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Wednesday, March 3, 2010


AWT: When you auditioned for the role of Reuben Lawrence, who did the producers tell you he was?

CP: It’s funny, I did a lot of primetime and film stuff, and I didn’t think I’d be doing daytime. When they first approached me, I was originally only supposed to be on for 6 months. I was the bad brother of B.J. Jefferson (Veronica ‘Ronnie’ Lawrence). But after I auditioned with Michael Laibson (AW Executive Producer at the time), I remember Michael saying: ‘You’re a star. There’s no way we’re only offering you six months, it’s a three year contract or nothing.’ I was like: ‘whoa, give me a day or two to think it over before I start shooting.' I was doing a movie-of-the-week at the time, but I really liked the character of Reuben because there was so much room for growth. I just thought: ‘Okay, give me one day to think about this, to make a decision about three years!' While I was doing a lot of stuff here and there in primetime, there were a lot of people making promises to me, saying: ‘Oh, you’ll be great for this show’ and ‘we want you for this new show’ but there was no guarantee or promise behind it. Just a lot of people making promises. If you do a pilot for a show, you’re sitting around hoping that the pilot gets picked up, but in daytime, soaps run for forever! So, when the opportunity came along to do a great character that I really liked on Another World, I jumped on it and signed on.

Originally, I thought it was going to be a six month gig and that’s all I was looking at it for, I didn’t think it was going to be anything more than that. I was supposed to be an abusive boyfriend beating up his girlfriend, and I don’t know how they were planning my demise, but it was going to be something to that effect. Michael Laibson, at the last second from the audition, changed his mind about everything. He made it so that while everyone thought Reuben was abusing his girlfriend, it was actually her father who was beating her up and I was protecting her from her father. And so I was the misunderstood, bad kid who was trying to do good things, but would always mess it up with the best of intentions.

Reuben was brought on because they wanted to build a family around his sister, Ronnie, who was already on the show. She was a nurse, and she also sang at the nightclub and was dating Zach Edwards (then played by James Picken’s, Jr.). Ronnie and Reuben’s mother, Esther, and little brother, Jesse, were also on the show, but they didn’t get a lot of airtime. Reuben was there to help the Ronnie character move along, but it became easier to write for my character than for hers so the focus began to shift to Reuben. Dondre Whitfield played Jesse, Reuben’s teenaged genius little brother, who was already in college, which made for an interesting family dynamic for Reuben since he was the street kid stuck between a successful nurse for an older sister and a genius little brother already in college. Reuben had a bit of the whole ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’ middle child syndrome, because everyone in his family was so positive and he was the street kid, high school drop-out. That was another part of his angst: Why aren’t things working for me? My sister is a nurse, my brother is a genius, and I’m Reuben....

AWT: How did the character change during your two years on the show? How much did you contribute to his evolution?

CP: Oh, man. He evolved so much. He started working a lot in the office with Cass (Stephen Schnetzer), and I was thrilled with that. Most of my storylines were with Cass. Reuben became best friends with Josie Watts (Alexandra Wilson). She was the farm girl and I was the friend . They didn’t get to delve too much into a love story. I had one, but they just didn’t delve too much into it. I think one of my favorite storylines that allowed me to contribute to Reuben as a character was when they incorporated my doing stand-up in real life into the show. It was kind of showing where Reuben was coming from and showing the pain in his real life and the hardships he was going through and how he twisted that around to make a joke of it and make something that was negative into something that was positive. That was great. Although there was the problem that the writers liked the idea but they had a hard time writing the jokes so I had to write the jokes! There were a few times they would ask for me to do what was written and I would look at it from a comic’s perspective, and say there’s just no way. I think they got a little discouraged when I wouldn’t always do what they wrote!

AWT: You worked in prime-time television ( "The Cosby Show," "Spencer: For Hire") before coming to daytime via "Ryan's Hope." How did you handle the transition from weekly series to a daily soap?

