It was another wonderful Rick Hearst event this weekend in New York City. Hearst bounced in, hugged fans, posed for pictures, signed autographs, and answered questions. As usual, he was introspective, funny, and candid. Of course, on everyone's mind was the fact that he has been taken off of contract and put on recurring status at General Hospital after seven years.
Casually dressed, and looking relaxed and happy, Hearst immediately talks about the issue after joking, "Gee, I wonder what's on everybody's mind." "This is a very weird thing to address," he begins. "I am so thankful for all of the support. It did my heart good. I feel very loved. But this is the game that I'm in, that we're all in. It's a freaky time right now in the country." He goes on to emphasize his focus as an actor and as an employee. "I don't ever try to point fingers and blame," he tells his audience of fans. "I don't measure myself against somebody else. That's not the way I choose to live my life. It takes the focus off of, how can I better do what I'm supposed to do? God has put me wherever I've been for the time he has wanted me to be there."
Hearst is quick to add, "Not that I'm going anywhere, that's the crazy thing. All that's been taken away from me is the status of a contract. I'm sitting here on a non-guaranteed basis, but that doesn't make me any less safe. They could have cut my pay or fired me, and they've done with a few people. They're cutting and running on a lot of networks." As usual, the actor is upbeat. "I don't choose to look at the negative. I don't look at it as a personal bias. For me at least, if i ask more questions like 'why?', all I'll be faced with is more questions."
Hearst is off on another journey. He's on hold for a Stephen Bochco pilot, and he points out that only 3% of actors work in the best of times, and he's already in that percentage. He quotes from a letter sent out by a top Hollywood agent: There are usually 150 television pilots slated for production. This year, there are 50. Of those 50, 22 got the okay to go into production as a TV series. How many will make it on the air, and how many of those will continue past the original 13 episodes is anyone's guess. Bottom line - Hearst feels very fortunate to not only have a job, but to have possibilities. "I can get back in the pool," he says. "It's what I love to do, and I haven't had that opportunity for a long time."
He reassures us, "I know you've written and called, and the producers hear it. But when you're not in the drivers seat, there's nothing I can really do. Since i came back into daytime with Young and the Restless, I look at every opportunity as a gift. When i was let go from Y&R and was brought back as a freaking apparition for six months, I looked at it as, they called me for work this week." He points out that since he's been put on recurring status on General Hospital, he's had more of a storyline.
Originally, Ric Lansing was supposed to be Lily's brother - Lily was Sonny's wife, killed in an explosion. Ric was supposed to come to Port Charles to avenge her death. The storyline was changed; eventually, he not only had Sonny as a half-brother, but Trevor (Stephen Macht) as a father. "I just never knew Lansing was Jewish," he says, imitating Macht calling him "Richie."
It's obvious that Hearst loves working with the actors on General Hospital and that they laugh a lot. He talks about how Steve Burton never has any lines in their scenes and "blinks twice," and how Sarah Joy Brown gets into bed "ready for the gym." Meanwhile, he's in his underwear and wondering if she's looking! One gets the impression that there's a lot of teasing that goes on between the actors.
Looking back on some of his pre-GH show business life, which includes film, prime time TV, and other soaps, he is asked about Guiding Light, for which he won his first Daytime Emmy, this one for Outstanding Younger Actor in 2001, and his feelings now that the show has been canceled. "It's very sad," he says. "I cut my teeth as an actor on Guiding Light, both my children were born while I was on that show, and I worked with extraordinary people." Besides that Emmy win, Hearst was nominated three additional times for Guiding Light. He won in 2004 and 2007 for Outstanding Supporting Actor on General Hospital and was nominated one other time, in 2005. He also won a Special Fan Award for his role of Matt Clark in The Young and the Restless and won a Soap Opera Digest Award for his role as Ric on General Hospital. (Note: I'd hate to see what the GH producers would have done to him if he hadn't won all those awards, if they put him on recurring after he won them.)
Talking about various experiences, the man is hilarious. "I played a character named Whip," he remarks, referring to his stint on The Bold and the Beautiful. "I guess I'll do anything." He remembers winning one of his Daytime Emmy awards and, on national television, mentioning that his wife Donna was at White Plains Hospital having a baby. "Two people called her," he says. "The first was a crying fan, 'Oh, I'm such a big fan of your husband's' - after Donna had the epidural and the Demerol. Then a tabloid called. They shut down the switchboard and wouldn't let me speak with her. I got into the limousine still wearing my tuxedo and holding my Emmy, and went to the hospital. I had to go through the emergency room. The security guard stopped me because he thought the Emmy was a weapon. I finally got in."
And the goatee that's been of such interest lately? His old friend, actress Melina Kanakaredes, wrote a script for CSI New York, and Hearst was asked to audition for the part of a Greek. Thus the goatee, which for the time being, he's keeping. He didn't get the role - he was the only non-Greek in the room for the audition, as it happened. He was called back into General Hospital, so Ric Lansing showed up in a goatee 24 hours after he was clean shaven.
Time flies by when one spends time with Rick Hearst. I heartily encourage everyone to try to attend a Rick Hearst event if possible. He's a unique man, a warm person, and so darn much fun. You'll leave with a smile on your face.