The Victor Newman Project: A Conversation with Eric Braeden

(originally presented in June 2010 at

Eric Braeden & Melody Thomas Scott

Eric Braeden is one of the most recognized figures of daytime television.  With his rugged good looks, his distinct voice and his dark piercing stare, he has brought one of the soap opera industry’s most complex character to life – The Young and the Restless’ resident millionaire Victor Newman.  Half hero, half villain, Victor Newman is a character with as many different sides as he has passions and agendas.  Cold and comforting, cruel and kind, warm and explosive, the role of Victor Newman has brought Eric Braeden into households across the world for three decades turning him into one of television’s most iconic stars. 

Born Hans-Jörg Gudegast in Breidenbach, Germany during the Second World War, Eric Braeden came to America at the age of eighteen.  While studying politics and economics at the University of Montana on a track and field scholarship, Braeden and classmate Bob McKenna became the first individuals to suceed in riding down the Salmon River, known as “the river of no return,”  in  a raft.  Filming their journey for a documentary called Riverbusters, Braeden was seduced by the bright lights of Los Angeles when the pair travelled to the West Coast to sell the film.  Transferring to Santa Monica College and taking night classes at UCLA, Braeden heard of a casting call for young German men for the 1961 film Operation Eichmann, which spawned a notable acting career of playing dark brooding villains, spies, gunfighters and Nazis in television series such as The Man from UNCLE, Mission: Impossible, Combat!, The Gallant Men, The Virginian, The Wackiest Ship in the War, Run For Your Life and 12 O’Clock High.  Gudegast’s breakout role would prove to be Captain Hans Dietrich in the war time adventure program The Rat Patrol.  Although the program’s antagonist, Hans Dietrich would be a departure from the regular villains appearing on television.  Tired of Hollywood’s vilification of Germanic characters, Gudegast played Dietrich as a just and moral individual who was not a Nazi but, instead, a good man who was sucked into a war that he hated.  As a result, Dietrich became as popular as the heroes on The Rat Patrol.  

It was in 1970 when he received the starring role in the science fiction thriller Colossus: The Forbin Project that Hans Gudegast changed his name to the more Americanized Eric Braeden and embarked on a new era of his already noteworthy career.  The 1970’s would prove to be a golden age for the actor who played the “villain of the week” on nearly every popular series made in Hollywood including Mannix, McCloud, Hawaii 5-0, Gunsmoke, The Six Million Dollar Man, Banacek, Marcus Welby MD, The FBI, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Matt Helm, How the West Was Won, Vega$,  Kolchak, Get Christie Love, The Rookies, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, Wonder Woman, CHiPs and Charlie’s Angels.  In 1980 soap opera mogul William Bell offered Braeden the role of the mysterious and cruel industrialist Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless.  Originally intended to be a short lived character, Victor Newman became immensely popular with viewers and Braeden was asked to stay on the series.  Although initially rejecting the offer, Braeden had a change of heart and Victor Newman quickly became the central figure on The Young and the Restless.  Thirty years later he remains in the role which has proved to have been very kind to Eric Braeden, earning him an Emmy Award in 1998 for Best Daytime Actor, a People’s Choice Award in 1992, multiple Soap Opera Digest Awards, his own star on the Hollywood walk of fame, and the esteemed Federal Medal of Honor from his home country of Germany.   In his career Eric Braeden has also co-starred in a number of memorable films with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Morituri with Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner, 100 Rifles with Jim Brown, Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch, Dayton’s Devils with Leslie Neilsen and Rory Calhoun, Herbie Goes Monte Carlo with Dean Jones and Don Knotts, Escape From the Planet of the Apes with Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter, Lady Ice with Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall,The Ambulance with Eric Roberts and James Earl Jones, Meet the Deedles with Paul Walker and the Oscar winning James Cameron film Titanic with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.  Most recently Braeden starred and produced the Lionsgate Western The Man Who Came Back with Titanic co-star Billy Zane and Armand Assante and Oscar winning actor George Kennedy. and featuring   Carol Alt, James Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, Ken Norton and Jennifer O’Dell. Eric Braeden is far more then just another soap opera actor.  He is an entertainment industry institution all his own. 

