Something Wilder: Days Alum Steve Wilder
Shakes Things Up on Melrose Place
by Joann Fazzi
Days of Our Lives alum STEVE WILDER lands at Melrose Place to kick off this fall season and promptly shakes things up between Jane and Michael. He first airs on Monday, September 14. Steve took a moment to fill Digest Online in on what he's been up to since he left Salem, and what's ahead for him on Aaron Spelling's primetime sudser.
WHAT'S E-MAIL?: "I'm not online. I'm one of these guys in the dark ages. I don't even have a computer."
HEY, AREN'T YOU...?: "The fact that people see me and recognize me is a good sign. It can be distracting on some level. But, my God, the alternative of no one knowing who you are and not being successful is not where I want to be."
THOM-FOOLERY: "Thomas [Calabro] is an incredible joker, and he gave me an incredible amount of flack when I joined the show, which he does to everybody. He calls me a nickname, he calls me "Dirk" for some reason. He threw all this stuff at me. I of course, just immediately threw him back what he threw to me three times over and just buried him under this load of crap and sent him reeling. So, ever since then we've been very close friends."
NICE TO MEET YA; NOW LET'S SMOOCH!: "My first day on Days of Our Lives, I'd just met Stephanie Cameron [ex-Jennifer] and we had to do all this kissing in the shower scene. Well, Josie [Bissett, Jane], the first time I met her, and we had to do all of this kissing and making out for the flashback. So, my first day on both of these shows, I met somebody, "Hello, how are you? Well, let's spend the afternoon kissing!"
WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE...: "I have kept in touch with the people who have played my enemies. Rob Moran, who played T.C. on the show, the sadistic guard and Jason Brooks [ex-Peter]. It's kinda funny. The people that you're the biggest enemies with [on the show] you become the closest friends with."
DIGEST ONLINE: What have you been up to since leaving Days of Our Lives?
STEVE WILDER: I've been working pretty hard! [Laughs] I only had a downtime of about two or three weeks between [Days and getting this job on Melrose]. I spent some time in New York between when I knew I had the Melrose job and when I had to start work, which was nice. I got to see some of the family and the cousins. [I also] put my boat in. I have to get back to New York and pull it out before it gets too cold! [Laughs] Just now, since I've been filming, there have been a lot of things crammed in. This show seems to generate a lot of publicity, so there's been interviews from that. I actually just did something very fun last weekend. You know, I fly planes, and a new show [on the Fox Family Channel] called Action TV came to me and [asked me] to fly these - they're like World War II fighters, only they're a current production aircraft designed to teach new airforce pilots how to dogfight, equipped with laser guided things so you can actually see when you hit a plane while doing a dogfight. They said, "Would you want to do something like that?" And I said, "Let me think about that a second. Yeah! I would!" [Laughs] We did that last weekend and that was a real blast.
DIGEST ONLINE: Is Action TV a series or a special?
STEVE WILDER: It's a series. Most of the time they do things with just ordinary people who do silly, crazy things like sky surfing, where people are skydiving with like a snowboard attached to their feet. In this case, they said they're going to do like once every couple of weeks a celebrity thing, so I guess that would be me, the celebrity. [Laughs]
DIGEST ONLINE: How did you land your role at Melrose?
STEVE WILDER: Well, you know everybody talks about the short downtime I had between Days and Melrose, but actually for me, see, I knew I was going to be leaving Days for quite some time. So for me it didn't seem like such a short down time. It seems pretty big when you're an actor and you're wondering where your next job is going to come from. I had a hand full of auditions which just didn't work out for one reason or another. Along came this audition. I went through the ordinary audition process: I went in first, then you come back, then you come back again. Then the last work you do in front of Aaron Spelling himself and about 20 other people lined up at a desk and you do your best. There was about five or six other guys there, and I got the call that afternoon that I had gotten the job. I was actually walking along Santa Monica and I got a page and called it in from a pay phone there.
DIGEST ONLINE: That sounds intimidating.
STEVE WILDER: No, it's just part of the thing. If you're an actor, you gotta be used to doing stuff like that. That whole group of people, though - as I felt at the time and as I've learned now that I work with them - the Aaron Spelling group is just a terrific group. It starts with Aaron himself. He's a very, very nice man. I've only met him that time and then one other time at a party, but he seems very, very nice, and the rest of the people follow suit all the way down the chain. Everybody's very easygoing and they just like to have a good time. That made it easy for me, and that makes [the whole work experience] easy.
DIGEST ONLINE: Did you watch Melrose Place before?
