Thinking Van Fans on Mr. Hansis’ sea-going chat: Morgan D. enthuses, “Van is amazing, but we all knew that. But look how much brighter he shines when he is asked INTELLIGENT questions” … Mary says, “It’s always nice to hear an actor be able to really understand his character” … while Tom confirms, “As someone who has met, and talked to, Van at several fan events, I can say that this interview captures his personality beautifully” … and more more. See Comments below.
By Damon L. Jacobs
As the World Turns‘ Van Hansis (Luke Snyder) is definitely one of the more outspoken and risk-taking actors working on daytime today. The pairing of Luke and Noah (Jake Silberman), who are gay, has been one of the most popular soap couples ever. He has taken on the challenge of lending integrity to a role that is controversial, symbolic, and the center of many political debates. During our chat on SoapNet’s “Rock the Soap Cruise,” Hansis talked about finding out what it is like to make a social impact in the world, about Luke’s legacy as a Grimaldi, and the truth behind Luke’s REAL feelings for Brian (his amorous step grandfather, played by Laurence Lau):
D: Luke has been going through some serious stuff these past six months.
V: Yes, definitely. It’s been fun to play.
D: What’s been the best part for you recently?
V: I like that they’re giving Luke more layers than he had before. He’s still a very good guy, but he’s conflicted and has a lot more issues now, a lot of which he has brought on himself. It all started with him trying to steal the election and it’s all built upon that. The character is now at a place where he’s battling with himself to be good and do the right thing, but he doesn’t see the big picture or anything, he just sees what he wants.
D: I think that definitely showed in the election day story. I enjoyed that so much because it was so reality based. Luke was really saying, “Well, the ends justify the means.”
V: Exactly. That’s how Luke has been acting toward everything. He definitely thinks that ends justify the means. He thought that with the election, he thought that with the murder story line. And with Damian coming back, Luke has some very strong feelings. Whether Damian is good or bad I can’t say, but Luke definitely does not trust him at all.
D: Have you ever been in a position where you feel it’s okay to do something unethical as long as the outcome is positive?
V: I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. But … I do think … okay, Bill Clinton, was unethical in the Lewinsky scandal. Do I think he was a good president? Yeah, I think he was a great president and I don’t think that the [scandal] matters. I do think you should try to be ethical at all times but if it is for the greater good of something and you are a little unethical, I don’t think that’s terrible.
D: It seems such good timing that Luke’s election story was airing at the same time the Proposition 8 issue was playing out. There was so much anger and frustration in the air that Luke seemed to be channeling …
V: Yeah, the day Luke stole the election was on election day. So there’s a lot of uneasiness in the world, a lot of turmoil. I do think Luke is feeling that.
D: Do you think Luke would be dealing with these ethical dilemmas if he was straight?
V: I think anyone who is in a minority of any sort — there is a separate set of issues that people have to work through. With the election, and with the YouTube video that was put up of him, that was because he is gay, and Kevin’s campaign manager was throwing a lot of homophobic remarks out there. That would not have happened if Luke was straight.
D: And after all that, Luke got totally blind-sided by Brian.
V: Yes, after all that, his step grandfather comes along and wants some nookie.
D: What was that like for you to first get those scripts? Did you know what was going to happen?
V: We knew what Brian’s storyline was going to be when they cast him. I didn’t know how far it was going to go but I knew it was there. I thought it was a really interesting story. It was one of my favorite stories to play actually because I like playing drunk, that’s always fun. And I thought Laurence Lau really had a great handle on that character. You really felt for Brian.
D: Why did Luke turn to drinking?
V: I don’t think Luke is an alcoholic per se, but I think that Luke just wanted a release, and he found it in a bottle. And he didn’t want to confront his own issues, and how unethical he has been recently. It resulted in him drinking so he could forget it. That happens a lot to people. They turn to their vice when things get hard.
D: Even though Luke is legally an adult, it felt like Brian’s approach toward him was abusive and exploitive.
V: Really, you thought so?
D: The way Brian kissed Luke and pressured him to keep it a secret, that seemed to take a toll on Luke.
V: Yeah, that definitely took a toll on Luke. I mean, getting kicked out of school, having Noah be the one who told the dean, Brian, his grandmother’s cancer returning, lots was happening. And yes, I think to an extent Luke was exploited by Brian. But Luke could have stood up for himself, and he chose not to.
D: Why did he choose not to?
V: Because he was at such a place where he had already done so many bad things that he didn’t feel connected to his family at the time. He saw how happy his grandmother was with Brian and he didn’t want to ruin that for her. He had ruined a lot of other stuff and he at least wanted to give her the semblance of happiness.
