Christian LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin) Exclusive Interview!
Christine and Christian at ReelWorld (Soaps.com)
While attending Tonya Lee William’s ReelWorld Foundation fundraiser in Toronto recently, Soaps.com was able to sit down with the event’s special guest, Christian Jules LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin) for a very enjoyable chat! Christian remembered our own Christine Fix from the Soap Cruise in 2007, so after some funny cruise stories and much laughter (Christian is a very witty personality and just full of energy), we settled down to talk. Before we even got to ask a question, Christian revealed that he is a huge fan of genealogy, and recently traced his family’s origins in New Orleans!
Soaps.com: Obviously, you are a friend of Tonya Lee’s (ex-Olivia, Y&R), but can you tell us how you came to be involved with this fundraising event, and your thoughts on Tonya Lee’s work with ReelWorld?
Christian: Tonya called me up. Tonya’s been off the show for a while and has been very busy. You know she founded this film festival seven years ago now. I’ve always known Tonya to be a real ‘doer’, someone who puts their money where their mouth is. It’s so impressive what she does up here. She called me and let me know that this fundraiser was happening up here, and I said, “Well, I’m in New Orleans! I’ll just shimmy up there in the snow!” We share the same agent in Los Angeles, so we brush up against each other every now and then, even though she’s way up here!
Soaps.com: Have you ever attended the film festival?
Christian: I’ve never been to the actual film festival. They just sent me the book and I’m stunned at how amazing it is! I produced my own short film too, and did the circuit, so I know what it’s like. Reading the program for the film festival this year, it’s the workshops I like so much because now everything’s digital and it’s opening up from when my film came out – but we won – L.A. Short Film Festival, New York Short Film Festival – it really did well! But it’s exciting to be out there and see this kind of stuff – the big networks don’t get it all! The studios don’t get it all! These venues, like Tonya’s film festival, all of them, are just so exciting to see – all the new ideas! You’ve got to winnow through it – there’s a lot to see, but you know, I’m one of those huge fans of foreign and independent films and it’s amazing to hear how many voices are out there that you really don’t get through the major studios. There are much more now, much more egalitarian, much more eclectic groups coming. There’s still things like the Oscars but on the film festival circuit, you get such a taste, and it’s so exciting you can be an actor, or someone who makes films and there’s such a huge, huge body of work out there, and you know, creativity feeds off creativity. It brings so many people together, these festivals, and that’s the exciting part of it! You know, when somebody can find a voice that relates to them. It’s a great networking thing too, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned, like I said in the workshops, and from the other people who are interested in film. It’s like Disneyland for people in the business!
Soaps.com: Do you have any upcoming projects?
Christian: My upcoming project is a visual arts thing. I’ve been asked to be in a Gallery show in my hometown of New Orleans. I draw.
Soaps.com: And your children’s book?
Christian: Still working on that. I never studied art or writing, this actually comes from being an unemployed actor – you get very creative when you’re unemployed! But I would do gifts for people, and the writing is coming from stories I did, I would do public readings of the stories. My art is now on the Internet, it’s very exciting! We give it to charities and auction it off. I have to thank Charles Reilly, during the Emmy Awards one year, and Julie Harris was responsible too – I did plays with her. These people, who were so instrumental in my acting, were like, “What are you doing? This is good, this art work – get to work!” Because, being in the business, you get creative people who responded to it, which really excited me. You know someone like Charles Reilly or Julie Harris – they’ve got the only few pieces of original art of mine now that I’ve given out. This translates to your hometown – I did the Mardi Gras poster for New Orleans, one year I designed it, so this is from someone who’s like, “Yeah, I doodle nicely!” When you find people who are encouraging to you, and venues for your creativity, well, you’re excited! Someone basically comes up to you and says, “You can do this!” And that’s what this all feels like – where we empower one another to express ourselves.
Soaps.com: I have a four-year old. Is he going to enjoy your book?
Christian: The book, I like to say, is like “Alice in Wonderland” for Cajuns. It’s a magical book. It’s like “Wind in the Willows”. I wanted a complicated text – I didn’t want to talk down to kids. I wanted a beautiful language, like “Wind in the Willows” was for me, which is Old English. It’s called a ‘read-to’ – what an adult will get from it will be different than what children will get. (Christine asks about one of her favorites, Harry Potter) I purposely don’t read Harry Potter because I will steal, and I admit it, I will steal stuff! Thank God I can go see the movie and forget the dialogue!
Soaps.com: You're doing a great job of portraying Michael Baldwin as very stressed out right now!
