The Ties That Bind

By Michael Fairman

Originally published on Advocate.com July 30 2009 11:00 PM ET

After four years on Guiding Light, John Driscoll's lovable dreamer Coop Bradshaw died after a fiery car crash, sending many soap fans for the nearest Kleenex box. The actor became a fan favorite in one of daytime's newest "cougar" story lines when Coop was paired with the much older Beth. While that plot line stirred some controversy among soap opera conservatives, that was nothing compared to John's latest daytime adventure.

In one of the most eagerly awaited soap opera entrances, John landed the key role of Phillip "Chance" Chancellor IV on the number 1 rated soap, The Young and the Restless. Once word spread that Driscoll was coming to the series, the Internet became abuzz with speculation that Chance (who has been serving in Iraq) could be a love interest for Rafe, Y&R 's first gay character. But then things got more interesting with a gay ol' twist. Suddenly, out actor Thom Bierdz returned to the series to reprise the role of Chance's dad, Phillip IV. Bierdz's role this time was a gay version of the eldest of the Chancellor men, setting the stage for Y&R to explore the relationship between a gay father and his son coming to terms with their relationship. On yesterday's episode Phillip spilled the beans to his son about his big secret, thus setting up the story for more drama ahead.

So where does Chance's orientation lie? Well, from all accounts it looks like Chance is headed for a romance with the spunky Chloe, played by Elizabeth Hendrickson. Advocate.com chatted with John Driscoll exclusively about his soap past, present, and future and being part of Genoa City's most famous, now-controversial, family.

Advocate.com:You were so memorable as Coop on GL. The end of his story was so sad. Coop was dying in the hospital and Justin Deas, as his dad (Buzz), delivered an amazing performance too. Buzz had to make the decision to pull Coop off life support.John Driscoll: That was tough to play. I love working with Justin Deas. He is such an amazing actor. Justin kind of helped show me the ropes in learning daytime. That's what they wanted to tell, with the end of my story and knowing it was the end of my contract. As well as my story being the catalyst to bringing back a beloved character, Phillip Spaulding.

Coop was so endearing to the fans. Did you realize the impact you had as the character toward the end of the run? I knew fans really liked him, and the Cooper family is who people love to root for because they are the underdogs. Between the writing and the story lines they gave me, I am just so glad that my character was appreciated and loved as he was. I wanted to give 110% to the fans. When people look back at the history of Guiding Light and all the different characters, I hope my name comes up when they talk about the memorable ones.

How do you feel about the end of Guiding Light ? In the greater scheme of things, everything comes to an end, and nothing is forever. You know what, I am glad I could be a part of it, and it's sad. They had it for so long, and I hope they tell a really good exit story line, and I don't want to cheat. So I don't want to call my friends and find out what's happening.

We were all thrilled you came to Y&R. How did this come about? I had finished Guiding Light and was enjoying my time off. After I finished taping the scenes of the explosion of the car that precipitates Coop's death, I was going to catch a plane to fly overseas to see my family in England. My sister, her husband, and their kids live there, outside the London area. And strangely enough, that is where my character on Y&R was supposed to be living for the past umpteen years of his life.

THOM BIERDZ AND JOHN DRISCOLL X390 LONG (JPI STUDIOS) / advocate.com

But then, for a twist of fate, you may not have been with us today! When the car blew up in Guiding Light, they taped the scenes in reverse order, because of the severe weather Peapack [N.J.] had been having. They could not get everything when they needed to, and thankfully enough, it did happen this way. I was supposed to leave to go overseas on my initial flight on US Airways by flying into Charlotte, N.C., and that flight was the one that went into the Hudson River. So when this whole thing came about and the weather became bad and we could not shoot our scenes, I had to move the date back. I could have been on that flight that crashed into the Hudson River! Someone was looking out for me that day.

Did you have to audition for the role? I put my audition on tape, and it was shown to Y&R. Their first reaction was "No ... good actor, but he is not what we are looking for." But they were gracious enough to let me do it again. This time they said, "That's what we were looking for. Can you come out here?" So I bought a ticket and flew out to L.A. I did the reading and they said, "John, thanks for coming out, and have a safe flight back." That was it, and they did not say anything to me. Meanwhile, I thought, Did I just bomb this audition? I flew back to New York and waited through the whole weekend, and they called Tuesday morning and said, "Congratulations, you got the job."

