Ron Hale Interview (November 6, 1998)
Cathy R. Atkinson did this interview for The Official Ron Hale Home Page. That page is no longer available.
Q: Do you have any idea what is planned for your character in the future? Will you be making more appearances on GH for your many fans who live in areas that don’t get PC?
A: No, I do not have any idea what is planned for Mike Corbin. I was thrilled to learn that Maurice was returning. When Sonny comes back, then Mike will certainly be involved in what I would hope would be a great storyline. As I'm sure the fans know, right now old Mike is pretty much gathering moss - being somewhat of a mentor to Jason and a godfather to Michael Jr.
Q: Maurice hinted at his summer fan event that Will Rotunno's character, Marco, may turn out to be his character's brother and thus Mike's son. Is there anything you can reveal to your fans right now about the possibilities?
A: I think it would be great if somebody showed up on the show that was someone from Mike's past. Male or female. It could be really terrific if it was some young gal that was the product of a love affair that Mike had years ago, and, of course, he was never conscious at all that the relationship resulted in a child.
Q: You mentioned in an earlier interview that you love to read. Any favorite authors or books?
A: Yes, I love to read. I read constantly. I've usually got about three books going at once. My favorite thing in the whole wide world - it sounds really boring, I wish it could sound more exciting :-) - but one of my favorite things is an hour or so that I set aside for myself at night prior to going to sleep, listening to music and just losing myself in a book. I can't even tell you how many books I read…I guess I read an average of 2, 3, probably four books a month. I've always got a few going. I love nonfiction, I love history; I've done extensive reading, especially since I've been in L.A., on the West, which has always fascinated me - real characters of the West, historical characters. I've read a tremendous amount on the history of theater. And then, when it comes to fiction, I've gotten very excited over a bunch of fiction writers. I've got all of Tony Hillerman, Lawrence Block…it just goes on and on.
Q: If you didn't have to live in the L.A. area, where would you like to live?
A. Anywhere! Anywhere but L.A.! Cleveland would be heaven! I'm not kidding either - it's a great town, I've got friends there. Really, anywhere but here. I would love to maintain my apartment here and work here, and then have a section of land in Arizona somewhere with a nice ranch, where I could have friends come and spend some time and ride horses and do all that fun stuff.
Q: When did you get interested in acting? What other kinds of jobs did you hold before making a success of your acting career?
A: When I was a teenager, I was asked to do the junior class play in high school when I was a sophomore and I ended up doing it. All my jock friends - 'cause I was a jock, football, wrestling, boxing, all that - made fun of the fact that I had been asked to do a play, and so, typical Ron reaction, I said "screw you" and I fell in love with it. The sense of self…I don't know what it was. Maybe it was this feeling of talent, on stage, doing the play. That's where the bug really, really, really hit me. And so the rest is … a long time!
Other than acting…bartender, bouncer, worked in a mail room in New York. I did it all. I did all the typical things that young actors do to earn a living while they're studying their craft.
Q: What advice would you offer to anyone thinking of pursuing a career as an actor?
A: My advice would be become a farmer, or a carpenter…no, farmer's bad because that's really a gamble. Acting is such a gamble but farming is even worse. The real advice I would give is if it's something that you think you want to do, don't do it, because there's a great difference between want and need. I'm a true believer that if you need to do it, just like young people need to dance or need to sing or need to write, that's a need - and that's all I can say. Everybody wants to be an actor, but they don't want to be actors, they want to be movie stars. If you need to be an actor, and there's no getting around it, that's what you're going to do, come hell or high water. But if you want to be famous, go do something else because that's not what it's about.
Q: Have you ever worked behind the scenes as a producer, director or writer? Would you ever like to?
A: Yes, I have worked behind the scenes - as a carpenter, as a scenic painter, as a stage manager. I even directed a play once, which I was kind of forced into doing - I didn't want to do it but my brother asked me to do it. He was going to be acting in it and he wanted my eyes as a director. He's always known that I have no desire to be a director, but I did it anyway. The production was very good, it worked out well, but at the same time it just reinforced everything I always knew about myself, which is that I'm not that much of a control freak, and I can't be that much of a psychologist to actors and scenic artists and musical directors. I just do not have that capacity. I truly envy people who have it, but I don't. It was a great experience, I'm glad it's over, God willing I will never do it again.