Christian: Well you know what? I have a brother and mother that do a great job of stressing him (Michael) out! It's really nothing - it's the easiest stuff. I love the character. I've always loved the character. You know, you always look over your shoulder to see if you might get bored - you know thirteen years I'm going on! They fired me for three by the way. They called it 'jail', but I was fired by my own loving show! For three years! Just so we get that straight! But you see people who look a little bored with their characters and you don't want to be that. It comes with the territory, you're doing serial work, and I say this all the time, and I'm the first one that's surprised that it's true - there's not a day that goes by that I go into the studio and I'm not lit up, first off for being paid to do something I love, (and that I've done for free), but that I'm still excited about doing Michael, and I get to work with these people! I mean, I have an amazing show and we are a great group of people, which is not always the rule! So it makes it much easier to work with people you like - work is a pleasure! But I've gotta' tell you - how does that work for thirteen years? And it does, and I think he is still the best-written character on the show! I get the good stuff, I really do! Just from the situation that he's in - he's evil, good, old, married, crazy, psycho, sexual-harasser, and nice guy!
Soaps.com: Are you the type of actor that takes your character's stress home - I suspect that you're not.
Christian: You know it's funny, there are these ladies that came up to me here and they said, "You're nothing like your character!" Which I like, it keeps it interesting. You've got to be careful, because sometimes I get lazy and you become the character. Twenty years, you know, who's going to notice? But be sure you're playing Michael, and not Christian, up there. It's a temptation because you're there for a long time - it's one of the traps.
Soaps.com: What's coming up for Michael?
Christian: I don't know! I've been off for three weeks you've got to remember. I had jury duty, I went to Mardi Gras…
Soaps.com: You were in Judith Chapman's production of "Catonsville 9"weren't you?
Christian: Yes. Amazing. Another person who puts their money where their mouth is - Judith Chapman (Gloria)! She was so excited by the "Catonsville 9", that she wanted to put this production on and I tell you, I'm in love with Vincent Irizarry's (David) work, I never get to work with him on the air. I've known him since we were kids in New York together, I was on As the World Turns and he was LuJack on Guiding Light. But I never get to work with him on The Young and the Restless, it's a big disappointment, but you know, it happens. But to work with him on this, and for me - I grew my beard out - just anything to be different, and I'm playing this priest, this rebel, and I had one of the most beautiful speeches. Judith gave that to me and gave me this wonderful experience and I could not be more grateful to her and these other guys. I mean, Michelle (Stafford, Phyllis) doing a character that's not Phyllis, and all the others - Dan Goddard (Cane) and my brother Greg (Rikkart, Kevin). It was an amazing, amazing experience. It was just a taste of what I want - to get together and put on a play hopefully, in the next few months. It's in the very early stages, but it got me all excited about that again. It makes you go back to the soap and go, "You know what? This is so fun." I've got so many ideas, and you can't get lazy. It's easy to take our job for granted and you've got to prevent that and rediscover another layer of it.
Soaps.com: There were actually relatives of the people involved in the real life events of "Catonsville 9" that attended the play. Were you able to meet them?
Christian: The daughter. Yes, they live in Mexico and their daughter came, Marita, just the sweetest, sweetest girl, and she read a letter from her father before the play. It was just amazing because these people gave everything for what they believed in - they went to prison - and whether you agree with them or not, it's a play about principles and how you translate them into your real life, and how far you have to go if you believe in something. It's an amazing, amazing piece, more for the relevance for the time too. Something any citizen in the world, American, Canadian, can relate to.
Soaps.com: Michael has been doing some shirtless scenes lately! How do you stay in such terrific shape!
Christian: (Laughing) Ha! Not anymore my friends! Michael's going under a tarp for a few months! Let me tell you, if I lived in New Orleans, my hometown - and I cook this food too - I would be 400 pounds and happy as a clam! So, yeah, we're tarping. We're going to tent Michael for a few weeks until I get back in shape! But they're writing it. You should see me sitting there with a bagel in my mouth and wardrobe comes in, "Oh, you're shirtless tomorrow!" It's like, "Pthhhh" (Christian mimics spitting out the bagel) Your eating disorder kicks in right away! Plus, there's Tracy (Bregman, Lauren) and we just look at each other like, "For God's sake! What person does this?!" I've gotta' keep up with her - Tracy's stunning! So that's all I'm trying to do is keep up - I'm going to end up playing her father at one point! (Candace asks if he plays racquetball) Yeah! Except, I'm a violent racquetball player. That whole thing where you try not to hit the person - and I don't try - I just do! Honestly, a lot of the activity is just coming from the energy I have. For my first job they made me get up and run around the entire studio, outside, two times, and then come back for my close-ups, cause I was just jazzed! If I didn't do some kind of physical activity, just the stress alone, I think my head would explode! So a lovely side-effect of that is that I could possibly take a shirt off when they want me to. But, you know, we're selling romance here too, and Lauren and Michael are hot - she makes it hot - she makes me look good!
Soaps.com had a great time speaking with Christian and we look forward to watching him as Michael on Y&R - stressed, shirtless or otherwise! Stay tuned to the Y&Rfor updates on Christian's appearances and more news about his art and his upcoming book!
Y&R News Writer