It's been over 25 years since the glitz and glamour of NBC's Santa Barbara was on the airwaves, but it's about to hit some ocean waves due to incredible fan support. For the first time ever, several stars from the classic 1980s soap opera are joining fans for a Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise -- one of them being A Martinez, who played the series' resident hero, Cruz Castillo.
In celebration of the upcoming cruise, which sets sail this November, Soap Central spoke with Martinez about reuniting with his former SB castmates Lane Davies (Mason Capwell), Judith McConnell (Sophia Capwell), Harley Jane Kozak (Mary Duvall), Louise Sorel (Augusta Wainwright), and Nicolas Coster (Lionel Lockridge). We also got the celebrated actor to open up about some of his most memorable moments on the NBC soap and which of his other former soap opera characters -- General Hospital's Roy DiLucca, Days of our Lives' Eduardo Hernandez, and The Bold and the Beautiful's Dr. Ramon Montgomery -- he'd be most excited to play again.
Soap Central: So, you're going on a Santa Barbara reunion cruise! How do you feel about that?
A Martinez: It's wonderful! I love all those guys so much, and just from the purely reunion idea of folks that have been so important over the course of so many years to get together, it's so great. I don't get to see Lane very much at all these days, and I haven't seen Harley in quite a while, nor Louise. I've seen Judith and Nicolas recently, but Lane in particular has meant so much to me and my family over the years. I have always considered him to be a brother, and it's really weird to have someone who means so much to you be so far away and so out of touch for so long.
Soap Central: How long has it been?
Martinez: Well that's a good question. I'm not really sure, but I guess I saw him probably four years ago when I did an episode of The Bay. He called me up and said, "Come on, man, let's do a scene together, you know?" And it was so much fun to be on stage with him and get to look into his face and be in character with him again. I loved it so much. Earlier in our relationship, he was instrumental in getting both of my daughters up on stage in Thousand Oaks at the wonderful theater center they have over there, over the hill from where I live. For years, they were doing a production of The Christmas Carol every single holiday season, and he got both Devon, and then when she aged out of it, Ren, into roles in that play. I think Devon played three different roles in that over the years, and it was so wonderful, because it was an early professional experience for them, and they're both wonderful actors, and that was a key stepping stone for them, to actually get to be in a play that has a long run where you have to show up night after night and be ready and be a professional about it. Plus, the fact that it was The Christmas Carol, so [my wife] Leslie and I would go repeatedly. You never want to not be in the room when your young kid is on a stage, and that play moved me every single time I saw it, even though you always know how it's going to turn out! It's just so great, so I love Lane.
Soap Central: I just spoke with Lane yesterday, and he's actually directing his son in Henry V, so I guess he's instrumental in getting all your guys' kids into acting!
Martinez: Oh my goodness, that's such a trip! I'm friends with his kids on Facebook, and it's such a wonderful aspect of our lives, that we get to have a connection on that level.
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This promises to be a highly memorable event. It will mark the first time I've ever ventured forth on such a vehicle, and it will be an opportunity to spend a precious few days with some of my favorite people. Looking forward to sharing it with all who can make it. Booking Info on Facebook, at the Santa Barbara Reunion Cruise page!
Soap Central: Did you ever imagine that you'd get a big Santa Barbara reunion like this, so many years later?
Martinez: No, not really. But I do know that the show has endured in people's hearts. I guess it first started happening because of YouTube... you can just go in and drop into storylines, like the Cruz and Eden romance, and luxuriate in it anytime you want to. When YouTube showed up, you suddenly realized that so many people are interested in the show after all these years, because they valued it that much, and it has made it clear that it wasn't just going to disappear like so many other things I was a part of all those years ago have disappeared. It's pretty wonderful.
Soap Central: You mentioned Eden, who was played by Marcy Walker. Have you been in contact with her over the years?
Martinez: No, and I think the last time I saw her was in New York, at one of the Emmys. I got into a situation a couple of years ago, right after the election of Donald Trump, actually. Someone at the gym I was a member of tried to have me kicked out. The person told the management of the gym that I had stared at them from across the room and made a sign across my neck like I was going to cut their throat, and I'm like a model citizen, so this was insane! Literally insane. I posted about it on Facebook, because it was a really radical experience. The manager was a new guy who had only been there two weeks, so he did not know me at all, and he came and said they were going to kick me out, and if I thought I could get away with that kind of behavior, I was mistaken, because this was a nice place and you can't act like a thug, just all this crazy talk. And I posted about it -- in retrospect, I wonder why I did that, and maybe I shouldn't have -- but in any case, Marcy came onto that post with words of wisdom that were really welcome. And since then, my extent of contact with her has been to hear stories from people who have talked to her and Doug, her husband, about various things. But she owes me an email! We really loved each other so much and always will.
