What's 33 years between soap gigs? Plenty! Eric Roberts got his first major role in 1977 — at age 19 —playing skirt-chaser Ted Bancroft on Another World. On July 23, he will return to daytime TV as ruthless attorney Vance Abrams on The Young and the Restless. In the interim, he exploded as a major film star via Star 80 and The Pope of Greenwich Village, won an Oscar nomination for Runaway Train, and scored on TV series like Less Than Perfect and Heroes. Come August, he'll do battle with Sylvester Stallone in the action flick The Expendables. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Roberts to find out what the hell he's doing back in the suds. But, before we could ask him, he cut right to the chase.
TV Guide Magazine: Welcome back to soaps!
Eric Roberts: Who knew, huh? [Laughs] I made a list of pros and even stronger pros about doing Y&R and I couldn't say no. I'm crazy about the people there. I worked with [co-executive producer] Paul Rauch way back on AW. And as much as I like seeing the world on location, it's nice to have a job in town. I'll be with Y&R through the summer. I'm one of the lucky ones, man. I really am. Everybody's going on and on about why I'm on daytime TV now. And, through you, I'd like to take the time to answer them: I'm a human being living on planet Earth with responsibilities and bills to pay and I'm very proud to be employed. [Laughs] I wish such a good job on everybody.
TV Guide Magazine: Those old show-biz "rules" — that movie stars don't do TV, that movie and primetime stars don't do soaps — are finally breaking down.
Eric Roberts: There's no more class system. Work is work. That's the way the British actors have always seen it. The secret to this business is having fun and enduring. And I do both!
TV Guide Magazine: Your Y&R character will defend psycho-villain Adam Newman [Michael Muhney] in a court case that'll rock Genoa City. Is Vance a villain, too?
Eric Roberts: Villains never think they're villains. In fact, they think they're victims. So no. He's certainly a guy to be reckoned with — a badass high-powered attorney who's famous in the legal world — but he is not a villain. And, by the way, that Michael Muhney is a very good actor. He's a movie star, that kid!
TV Guide Magazine: Your sister, Julia Roberts, is an unabashed Days of Our Lives fan. Were you kids raised on soaps?
Eric Roberts: Not at all. I never saw one until I did AW. You know how I found out soaps were really cool? From talking to my father-in-law, David Rayfiel, who wrote all kinds of great movies — Three Days of the Condor, Out of Africa, The Way We Were. He's a great writer, a great understander of talent, and he loves watching the daytime soaps.
TV Guide Magazine: Why is Mickey Rourke always giving you a shout-out at award shows?
Eric Roberts: Cause he's my pal. Over the years, when times were tough for him, he'd call me and say, "Hey, my health insurance is running out. I could use a part in your film." We're friends for each other that way. And lately he's been very fortunate so, when he got the Independent Spirit Award for The Wrestler, he got up and said he likes my acting and that he wishes I'd have a comeback, too. He was really sweet about it. I was moved to tears and embarrassed to death and happy to hear it.
TV Guide Magazine: How's it feel to have the Roberts acting dynasty expanding with your movie-star daughter, Emma?
Eric Roberts: It's wonderful and I'm proud that, if it weren't for me, there would be no Julia and there would be no Emma. I was very embarrassed about my work on [AW]. I was playing this rich-kid playboy who ran rampant all over town getting the babes and I was very unimpressed with myself. I was horrific! But it was the soap that kept me from starving during those early years and slowly led me to a movie career. Years later, that would make things much easier and smoother for my sister, who went on to become the biggest star in the world, and for my daughter. Yes indeed, I am very proud of that!