D: Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had to keep a secret for a good reason?
V: Uh, when I was in high school I did some bad stuff and didn’t tell my parents. They found out anyways. But, not really.
D: Was Luke ever hot for Brian? Was he tempted?
V: Yes, he was. And that wasn’t necessarily in the script, but I thought it would be more interesting to play it that way. Luke loves Noah and they’re meant to be and everything, but at that point Luke was very upset with Noah. And especially on New Year’s Eve when he kissed Brian, he just wanted to feel wanted.
D: So in a way Brian was giving Luke something he needed?
V: Yes. And in the end I think Luke and Brian came to an understanding. Luke never thought Brian was a terrible person, even after everything that happened between the two of them. There were some great scenes between Brian and Luke where they had a conversation and you got to see their different points of view. I do think Luke cares about Brian as a person. I thought it was really cool that they didn’t make Brian into a villain, they made him a sympathetic character who is just very very messed up.
D: What would you like to see happen to Luke now?
V: I’m really glad Damian is coming back. We’ve been taping a lot with him lately. I’m excited to see Damian and Luke’s relationship and where it goes. Damian is the biggest question mark in Luke’s life right now. I have friends whose fathers have left the families when they were kids and it really impacts your entire life. As much as Luke doesn’t like Damian, his need for Damian’s acceptance is huge.
D: How so?
V: Because that’s his father. Holden is his father, too. But if one of your parents leaves or betrays you or something like that, there’s a huge hole that you want to try to fix. Also Luke is a Grimaldi, and that’s being played into a lot. There is a lot of Damian in Luke. This is something Luke wants to know about. He can’t know fully who he is unless he knows his birth father.
D: Damian had a tendency to be very controlling, and he also felt like the ends justify the means.
V: Yes, and Luke has that, too. He is incredibly controlling, incredibly narrow minded.
D: You think Luke is narrow minded? How so?
V: Because he won’t see the big picture. He only sees what he wants. What Luke thinks is right he thinks is right for everybody. And I find that very interesting.
D: What would you say to someone reading this column who might be a little frustrated with the pacing of the show right now?
V: What I can do on this show is my job. I can’t control how fast the show goes, how slow the show goes. I would say that everyone who works on the show is trying their best to give a good show and do the best show they can do. From the actors, the producers, the crew, everybody. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes people hate whatever story line you’re in, sometimes they love it. So my advice is just stick around, because if you don’t like what’s happening now, chances are in a couple of months you will.
D: Do you feel you have helped people in your role as Luke?
V: Yes I do, and I’m really proud of that. Any time you can do something as an actor that has an impact beyond just entertainment is a great thing. I get emails and letters all the time from people who it’s really helped. It might sound silly that being on a soap opera can help people, but you know, it really does.
D: I’ve always thought that soap operas can do even more to help because they are in your living rooms every day for so many years at a time.
V: Yeah, it’s great. As an actor there are times you’re shilling out Chex Mix or diapers or grocery store chains. So when you get a chance to do something that has social impact, especially in a time when that social impact is very needed, it’s always a good thing.
D: I certainly have found Luke and Noah’s story to be refreshing, I wish they had had a story like this when I was growing up, it would have helped me a lot.
V: We get lots of mail about that. We get people who say, “I wish this was here when I was a kid.” I’m sure there are kids watching it now that are glad it is here, so in 20 years they won’t have to write that kind of letter.
D: What advice might you give to a young person reading this who is struggling with their own sexuality?
V: I would say that you have to be true to yourself. You live your life once. You need to live it the way you feel it should be lived. And I don’t think a religion can tell you how to live your life, I don’t think other people can tell you how to live your life. To thine own self be true. It’s true, you’ve got to be yourself. If you’re in a place where you can’t stand it, go somewhere else.
D: Looking back five years ago, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently?
V: I would take college more seriously. Especially at the time, my senior year, I was like, “Get me out of here, I’m done!” I would make myself pay more attention in class.
D: When you started on As the World Turns, were you open to paying attention and learning?
V: Oh, yeah. When I first came on the show I was terrified. It was my first job. But on a soap you have to learn very quickly, so the learning curve is so steep. It’s a sink or swim situation.
D: What have you learned from Luke?
V: (pause). I think I’ve learned to let things go, because he can’t. He’s obsessive. He’ll obsess about something until everyone is so annoyed with him, and he’s annoyed with himself, but he keeps obsessing about whatever the issue is. I think it’s so much easier if you just let things go and go with the flow.
Damon L. Jacobs is a family and relationship therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve. He blogs regularly at www.shouldless.com.