PGP: Do you remember your audition for the role of Draper?
TC: I remember the audition and I remember who was in the room and I remember walking out and not really thinking one way or the other about it. When I was young, I always had this feeling that I was going to succeed. And if it wasn’t then, it was going to be a little later or somewhere else. So when I did the audition, I just felt like if it doesn’t happen this time, then it will happen later. So the point I’m trying to make is, while I was a little surprised when I got the part, I wasn’t terribly surprised. Because I just knew that sooner or later I would get work. It was my first major part in a soap. I was very young. I was 24. I remember the producer, Mr. Nicholson, sitting there, and I remember the director sitting there, and I remember where it was. On the Upper East Side. I guess you could say I remember a hell of a lot about it!
PGP: Who did the producers initially tell you that this character was?
TC: I will never forget what they said. They said he was “a smiling cobra.” A nice guy who’s ruthless. But you know, once I got on the show and started getting fan mail from people, they wanted me to be a nice guy. Basically, my personality is not ruthless. I’m a nice guy. (I’m not patting myself on the back; sometimes I wish I weren’t). But that came through. And I think what happened was the writers and the producer recognized what they had, so they said, “Let’s forget about the cobra and make him into a nice guy with a wife and kid and go from there.” And that’s what they did.
PGP: Was it difficult getting thrust into the fast pace of a daily soap and having to play a lawyer sprouting legal jargon?
TC: Near the end, after my seventh year – you do 250 different shows a year basically; five days a week, 52 weeks a year – I honestly had no problem with it at all. Your brain, your memory is like a muscle. And if you exercise that muscle, after a while you look at a script and you know who’s writing it, and you know the proclivity they have towards certain kinds of syntax, and you just know what’s coming. It honestly didn’t bother me because I would look up the (legal) terms, see what they meant, talk to a lawyer if I had to and, for some reason, it just didn’t bother me.
PGP: You took a break from the business for a while?
TC: In 1991, my wife died. And I was in such pain that I left the city. I went to Florida where her family was and where we buried her, and I stayed for twelve years. Because I just couldn’t come back to New York, I was in such pain. That’s why I was out of the loop for so many years. I couldn’t bear to be in the city. I started my own business. I sell collectibles, baseball cards, autographs -- now I’m selling autographed first editions. I traveled a lot for the business. And then in 2002, I said, “I miss the city. I think I’m ready to come back.” I sold my house, I moved back, called my agent and picked up my acting career. I had a screen test for All My Children last December, but I think I wasn’t right for the part; they were looking for a killer. I tried to be mean, but I don’t think I was old enough, either. (Ed. note: The audition was probably for the role of Zach’s psycho dad). I’m sixty, but I look younger. I have good genes, I guess. But there aren’t that many parts written on soaps for guys my age. And the ones that are have been on forever. I’m doing basically commercials now, and industrials. The stuff I’ve been doing has been AARP, Viagra, Wal-Mart. I did an Alcoholics Anonymous commercial. I just had a callback for Belvedere Vodka. They’re all pitching themselves to the baby boomers. We’re the biggest group out there. So I’m still working. I can’t afford to retire....
Stay tuned for Part Two of our exclusive interview with Tony Craig, where he’ll take you behind the scenes of Draper’s great escape, and the location shoot that proved to be a real thrill ride. Plus, where are some of his EON co-stars now?