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An arresting conversation with GL's Jordan Clarke (Billy) and Robert Newman (Josh)
By Heather Filemyr

*Oh, brother!  After weeks of tension, sparring siblings Billy and Josh finally hash out their differences on the Dec. 6 episode of Guiding Light, when they're arrested and forced to  spend the night in a country courthouse.  In this off-the-cuff interview, Jordan Clarke (Billy) and Robert Newman (Josh) dish their brotherly love, the woman in the middle and why Newman is so darn slap-happy.

WEEKLY: How do Josh and Billy get arrested?
Billy goes to Josh very graciously and says, "Why don't I come back and take over all the hard things in the company?" Josh says, "No".  They get in a little pissing contest and decide to go back to the lawyer in Oklahoma and get into a little Planes, Trains and Automobiles scene where nothing seems to work.  They end up driving there in a car.
ROBERT NEWMAN:  They pick up a hitchhiker---at Billy's suggestion---who is a cute little 19-year-old thing who ends up robbing them, leaving them without shoes or identification.
CLARKE:  They come across some migrant workers.  Billy asks them, "What's going on?"  And they tell him that they're waiting there to get picked up for work.  While Billy is telling Josh that, because Josh's Spanish isn't that good, we turn around and they're gone and the cops show up.
NEWMAN:  They think we're illegal immigrants.  There's a funny bit where we get to the courtroom with this crazy judge right out of Deliverance.  They don't have enough room in jail so they handcuff us to the bench in the courtroom.  Billy and Josh bond throughout the night.  There's so much unfinished business between the two of them post Reva's cancer and it's a way of settling it.
CLARKE:  I always felt [uncomfortable] about the fact that Billy wasn't telling Josh about Reva because there's no way in my mind that I could not have told my brother.
NEWMAN:  I come from a big family and it's a freaking mess, and you never know who's talking to who and who's not talking to who.  We have scenes like this that basically [turn into] make-up scenes between brothers.
CLARKE:  I don't know if it's hokey or whether it works, but we'll see.
NEWMAN:  We may have a couple of moments of over-the-top.
WEEKLY:  Is Josh only angry at Billy because kept the cancer a secret?  Or is he also mad because Billy fell in love with Reva?
  It's hard to seperate the two.
CLARKE:  It's almost like we've been in bed together!
NEWMAN:  If there's anybody Josh would like to see Reva with, besides himself, it would be Billy.  He would be the best person for her.  But at the same time, when your brother tells you he has a crush on your wife...
WEEKLY:  What's it like working together?
  In the early scenes between Josh, Billy Reva and H.B. there was an extraordinary bond between the four of us that has never gone away.
CLARKE:  It plays in all the scenes.  In a lot of the scenes I did with Kim [Zimmer] with Reva dying there were all these layers from years back.  I happened to catch the show where she's driving away [to her death], and they had a few shots of us way back when.  Oh, my God, it's scary.  I was a few tortillas thinner, that's for sure.
NEWMAN:  It's that history of characters on soap operas that you can't manufacture.  You can't hire someone to play Billy tomorrow and have the scenes work the same way.  The history wouldn't be there, not only between Jordan and Kim but between characters.
CLARKE:  I even told the show when they were going to fire me [in 1994], "You're going to have to hire Robert back, because this [new] guy is never going to be able to play me."  They didn't like that.
NEWMAN:  That was an odd time.  They introduced a new Billy and Josh came back to Springfield.  Geoffrey Scott [ex-Billy] was a fine actor, but I remember telling the-powers-that-be at the time, "If you want to take Billy or Jordan off the canvas for some time that's one thing but there's something about the way that Jordan plays Billy that is about who he is."  This became really apparent in the screen tests they did for Billy.  Everybody came in wearing cowboy boots and a hat and was like (with a thick Texas accent), "I'm Billy Lewis," but none of them were, because they were all caricatures.  I'd say the exact same thing about H.B. Lewis and Larry Gates.  You hire a bunch of actors to play H.B. and they're all going to look like cartoon characters.  Josh is different.  Much more bland (laughs).
WEEKLY:  Do you remember your first impressions?
  I thought he had a lot of cute hair.
NEWMAN:  I don't think it's ever been anything other than positive since the first time we met.  The thing I remember early on is Zimmer's screen test.  I remember the conversations we had about the different actresses.  "They're all good, but this one is the most fun!"  That was the bottom line.
WEEKLY:  Did you know what you were in for with Kim?
(laughs)  No idea.
NEWMAN:  Do you ever?
CLARKE:  They brought in some good people, but it was so obvious Kim was the right person for the part.
WEEKLY:  Besides Reva, what else causes tension for Billy and Josh?
  Josh is a little tough on him with his drinking.  I smack him a lot.  It's never actually written.
CLARKE:  There are [viewers] out there that say, "You owe him three hits."  I knew you hit me once and then I realized you hit me twice more.
NEWMAN:  There's a funny scene on this Wednesday show where I'm sandwiched between him and this huge man and I just started whacking Jordan with whatever I had in my hand.  It just came out of nothing.  He's an easy guy to hit.
WEEKLY:  Do you let him know ahead of time?
No.  It's the same thing with Tommy (Pelphrey, Jonathan).  I slapped Tommy across the face twice on-camera.  Both times he had no concept it was coming.
WEEKLY:  Working out some issues?
Yeah, I think he's taking advantage!
NEWMAN:  I don't know what I'm working out with that.
WEEKLY:  Besides the violence, how would you characterize your relationship?
I don't have a brother so it's great having Robert if I really want someone to tell, "You butthole!".
NEWMAN:  He reminds me of that frequently, that I am a butthole. (laughs).  That will be the quote, "Robert Newman: I am indeed a butthole."
CLARKE:  Doing your own sound bites now?
NEWMAN:  Sometimes it's hard to tell when we're shooting the scenes and when we're not.  It almost looks exactly the same because I smack him off-camera too.  We have this same banter offscreen.  The one story to me that always crystallizes it was the show that we shot about H.B's death between the three of us: Jordan, Kim and myself.  There just was no difference between taping and not taping because we were telling stories and laughing and crying and then we would shoot Billy and Reva and Josh and it would be the same kind of stories.
CLARKE:  I remember thinking it was a real relief for the characters because we needed that.
NEWMAN:  The three of us hadn't had the opportunity to really find closure together with Larry (Gates, ex-H.B.).  He had died maybe six months before they did that show.  I was at the service, but Jordan couldn't make it.  We never had that experience together, but we had it that day.
WEEKLY:  What did you learn from Larry?
I have all kinds of lessons that I go back to from Larry.  He was just never afraid to make...
CLARKE:  ...a complete ass out of himself (both laugh).
WEEKLY:  Billy recently fell off the wagon.  Would you like to see them crank up that story?
They wrote it last year to get Danny Cosgrove (ex-Bill) off the show.  They only wrote two shows and they happened to be really good.  That's why I won the Emmy  ---  for those two shows -- because they don't usually let recurring characters win Emmys.  It's hard to find a good way to deal with alcoholism that's real, because in real time it's like being in jail.  The thing about being in jail is, it's just sh--.  You spend so much time doing nothing.  It's tragic.
NEWMAN:  This genre is the only one where you get 20 years of someone's life.  Often in film there's a beginning, a middle and an end to alcoholism.  In real life, alcoholism doesn't go away.  I don't think Billy's alcoholism is a storyline.  It's a condition of the character and it will permeate every scene Billy does.
CLARKE:  I have a lot of people that write to me who are alcoholics.  They know in my real life I've had problems that are akin to alcoholism and they'll talk to me about it.  A bunch write or go on the Internet to just tell me how they're doing.  I had a friend, a herion addict, and he started the ASAP program in Los Angeles, the Anti-Substance Abuse Program, and then he fell off [the wagon] after six years.  He was barricaded in a hotel doing heroin.  It happens.
NEWMAN:  Josh's version of what we're talking about is Reva.  Reva's not necessarily a storyline.  She permeates everything that he does.  He's a Reva-holic.
WEEKLY:  Who loves her more?
They love her differently.
CLARKE:  That's the way life is, but it's kind of tough when you see an ex with someone and she's happy.
NEWMAN:  And it's your brother.  Or her sister! 

