It's been over 25 years since the soap opera Santa Barbara went off the air, but the 1980s drama still holds a special place in the hearts of daytime fans. No one knows this better than Lane Davies, who originated the role of Mason Capwell and had the longest run as the beloved character.
"I can still get good tables at restaurants in Paris!" he jokes to Soap Central. "When we were doing this show back in the 80s, we never really dreamed that the popularity of it would continue this far into the future. It's a pleasant surprise to realize that so many people have so many fond memories of the show. And I think it's because we were different. Thanks to [creators] Bridget and Jerome Dobson, I think we had a pretty original show."
In addition to having a good cast, good writers, and fun stories, Davies says the golden ticket to the Emmy-winning series was the show's sense of humor.
"We respected the work, but we were also vaguely aware that we were there to connect diaper commercials," he says with a laugh. "I think we took more chances that the average soap; we were not as formulaic. Like I said, we had a sense of humor, and we took risks. They didn't always play out or turn out the way we wanted, but we were willing to take the risks, as actors and as storytelling."
Those risks attracted legions of fans who are still passionate about the show today, which is why several actors from the series are taking part in a Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise this November. The five-day, four-night tour will bring together six original Santa Barbara cast members: Davies, A Martinez (ex-Cruz Castillo), Judith McConnell (ex-Sophia Capwell), Harley Jane Kozak (ex-Mary Duvall), Louise Sorel (ex-Augusta Wainwright), and Nicolas Coster (ex-Lionel Lockridge).
"I've never done a Carnival or Royal Caribbean-type cruise before, because normally, the idea of being cooped up on a boat with a lot of people I don't know is sort of terrifying!" Davies says of taking part in the special fan event. "I'm basically a shy and introverted person at heart, which is odd for an actor, but almost all of my experiences with fans have been good ones, so this is not so terrifying."
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Los Capwell de 'Santa Bárbara' 📺 1984-1993 2.137 episodios, 24 premios Emmy, el plató más grande para una serie de televisión, el estudio 11 de Burbank. Y el debut de Robin Wright, la "princesa prometida". Recientemente lamentamos la muerte del patriarca familiar Jed Allan (CC Capwell), que también era el padre de Steve Sanders en 'Sensación de vivir'. Otros personajes carismáticos fueron Eden y Cruz, Sophía, Gina o Julia y Mason. TVE emite los 520 primeros capítulos desde mayo de 1989. Antena 3 compra un lote de mil episodios a partir de 1991 pero nos dejó sin ver el final. Un filón para Tele Indiscreta con sus coleccionables semanales. Arranca con un terremoto y el misterioso asesinato del heredero Channing Capwell. Atentados, serial killers, incendios, explosiones, dobles malvados, bodas, triángulos, hijos secretos, viajes en el tiempo, fantasmas, múltiples recastings y mucho humor. ¿Pero puede ser fantástico un culebrón?. Sin duda, 'Santa Bárbara' lo era. #santabarbaratvseries #classictv #soapopera #lanedavies #robinwright #robinmattson #marcywalker #judithmcconnell #amartinez #jedallan @toni__3.0
Besides, the cruise will also give the actor a chance to catch up with his costars, all of whom he says are like family and -- important for the cruise situation -- easygoing people.
"One reason it's this particular group, because we sort of look at this cruise as a pilot project, is that this is a big part of the core of the original show, and we know we all get along," he shares. "We know we're all troopers, as they say in the business, because this experience could be challenging in some ways. We wanted people on the cruise that can sort of roll with the punches. It's a first-time thing, so not all of the logistics are worked out, and there's a lot of unknown. So, we wanted to make sure that the people involved were flexible."
As for what fans can expect from the maiden Santa Barbara voyage, Davies says they're kicking around different ideas, but "we want this to be [special]. It isn't going to be a big, 'Look at us perform' sort of thing. We're all of a certain age [chuckles], so it's mostly about getting together with fans and answering longtime questions they've had and reconnecting with them after all these years."
