Eric Braeden Eric Braeden

There's not a more popular — or badder — badass in soaps than The Young and the Restless' Victor Newman. But even he's pushing it with the fans. The megalomaniacal patriarch — played by Emmy winner Eric Braeden — earned considerable viewer backlash last month when he threw his ex-wife, Diane (Maura West), from the back of an ambulance and left her bruised and bloodied on the road. (Sure, Di's a lying, conniving skank who was trying to destroy Victor's life, but still!) This week, Victor pays a Genoa City hooker to solicit his son-in-law, Billy (Billy Miller), so that the poor guy ends up in jail. Is no deed too dire for the Mustache? Is there no end to his ruthlessness? TV Guide Magazine went to Braeden to find out.

TV Guide Magazine: We missed seeing you at the Daytime Emmys, not that we expected you to show up!
Braeden: Under no circumstances would I have been there. I think it's a joke. It's a farce. And it has been that way for a lot of years. They make it more ridiculous every year. I don't watch it because they [pre-]nominate from within each show now — some genius came up with that nonsense a few years ago — and it has turned the system into a popularity contest. I'm very glad Heather Tom won. And Bradley Bell. They are decent people in this business. And, of course, Maria Bell, who has done a very good job. But I don't think about the Emmys. You are the one who brought it up. I just ignore it and so do two or three other people at Y&R.

TV Guide Magazine: What are your thoughts on ABC dropping All My Children and One Life to Live? Do you fear the same thing might happen someday at CBS?
Braeden: I guess as long as Y&R remains at the top of the ratings we'll be all right, but one never knows. For many years now I have watched the depersonalization of the people who run this business. It has become more and more corporate and that does not bode well. I long for those days when Bill Bell Sr. ran our show and decided everything. Everything. He had a strong point of view and did not tolerate any kind of interference from anyone and it paid off in a major way. Bill Bell didn't give a damn about anyone else's opinion and nobody tried to f--k with that. Now we have too many cooks in the kitchen and that's become a huge problem. These corporate types had better be very careful because they are destroying something millions of people still want. The audience still loves the idea of novelized stories and watching their characters evolve over the years and the decades. It's a tremendously enjoyable experience for the audience that cannot be replaced by reality TV. In what other medium can you see the trials and tribulations of a Victor Newman or a Nikki Newman or a Katherine Chancellor play out over 30 or 40 years? There is a rhythm of life to a soap opera — a rhythm that makes Y&R very real to people.

TV Guide Magazine: Which is why that ambulance scene caused quite a bit of hysteria. Were you aware that a lot of female viewers were outraged and offended by it?
Braeden: To be quite truthful with you, I had no idea that was happening. I didn't think much about the scene when we shot it or any impact it might have. My only concern was for the stunt woman and that she would fall properly and not be hurt.

TV Guide Magazine: So you don't think Victor crossed a line here? He's notorious for being verbally abusive to women, but it's quite another thing to get physical.
Braeden: I completely understand how viewers would be upset by [the ambulance scene] and under no circumstances would I personally condone any kind of physical violence against women. My, God, no! I would never allow that. But Victor just doesn't give a s--t. And he doesn't take any s--t. That is the whole point of the character. He's the villain! He's defensive and always self-protective. He's not here to win a popularity contest.

TV Guide Magazine: Nor are you, it seems.
Braeden: I've never cared about that in my personal life or my career, either. I just don't care what people think. People often ask me if I want to go into politics. [Laughs] No, I'd step on too many toes and would not be willing to make any compromises. I would not politely sit and listen to idiocy.

TV Guide Magazine: Pretty soon we'll see Victor pay a prostitute to help falsely incriminate his son-in-law. That's pretty damn low, too.
Braeden: [Laughs] Money makes a lot of things happen for Victor. My God almighty, that's something else that I, Eric Braeden, would never do. I always confront things directly. But when that doesn't work for Victor, he gets out his wallet.

TV Guide Magazine: On the upside, Victor scored major points with the fans by being so loving and wonderful with Nikki when she went off the wagon this last time. Is it all just a balancing act with you?
Braeden: In a way, I guess it is. Bill Bell was a very wise man. He created someone in Victor who is a very lonely man yet also a man who can be affectionate and loving and forgiving. I think Victor, in his own way, understands the human condition better than almost any other character on the show. He grew up in an orphanage with a lot of deep hurt because he'd been abandoned by both his parents. Bill Bell always made sure Victor's villainy reflected back to the enormous damage that was done to him as a boy. It was such a powerful thing that it drives the character to this very day. Victor is all about protective measures yet at the same time he wants love. And it's for that reason that I never tire of this role or the Victor and Nikki relationship. Melody Thomas Scott can pull out all of those emotions — she can be sad, vulnerable, hurt, pissed, sometimes all at the same time — and it has been a blessing to work with her all these years. Every day I still think, "How can I make this character as real as I can?" Before we shoot a scene I still have that slight rise in anxiety, like when you're getting ready for a sporting match.

TV Guide Magazine: You never think Victor is too macho, too chauvinistic, too much?
Braeden: If you are abusive to him, he will be abusive to you. No one gets away with that. I will not allow anyone to cross that line with the character. There was a scene they wrote a long, long time ago where his daughter, Victoria [then played by Heather Tom], slaps Victor and I was outraged by that. I said, "Are you kidding me? You can't do this to Victor Newman!" Ultimately, I went along with it but only after they let me end the scene by warning her, in no uncertain terms, to never do that again.

TV Guide Magazine: Let me guess, she never did, right?
Braeden: Never. It's a question of mutual respect. No man has the right to hit or talk down to a woman, and conversely, no woman has the right to do it to a man. I am appalled at the image of so many of the men in daytime and prime time — from dramas and sitcoms to commercials — who are asked to play the schmuck. How many times do we see the father berated and made fun of by the wife, the mother-in-law, the children? It is obnoxious! We are witnessing the veritable de-balling of the American male on television. Men are becoming benign idiots and that is a trend I have always bucked with Victor. And I always will.

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