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SOAP OPERA WEEKLY NOV. 28, 2006...applause applause

Outstanding Performer for the week of Oct. 30

     As Guiding Light's Billy watched his love, Reva, slowly slip away, Jordan Clarke delivered a powerful performance that was impossible to let go.
     Clarke screwed his eyes shut tightly as Billy made an impassioned plea in the hospital chapel.  "If you could," he prayed, "let her go easy.  I'd appreciate it. Amen."  But that wasn't all stricken Billy wanted.  He gathered himself, standing firm to ask for one more thing.  "While you're at it," Clarke began tentatively, "do you think you give me a little strength?  Just prop me up." he asked, his voice scratchy with grief.
     Later, in Reva's hospital room, Billy didn't plead for anything but a few more moments with the woman he loves.  As she slept, he put on a one-man show of desperation, speaking quickly and softly, as though fearing that if he took so much as a breath, she would drift away.  Clarke was tender and complimentary as Billy regaled the unconscious Reva with yarns from her glory days.  "You were a desperately beautiful girl," he rasped.
     When Reva awoke, Billy-and Clarke-responded by amping up the show, taking Reva's hand in his to make sure he had her full attention and launching into a John Denver tune, his voice breaking under the strain.
     When Billy could no longer keep up his cheerful act, he finally resigned himself to the fact that Reva was indeed failing.  "I'm going to be strong for you," he vowed.  "I've been here, singing to you...hoping you'll stay her another minute, another hour, another day, just to be here beside me and that's wrong....I'm not going to do it anymore."  He finished with a flourish as Clarke plastered on a big smile.  "I'm going to miss you like holy hell-But I'm going to be okay."
     Billy made it clear he would survive without Reva, but Clarke actually thrived through her travails.

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© 2006 Princeton Magazine / North Jersey Media Group

The life of soap actor/handyman - Jordan Clarke of Hopewell.
By Erin Murphy Sanders
Photos by Ted Axelrod

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