I have often been quoted in many sources that Eric Braeden is the one actor I’ve most wanted to interview.  One of my favorite pop culture icons of all time, he is an actor who has fascinated me since childhood.  However, I was unprepared, but delighted, for the discussion that Eric Braeden and I would have.  Passionate about history and politics, Eric spoke with me about subjects far larger than the entertainment industry.  With his career as a backdrop, we delved into subjects ranging from the conflict in the middle East, to the problems in American politics, to the vilification of Germany, to the hidden injustices in American History to the World Cup.  Eric Braeden is a passionate man with educated opinions and bold ideas who has a personal character strong enough to bluntly state what he believes.  I feel that in my conversation with Eric Braeden I captured a side of him that most publications rarely present – that of a brilliant man with thoughts and ideas that go far beyond the entertainment industry. 

Sam Tweedle:  This year was your thirtieth year on The Young and the Restless

Eric Braeden:  Right. 

Sam:  Your average actor does a role for maybe ten years over twenty two episodes and that’s considered a lifetime.  How have you been able to do a role for thirty years, at 52 weeks’ worth of episodes a year? 

Eric:  It’s a good question and I’ll give you the answer.  I’ve been in the business since 1962, I started on Y&R in 1980.  I’ve seen a lot of people come and go out of a lot of successful shows and they thought “Without me this would not continue.”  I’ve seen it everywhere.  But there is no more of a foolhardy [idea] that an actor can think.  So when you do something that somehow touches upon a nerve in the public and you become popular you stay with it.  You milk that cow because, to be quite frank with you, what other chance do you really have?  In other words, as an actor, you either star in films or you star in a night time series or you do what I do.  Everything you do in between you can forget, because you don’t make that much money anymore.  Let’s talk about the economic realities: most of the money goes to the stars of the show, in film, night time television and in daytime.  If you, in the past, guest-starred in television, up until 1972, you were paid pretty good money on Hawaii 5-0 or The FBI or whatever.  I did a lot of those.  But in 1972 Lew Wasserman who ran Universal Studios said “To hell with that.  We’re going to reduce guest star roles by 75% on top of the show” and suddenly a number of actors said “Wait a minute.  I can’t make a living on that.”  So then I was offered [The Young and the Restless] and I said “Okay.  What are the financial realities in this medium?”  They told me and I said “All right, fine.”  I hated it for the first year but then I began to talk to my wife about the whole thing and turned my attitude around and said “Let’s make the best out of this” and I have, but it’s partially based on economic realities and partially based on the notion that I get to do what I want to do every day.  That is act.  That is to make real what someone else wrote and sometimes that isn’t easy.  Look, unless I were lucky enough to work with Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini or Stanley Kubrick or any of those incredible people, [I’d be] mainly doing commercial stuff, but in this medium I get to show a character with all kinds of shadings, all kinds of colors, and I love that.  It’s not dehumanizing.  It’s not simplistic.  [Victor Newman] is a complex character. 

Sam:  You’ve created one of the most complex characters on daytime television because it’s never clear if he’s a hero or a villain.   He just sort of looks out for himself and what he deems to either be in his best interest or in the best interest of the people he cares about. 

Eric:  I rebelled against the villainous stuff from the beginning.  I once had a conversation with Bill Bell where I said “Do me a favor:  I’m all burnt out doing bad guys and I can’t do that anymore. Can you give [Victor Newman] a social background that somehow explains why he is who he is.  Bill said let me work at it.  Suddenly I did a Christmas show with Melody Thomas Scott, who plays Nikki, and she asks me what my childhood was like.  Before that I had never told anybody about it.  In that scene I explained to her that I had been left by my mother at an orphanage at the age of seven.  After I did that show I said “Now I want to stay.  Now I have something to work with.  Now the character is basically vulnerable and not one-dimensional.”  That made all the difference in the world. 

Sam:  After playing a character for thirty years, does the reality between your life and Victor Newman’s begin to bleed together?  How do you maintain your individuality away from the character? 