Soap Central: You two ended up being one of the show's biggest supercouples. Why you think Cruz and Eden were such a successful couple and so loved by the fans?
Martinez: Well, we were a really good match. We were lucky in being chosen to work together, because we approach the work really similarly. I can't speak too much to what it was in our appearance or what we represented culturally, how that manifested. But there is certainly something there in being on different sides of a divided community; that kind of thing was certainly working, the rich woman and the man who came up from more modest means and stuff. But I always thought that the thing that most allowed the relationship to sustain was that we approached the work from a similar point of view. Our means of figuring out how to get through a scene resonated effortlessly. I mean it really was effortless, the way we went about putting it together. It was amazingly fun, because we didn't grind on it. We just got up and flew. And we had a habit of showing up after a bad day, if we had a bad day -- and they were very rare, but occasionally we had a day where it just didn't quite measure up -- you could bet your life that the next day would be very special. Without saying it and without planning it, we had an instinct to not allow it to falter. It was basically being willing to work on it really hard without ever making it feel like work. We got lucky.
Soap Central: Is it true that you two actually fought for that relationship? That it wasn't really in the writers' plans, but you two sort of pushed for it?
Martinez: Actually, I can't remember fully, but what I remember is that the show was having difficulty finding its footing. There was a lot of chaos, a lot of people in the cast were let go, the network was freaking out, there was a tremendous sense of us being in jeopardy, and my sense of it was that they were casting about to find a solution. And I'm not really sure how it was introduced as a possibility, but Jill Phelps, who was running the show, came to us. Our characters had a relationship on the show, but we weren't anywhere near the middle of it, and she said, "We've written you guys three days where you are trapped in a room together, and you can't avoid each other. You'll be together for three days, and your job is to make these days extremely memorable." And I'll never forget it, she said, "You can find excuses for why it might not work. You can say there's something about the consistency of the scripts, you can blame it on the one director who wasn't as good as the other two directors, you can come up with any kind of excuse you want to not make it work, but don't! Make it work. Do whatever you have to to make it work. And whatever you feel you have to do with it, do it and I will have your backs. If you need to tear something up and put it back together, do that, and I will have your backs." So, Marcy and I got together on our own extracurricular time and worked on it and conjured certain aspects of it. One of the things that was our idea was to find a way to get on the floor of that room. And we just spent a lot of time trying to get the whole thing into the best shape it could possibly be. But of course, it was well written, which was the norm with Santa Barbara. The writing was always strong. And then we just showed up with an appetite to lift it, and it worked -- big time. And the audience responded really positively, and from them on, they decided to take a shot on us. Basically, it was a three-day audition for the relationship, is what it was!
Soap Central: I love that you guys had the time to focus on that. At the pace soaps move today, I don't know how you'd make that happen!
Martinez: That's so true. The process is so much more difficult now than it was back then, and I marvel when I look at these shows now and see the quality of so much of the work. The conditions are so difficult to master, and that so many people can do well with it, it kind of spins my head around a bit. It's amazing.
Soap Central: What do you remember about the first time you were presented with the character of Cruz Castillo and what the powers that be expected from you?
Martinez: The first time I encountered him, his name was Sol, which is the Spanish word for sun. And I thought, "Hm, I don't like this guy's name. I really don't like that as a name. It's confusing, people think it's [like the Italian Sol], it's not a name you encounter. And even though it has a feeling on your tongue, a certain buoyancy, I really don't like it as the name of a man or somebody who puts out oil well fires, a rough neck, somebody like that." It just didn't strike me as a good name. And late in the game, I had sort of a protracted negotiation, because I really didn't think it was a good idea to do the show -- I didn't really want to do it. My agent had gotten me there by telling me it was a nighttime show! I had not spent any time watching daytime TV, I just would look at it briefly and think, "This is a really insanely difficult job. I don't know how people can do that job." And so, I was foolishly willing to let it go. Then the casting director got to my manager, not the person who got me up for it, and made a pitch, "You should actually rethink this, because the way his career is going right now, this might make a lot of difference for the good." So, that started to make sense to me, and I agreed to do it, and right after I agreed to do it, I can't remember if I had mentioned that I hated the name, or if they just hated the name, too, and came up with the name Cruz Castillo, but I thought, "Cruz Castillo. Okay, now that is the name of somebody you would feel comfortable playing for a long time." A name is really important. And I loved that he had this wonderful name, and I knew that Castillo was a street in Santa Barbara, I knew that was a name that came from the community, and I thought, "Okay, there's a certain legitimacy to this guy." And they wrote him so beautifully. He was so heroic and cool... and he was set up in a really nice way. But it wasn't until they put him with Eden that the character really took off.