Interestingly enough, Davies recalls that when he first heard of Mason Capwell and Santa Barbara, he mistook it for musical theater. "I thought it was a theater audition, and then the assistant agent told me, 'No, no. It's a new soap.' And I thought, 'Well, that's interesting.' And the character of Mason was originally called Martin. They didn't change his name until a little bit later in the process, which probably made a huge difference in the success of the character. But at the time, I thought, 'Oh good! Work!' Because at that time, it's not like I was working all the time as an actor. I thought any steady work would be welcome. Little did I know that it would change my life."
Davies has countless memories from over the years that stand out as his favorites, mostly working with notable people from the series.
"I thoroughly enjoyed working with the late, great Jed Allan [ex-C.C. Capwell]. We had too much fun going at each other on the air, because we were great friends off-screen," he shares. "And I enjoyed the stuff with A Martinez, although we never had a storyline that was a buddy storyline, we had a lot of stuff together. He's like a brother, and we just had too much fun working together. I also loved working with Robin Wright [ex-Kelly Capwell] in the few scenes we had together. We were playing brother and sister, and she was half my age at the time, so there wasn't that much we could do together."
However, the two memories that top Davies' list are the romantic storylines he shared with Harley Jane Kozak (ex-Mary Duvall) and Nancy Lee Grahn (ex-Julia Capwell; Alexis Davis, General Hospital).
"The one with Harley was more romantic, the idea of pinning this rich bad boy with a nun was a fun concept and a lot of fun to play, he says. "But the sort of Adam's Rib relationship with Nancy was also a lot of fun. Nancy and I sort of created that relationship because we were unhappy with our current storylines, so we started pumping up the chemistry whenever we had a scene together, and the writers picked up on it and wrote the Mason/Julia storyline. We'd love to get Nancy Grahn in on [the cruise], but Nancy is still working all the time on General Hospital. There's an off chance she might join us, but at this point, no one can say for sure."
He continues: "Harley did extremely well in features after she left Santa Barbara, and I always wish she could have had more time on the show, because I felt like that storyline was not finished when they squashed her under that giant C -- which [wasn't very popular with the fans]. I begged the producers, I said, 'Wash her off the top of the building with a big wave or something, but leave it open! Because you're going to get yourself in trouble.' And sure enough, [the fans] almost burned the studio down when they killed off Harley! The fans were outraged that they killed her off. When you kill off a major character but the body isn't found or they disappear, the fans are always thinking, 'Oh, well, they'll bring her or him back.' But when you squash them under a giant C and watch them die, there's no bringing them back. And the fans were hell-raised. They demonstrated outside the studio!"
The level of fan interest in the show was so strong, Davies jokes that he's thankful the Internet as it exists today wasn't around in the 1980s.
"I can't imagine what our show would have been like with social media around," he says. "The Santa Barbara website came ten years after the show went off the air, and it was getting a million hits a month with people just wanting to talk about the show! So, I can't imagine if we had had Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and all of that when the show was on the air, what that would have been like."
Speaking of fan opinions, many of Davies' fans were crushed when he decided to leave Santa Barbara in 1989. Many have speculated that he was unhappy with the show at the time, but he tells Soap Central that his decision had nothing to do with that or being under contract.
"I was happy to go onto Santa Barbara, and I was very happy doing daytime work. I was not one of those actors thinking, 'Oh, I've got to get out of this, I've got to do nighttime. I've got to get out,'" he says. "I was having a great time for most of the five years that I was on the show, but I was totally exhausted. I had been producing a lot of theater, I had been doing a lot of shows, and even doing some recording, and I was just exhausted, so I quit everything for six months and just traveled. Todd McKee [ex-Ted Capwell] and I went around the world, and it literally took six months to do it. It was just a time in my life where had I stayed, I was going to stay in that genre probably for good, and I felt like it was time to at least try something else."
That "something else," as it turned out, ended up being a slew of roles in major sitcoms like 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Mommies, The Golden Girls, Coach, Empty Nest, and Seinfeld.
