on the front page for me, and it's sufficient.

Pavelam: Do you film every day, or is it broken up into sections?

Ben Masters: The show films five days a week, sometimes six days a week. I would say on average.mmm.I work three to four days a week. We have a winner - uhluis has won our Mystery Guest Contest! Congratulations, uhluis!

Martimmy: How did you get the role on "Passions"?

Alan Oppenheimer: My agent called and said that they had a character on this new soap opera, "Passions," who was the patriarch of the family, and it was a voiceover. I do a lot of voiceovers and cartoons. So I went over, and I did a very, very quick audition, and I think I did four shows in two days. I thought that was going to be it, and now here we are 10 months later and it's not only a voice, but a person, from the neck down! And I like that, handling all the props.

Ben Masters: How does Alistair know Tabitha?

Alan Oppenheimer: I am not at liberty to answer that question, Julian! That is such a loaded question, and has so much power that I can't even tell you that, my son!

Ben Masters: But I meet her, soon!

Alan Oppenheimer: I warned you not to do that.

Ben Masters: I know you did!

Alan Oppenheimer: I can't tell you, Ben. It's so dangerous I dare not tell you at this point what our past was.

Ben Masters: Thank you, Father.

Theresafitzgerald17: In the scenes, is Alistair's body (from what we can see) yours?

Alan Oppenheimer: Yes, it is. For good or bad, yes it is!

Emilee79: Alan, whose life would you most want to ruin in Harmony?

Alan Oppenheimer: What a marvelous question! In order to protect the people I love, I will either have to ruin or discredit Luis. Because of the danger of Tabitha, I would like to be able to cause her permanent disappearance, but she is a formidable foe, and I have to be very careful.

Huggles 5: Do you get to pick what you are going to wear on the show, or does someone else pick them out for you?

Ben Masters: There is a wardrobe designer, and she makes the decision about what's to be worn. Her name is Julie Rae Engelsman. If you don't like something and it doesn't fit, they'll usually put you in something else. That rarely happens. She has very good taste, as do all the people associated with "Passions."

Alan Oppenheimer: When I first came on the show, I was in awe of not only the clothes that the men wore, but the women, too. And I say the same thing of the set decorations - I think it's of feature quality.

CatesMatatall: Do either of you have any secret talents?

Ben Masters: I've said this before, so it's not a secret. I can blow saliva bubbles off my tongue so they float in the air.

Alan Oppenheimer: And I taught him that. I have any secret talents? I don't know how much of a secret it is. I'm a paddle tennis wiz! I love paddle tennis - I play three times a week, if it doesn't interfere with "Passions."

Monicaforever: What is the hardest thing about what you do?

Ben Masters: To have to get in front of a camera and make the words seem like they're coming out of your mouth, and make the moments in the scene interesting, not just the recitation of lines. All of this done with such short preparation.

Alan Oppenheimer: It's the shortness of time that I find very, very difficult.

Buffy 2315: Do you both watch "Passions" on your days off?

Ben Masters: I tape the show, so I've watched every show since we began a year ago.

Alan Oppenheimer: I do not watch it.

Ben Masters: What?!

Alan Oppenheimer: If I am home at 2, I'll watch it, but I don't watch it on a regular basis.

Uhluis: Do you get recognized in public a lot?

Ben Masters: I don't really, very much. On occasion someone will ask me if I play Julian, and I will say, "Oh, of course not." No, I'll say yes, and I'll try to be as nice as possible to them. But in the past I've done quite a bit of other work, prior to this show, and I would be approached, let's say at an airport or when I was out somewhere, and the question would be "Did you go to school with my cousin?" But I found out a long time ago that sometimes it's best to say that you're not an actor. If you say that you are an actor, they ask what you've done, and you're standing in the men's room reciting your resume.

Alan Oppenheimer: If I'm on a plane and someone asks what I do, I say I'm a shoe salesman!

Ben Masters: You're smart!

Alan Oppenheimer: They think that's a bore, and they don't bother me any more, and I can sleep!

Spanky: Ben, I loved the photo of you with the shag wall. Would you do a Bond-like photo with all the women of "Passions"? I think that would be very funny.

Ben Masters: I would do any kind of photo with these beautiful women of "Passions."

Alan Oppenheimer: And I would, too, if they could shoot me from the neck down!

Ben Masters: Watch out now, Dad!

Starshine Tw: Have you every taken a risk and gotten something great in return?

Ben Masters: Interesting question.

Alan Oppenheimer: I'm thinking. I heard a friend of mine talking on the phone, many years ago, saying that he could not show up that summer in musical stock, as he had another commitment. And I said, "Ask them if I can do it!" I'd never done a musical in my life. I talked to the producer and he hired me. I was there for one show and stayed for three years. And I just loved it!

Lissa1999: Do you and the cast have fun with the Luis mask, even though we viewers can't wait till Sheridan finds it?

Ben Masters: I'm at the moment having it analyzed for its DNA, thinking of having it grafted onto my old, tired face, and becoming Luis permanently!

Tabitha Crane: Would you like to see Julian part of the supernatural storyline? With evil powers of his own?

Ben Masters: I prefer Julian to just use his natural human powers, like he is doing. I think it's cheating to use supernatural powers.

Starshine Tw: When you die, what do you want your last words to be? (Sorry for the morbid question - it just popped into my head!)

Alan Oppenheimer: "Damn, this was fun!"

Ben Masters: That's good, Alan! For me - "Shouldn't it be someone else?"

NBCLive: We are almost out of time for tonight. Thank you, Ben, for these fabulous Happy Hours and thank you, Alan, for joining us tonight. Do either of you having any closing words for our audience tonight?

Ben Masters: I just want to say again how grateful I am for the interest that's been shown in these chats. I've had a wonderful time, and I appreciate all of your interest in the show. And please keep watching. Thanks again!

Alan Oppenheimer: This is my first soap opera experience, and I am amazed at the interest and the commitment that our audience has. And I imagine that it is going to deepen over the years, and I look forward to that greatly.

NBC-Live: Thanks for joining us for tonight's Happy Hour with Julian Crane. And, of course, thanks to Ben Masters and special guest Alan Oppenheimer. Produced by NBC and Talk City, Inc.NBC-Live: Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.