Soap Central: Outside of just the general romance between Cruz and Eden, do you have any storylines or adventures that stand out as your favorites over the years?
Martinez: It feels a little bit odd to say it, but the thing I remember with the most reverence really was the story of Eden's rape and getting through that, for which Marcy won the Emmy. There are certain things you go through over the course of a career where you feel privileged. I've gotten to do certain jobs where you're in proximity to actors who are just working at a level that is so extraordinary, that you just kind of pinch yourself and go, "Wow, I had the best seat in the house for that. I was literally right across from that person, and working in support of them," but the main thing you take from it is just, "Wow, that was remarkable work coming from this person. And I got to be right there, looking into their eyes even more closely than the camera sometimes." And I just thought that over the course of those months, that the quality of the work Marcy did was so extraordinary. She carries, obviously, this vast depth of emotional power in her life. Whatever the experiences that she has had to endure for her to have the thing accumulate, I can't speak to being any expert on that, but I know that it is a miser of an extraordinary life that you carry an extraordinary emotional repository like she does. And to get to see her going down into it, having the courage to go down into it and basically dredge around in there to find all that stuff, the source of the most primal difficulties that she carries, I think that was heroic and so well done. I loved it. That was the main thing.
Soap Central: Marcy was super talented, and there were also some other really talented stars who came through on the show. Téa Leoni (ex-Lisa DiNapoli) and also Leonardo DiCaprio, who played a young Mason.
Martinez: Yeah, I remember that! And Robin Wright. There are a lot of memories attached to the moment when they would finally call you to the stage, when you've been waiting all day - well, actually working all day for nine hours by the time we went to tape, so we were all ready to go when they called our scenes -- and that walk down the hallway became a ritual that included a lot of conversations that linger in my memory. One was with Marcy, and I was talking about how it's really important to remember how this feels, to hold this, to hold the memories of these experiences, because it's not likely that we're ever going to have anything as cool as this again. And she looked at me like, "What a terrible thing to say! Why would you say that to me? 'This is the end' when I'm about ready to go do a scene, and [I have to think] 'This is the best thing that I'll ever have in my career?' Don't talk like that!" [Laughs] I apologized, but that's really what came out of my heart and my mind. And I remember walking down the hallway with Robin when she had just started. I was already somebody who'd been in the business years and years and years, and I remember thinking and making some glancing comment like, "This business is going to be at your feet. You're going to go to tremendous places in this business because you're already just that good." And you know, she looked at me and gave me a smile, like, "nice to buck her up and stuff," but I really meant it. She was, from the get-go, so honest, even when they would give her the more difficult scenes to play, for someone who wasn't particularly experienced, she would just kill those scenes every single time. And I thought, "Well, there you go. Look at this. This is going to be one of those people." And sure enough, she is one of those people.
Soap Central: You mentioned earlier that Cruz was written heroically, and he actually left the series very heroically, trying to take the blame for the murder of his daughter B.J.'s molester, when it was really B.J. who had murdered him. What did you think about that exit and the way the character left the canvas? Do you think it was pretty in line with his history?
Martinez: Yeah, I did. There was a lot of difficulty surrounding Cruz at that time, because a lot of the audience was really, really put off by him having become close to Kelly Capwell. So, there was a lot of feedback coming that was difficult to field. And I thought it was really cool that they found something like that for him to do. There were so many rocky things that had come up after Marcy's departure, some of the things that I consider to be the low point of the whole experience -- the lowest point being that she came back as another character disguised as another character, and Cruz ended up dancing with her but didn't recognize her in his arms. In fact, to this day, I have never forgiven myself for just going along with it. Even though I know it was my job, I feel like I should have refused. It was such a blight on the character to put them into such horrifically unbelievable and foolish moments like that. But I did it. So, there was just a lot of difficulty in those years. So, it was nice to go out with my head up like that, and with his head up like that. And I took tremendous comfort in that he was not being killed off, so, in theory, he would be able to return. I loved playing him so much, and it was so hard to let him go, so I loved the idea -- which was short lived -- that I'd be able to actually come back if the opportunity arose. I didn't know that the show would be cancelled quickly afterward.
Soap Central: Obviously you were holding the whole thing together, A!