"I've never regretted getting out of daytime at the time I did, because I got to work with some iconic figures in American television over the next decade," Davies says. "The 90s was almost entirely sitcoms for me... I did four or five contract roles on sitcoms, and then fifty something guest-stars on sitcoms. If I hadn't have been funny, I probably would have gone back into soaps the next day! I had a great time in soaps, and I never looked down on them, because I know how hard they were to do."
That being said, some of his favorite career moments were on sitcoms: "I was Elliot's dad on Scrubs, and that was a great bunch of people to work with," he shares. "Working on The Golden Girls was like working with the golden girls of television. And I was fortunate to work with Betty White [who popped up on Santa Barbara] on another show, and I worked with Rue McClanahan on another show -- she played my mother on The Mommies. John Lithgow was also hysterical to work with [on 3rd Rock from the Sun]. It was very hard to get through a scene with him because he was prone to giggling, and I was prone to giggle. George Segal on Just Shoot Me was the same way. A thoroughly good guy, great actor, and great fun to work with. And Jason Alexander on Seinfeld was one of my favorite people that I've worked with."
Fortunately, Davies tells Soap Central that he wasn't intimidated to work with such legendary television stars.
"By the time I worked with those people, I had done enough that I was very comfortable in the medium," he shares. "And most of those shows at that time were four camera [in front of] a live audience, and so coming from theater, and coming from hundreds of shows in daytime, I was confident enough in my stuff and I was far enough along in my career that I didn't feel intimidated by those people, even though I was thrilled to be working with them. It was a little different in the 70s. My first movie was a movie with Jimmy Stewart; I played the love interest in a Lassie movie, and I had a one-on-one scene with Jimmy Stewart, and that was terrifying! But he was great to work with, and I think I was fairly relaxed by the time we shot our little duet scene."
As for what he's up to now, Davies shares that he's still deep in theater -- which has always been his first love. In fact, he's currently directing a production of Henry V with his son Nathan as Henry, and himself as Chorus. Davies is obviously proud to be working with his son, and he's happy to share that the show is heading to the Nashville area for outdoor performances on July 5 and 6th (tickets available here).
"I realized late in life that what I really am is a regional theater guy. My favorite thing to do is get together a company of good actors with a good script, especially Shakespeare, and put on a show," Davies shares with Soap Central. "I had a good run in L.A.., but that's what I am -- a regional theater guy who had a good run in L.A. And now, doing this project that I'm doing with my son, is sort of getting back to my roots."
However, Davies says he is open to returning to daytime, especially if Santa Barbara saw a revival much like the 1980s soap opera Dynasty, which was recently rebooted on the CW.
"Oh, [I'd step back into the shoes of Mason] in a heartbeat!" Davies enthuses. "As unlikely as it might be, because the show is tied up in all of these really complicated music rights and issues, but if it ever did come back, playing a, let's say 'Mason of a certain age' would be very interesting to do."
And what does he surmise Mason would be up to all these decades later?
"I'd like to think he has stayed on the right side of the law, though I think he would still be willing to bend the rules," the actor muses. "It would be more interesting if he were not in a solid, comfy, domestic relationship. I would want to keep some bad boy qualities, but not the ones that were self-destructive. The drinking should be way in his past, and his paternal issues should be long settled. I would want him to have grown as a human being. I wouldn't want to pull a Dudley Moore. When they tried to redo Arthur, he was still a drunk. Well, if you're still a drunk five years later, you've got problems that aren't funny anymore. It was funny the first time around, but then the second time around, it's like, 'Wow, really? You still haven't gotten your life together?' I wouldn't want that to happen to Mason. I would want him to have grown. And now, I'm old enough to be the patriarch of the Capwell family, so that would be fun, too!"
For more information on the first-ever Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise, which sails November 4-8, 2019, from Miami to the Bahamas, visit the official Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise website.
What do you think about our interview with Lane Davies? What are your favorite Santa Barbara memories? Will you be taking part in the show's reunion cruise? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.