Did you realize you were a Chancellor and what that meant on Y&R ? No. They did not tell me and did not give me anything. I am finding Y&R is very secretive. They don't want any of their story lines to leak early. They tell really good story lines, and they catch people off-guard all the time. So, literally, I heard "Chancellor" and then I read the script. I did not realize there were Phillip Chancellor III and Phillip Chancellor IV. I look at the material and I go, "Wow, I feel I am way too young to be playing this role." I am looking at the material for the guy who plays my father, and I call them up and I go, "Did I miss something here? Did you guys not cast this role age-appropriate?" They said, "No, no, no. Keep reading. Your name is Chance. You are Phillip IV, but you are going to go by Chance." Then it made sense. They finally spilled that. Then when I got to the set they explained more -- what was happening and whom I was related to. Immediately, I was like, "Wow, that is one hell of a cast of actors I am working with!"

Your debut on Y&R was so highly anticipated. There were online rumors and reports about if your character was going to be gay or straight. Were you aware of this? Yes. I was trying to do some homework before I started, and one of the websites said there might be a budding relationship between Mac, Chloe, and Rafe. And I said, "Rafe? What? That does not sound like a female's name. This character has been gone such a long time they don't know what his affiliation is. Is he gay? Is he straight? What's the deal?" I thought, You know what? If it's going to play that way, that's OK. As an actor, you are always looking for the next challenge. I don't find anything taboo behind it. I have played a gay character before on a short-lived show called The Book of Daniel with Aidan Quinn and Ellen Burstyn on NBC. I actually worked opposite Christian Campbell, formerly of All My Children, where he played Bobby Warner. We had this romance on the show, and if the show had not been canceled, you would have seen the budding relationship between our two characters. It was really funny doing double duty while I was doing Guiding Light. So during the day I was having bedroom sexual scenes with a female, and then at night on set in bed with a man. It was crazy. I needed a couple of drinks! [ Laughs ]

As an actor in this day and age, do you still find a stigma attached to a straight actor taking on a gay role, and that it could ruin your career? It certainly didn't for Sean Penn . If you look back at the classics, you had a lot of gay actors playing straight men, and a lot of times they kept it very secret. You had women swooning over these guys, and they just kept it a secret. But nowadays it's cool, and who cares? If you can pull it off as an actor and make it work, more power to you.

Can we at this point say that Chance is straight? At this point, yes.

JOHN DRISCOLL 3 Y&R X390 long (JPI STUDIOS) / advocate.com

Well, I am questioning it. Well, you can question it all you want. [ Laughs ]

Well, I thought it was interesting that Chloe asked him if he was gay. Then the fact that he told her he never had sex with a girl and was a virgin made me wonder. I thought perhaps that could all be a red herring, because maybe Chance is denying he is gay? So for all purposes right now, he is being portrayed as straight? Just double-checking ... He makes references to a female in some scenes. He says, "I have kissed a lot of girls. I just think I have not found the right one. I am sure she is out there." But honestly, who knows? Down the line they could change their minds about how things are going to go. As of right now they are playing him as if he is not gay.

My thought is, we have Phillip III, who is gay and came out to his family after 20 years in hiding, and now his son is closeted and needs help coming out, and that is how they bond. What do you think of that story? If we are talking drama, that is one hell of a dramatic story line. As long as it is told as a good story, and they did some research on it and did not throw it together, I would not be against it. I just don't think that is where the story line is headed right now, but I am always up for options.

Chloe definitely seems to be where Chance's interest lie. At this point Chloe is the object of his affection, and he is attracted to her. He is very interested in her because she has a very rocky background, but through and through she has just been herself. He respects her, and there is a spark and energy between them.

Chance came back from the Iraq war, and when he returns home he finds his father, who he thought had died, is alive and in Genoa City. What does Chance feel for Phillip at this point? At this point he is not feeling anything. It's still new to him. His dad was not around all his life. He did not know him. He thought Phillip was dead, and now he is back, and I don't know the first thing about him. To Chance, he is just a guy!

