It’s Good to Be King: The Young and the Restless’ Eric Braeden on Victor’s Villainy

The Young and The Restless
The Young and The Restless

“Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated…again!” So said The Young and the Restless‘ Victor Newman earlier this week after narrowly escaping death in a building collapse. Over the years, this consummate conniver has survived everything from poisoning and a plane crash to being shot through the groin with a spear gun. But he remains as indestructible as Eric Braeden, the Emmy-winning CBS Daytime superstar who plays him. We sat down with the Man, the Myth, the Mustache to get his take on the latest happenings in Genoa City, a conversation that took a few hairpin turns to include Cosmo Kramer and Jesus Christ.

We all know Victor is a hopeless control freak who thinks he’s the master of everyone else’s domain, but why is he so damn obsessive these days? From the Ghost Cassie plot through his shenanigans with Phyllis to the latest revelations that he’s been monitoring Kyle and conniving with someone to destroy Jack, it’s starting to seem like your character is not playing with a full deck.
Well, don’t all people with a lot of power go crazy after a while?

So, then, you agree that he’s nuts?
I must say that I don’t like the extremes of the story sometimes but, look, it makes for good drama. Victor does not think his decisions are crazy, nor do I when you examine them closely. He does what he does for his business—and business people are ruthless, as we know—the rest he does for his family, however ill-conceived his choices may be. He has a rather distorted view of family because he grew up in an orphanage. He’s basically a loner who trusts no one. If there’s any pathology in Victor Newman, that’s where it lies. Yes, he may seem obsessed sometimes, like with Phyllis, but that was only because she was the only one who had the facts on Sharon. Now, you want to talk about a nutcase? Sharon is a real nutcase! Victor pales in comparison.

He’s clearly working on Nikki’s last nerve, to the point where she’s drinking again—now openly. Is it time for those two to split up for good?
A lot of people in the audience would be very upset if that happened.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.
Essentially, they love each other, and that’s life. It’s never smooth sailing. I don’t understand this thinking that Victor has pushed Nikki too far. That’s her problem. She cannot make him responsible for her drinking, no siree! Her problems go way back to before she met Victor. And she has had many paramours on the side, including Jack Abbott, and that doesn’t sit well with Victor. I think it’s amazing that they’re still together. But, then, who else would Victor be with?

There’s got to be somebody. Ashley? A new character? Here’s an idea: How about he’s alone for a while? He certainly deserves to be.
Ashley might be a logical thing. That’s based on history. Other than that, what would make sense? He’s had them all in Genoa City! But back to this family thing. I have to say that I find this whole disapproval of Victor by his family to be sickening and his relationship with his son, Nicholas, very disturbing. I, Eric Braeden, would be very upset if I had that kind of relationship with my own son. Had I, as a father, been subject to those kinds of attacks from a child of mine, I would simply have said, “Stay away from me! Goodbye! I disown you! You are out of the picture!” I would not tolerate that nonsense, the way Victor does.

Well, at least you seem to be having a jolly good time in these scenes where Victor and Jack are forced to share a hospital room. They’re bickering like a couple of old aunties!
I wish Peter Bergman and I could do a series called The Odd Couple.

Uh, I think your network already has one of those.
Well we could do it better. Much better.

Based on that wild cliffhanger in the confessional, we now know Victor had ulterior motives for saving Jack’s life when the Underground nightclub collapsed. Why doesn’t that surprise us?
Storyline aside, the audience would never have forgiven Victor if he hadn’t saved Jack, though, as you will recall, there was a scene years ago when Jack saw Victor collapse in his office during an angry outburst and he left him there to die—and stepped on his hand as he walked out the door! My God Almighty! Can you believe that? The animosity will continue. Just because Victor saved Jack’s life doesn’t mean anything. Victor thinks Jack is a dick and a son of a bitch and he always will. They don’t ever change.

But Y&R does. What are you thinking about the new head writer, Chuck Pratt, and what we’ve been seeing on air these past few days?
I am happy with the show and with what Chuck Pratt has been doing. Very happy. There is a clarity to the work now, a kind of long-term purpose. I am absolutely fascinated by the Neil storyline, with the wife and the son having an affair right under his nose. Fascinated! And the scenes with Neil and Nikki drinking together! Kristoff St. John and Melody Thomas Scott played the hell out of that. I do not want to denigrate the previous writers, but this is a different slant and a clearer line laying the groundwork for the future.

Many fans on social media fear that character is taking a back seat to plot. And it’s hard to argue with that when Pratt gives us a plane crash, a collapsed building, a condo fire, and a murder all in one episode.
That’s life. A lot of s–t can hit the fan at the same time. I have not seen [the social-media reaction] but I do believe that, if a story is acted well and realistically, you can get away with all kinds of stuff. Look at the situations on Seinfeld! I watch that show every night. That’s the most brilliant ensemble acting there has ever been. There is no better character than Cosmo Kramer. They have the most ludicrous situations on that show but the cast plays it with great immediacy and passion. What I have a problem with is all these talking heads on game shows. That just empties you out after a while. But soaps fill you up. Even if they become phantasmagorical every once in a while, people want storytelling. And soaps will continue to do well if we act them as realistically as we can.

Despite winning a Daytime Emmy in 1998, you have avoided them like the plague in recent years. But now you’re back in contention with a spot on the pre-nom ballot. What changed?
I stayed out of it for 15 years because it used to be a popularity contest. The pre-noms were decided from within your own cast and I don’t give a s–t about popularity. Do you understand me? I don’t give a s—t about it! It was utter nonsense. I always said that, if the voting didn’t go to a wider group, one that is beyond one’s own cast to people who have nothing to do with your show, then I wanted nothing to do with it. This year they assured me that the pre-nomination process had indeed evolved and now it does go to a much wider group of judges. So I agreed [to be submitted]. But all award shows are…well, don’t get me started. Look at the Oscars. To have ignored American Sniper is ludicrous. It is a riveting film! I have not seen the movie that won Best Picture with what’s his name running down the street naked but, from what I hear, it’s not that good. What, really, do any of these awards do? Does a Daytime Emmy make you more money? Does it give you job security? No. Yes, it is an honor but is it life changing? No.

Do you ever think of retirement?
No. Never. Because, if I did, I would have to get involved in politics and I would piss off a lot of people. What we need is another Jesus Christ who went to the temple to throw out the moneychangers, only this time we need him to do the same with Congress. But that’s not for me. I should stay the hell out of Washington, D.C.

Well, since you were born in Germany, you can’t be president anyway. But you could always run for governor of Kah-lee-fon-yah!
[Laughs] I would need to start shooting steroids.