Charles Shaughnessy [Interview]


Today we have some words from an absolute legend in the world of acting. Charles Shaughnessy has been a master of the world of theatre, cinema, television, voice over acting….basically any avenue of performance that exists, Charles has mastered it. Some of you may remember him as Maxwell Sheffield on the seminal classic sitcom The Nanny. Or maybe his 8 year run on Days of Our Lives during the heyday of Soaps. Or just because he is EVERYWHERE! As he very well should be!

We were fortunate enough to be able to learn a lot more about this amazing man, and we are so happy that he was willing to tell us a bit more about himself. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Charles Shaughnessy!

When did you first realize you wanted to join the world of acting? Did you grow up with a desire to perform, or did you just somehow find your way into this life?

It was, first of all, the “family business.” My mother had been an actress when I was very young ( it took a very back seat to bringing up my brother and me,) and my Dad was a screenwriter and playwright.  My personal epiphany happened when I was about five and despite being by far the best “reader-out-loud” in my class was passed over for the role of Peter Rabbit in our first ever school play. I was overwhelmed at first by green-eyed jealousy of my friend Peter Robinson who was Peter, closely followed by the thunderous self-awareness that this REALLY MATTERED! I went on to “star” in just about every school play from that moment on playing roles like Prospero, Richard III, Willy Loman and Lawrence of Arabia : all before I had turned 17!

You’ve been appearing on scattered runs on the legendary Soap Opera, Days of Our Lives, for over 30 years, including a run that ended in February of last year. What is it like to revisit that world, that character after years pass? Is it any easy transition to make your way back into that world?

My first eight years on DOOL were synonymous with the beginning of my life in America so it was a profound experience. I spent as much time with my DOOL “family” as I did at home with my wife, Susan. It was during the Golden Age of SOAPS in the 80’s, so the money and celebrity took some getting used to! But we had so much fun! Going back to the show every now and then has been very easy and fun: like going back to visit your old school only all your friends are still there! The work is faster and requires a lot more serious concentration and focus now, but the skills and MO are still the same.

We have spoken to a lot of folks who were involved with “TV families”, either as a parent or a child. You famously portrayed one of my most favorite TV Dads of the 90’s, in The Nanny. So, what was it like to work on a show of that nature, and literally watch your “family” grow around you? Do you feel a bond when you are working in a setting like this?

I have always felt slightly paternal to “the kids” and can’t help but feel a bit proud of the way they have all turned out ( not that I had anything to do with that!) I had a very visceral and upsetting reaction, in fact, to seeing Madeleine Zima’s wonderful performance in the pilot episode of “ Californication” where she was stark naked on top of David Duchovny! I had this sudden and irrational urge to go and beat the shit out of him!

One area of performance that you have seemed to flourish in quite a bit is the world of voice overs. You have appeared in some of pretty great stuff! How do you enjoy this line of work? Is the “showing up in pajamas” stereotype a real thing?

Sadly, I don’t get to do as much in that field as I would like. It really is wonderful to not have to worry about make-up or looking neat and tidy – and it so much fun. There is something very liberating about being just you and a microphone in a little booth: free of your own physicality, you are only limited in terms of characterization by your own imagination! It can also be very well-paid: two or three nice national advertising campaigns can make life VERY comfortable for a while!

You received an Emmy for your work on the animated project Stanley, and we always like to ask our statue holding friends one simple question: Where do you keep your Emmy/ And does its location have any sort of significance?

No where particular actually. Maybe there’s a bit of inverse “showing off” in that. It’s actually rather cool when someone admires it to say : “ Mmm? What? Oh, that old thing. Yes, can’t even remember what I got that one for actually” 🙂

As a veteran of so many different mediums, from stage to television to film, voice overs, etc. What would you say is your favorite medium to work in? As in, if you were for some reason only allowed to perform in one of them for the remainder of your career, what would it be?

Even though it is considerably harder work in many ways, I would have to say the stage. It is the excitement of live performance and playing off an audience that got me started in this and I would miss the adrenaline and challenge of that. But then it’s hard to make a living at it. That was the great thing about The Nanny: I could make a ton of money during the season and then go off and do theatre in the summer. In fact, when I worked at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, after renting a house there and flying my family out etc. it ended up costing me about five grand!!

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

In this business you’re not working until you are! Right now I have just finished a couple of episodes of a FOX TV show called Ghosted with Adam Scott and Craig Robinson and in July I will be appearing in  42nd. Street in Scottsdale, AZ. By this time next week I might be the star of a new TV show or in a big, blockbuster movie, but then again……I might not!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Last night – Our dog slowly inching up the bed from her place at the bottom until she’s literally sleeping between Susan and me with her head on the pillow: she is completely unaware that she’s a dog and thinks this is one of those modern  “menage a trois” arrangements!!

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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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