411mania Interview: Jack Wagner
Jack Wagner has been a part of the world of pop culture since the 1980’s when he gained fame starring as Frisco Jones on General Hospital, a role that landed him his first Emmy nomination. In 1984 his single All I Need spent two weeks at # 2 on the Billboard Charts. He became known to a new group of fans in the mid 90’s ‘for his work on the original Melrose Place, and some know him for his Emmy nominated decade long run on The Bold and the Beautiful. Wagner is also the only non-pro athlete to win the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic, finishing atop the leader board on two different occasions. He can be seen guest starring on Castle this Monday at 10pm on ABC.
Al Norton: Winter of 1986 I was a freshman in high school and the first concert I ever went to without my parents was to see you at the Berklee Performance center on the Lighting Up the Night Tour.
Jack Wagner: Berklee School of Music; that’s that long, thin concert hall right?
Al Norton: That’s it, with amazing acoustics.
Jack Wagner: That’s right. Wow, that’s so funny. That’s great, thank you so much. First concert without your parents, that’s big, Al.
Al Norton: It is; I lost my concert virginity with you.
Jack Wagner: That’s hilarious (laughing).
Al Norton: How did the role on Castle come to be?
Jack Wagner: I literally went it, auditioned, and got the part. It was that simple.
Al Norton: Did you golf skills play a role in you getting the job (Wagner’s character is a professional golfer)?
Jack Wagner: You know, I’d love to say it did but it really didn’t. The guy is an alcoholic whose career has gone south, he’s been divorced and now his wife’s been murdered. He’s been interrogated before about the crime and at this point he’s rather bitter and broken.
Al Norton: Have you found some casting people have a hard time letting actors who started in daytime breakout of that?
Jack Wagner: I don’t know so much about casting but I think it’s the media more than anything; they always want to put an easy label on people, and I understand that. Sometimes with casting it’s an advantage because people know you and then you go in and do something they wouldn’t expect at all. I usually like to believe the best actors get the part. You seldom get offers anymore. I mean, big name celebrities get offers, of course, but in television you have to go in and read, you have to go in and test for the network.
Al Norton: Having been through it before, if a friend of yours was going to be on Dancing with the Stars, what advice would you give them?
Jack Wagner: Start getting in shape early.
Al Norton: It’s that grueling?
Jack Wagner: Yes, it is. I’m a gym rat so I dig that – I like to work out – but it’s grueling, it’s intense. It’s not social dancing, it’s ballroom dancing, so it’s about technique and presenting your body. It’s hard to know what your left hand is doing when your right is supposed to be over here doing something else.
Al Norton: And that’s coming from someone who has been a performer.
Jack Wagner: It is. I’ve done a lot of musical theater, on Broadway and national tours; I’m not an “A” dancer but I’ve been around dancing for years and this was something completely different. The one thing my cast talked about, from Sherri Shepard to Gladys Knight to Gavin DeGraw to Martina Navratilova, we all had the same opinion, that even given what we do for a living, we’d never felt that type of nerves before. We all do things live in front of people but dancing like that is definitely a test of nerves.
Al Norton: Do you dance more now than you did before the show?
Jack Wagner: No, less, thank you (laughing).
Al Norton: Who’s the best non-pro athlete celebrity golfer you’ve played with?
Jack Wagner: Hmmm…I’d probably say Kenny G; he’s a scratch golfer. I’ve played with him a few times and he’s really good.
Al Norton: I know you had a new song available on iTunes in 2012; are you planning more new music or live shows in 2013?
Jack Wagner: Thank’s for mentioning that; I wrote a song for Bold and the Beautiful that I did in a scene and they put it on iTunes. I usually play Mohegan Sun up in Connecticut once a year. I may do one or two live music gigs a year but I don’t chase it anymore. I’m not writing an album but I do write two or three songs a year and demo them for my own personal stuff.
Al Norton: Are you at all surprised by the resurgence of daytime dramas this past year, with ratings for the four shows left up and the plans to revive One Life to Live and All My Children getting back on track?
Jack Wagner: I’m certainly happy about it. I think there’s a place for that medium, it’s just skipped a generation. In the 80’s there were three channels to watch so you watched soaps in the afternoon. That changed when cable came around and clearly what’s going on in technology makes it tough, too, so we lost a generation or two, but I really think it’s great that ratings are up. I enjoy watching these shows and not the talk shows that are on in the afternoon. I think at least with soap operas you can dive into the characters and have an hour where you’re away from life.
Al Norton: What’s the best way for your fans to keep up with what you are doing?
Jack Wagner: I finally started Tweeting with Dancing with the Stars. I still have a flip open phone so I’m a little behind the times (laughing). I try to keep people up to date on what’s going via Twitter; I just did a little arc on Hot in Cleveland and also was in New York doing an episode of Celebrity Apprentice with Susan Lucci that will air later in the year. @JackWagnerhpk is my handle.
Al Norton: When I posted on my column’s Facebook page that we were going to be talking, the Frisco love came out of the woodwork.
Jack Wagner: Hey listen, man, when I started Tweeting I found out there are Frisco and Felicia Twitter accounts with thousands of people following, and they post scenes from the 80’s every day. The loyalty to those characters is amazing; I do reach out to them and stay in touch with them, the Frisco fans. As much as that label of being from daytime has been hard for some actors, myself included, I now look at it as a blessing as not many people are known for a character in their lives and I think Frisco has stuck with me much more than I ever would have imagined and I’m so very flattered by that.
Don’t miss Castle, Monday at 8pm on ABC (see http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/castle for more information)