Soap opera fan-favorite Robert Newman (Josh, GUIDING LIGHT) made his eagerly anticipated debut as Ashland Locke on the Feb. 9 episode of THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS, marking his return to daytime after 12 years. In an interview with Soap Opera Digest, the actor confessed that he was rather shocked when Y&R approached him about taking over the role of the business tycoon from Richard Burgi (who was let go in January) since returning to daytime wasn’t on his radar.
“I had no thought of anything like that,” admitted Newman, who had spent 28 years in Springfield before GL went off the air in 2009. He and his wife, Britt, spent a weekend weighing the pros and cons of the soap gig, ultimately deciding he should take the chance. “The role was really intriguing, and we’ll reconsider things down the road and see how much further we want to go.”
Just a few days later, Newman was en route from his home on the East Coast to California, where his new soap tapes. “I had to do a thousand different things before I got on the plane Saturday morning,” he explained, adding that included learning five scripts worth of episodes to shoot on three days during his first week of work! “Like, ‘Hey, here’s a nice, easy starting week! Welcome to the show!’
“My brain has not been sitting dormant for 12 years,” he added. “I’ve been doing four to six plays or musicals every year that also require extensive memorization and work and preparation. But I haven’t wrapped my brain around a soap opera script in a really long time.”
It didn’t take long for Newman to find his groove. “They shoot in a system that is much closer to the way we shot before we went through the big transition in the last few years of GL,” he explained, referring to his former’s soap format of utilizing handheld cameras and real-life locations in a New Jersey suburb for most of its scenes. “So that feels really comfortable to me. I just started doing the same work and using the same technique that I’ve used my entire career to get all this material worked out. I’m really getting an idea of who this character is.”
While the actor’s GL fans have been looking forward to seeing him in his new role, he’s been around the soap world long enough to know that some Y&R viewers will have “some level of disappointment” to see him in Ashland’s suits. “Recasts can be really difficult for fans,” he admitted. “I’ve watched other actors who are recasts go through difficult times with fans, and I hope it doesn’t quite work that way for me.
“I’m just trying to honor the character and the writers’ intent to the best of my ability,” Newman continued. “I’m just a guy trying to do my best here, and to fans, I would say: be gentle. Whatever break you can give me, give me, at least for the first few episodes. And then, if you want to start tearing into me, feel free!”