Eric:  It’s a very interesting question but I got to tell you that I have a very strong sense of self and no part I ever play bleeds over into my life at all, but my life bleeds into the character.  Bill Bell was very very very smart in noticing certain things and he played on that.  He began to read people very quickly and he did that more brilliantly then almost anyone.  In other words I did not go home thinking about Victor Newman:  not for two minutes, not for a moment.  I’ve done Shakespeare and I’ve done everything else and [I don’t think about it afterwards] for a moment.  The only thing in Shakespeare is that when you do a play you want to keep it fresh and want to do it in a complex fashion so you think about it.  But I am who I am, always have been the same and this part has not changed me one bit. 

Sam:  How about your public?  How do they react to you?  Do they think of you as strictly being Victor Newman? 

Eric:  Some do, but most of the time now [they don’t].  In the soap magazines, when they have had me on the covers, I’ve insisted that they have my real name on it as well.  I was the first one who did that.  I’m not Victor Newman.  I’m Eric Braeden and I refuse to go along with that commercial bullshit.  So if they use [my photo] they also have to use my name.  I won’t do it otherwise.  You obviously try to make real what the writers write, but there is a lot of things Victor Newman does that I wouldn’t do.  

Sam:  About a year ago you were in the middle of a contract dispute with Y&R and you nearly left the series.  I know that you have said all that probably needs to be said in other sources on that topic, but what do you think would happen if you left Y&R?  Could the show survive without Victor Newman? 

Eric:  Oh, it will go on without me.  Any actor who is delusional enough to think that things will stop without him ought to go to a shrink.  I mean, it would be an actor’s wet dream to know without him [the show] would go under but I’ve never subscribed to that. 

Sam:  I’ve done the research and I know that you’ve done The Young and the Restless for thirty years, there are a handful of cast members that have been on it even longer then you, and many cast members have been on it for at least twenty or more years.  It is amazing to have so many cast members dedicated to being on a program for such a long period of time.  What is going on right in the Y&R organization to keep people on the program? 

Eric:  (Laughs)  That’s a loaded question to which I could give you a many splendid answer but I won’t.  Right now what is going on right is that we have Maria Bell who really understood what her father-in-law had created and she understands what works and she doesn’t try to reinvent the show.  I think we have some wonderful actors on the show.  We really do. 

Sam:  The Young and the Restless has, by far, the best actors that the industry has.  

Eric:  I mean from Peter Bergman to Melody Thomas Scott to Eileen Davidson to Joshua Morrow, Amelia Heinle, Christian LeBlanc, Kristoff St. John – the list goes on and on!  We used to have Victoria Rowell who was quite wonderful, and then Michelle Stafford, Sharon Case, Jess Walton, Jeannie Cooper….we have a very good cast.  We really do. 

Sam: I find it interesting that no matter how much time goes by that even if the viewer doesn’t see the show in years, the same basic conflicts exist.  Jack and Victor will always be fighting, Nikki and Victor are on again/off again, Victor and Nick have issues, Katherine and Jill are hating each others guts.  The formula doesn’t change much but The Young and the Restless still remains to be the highest rated soap opera of all time and the viewers keep coming back day after day for decades.  Is the familiarity of these plots like a warm sweater or something? 

Eric:  I don’t know.  I think so.  In many ways so and obviously in the case of Victor Newman, he has so much power but he is vulnerable.  He makes mistakes.  He gets hurt and the same thing goes for Jack Abbott.  All the characters have clay feet.  I don’t know.  In the end I don’t know.  In this business it’s a mystery what makes something successful.  It really is a mystery because if one could analyze it clearly you would clone it but you can’t.  Its impossible.  Look at Seinfeld for example.  I love that half hour.  I love it.  What makes it work?  I think what mostly makes it work is that it’s about nothing!  To me it’s the character played by Michael Richards.  Every time that guy comes on the screen I just love it.  Everything else is just frosting on the cake, but he is fantastic.  . 