Martinez: [Laughs] Well, no, I think the thing was on difficult ground for so long, because NBC did not own it, and there was a movement at that point in time for networks to own their own programming. It was prohibited previously kind of by the way that the game was structured to kind of defuse the power of the industry. But that was going away, and NBC wanted to have something in that slot that they owned that they could make money off of, whereas our show was making a whole lot of money for New World, who owned it and had the rights all over the world. So, that was written on the wall, I think.
Soap Central: There have been a lot of old shows coming back again, Dynasty being one of them. If that happened for Santa Barbara, would you consider stepping back into the role of Cruz?
Martinez: Oh, yeah, I would love to. Cruz is one of the greatest characters that I ever got to play -- and I've been at this for so long now, that's a lot of characters. There's just something about him. And plus, after a while when you play something like that for so long, it becomes a feedback loop where the writers start to mold the character to what they're getting off of the way you interpret him. And it starts to become a more and more custom fit over time. I learned so much from him, and I think by the time he hit his stride, it was just the most comfortable kind of character to play, because he was so much in tune with so many of the values that I carry. I just thought it was a wonderful match, and I would love to go back. Especially now, with the advantage of being older, there's a whole different palette of colors to what you can do when you reach a certain point in the journey.
Soap Central: What do you think Cruz would be up today? He took the blame for this murder, and nobody saw him again. So, where did he go and what did he do?
Martinez: That's a really good question, Kambra, and I haven't really entertained it. So much of what happens these days is people who are doing public work of any kind sort of jump into the private sector, that is the upward mobility cliché. And I would hope that he would be doing something better than that. I would love for him to have become an advocate for people that are voiceless. That, to me, would be the most elegant thing for a person to do toward the end of their journey as a working person.
Soap Central: Out of all the remaining soap operas on the air now, the only one you haven't appeared on is The Young and the Restless. Is that a goal of yours, even just so you can say you've done all the soaps that are left?
Martinez: Actually, I do think about that show a lot. I had some conversations back in the day with [Y&R's creator] Bill Bell about possibly coming over there. We talked about it in New York, probably at the Emmys, but then I got offered LA Law, so it never ended up happening. So, I've always had one of those "paths not taken" stories. And plus, I love the show. My daughter Devon went on there and did a beautiful arc [as Shawn Taylor in 2016], and I was thinking, "Wow, look at that! She ought to come back and bring her dad with her!" I would definitely entertain that if it came up.
Soap Central: Eva LaRue just recently joined Y&R's new Rosales family, and I could definitely see you and Eva sharing the screen.
Martinez: Yeah, I hear ya! That would be great.
Soap Central: If any of the other daytime dramas called, would you be open to returning and reprising any of your former characters?
Martinez: Yeah, I would. The thing that I carry most closely with regards to all of that is that I loved the experience of working on Days of our Lives, and I loved General Hospital, too. And like I said, it's the same thing that made me so happy with Cruz -- Cruz went away and didn't die, and my characters on the other shows went away but didn't die. Roy [DiLucca from GH] left, and Eduardo [Hernandez from DAYS] went to prison. And I think that when I recall the recent experiences of working on DAYS, mostly in relation to Lauren Koslow [Kate Roberts], I thought there was something really, really special in that relationship. I took a lot of pleasure and pride in the doing of it, and I sort of hold [a return] as something I expect, actually. I don't know if that's irrational or not, but I do expect that at some point in time, they will decide to bring Eduardo out of prison. His children are still there, and there is that relationship there, so we could see what's going on with that. I'm very open to it. I love working in daytime.
Soap Central: Especially given that you've had such fantastic experiences, like starring on Santa Barbara.
Martinez: It is a bit of a miracle to get to do this, to get to be an actor and to actually get a job like I got -- even though I did my best to foul it up! -- and get to play a character as great as Cruz, and to be a part of a company as wonderful as Santa Barbara. I still, to this day, will run across actors who came through our show -- either they were a day player or they had a short arc on the show or something -- and they will come up to me and say, "You know, your show was just the best to be on, because you guys were all so friendly and so willing to rehearse and so generous with your time, and so not full of yourselves. It made it possible to relax in a situation that is inherently mega stressful." And I take a lot of pleasure in knowing that my memory of it being that kind of place is shared by a lot of people who passed through it. I feel really proud of that and also lucky that I got to be a part of it. It was an extraordinary show, really revolutionary for its time. In fact, you can argue that maybe no show has ever really mastered that ground that it was elegant at mining. I just have tremendous respect for it and feel lucky to have been a part of it.
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 A Martinez? 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.