Brian Kerwin [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! We have another absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all. Today’s interview subject is one of the people that I just sort of knew about, for basically my entire life. But, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t a wild follower of his work (until now). I knew Brian Kerwin as the caring and trying-oh-so hard father to a 10 year old soon who looks 10 years older than him in the absolutely legendary film Jack that I love so very much. I also knew him because of my on again/off again relationship with the daytime soap series One Life To Live, where I watched him for a few years depending on varying work schedules, if I were able to throughout the middle of the day. So with these two simple things in mind, I was curious to know a bit more about Brian.

And you as you should have guessed it by now if you are a regular reader of this site, he is one hell of a nice guy! And I will say, I was relieved to not be too surprised, but still have plenty of “oh, that’s cool” moments in reading his responses. Brian Kerwin is essentially a hippy who discovered his own voice through the art of performance. Performing, on stage as a probable preference, is how Kerwin expresses himself the best, and we are so damn happy for the career that he was able to build for himself. He’s one of the good guys, Folks. I just know you are going to love his charm that exudes through even on just the below digital print. That is if you aren’t already a fan of his, and are just tuning in to check out more, which is very likely as he is such gem of a human.

So Folks, let’s just get into it! Please enjoy some wonderful words from the absolutely brilliant Brian Kerwin!

 

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When did you decide that you wanted to join the world of acting? Was it an early aspiration from your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I never decided —- acting sort of chose me. I remember when I decided to give professional acting a try: I was living in NYC in ‘72 with my girlfriend who was starting a career as a fashion model. We were living in the Village and I tried to open a little hippie store of handmade items — it was a miserable failure. I was also painting, and I fancied myself a singer-songwriter. I was doing a little bit of everything. And I was hanging out with a few actor friends, and they suggested I give it a try. I did, and within  a couple weeks I was cast in a little off-off-Broadway showcase, and one thing just lead to another. A year later I was in LA working on some pretty mediocre TV shows.

In 1996, you appeared in what would probably be my most re-watched film of my youth. That film would be the absolutely adorable and compelling Jack. It may be some of the most wholesome fun I have seen to date. I am curious to know how you enjoyed working on such a delightful family friendly masterpiece? Was it as enjoyable of an experience to work on as it was for me to watch?

I was so happy when I got cast in Jack. I loved the script, and all of the talent in the cast was a dream come true. I had worked with Diane Lane previously. Robin was already a legend, but he proved to be a lovely man to work with — we had fun together. I became lifelong friends with Irwin Corey, the iconic comedian. The entire cast was great….even Bill Cosby. And it was Jennifer Lopez’s first film — she was sweet.

Unfortunately the otherwise truly brilliant director, Francis Ford Coppola, is a very difficult person to be around. By the time that film wrapped everybody was glad to go. I only saw Robin a few times after that and was very sad to hear of his death.

 

Brian Kerwin in Jack (1996)

 

We have spoken with alot of folks who have worked in the world of Soap Operas. And you are no stranger to this world yourself, have appeared in hundreds of episodes of one of my personal favorites, One Life To Live alongside our dear friend & past guest Kassie DePavia. I am always fascinated by the break neck pace in which these shows are pushed out into the world on a daily basis, and what it must be like to work on one of these programs. So, how was your experience on OLTL? Did you have any tricks to memorizing so much dialogue in such a short amount of time?

The soaps are bookends to my career. The first job I ever had in front of a camera was in LA in 1976 on The Young And The Restless. For 6 months (40 episodes) I was Greg Foster. I hated it! And the producers grew to hate me, terminating my 3 year contract after only 6 months. I never even considered doing another soap until over 30 years later. I had just started a year and a half run on Broadway in August: Osage County when the producers of One Life To Live offered me a 4 year contract playing Charlie Banks, love interest to soap opera icon, Erika Slezak. I was definitely gun shy from my experience on Y&R, but a friend of mine on the show, Tuc Watkins, convinced me that it was a lot of fun. Thankfully he was right. Contrary to my Y&R experience, I loved it — the cast, the crew, the brass — all wonderful. I would have done it for 10 more years, but soaps had run their course by then.

Learning lines has always been easy for me, but for OLTL it was even easier because I had all my backstage time on August: Osage County to do my homework.

Might I add that not only is Kassie DePavia one of the most delightful people in the world, but she also changed my world. I suffer hearing loss, and now, very happily, wear hearing aids — but not back then. When I first met Kassie I knew that her son had severe hearing loss and I sought her out for advice. She hooked me up with her son’s wonderful Audiologist, Ellen LaFarge, and my life has never been the same. Kassie is one of my heros.

When it comes to performing, you have worked on numerous projects within the realms of television, film, stage, and beyond. With that in mind, I am curious to know what your favorite field to work on would be? If from this point forward, you were only going to be granted the ability to work in one outlet, what would it be?

STAGE!  Stage. Stage. Stage.

I love working on stage — I could care less about the other mediums — they can be fun, and it’s great to work with other talented people, and you make lots more money, but for me the only real satisfaction comes from the stage.

Why? …. I could write a book (and you wouldn’t want to read it). Onstage you’re dealing with, telling a story to, real live people. You can feel them listening. At its best, it’s like talking to a friend. I like that.

 

Having done so much incredible work in your career spanning 40+ years on screen and on stage, when you look back on your accomplishments and your career as a whole, what would you say you are the most proud of? Not necessarily a single project (although it could be), but maybe as a whole? 

I think, looking back, my finest hour was doing a play that few people saw — in the mid 80’s, in two productions in both San Diego and Los Angeles, Stephen Metcalfe’s brilliant play Strange Snow. I remember that play with great affection.

I’m very proud to have been a part of Harvey Fierstein’s groundbreaking LGBTQ (in 1986, before anybody used all those letters) film (and play) Torch Song Trilogy.

But other than any single project I suppose I’m most proud of having been able to pull off a successful career, and support a family of 5 in NYC as an actor. That’s not an easy thing to do, and I’m the first to admit that it involve a whole lot of luck. But I got to raise my kids in a great city, I got to travel the world (often with my family), I got to work with some wonderful and wildly talented people —and I got that all by doing something that I thoroughly enjoy doing. I’m very lucky.

 

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

I’m for all intents and purposes retired — I’m pushing 70. I sold my house in NYC, my kids are grown and out on their own, very sadly my wife, Jeanne, passed away 3 years ago, so I’ve built myself a new house on a lake in upstate New York. I intend to live there quietly and happily reading, and fishing, and painting, and playing music. And if any of my wonderful playwright friends, or directors, or my agents call me with any tantalizing possibilities I will give them all great consideration. I’m sure I would love to do another wonderful play.

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Truly?…the last thing that made me smile was your use of the term “digs” in your introductory paragraph. I haven’t heard that in years, and it warmed my heart. That was a vital part of my hippy vernacular many years ago. It made me smile just reading it. I dug it.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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