Sam:  On the topic of real names, your real name is Hans Gudegast, which you used when you started your career but changed it when you starred in Colossus: The Forbin Project

Eric:  Well they made me change it.  Lou Wasserman said “We want you to star in this film, but nobody with a German name would star in an American picture [without changing his name].”  

Sam:  Was that a difficult decision to make? 

Eric:  Very.  One of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make in my life.  It was a very difficult decision to make and one I felt trepidations about but don’t anymore, and haven’t in a long time. 

Sam:  I’m a giant fan of 70’s television and you are probably my favorite “villain of the week” character.  You were on pretty much every major television action/adventure program of the era.  You shot Steve Trevor down over Paradise Island, was an angry critic on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was a vampire on Kolchak, raced against Herbie the Love Bug and even killed Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter in Escape From the Planet of the Apes!  Is there a show or series you did from that era of your career that you are particularly fond of? 

Eric:  My favorite was when I was on Gunsmoke.  I loved them.  I loved doing Gunsmoke.  The Gunsmoke set was arguably, next to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the most professional set I’ve ever been on.  James Arness was a wonderful character to work with.  A very nice man.  The entire cast was so nice and so gracious and the executive John Mantley was absolutely fantastic.  It was such a great great set.  I did five of them.  As far as television is concerned I love them.  

Sam:  Do you have a certain fondness for the western genre?  One of my favorite films you appeared in is 100 Rifles and most recently you did The Man Who Came Back

Eric:  No.  Not particularly.  It was a simpler time, in a sense, but of course it never really was.  There is a whole myth about Westerns.  The real guys that they talk about in the west were usually cowards who were hiding behind corners of homes and houses and shot people down.  So all of this High Noon bullshit is just that.  Its bullshit and that rarely happened.  Instead they had a lot of fisticuffs.  It was a rough and tough way of living, but not in the sense as Hollywood has made it. 

Sam:  When preparing for our interview I watched The Man Who Came Back

Eric: Really? 

Sam:  I really enjoyed it. 

Eric:  I’m glad you say that.  [It had] lousy distribution. 

Sam:  What were the problems with the distribution? 

Eric:  What the problem is with a lot of distribution.  Once a distributor has a hold of [your film] you lose all control and they think they know better, but they don’t.  In other words, what the problem was that they thought they had a generic western on their hands, not realizing the popularity of [The Young of the Restless] and obviously the fan base that one has created over thirty years and they completely ignore it.  The film business knows certainly nothing about soaps and they don’t realize the popularity of our shows.  They completely ignored that.  They had a completely generic western cover and I had a far better one, but once you deal with these companies you sign away your life.  That’s the fact of the matter.  That’s where Spielberg and all these people obviously learned how to assert enough power to control their destiny when it came to distribution. 

Sam:  What I found interesting about The Man who Came Back is the fact that you play a very different role.  You don’t play a villain or a millionaire.  What was your reason to do a western, as well as tackle the historical aspect of the film? 

Eric:  It was a revenge picture, pure and simple, initially, but I said that if it does play in the second half of the nineteenth century, since I am sort of a history buff, that we must give it sort of a historic context and we must include what happened during reconstruction in America after the civil war.  It was not the end of slavery.  Far from it.  It perpetuated it by economic means by simply saying that there was a law in all the southern states that said that if you owed money to the company store you’re not free.  Each plantation had its own company store and they issued scrip and not money.  So they could lower and raise prices as they wanted, so consequently [the workers] were indebted servants.   Then there was a strike in 1887 in Thibodaux, Louisiana where the railroad workers and the plantation workers got together and they wanted to get a dollar a day instead of seventy five cents a day.  They wanted to be paid in cash and not in scrip.  So the plantation owners got together and they hired the militia from New Orleans, Shrevetort, and Lafayette and they said we’ve got to put this down.  The militia came down with Gatling machine guns and they mowed down three hundred in one night in November of 1887.  That was the last time they struck in the south for the next sixty or seventy years. 

Sam:  It’s interesting that you don’t learn or hear about this side of American history. 