STEVE WILDER: I had watched it in bits and pieces, but I hadn't really followed it, and I hadn't seen a lot of episodes strung together. They gave me some tapes of the show to watch so that I could get a feel for what the show is like. That always helps an actor, when you see a show, because every show has a different feel to it and you need to know what the music plays like, what the lighting looks like, what the feel of the whole thing is, so you can tailor your performance to sort of fit in to that mold or not fit in to it, depending on how things need to be. But it's definitely helpful to know what you're going after, what the situation is like before you go into it. But it's a great show. I watch it now and I have a lot of fun with it. I think it's a lot of fun that Josie Bissett [Jane] is back and they sort of streamlined the cast. It's just a small hand full of stories going on.
DIGEST ONLINE: Tell me about Alex Bastain, you character.
STEVE WILDER: This guy is a high fashion designer like a Giorgio Armani or a Calvin Klein ... very successful, very wealthy. He knew Jane when they were in design school together. As you'll find out when the show unfolds - actually, I think you find out in the first airing, which is the 14th of September, the fall premiere - everyone has secrets in that show. It revolves around a journal of Matt's - the Doug Savant character - being found. It just reveals secrets that everybody has. There's a whole lot of skeletons that everyone tries to hide in the closet. Jane's [secret] is that she had an affair with me, an otherwise platonic relationship, but we had something happen the night before she married Michael the first time around. So, this comes out, and of course, they're getting back together again now, and planning their wedding once again, so this disrupts things, simply the knowledge of that. My first airing is only in the form of a flashback, showing what happened and how we fit together. Then, as it turns out, it just so happens that Alex is in Los Angeles and Jane, working for Amanda's advertising agency, has to court Alex as a client for the advertising agency. A lot of old feelings are revisited and it nicely shakes up the seemingly indestructible pair of Jane and Michael, which is always fun to do. It's nice to get in there and break up the nice love affair.
DIGEST ONLINE: When the show first started, Jane and Michael were such a strong, loving couple, so that's an interesting twist.
STEVE WILDER: It is, it is. It was one of those things that happened, we had been close working and baboom, it just happened. It's really funny though because when people who my love interest is going to be on the show and I tell them Josie Bissett, they go, "That's great." Then I say, "She's involved with Thomas Calabro's character Michael." And they go, "What?! Jane and Michael are back together!? Why is she back with him? He was terrible to her!" And I say, "Well, that's good. That's what I'm going to try and fix." [Laughs]
DIGEST ONLINE: How many episodes have you signed for?
STEVE WILDER: The original offer was for eight, and I think it's going a little beyond that, but they're very reluctant to say how far, even to me. There's a point of where we have to renegotiate if we want to go on, and there's a whole lot of business stuff that goes with that. People have asked me other questions about how this character's going to leave, and what's going to happen, and I tell you honestly what I told them: I have no idea. They're really keeping a tight lid on it. So, it's interesting for me as well to sort of wait and see what's going to happen. That's something you unique to television in the form of a soap opera. You never know what's going to happen. You know, with a film, you get a script or a play, you know the beginning, the middle, and the end, so you can sort of parch out the arc of this character. Something like this, you just have to make it up as you go, and hope you're leading it in the same direction the writers think it should be. Sometimes your performance bleeds into what they write, and sometimes what they write bleeds into your performance. And it's a nice collaboration. Or, hopefully it is.
DIGEST ONLINE: What's the big difference between working on Melrose as opposed to Days?
STEVE WILDER: First of all, Melrose is shot like a film or an episodic series. It's shot one camera format. So, you take a lot longer between scenes that you're working. On Days of Our Lives, we'd shoot it once. You've got three or four cameras rolling and boom-boom-boom, they cut together as you go. As you do that one scene, they get the close ups, the master shots, all of that. With this, it's not that way at all. Actually, it's refreshing in a way. I like this way to work. It lends the ability to be a little more creative and I think it lends itself to better work, because you can take your time with things, you shoot one master, you shoot a close up for her, a close up for me, maybe one other type of shot, and shoot those several times. It's fun, though. It is a difference technically and that's the bottom line. You have more time to do things, so that makes it a lot easier. Everyone at Days of Our Lives from the actors all the way through the writers and so forth are on such a tight schedule. You have to remember that the actors have to remember all these lines and shoot one show a day. Well, the writers have to do the same things, so there's not as much time to be able to do rewrites and to really tweak dialogue and fix things that are a problem. On Melrose, there really is [time]. They care a great deal about it. Not that they don't on Days, but they just don't have the time. So here we got revision after revision with a lot of changes and they really work to make it the best show they can. It's a great deal of fun.
DIGEST ONLINE: Do you have any other projects in the works right now?
STEVE WILDER: Well, I don't right now, simply because this is a train in motion [laughs], and I'm not really sure where it's going to stop. But, wherever it does stop, I'll hop off and take a look around me and decide what train to hop on next.
DIGEST ONLINE: What would you like to do?
