Scott Bryce by Robert Voets/CBS
As the World Turns star Scott Bryce - one of the best badasses in the business - has been fired from his role as Craig Montgomery and fans are furiously bombarding the show with petitions for his return. Alas, it's a moot point, for now anyway. Craig will flee Oakdale Feb. 21 after trying to blow up his archrival Paul (Roger Howarth). Here Bryce - in his only exit interview - talks about his controversial axing. - Michael Logan

TVGuide.com: Your followers, and they are legion, are having coronaries over this!
Scott Bryce:
I have to say an enormous thank you for their love and support. I'd started thinking to myself, "Wow, maybe I stink" but the response from the fans has been so amazing and overwhelming that it's helped soften the blow. It's touching and affirming and it means the world to me.

TVGuide.com: Word is, your peeps at ATWT are pretty bummed.
Bryce:
The response from the cast and crew has been equally unbelievable. Hugs and kisses and shock and disbelief. This is a real drag because I've never been fired from an acting job before. In fact, the last time I was fired I was flipping burgers at the Big Top Shop in Westport [Connecticut], so this is kind of stunning.

TVGuide.com: You created Craig in 1982, played him off-and-on into the '90s, then came back to the show just last April. It should have been a triumphant return. What went haywire?
Bryce:
I've had dozens of relationships with executive producers and this one, with Chris Goutman, was odd and very disconnected. I think we had an inherent disagreement or a different vision of who Craig is. The plots on the show are so much darker than they used to be - dead babies, pornography, methamphetamines - and maybe I didn't fit into that vision. It's not the ATWT I remember from those many years ago. Chris would say to me, "This is your character, run with it." But when I did he never seemed pleased. Craig, as I understood him, has a need for family and love and fulfillment, and at all costs, which is what creates all the mayhem and madness in his life. Yes, he's a villain but he doesn't know that.

TVGuide.com: You've injected an intense amount of heart and humanity into some pretty heinous situations - like when Craig came very close to aborting Meg's fetus. What you accomplished is kind of a miracle, really.
Bryce:
One fan wrote to say, "Craig almost killed an unborn baby and I all I wanted to do was hug the guy." How does that happen? I guess that's what makes him so interesting to me and to the audience. It's extremely compelling - like watching a car accident.

TVGuide.com: Do you think the writing may have led to your downfall?
Bryce:
This was a very difficult story to sell, frankly. Why is Meg even with Craig? Why did she stay after Paul's supposed death? What's going on with the company? How can you turn over a multi-national corporation with less signatures than it takes to rent a car? All of it was very tough to play. When we finally had the family and the baby stuff it made sense to me and I felt rooted. It had started to work. I think the last several months have been really great, actually. Some of my best work has come out in the last 3 to 4 months. Oh, well.

TV Guide.com: You were in such an oddball quartet.
Bryce:
I felt I was in the trenches with Marie Wilson [Meg], Roger Howarth [Paul] and Cady McClain [Rosanna], all consummate professionals. We called ourselves "the Odd Squad," or as the fans call us the "Quad from Hell." We were pretty much stuck in that one story. Craig had only one scene with his sister Katie [Terri Colombino]. He basically ignored her.

TVGuide.com: And we wanted to see more of Craig and Lucinda! You and Liz Hubbard are priceless together.
Bryce:
That woman taught me how to do this genre. She's a remarkable actress and an even more remarkable person. Our chemistry is off the charts and I don't know why they wouldn't explore that. There were times where it just felt like plot was more important than people and that gets difficult to play. And it's hard to go to work when you don't really have the support of the captain of the ship, which is what I felt. So when the time came and I was fired, I wasn't shocked. I gave 100 percent. The only thing that kind of annoys me was that I was fired over the phone during the holidays. That felt disrespectful and unnecessary. Did Goutman ever lie to me? Never. Was I misled? Never. I worked hard. I respected the story as much as I could. I played the good soldier and didn't bitch. I called him sir. I showed up on time and did my scenes in one take. [ Laughs] That's not enough?

TVGuide.com: Well, nobody can blame you for a ratings decline!
Bryce:
The week I came back to ATWT it was rated No. 7. The week I got fired it was tied for No. 3. I hold my head up high. You know, I was very fortunate to work during the heyday of the show under Doug Marland, who was a phenomenal writer and understood romance so deeply. He knew what star-crossed lovers are really all about. His show was always people and relationship-centered. Now it's really about plot over people and they're willing to sabotage history if necessary.

TVGuide.com: There's a hell of a lot of pressure on the soaps these days.
Bryce:
I wouldn't want [Goutman's] job. It's impossible. He's being slammed from all sides. He's got budget cuts continuously. There are fewer and fewer viewers. We're now in the era of info-tainment. How can the stories on ATWT beat "Who is the father of Anna Nicole's baby?" That's very, very tough. Reality has become the new soap opera. We now follow the loves of celebrities the way we used to follow the lives of Lily and Holden.

TVGuide.com: Word is, your exit is explosive - literally.
Bryce:
I try to kill Paul but he is the Rasputin of daytime and apparently unkillable. I vaporize his car but he lives. Then I take a private plane out of town... possibly to the landlocked island nation of Montega, I don't know.

TVGuide.com: If you had it to do all over again...?
Bryce:
Look, if I'd known it was only going to last 10 months, I still probably would have said yes. Would I be surprised if there was someone else playing Craig in three months? No. It wouldn't shock me in the least.