Eric:  Of course you don’t hear about that!  What you hear about is the Second World War and Germany.  That’s what you hear about!  I also told the writer [of The Man who Came Back] to look at a book called Without Sanctuary.  It’s a book of photos and essays of lynching, where people came in the hundreds and thousands with their first cameras and watched lynching, or burnings alive, or skinning alive.  That book should be must reading in all American high schools. 

Sam:  There is a lot of truth to the fact that Hollywood does villainize Germany, and you are quite well known for your passion for your Germanic heritage.  A large part of your early career you were typecast as German villains.  Did you find that a problem. 

Eric:  To be honest with you, not a problem really because of all the German actors I’m the only one who got out of it.  What really bothered me about that was that [Nazi Germany] is only a six or seven year period of history from about 1938 on, after you had the Night of Crystals, etc.  Juxtapose that with three hundred years of American history!  However, that is what the world thinks about.  That is what Hollywood obviously thinks about.  Those six years of the Second World War.  The sins committed by the Nazis in Germany were obviously horrendous and they certainly need to be talked about, but the exclusion of everything else in German history is too dehumanizing. 

Sam:  I found it interesting in The Rat Patrol when you played Captain Hans Dietrich that you made him a hero in his own right.  He is not a Nazi, and he is admirable. You made him moral, just and likeable although, technically, he was the series’ villain. 

Eric:  He was based on the Erwin Rommel figure.  Rommel was not someone you could obviously attack.  [He was] a brilliant soldier who was respected by Montgomery and Patton and others, and he had a much smaller army but kicked ass for a long time in Africa.  Rommel was a decent human being.  It’s a complicated history and I was just sick and tired of playing that caricature. 

Sam:  When they were putting together The Rat Patrol did they try to make Dietrich another Nazi? 

Eric:  Yes, but I knew that Tom Gries, who originated it and directed it and did the pilot agreed with me.   I said “I refuse to play these caricatures and I refuse to do it because the world would not learn anything from this.  What you need to show is how ordinary normal people were sucked into this nonsense which the Nazis created and how dangerous that is and how all the atrocities of the World War were preceded by five very successful years between 1933 and 1938 and how everyone was seduced by that.  Then you tap into a blatant anti-Semitism that existed everywhere at that time, and not only in Germany.  In fact, at that time Jews had been assimilated in German society more successfully then any other country in the world, and people forget that.  They simply forget that. 

Sam:  You’ve been very active in Israel.  What is the real situation like over there? 

Eric:  Well the point is, as a German of my generation, or as a German period, I have a moral obligation to support the state of Israel because I don’t think it would exist without the Holocaust or without European, and very specifically German, anti-Semitic.  I understand Jews for wanting their own country.  I completely understand.  You have to be an idiot not to after the experiences of the Second World War.  However, after saying that, this is a very complicated situation.  The greatest injustice in history, being the holocaust, has created another situation where the Palestinians were sort of vandalized.  I do understand.  I understand how the Israelis want to protect their borders.  I really do.  I do not understand the Palestinians.  I understand their desire to have their own country but I do not understand their means of demonstrating that.  Have they never heard of Martin Luther King?  Have they never heard of Gandhi?  The idiocy of this “tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye” [mentality] has not worked for a long time.  So one understands both sides.  When you are in Israel you certainly understand their need to protect themselves.  I was at the King David Hotel a few years ago and three hundred yards away from me a bus exploded because some idiot had got on the bus with bombs and blew themselves up.  When you see the consequences of that you understand why, in Israel, they want to get in a tank and shoot them up.  I understand that situation, but it’s a very, very difficult situation.  My solution to the problem is that the international community, under the hospice of the United Nations lead by America and German troops should be involved, should create a “cordon sanitaire” along internationally-approved borders and separate the Israel and Palestinian territories from each other:  hermetically seal it off for at least fifteen to twenty years.  You demilitarize Palestine and you help it become economically viable.  You hermetically seal Israel off from the rest.  You have to somehow abate the hostility between the two sides.  It has to be broken.  I t can only be broken, as far as I’m concerned, by an international presence.  It will not happen otherwise.  So you then allow Israel to live in peace, allow Palestine to live in peace and you allow both countries to allow their moderate elements to come to the fore to stop this hostile exchange on all levels.  Look, if Germany and France, which unleashed two of the [worst] wars that man has ever seen are now the center pieces of a European union then I think there is hope for that part of the world to be an economic union.  Imagine what that would mean to tourism?  If that part of the world, which is historically so interesting, if it were peaceful and they had an economic union like the European union?  Wouldn’t that be fantastic? 