Q: Do you have a dream storyline in mind that you'd like to see for Mike Corbin?
A: No, I really don't. I leave the writing to the writers. I know certain things I would like to have happen but those are usually within scenes. When Maurice comes back, I have ideas about how I would like our first meeting to go. I can break it down that way. As far as a storyline right now - I don't have any answers for you there.
Q: You've worked with a lot of big names in Hollywood in some of your guest appearances elsewhere. Any interesting stories to tell?
A: The best ones I can't tell. :-) Most of the stars I've worked with are generally speaking, pretty good people and pretty down to earth. Some of them are self-centered but those generally aren't the really talented ones.
Q: Are there any actors whose work has especially influenced you?
A: Oh yes, many. Unfortunately for fans out there, they probably - unless they are of a certain age - wouldn't even know the people who influenced me. I was greatly influenced by the actors of the 30's and 40's in movies as a kid (even though I don't go back that far, okay? :-) It's just that I started seeing these movies when I was a teenager and I was amazed by the talent, by the work. I always refer to Charles Laughton - great actor, great character actor. Those are the actors that I fell in love with, that impressed me so much - not the Burt Lancasters, even though he did wonderful work. The star of the movie never fascinated me that much. I was always interested in the character people. Fredrick March, Spencer Tracy, the list goes on. Look at any major good films of the 30's and the 40's - we can pretty much skip the 50's because nothing really happened there - but the 30's and 40's, there were so many really talented actors and actresses. Those are the people that influenced me.
Q: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from Ryan's Hope?
A: Of course. Nancy Addison, my dear, dear, dear Nancy, is like a sister to me. I'm in touch with her at least every two weeks. She and her husband Danny are the greatest friends. Ilene Kristen, who played Delia, the original Delia - she's one of the great loves of my life as a person and she's been a great friend. Michael Levin and I have not been in touch lately; we used to be in touch a lot but that is probably all my fault; and I have to get in touch with him. Tamara Grady, who worked as a stage manager - she's been a stage manager on AMC now for many years and is still a dear, dear friend. Laura Rakowitz - she was an assistant director on RH and Laura and I remain dear friends for many years. And of course Geoff Pierson, who lives out here now. He was one of the original Frank Ryan's. I see him and play golf with him all the time, Jeff and his lovely bride Cali Timmins, who played Maggie on RH.
Q: What was your first acting experience and what can you tell us about that?
A: I already talked earlier about my first acting experience in high school. That was a very thrilling moment. I knew at that moment that something very special had happened to me, inside…and I have continued to pursue it for the rest of my life. I guess it's like a drug - where you spend your entire life trying to repeat that first "high". That's what it was like for me. It was just amazing and thank God I've been able to duplicate it.
Q: What has been your favorite scene on GH or PC? Do you have a favorite storyline?
A: There have been so many scenes on GH. On PC, I've really only been Mike the bartender - all the real work has been on GH. Anything with Maurice of course is a given, but Steve and Tony Geary - we've had some wonderful stuff. Vanessa and I had some wonderful stuff, although they never really continued that after Sonny left. I think that Brenda and Mike had a very special relationship. I wish I could have seen the scenes we did right before she died on the show - I never saw those. They felt good. I think that relationship could have been developed further, very successfully.
Q: What about Ryan's Hope? Do you recall favorite scenes or storyline from RH?
A: Again, that was 13-1/2 years and most of it was great. The first four years were absolutely brilliant work by everybody on that show. Claire Labine, who created it, along with Paul Mayer; they owned it and they ran it. ABC put it on the air but Paul and Claire were the producers. That experience was beyond belief. It's a rare thing. It doesn't really happen much but it should happen more. We had a very open dialogue. Claire would call me at home and say "Did you get the script for Monday?" and I would say "Yes I did." She'd say "Did you have a chance to read it?" and I'd say "Yes, I did." She'd say "What do you think of your scenes?" What a concept! I would tell her and she would say, "Is there anything you think should be added, or anything that you agree or disagree with that we can improve on?" It was give and take. It was an absolutely incredible experience. What it really boils down to was that actors were trusted by other creative people, i.e. head writers. If you're playing a character that you happen to know very well, your creative input is very valuable and I think it would be nothing but positive to take advantage of that.