STEVE WILDER: I think most actors, myself included, like the idea of going into features. Once again, the creative difference between Days and Melrose is pretty big, and then as you move into something like a film - where there's that much more time to do things, and that much more money to make things right - you're able to tell a better story. So, that looks very attractive to me, to move into that kind of an area. But the bottom line is that I'm an actor, and I like to play characters that are interesting and fun and funny. So, regardless of where one turns up, if I find a character and I read a script and say, "God! These are words I gotta say; this is a character I gotta [do]!" If I find something like that, regardless if it's on television or film, I'll probably say yes or work it so that they'll see me as that character.
DIGEST ONLINE: Is Alex a good guy or a bad guy?
STEVE WILDER: You know what, I'm asked this question, and I always say: "Is anybody really a good guy on Melrose?" [Laughs] Actually, I think Jane really is, she's one of the few. But everybody's playing some kind of an angle on that show, and Alex is certainly no different. He's a man very much in love with Jane and he's not going to be put off by such a small obstacle as Michael. [Laughs] He's gotta go after what he loves.
DIGEST ONLINE: What has it been like working with Thomas Calabro and Josie Bissett?
STEVE WILDER: They've both been terrific. Thomas is an incredible joker, and he gave me an incredible amount of flack when I joined the show, which he does to everybody. He calls me a nickname, he calls me "Dirk" for some reason. He threw all this stuff at me. I of course, just immediately threw him back what he threw to me three times over and just buried him under this load of crap and sent him reeling. So, ever since then we've been very close friends. [Laughs] And Josie, it was funny. My first day on Days of Our Lives, I'd just met Stephanie Cameron [ex-Jennifer] and we had to do all this kissing in the shower scene. Well, Josie, the first time I met her, and we had to do all of this kissing and making out for the flashback. So, my first day on both of these shows, I met somebody, "Hello, how are you? Well, let's spend the afternoon kissing!" It's funny. That's unique to being an actor. Of course, Stephanie Cameron wasn't married. Josie is married to Rob Estes [Kyle] on the show. So, thankfully, Rob wasn't there. You know, it's bad to be kissing another man's wife, but to be kissing another man's wife and know that other man is maybe about 10 yards away, that wouldn't be too cool! [Laughs] But everybody's very professional, and Josie's just been a dream to work with. She's been very giving as an actress and just a lot of fun.
DIGEST ONLINE: Will you be dealing with other characters? Have you had scenes with Heather Locklear [Amanda]?
STEVE WILDER: I've had a few short scenes with Heather Locklear. Heather is terrific, too. Always when we're on the set together, we have great conversations that range from music to acting to movies to everything else in between. She's a lot of fun. I can't emphasize enough [that] everybody puts fun out there first. We all have a terrific time filming this, and that's conducive to getting the work done. If you're not having a good time, everybody's going to be grouchy, and you're not going to come up with something that's fun for the viewer to watch. I think they understand that at Melrose. They really go the distance and make everybody happy while we do it and hopefully the people watching will be happy, too.
DIGEST ONLINE: Do you still get recognized for being on Days?
STEVE WILDER: I do. I do all the time. It's really interesting. Of course Days of Our Lives is something [where] you're in the people's living rooms everyday. Now that I've stopped, there's perhaps fewer, but, again, I've been in L.A. most of the whole time since I stopped. People in L.A. are very cool about things, maybe once or twice a day when I go out, people recognize me. If I go out in any other town in the U.S., it's really pretty unbelievable. When I was back in New York with my cousins, we went out to play miniature golf. We couldn't get through the miniature golf game. It took us about three hours to get through 9 holes of golf just from all the autographs and things. But I like that. That's what an actor does: they present themselves to the public. The fact that people see me and recognize me is a good sign. It can be distracting on some level. But, my God, the alternative of no one knowing who you are and not being successful is not where I want to be. I love the fans. The fans from Days were great, and hopefully they will be at Melrose, too. Very nice, very polite, very giving. That's the way it should be.
DIGEST ONLINE: Do you keep in touch with anyone from Days?
STEVE WILDER: I keep in touch with a few people every now and then. I talked to Stephanie Cameron a couple of weeks ago and she's doing fine. I have kept in touch with the people who have played my enemies. Rob Moran, who played T.C. on the show, the sadistic guard and Jason Brooks [ex-Peter]. It's kinda funny. The people that you're the biggest enemies with [on the show] you become the closest friends with. Aside from that, there's a couple of calls here and there. Of course, if I run into people that I know, immediately we're back to the old days, and great hugging and hello. Everybody from Days has been very nice and supportive when I've gone back in there to get my mail and stuff. I had a nice time hanging out and talking to Krista Allen [-Moritt, Billie]. They're a wonderful bunch of people.