On yesterday's episode of Y&R, Chance finally learned the truth -- that his dad is gay. Tell me your thoughts on those scenes. First off, it's a great story. They have not spent enough time with it yet and have not told it fully. Initially, I think it would be a lot harder if there were more emotional history between the two characters. If there were some more emotional strings to pull from, like a "How can you lie to me" sort of thing, but there hasn't been. So you can't play the betrayal just yet. He learns his father is gay, and his mom, Nina, seems to be moving on past that, and she wants me to get to know this guy. So to Chance and his mentality, a person is a person. I am sure Chance dealt with that in the military -- finding out that guys are gay, and that's fine. I think he feels, I don't care that you are gay. That's OK. Just don't hurt my mom. If you are my father, you have to earn my respect and that title. I think what is coming up is a point where there is a common ground, where there is something they are similar on. And from that, their relationship can expand. I think right now they are sizing each other up. Chance does not want to let his father into his heart yet, because he hasn't earned his respect. Phillip doesn't want to push him too hard to where he completely loses his son. So at this point they are at square one.

But Chance had to question him about his marriage to his mom. The backstory is that Phillip knew he was gay all along, even though he married Nina and had a son. He does. Chance questions the relationship between Nina and him. How did he cover it up? Was there anyone there? Did he have any relations with a man during that time period? His father said no. Phillip used alcohol to cover up the pain and to hide everything until he could come to terms with who he was. Then he took off. So no one saw him.

Is Chance disappointed that his dad is gay? He is, but not because he is gay. He respects him for that. What he is disappointed in and thinks is, You weren't my role model growing up. You weren't there for me. So those are the walls Phillip has to break down. Once those are broken down, I think it's going to go back to understanding, "OK. You're gay. So what does that mean for our relationship?"

It's refreshing to see a gay father and son relationship explored on daytime. It's a first again for Y&R. It will be great to eventually see that connection, for the two of them to accept each other on all levels and be able to move past that and help rebuild. They have to find that point where you can look at each other and be able to say, "I love you for being my father. Despite what you have going on in your life or your sexual orientation, I love you for who you are." For Phillip III, he just wants to be accepted and loved by his family for the poor choices he made when he was younger.

How is working with Thom Bierdz (Phillip)? Thom and I shoot the breeze. Thom always wants to know if I am getting acclimated to L.A., and I tell him I am lost all the time. It's been easy to talk with him and to figure out our story. I know the show is putting a lot of emphasis on it, because of how controversial it is and what big expectations they have for the story line. I really enjoy working with him.

How do you feel when people refer to you as "one of the daytime hunks"? Are you OK with that? I am. It's a title and it's a part to play, and if that is what they refer to me as, that is fine. I am not going to lie -- I am a huge Harry Potter buff.

Are you admitting there is a "nerdy" side to you? Oh, God, yes! There is a nerdy side to me. I grew up playing video games. I have a quirky side to me, where I tell stupid humor, make faces, and tell jokes. It's not always so serious where I've got to look a certain way and go to the gym. No. I will polish off an entire Papa John's pizza! I have Papa John's on my speed dial.

Do you have gay friends that you hang out with? If so, do they ever comment on what Y&R is doing with the telling of this story line? I do have gay friends. My mom works for the airlines and works with the flight attendants. A lot of them say, "I just saw your son on Y&R. We think it's great what they are doing." A lot of them commented on my role on The Book of Daniel by saying, "I am so glad he is not afraid to portray this kind of a character. That he can look at a role and not be jaded and feel that if he takes it on that he is going to be typecast." As far as Y&R, they are happy to see the dynamic between father and son. As you said, there are a lot of people for years that had trouble with their family accepting them. My gay friends have told me it was not always easy for them growing up. They said, "We hid it because we did not want to go through the turmoil, both for our parents and for ourselves." To have this reversed on our show and the turmoil through the father's perspective is extremely interesting.

In closing, what can we look forward to from Chance? He will be very open-minded and most likely caught off-guard too.