Q: Recently you were accepted into the prestigious Actors' Studio. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
A: It's a funny story. In fact, as you may know, it was an audition for Maurice. Maurice had for many years, since he was a young man - a younger man, let's put it that way, dreamt of being a member of the Actors' Studio. So he asked me to do the audition scene with him, and we prepared that - we worked a couple of weeks on it. Not every day, but when we had a chance. We did this scene from "I Never Sang For My Father" - if you know the play of course, age-wise, we're totally wrong for it - the father should be in his late 70's and the son in his mid- 40's but it didn't make any difference. I don't know how many people auditioned that day, Maurice could tell you better, but there must have been at least 30-35 people auditioning. Some of those people were auditioning for their 8th or 9th time to get into the Actors' Studio. A day or two later, Maurice got a call that he was accepted, and I got a call, even though I was not auditioning. I wasn't trying to get in, I was doing it for Maurice. They called me, and asked me if I would like to be a member, which was just a terrific thing. It's just a delight. In fact, right here in my little office I have the letter of acceptance framed. It's signed by Mr. Mark Rydell, who ain't a bad director, by the way :-) The people who sat there and judged us were very famous people. I don't think I was conscious of who was in the audience; I don't think Maurice was either, but afterwards, a few weeks later, we heard who was there and it was kind of spooky to realize you were auditioning in front of a couple of Academy Award winning actors. Anyway, that's great - I guess it means I'm officially an actor, now that I belong… ;-)
Q: Is there any role that you've always wanted a chance to perform?
A: Yes! The next good one. :-) Let's put it that way. There are always roles. There's a ton of roles that I've missed because of my age now that I could kick myself for not doing. And yet, there are a lot of wonderful roles out there for a man my age who is still somewhat viable, who can walk and talk :-) A role that's fascinated me for a number of years has been the lead role in the play "The Dresser", the role of Sir, which Albert Finney played in the movie. It's just a fabulous story and it's a tour de force role that I would love to sink my teeth into. I should be fifteen or twenty years older to do that role but I still think that it's something that I could do with the right kind of make-up on stage, because you can get away with it on stage. You can play older or younger and it's believable. So that's something I would love to do in the near future.
Q: In Mike's last scenes with Sonny, the fans were disappointed that they weren't able to make amends. What did you think of that scene?
A: I know the fans were disappointed that we didn't make amends, but at the same time I kind of liked it because Mike was really throwing down the gauntlet and saying what needed to be said, which is, "I came here four years ago looking for you and praying that someday, even if you don't forgive what I did to you in the past, at least you'd acknowledge me", which he did. But at the same time, Mike hit a brick wall with Sonny. It was like, "Okay, you still don't trust me, you don't trust me because you won't tell me where you are. You don't share things with me". Mike had to say goodbye, good luck, and basically he said "If you want me, you have to come back with open arms and ask to be accepted. " I think Mike has done everything that he felt in his power he could do to prove to his son that he cared and loved him - I know that's one sided but that's the way I have to look at it because let's face it, I'm the guy playing Mike :-).
Q: Since you and Maurice get along so well in real life, is it hard to be angry at each other on-screen?
A: Are you kidding? Who ever said we got along? I don't understand this publicity. Maurice Benard and Ron Hale do not get along. There is nothing about him I like. I mean, he's …what can I say, he's a lousy actor, I don't even know why the guy works. :-) (laughs) Seriously, no, it's not hard to play angry with each other because that's what good acting is, and I'm not patting myself on the back here, it's just that when you work with somebody of Maurice's caliber who allows himself to become a character, a believable character, then it allows me to be Mike. We're not talking about Ron and Maurice, we're talking about Mike and Sonny, and these are the two people that we - for lack of a better word - become when we are doing scenes together. We slip into those roles, and that's the beauty of it. That's the wonderment of acting, isn't it? And after it's all over, it's nice to put your arms around each other and say "Hey, that felt pretty good!" That's what it's all about.