CP: It’s definitely a challenge to do an hour episode a day. Especially with the dialogue. They’re challenging in different ways. It’s kind of hard to explain the difference. The primetime stuff had a bigger audience than AW, and that’s one way it’s different. When I was on AW there were almost 40 cast members but we all really liked each other; I mean softball games and the whole bit. It was like being in high school. So it was a lot of fun and everyone working really hard for the betterment of the show itself. Whereas in primetime there’s so much money and power up for grabs that everyone is trying to shine individually. And with the soaps, everyone was working for the betterment of the show. There’s so much at stake in primetime in terms of ratings every week that if you have a bad week you’re worried you’re going to get canceled. In daytime, when we had a bad week on AW, we just went: ‘Awww, we had a bad week’ but we weren’t worried that we were going to get cancelled.

AWT: What are your favorite memories of life in Bay City?

CP: I love Michael Laibson to death. He was a great producer to work with, and we got along so well. When I was on the show, I had an audition for a film where I was a black guy hiding from the mafia who pretends to be a white guy, so he puts on make-up and the whole bit. So the make-up guys at AW helped me out and did my make-up and gave me an old curly wig that Stephen used sometimes, and I’m walking around the studio and I put on a south Philly Italian accent and people are asking me: ‘Who are you?’ Security comes over and I tell them who I am and we’re all laughing and I tell them I want to play a joke on Michael. So, I go to Michael’s office and get his secretary to help me and she gets him to come out of his office to meet a gentleman who wants to act on the show. Michael comes out and I put on my act: ‘Yeah, I was thinking maybe I could act on the show. I was in a play in school, I was the letter ‘C’ in the Christmas play’ and poor Michael’s looking at me and saying: ‘You were the letter ‘C’ in a Christmas play?' And I keep going and he’s looking at me and trying to be nice but get me out of the office and looking for help from security and finally I leave but he had no clue it was me! Later, I thought how that would’ve been a cool storyline for Reuben!

I also loved working with Stephen Schnetzer. He was so cool. I was really lucky to work with him. He kind of adopted the role of a kind of father figure on the show. His heart was 100% into the show. My heart went out to him and all those veteran actors who stayed on the show for so many years and created those iconic characters that they’ll always be identified with. They were so invested in what they did and had spent their entire careers there and it was all of a sudden ending.

AWT: Was there a storyline you wish you could have gotten a chance to play, but didn't?

CP: I think they were playing around with a love triangle for Reuben, Josie and Matt. There was a story where Josie and Reuben ran away to New York City. Josie wanted to be an actress and Reuben wanted to get away from it all, so they started living together. But I think the writers were really afraid of where they could and should take that. I think I would’ve loved it if they had explored that relationship because they were really great friends. I mean, at one point, friends of the opposite sex are going to notice each other in that way and think: ‘Maybe she is that mate of mine.' Maybe a relationship isn’t about ‘Wow, she’s hot’ or ‘She dances well’ but about ‘This is someone I can go to with my problems.’

Also, it was just a little disappointing that even though Reuben was popular and the writers liked me, they had a hard time figuring out what to really do with him. He was a street kid who was rough around the edges who was trying to better himself, but he just didn’t have a good idea on how to do it. So he bounced around without really having his own storyline and eventually kind of became everybody’s best friend on the show. He was everyone’s friend, helping them with their storyline. When I did the stand-up story line that was great because it gave me and Reuben a chance to shine and it was great that it became a very popular thing on the show.

AWT: Why do you think Reuben and Josie became such good friends?

CP: I can’t remember how they met. In primetime, you have a hundred episodes to tell a story but in daytime there are thousands! I don’t think it was ever dealt with deeply on how they became friends. I don’t remember what instance made them so close, but I remember it was a slow, gradual building of the relationship to where they became such close friends. Reuben probably looks at Josie as the one who got away, the one he really wanted, and for whatever reason out there in the world, it just didn’t happen. I think that’d create some angst for him and dysfunction for him in other relationships in that the woman he’s with isn’t Josie.

Come back next week for Part #2


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