Sam:  I can only imagine that it would be a fascinating place to travel. 

Eric:  Oh my God!  From Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan…I mean the whole area is historically so fertile and so interesting.  It’s extraordinary. 

Sam:  But with the current unrest in the Middle East people would naturally be scared to travel there. 

Eric:  Of course, but that’s what I’m saying:  the combatants must be separated from each other.  On their own I don’t think they’ll accomplish anything.  It will always be a source of conflict.  You know the other nations in the middle East are using that situation to order to justify other undemocratic agenda.  You know that? 

Sam:  Sure.  Among all the chaos and confusion they can easily get away with their own agendas. 

Eric:  Of course, but then you must also remember that in Iran they had democratically elected Mosaddeq in 1953.  People forget that.  He was democratically elected.  British Intelligence and the CIA got rid of him and they put in the Shah.  Did you know that? 

Sam:  I did not know that. 

Eric:  Well that’s a very interesting piece of history because if you then write books like Bernard Lewis does talking about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, I say bullshit.  Look at 1953, for example, when you had a democratic elected Mosaddeq in Iran, but the British Intelligence and the CIA said get rid of him because [they needed] someone reliable on their side so they had access to oil.  We have pursued that kind of policy in the middle east ever since.  

Sam:  You’re very brilliant and you’re very politically minded.  Have you ever considered going into politics? 

Eric:  (Laughs) I’ve been asked to do that, but to be frank with you, I think politics has become so ideologically divided.  It has become so simplistic.  Look what happens in America now:  you have a minority in congress at the moment that is so ideologically entrenched that it will not give an inch to anything that Barrack Obama wants to do.  Not an inch!  Whatever he suggests, no matter how sane that it might be, they will say no.  How can one possibly want to go into politics?  Look at California for example.  I must say for Schwarzenegger [that] Proposition 11, where he suggests redistricting [is good].  In other words, put that in the hands of a civil district and not in the hands of both parties because what happens in California is that, again, the assembly is so ideologically divided that nothing is done.  You’re being held hostage and then you have a two-thirds majority.  I don’t know who the hell came up with that!  It requires that you have a two-thirds majority to pass a budget in California.  It’s outlandish!  You’re being held hostage by a small minority.  You also don’t have open primaries, which you should have, because then people would have to appeal across party lines to a more moderate element and you would have more moderate people come to the fore.  Now it’s ideologically divided:  anyone voting in a Republican district becomes more right wing, and anybody voting Democratic becomes more left wing.  You understand what I’m saying?  It’s bullshit!  So that needs change.  There are so many frustrating things going on.  You just listen to the talking heads on television and you say “You must be kidding me.”  Certain people open their mouths and you know exactly what they’re going to say because they are ideologically driven.  

Sam:  Now you originally started in athletics.  You were in track and field and soccer, weren’t you? 

 Eric:  I won the German youth championship in track and field in discus and javelin and shot put and then I won the American championship in soccer in 1972 and 1973. 

Sam:  Have you had time to follow the world cup? 

Eric:  Do I have time?  Is the Pope Catholic?  That answer your question?  I get up real early and watch it. 

Sam:    How early is early? 

Eric:  Well, the first game is around 4:30 or 5 am. 

Sam:  You’re very devoted. 

Eric:  Oh my God!  I love it.  Just love it.  I can’t stand those vuvuzelas or whatever they’re called.  Those stupid horns; it’s the dumbest sound I think I’ve ever heard.  As I understand it is part of the soccer culture in South Africa but, my God, it’s awful.  They should outlaw any instruments in stadiums.  I’ve got to say that the Brits are fantastic.  You just hear their voices.  No instruments.  Nothing.  That’s a great atmosphere.  Germany is the same thing, but wherever they have these horns and whatever, they should be banned. 

