Due to the overwhelming fan response over his recent departure from Santa Barbara, we here at Soap Opera Update went to Roscoe Born, the talented actor who so vividly brought Robert Barr to life, and asked him to shed some light on his stay at SB and why he left.
What made you take the role of Robert Barr in the first place?
A great deal cooked up by my manager John Crosby. I wonder if he'll accept this plug in lieu of his next commission?
What are your feelings on Robert Barr's storyline from start to finish?
I had a lot of conflicting feelings about the story, or stories. It seemed like it took forever to get through the takeover of Capwell Enterprises and into the mystery of why Robert was so fixated on Eden. Once we started to explore that, and saw the ramifications that had on Cruz and Eden's marriage, the story became very compelling.
Then we got bogged down in what seemed like weeks of Robert saying "Remember," and Eden saying "I can't." When we finally got through that and on to the discovery of Eden and Robert's past love, Robert's sacrifice for Eden, and the solution to "who killed Raoul," I thought we had told a pretty good story and I was satisfied with its resolution. All three characters had been treated fairly and it seemed only right that although Eden had acknowledged her love for Robert, she would ultimately stay with Cruz.
I was ready to have Robert move on. For awhile it looked like that was going to happen – the affair with Helena in El Diablo and the tentative beginnings of a relationship with Kelly on the train.
Then very suddenly Robert and Eden were thrown back together again. I immediately felt it was a mistake. To make matters worse, we seemed to be caught in the middle of a power struggle. It was my impression that one fraction at the top wanted Robert and Eden to be together, and another wanted Cruz and Eden to be together.
The first show in this chapter of the story was written brilliantly by Patrick Mulcahey. Eden was helping Robert escape, driving him, against Cruz' wishes, to Venice Beach. Eden's conflict was clearly delineated. Despite both Robert and Eden's awareness of the seriousness of Eden's actions, there was a sense of playfulness and humor in Patrick's dialogue, and for the first time other than in flashbacks, the characters were allowed to enjoy each other. The audience could see, or would've been able to see, that there was still a mutual attraction between them.
However, between dress rehearsal and taping that day, Marcy was told she was allowing her character to enjoy Robert too much. From then on, the slant on all our scenes on the run together was that Eden was only with Robert out of obligation. Also, their escapades – picking pockets, hustling tourists, etc. – put both characters in a very unflattering light. It was around this time that I asked to be let out of my contract. I felt that we had broken faith with the audience and had damaged the credibility of the characters.
Finally, the audience was practically asked to forget that anything had ever happened to threaten Cruz and Eden. Eden told Robert he had only been "her last rebellion," and told Cruz and C.C. that she had never loved Robert. The fairy tale reconciliation of Eden and Cruz completed the revisionist history.
The good thing that came out of Eden's final rejection of Robert was that the relationship between Robert and Kelly finally blossomed. At first I resisted the whole thing, because I was told they would only get together because Kelly reminded Robert of Eden. More neuroticism.
Fortunately, the writers began to focus on Kelly as being an individual in her own right, whose love for Robert could heal his heart and make him whole again. After all these months of playing an obsessive love affair that had nowhere to go, it was a pleasure to play a character who was moving towards something healthier. I also enjoyed playing a relationship that developed in real time, from show to show, rather than one that came full blown out of back story. If we hadn't wasted all that time with Robert and Eden's last gasp on the run, the Kelly-Robert storyline could've been filled out more and brought to a less abrupt end. The writers and producers knew all along when I would be leaving the show. (I initially signed to do eight months, take a nine week hiatus, and then do four more months.)
All this is, I'm sure, more than anyone wanted to know.
What are your impressions of Santa Barbara? Co-stars, writing and production as a whole?
The production values on Santa Barbara are excellent. The lighting in particular creates a feel different from any soap I've ever seen. Also, the directors take chances constantly to break out of the accepted ways of seeing things.
I felt the writers on the show had their ups and downs, just as I did as an actor, but when they were on they were great. Patrick Mulcahey has to be singled out. He consistently took incredible risks, not only with dialogue, but with character motivations and actions that went against the expected. His writing for Mason and Julia was especially insightful, not to mention funny as hell.
I can't say enough about the actors on the show. It's an incredibly strong line-up – they're like the '27 Yankees. Up and down the order you've got people capable of carrying the team. The actors I worked most closely with were A Martinez, Marcy Walker and Carrington Garland. I've said before what a pleasure it is to work with people as generous, committed and passionate as A and Marcy. Everyone's known for years how talented they are – they've proved it in daytime, primetime and feature films.
What really amazed me was to see Carrington come into her own. The almost daily growth in her confidence and self-awareness, and her understanding of where she and her character came together, was beautiful to watch. Her courage to reveal herself at times with such simplicity gave Kelly an openness that I just wanted to fall into.
Is there another soap in your future?
You never know.
Is there a possibilty that you would ever return to SB and Robert Barr?
You never know.
What are your plans career-wise at this point – are you working on anything new?
I don't have any concrete plans, but right now I'm doing a play I really enjoy – Jerry Mayer's Aspirin And Elephants at the Santa Monica Playhouse.
There has been such a huge response to your leaving SB, is there anything you would like your fans to know?
I'd like them to know how moved I've been by the letters they've written me, not just since my leaving the show, but all during my time on Santa Barbara. It was a privilege to have people share experiences of loss and grief and renewal in their own lives, and related them to Robert Barr's attempts to struggle with and work through similar experiences.