Q: The fans go wild when you're around! What is the most unusual thing you've ever had a fan do or say upon meeting you?
A: I can't even begin to go there. :-) Going back to things on Ryan's Hope, especially. There have been a couple wacky things that happened since I've been on GH but…LOTS of things used to happen.
Q: What is your least favorite aspect of being in show business?
A: My least favorite thing is being in a business where there are so many unqualified people running the business. The people that we have to put up with on a daily basis when it comes to looking for outside work - you walk into meetings, and you sit there and in three seconds you're saying to yourself "How are these people a part of this? Who do they know to get in this position of power?" You can tell immediately that most of them have no taste. They know nothing about theater; they know nothing about what acting is about and they wouldn't know a good script if it bit them in the butt. Look at the trash that's put on TV and most of our movies - I think it goes without saying. My least favorite thing about being in show business are the "show business" people you have to deal with . Not my fellow actors and not my fellow writers - 90% of those people that I've been close to, who have been a part of my life, are creative and wonderful and giving. It's the other idiots that control the purse…they're nothing more than CPA's and it's really upsetting, because you say to yourself constantly "Look at that piece of crap that I just paid $8.50 to see in the movie theater."
Q: What is your favorite thing about being in show business?
A: (As Ron was about to answer this question, he was interrupted by a call from Maurice! Maurice had some news to share about some movies he may be doing in the future, so hopefully we'll be hearing more about that soon. OK, back to your regularly scheduled interview!). The dedicated people in - I prefer to say theater instead of show business - the people who are truly dedicated and truly talented. They're the most special people in the world to me. They're full of life, they're full of curiosity. Look at the 75, 80 year old actors. There's not many around any more, but look at how vibrant they are as people. They know what's going on in the world, they know what life's about, they're just wonderful, special people. I love actors and writers and choreographers and dancers and people who are truly talented and dedicated to their profession. I love being a part of that.
Q: Do you have a favorite TV show (other than GH/PC) and what is it?
A: I just don't watch much…hmmm Monday Night Football? :-) Most of the things I watch on TV are sports. I love PBS, documentaries, "Nova". "Sunday Morning", I never miss. And of course I do spend time watching AMC, Learning Channel, Discovery, Bravo. When it comes to prime time shows on networks, this kid ain't seen nothing. I've tried, I've tuned in, I've watched here and there and it doesn't do a thing for me.
Q: If you could pick any actress (doesn't have to be someone in soaps) to play Mike's new love interest, who would she be?
A: Boy, that's tough. There are so many wonderful actresses out there on other daytime shows, although I don't get to see them that much. I love Sally Field. I think she's so wonderful. I've always had a little heart throb going for her. Ever since I can remember, and watching her grow over the years as an actor, just watching her progress and seeing how talented she truly was and is…I just adore her, I think she would be fabulous to work with. Another actress is Mary Kay Place, who I think is quite extraordinary, who we don't see much of anymore - she's done some independent films recently.
Q: In what way is Mike most different from you? Are there ways in which you are similar?
A: It's like every role - they're kind of interchangeable. When Mike was first created, they had something to go on but they didn't have everything to go on about who he was, so once I started playing Mike they started picking up on things that I was doing and then they would take that and add to the character. So it's always a learning experience for the writers and the actors. They started writing him with more of a certain style or whatever. Mike is unlike me in that I never did what he did, to Adela and Sonny, when he was a kid - I never walked out on anybody like that - that's a major difference. Mike has been a grifter, a small time con artist and I've never done that, but of course I've tried to con my way through a lot of auditions. :-) I understand from my own life, the struggles of not working, and what you have to do to survive - it ain't easy out there. I think that we have a lot in common that way. But in many ways, I kind of feel that Mike is Ron and Ron is Mike at this stage of the game. There's a similar belief about life and I think our philosophies are pretty similar in every way.