Sam:  Who are you rooting for? 

Eric:  I am rooting for Germany and the US.  The US have played against England.  They tied 1-1.  I thought the English team was overrated and I think the American team is underrated.  My prediction is, and again I’m going against the grain, but I think Germany will go to the finals.  They’ve been in more finals then almost any other country. 

Sam:  Any predictions on who is going to win? 

Eric:  Well with both Brazil and Argentina you can’t… they are just fantastic.  Spain is a great team; Spain plays beautiful soccer.  Germany is playing very well.  It’s a much younger team then normally is the case and they are actually doing very well.  

Sam:  Have you ever considered writing a biography? 

Eric:  Yeah but, again, it takes an enormous amount of time.  I’ve been asked often and sometimes the idea interests me but then I get bored about thinking about myself.  There is something very narcissistic about it. 

Sam:  You’ve worked with some amazing people and talented icons.  Who were the people that you have encountered in your career who really made an impression on you? 

Sam:  One final question:  when it is all over, what do you hope your legacy is? 

Eric:  Marlon Brando, hands down.  We had a lot of discussions.  He, as I am, was very interested in history and politics.  Far more than many in this business, so we had a lot of discussions on that.  His concerns about Native Americans and my situation with Germany.  After he did Young Lions he was very interested in the German thing.  He was one of the most fascinating characters I would say, no question about it.  Yul Brynner was one of the most brilliant people I ever experienced.  That guy could tell stories in five languages.  I did a play with Geraldine Paige on Broadway and she was a wonderful actress.  To watch her work was fascinating.  One of the most impressive people I ever met was German president Richard von Weizsäcker.  Brilliant man.  He was just a brilliant man.  There is a expression in Yiddish called “Mensch” in other words, a Renaissance man.  He was extraordinarily wise.  I was part of the German/American advisory board for a while with Catherine Graham and Alexander Haig and other people, and we often met in Washington DC, and I met the German president many times.  Then I would say, in the world of sports, Pele.  He was one of the most impressive people I met, no question.  Raquel Welch was extremely beautiful, as was Jennifer O’Neill.  A German soccer player called Franz Beckenbauer.   I met Wayne Gretzky.  There are so many people, but I’ve only been impressed by a few. 

Eric:  To have been a good father, and now a good grandfather.  To have helped some people maybe.  That’s all. 

Sam:  So you’ve succeeded? 

Eric:  I think I have, and I’d like to kick ass another thirty years if I can. 

If this interview proves anything, Eric Braeden continues to kick ass. 

Eric Braeden is easily one of the most brilliant actors I’ve ever interviewed.  Throughout our conversation I was at times taken aback by the intensity of our discussion and often found myself trying to catch my own as I tried to keep up with Eric Braeden’s ideas and political thoughts.  If not for the fact that I studied politics and history myself in university I possibly would have been completely overwhelmed.  No actor has ever intellectually challenged me during an interview as much as Eric Braeden.  However, when our interview had come to an end and I thanked Eric for his time and let him know how talking to him was truly a career highlight for me, he replied in his famous authoritative voice “This was a very good interview.  You are very bright,” I felt that I had been given one of the greatest compliments that I could be given.  When a man as smart as Eric Braeden tells you that you are bright, you know you’ve done your job well.  

NOTE:  I would like to thank Eric Braeden’s publicist Mr. Charles Sherman for arranging this interview.  Thank you for this memorable opportunity Charles and I hope that we can work together again in the future.

About the author

Since 2013, Sam Tweedle has been writing as an arts and culture journalist for kawarthaNOW, with special attention to Peterborough's theatrical community. However, his career as an arts writer goes back further via his website Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict where Sam has interviewed some of the entertainment world's most notable and beloved entertainers. Sam's pop culture writing has been featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, The National Post,, Filmfax Magazine and The New Yorker. You can follow Sam on Instagram at sam_tweedle_z where he posts about his four greatest loves: cats, comic books, movies, and records. Sam no longer uses Twitter because, as far as he's concerned, it's no longer a thing.