When one is as handsome as Paul Leyden, it's probable that he suffers from one flaw or two. So stunning is he physically - the actor measures in at 6'3, sports perfectly coiffed spiked hair and balances a lean frame - that it only makes sense that the defect lies in his personality. Upon first meeting the Australian native in 2000 over a meal in downtown Chelsea, it suddenly dawned on this reporter somewhere in between my penne pesto and chocolate cake that the gentleman across the table from me was quite the anomaly. Constant stares from passersby did not register and more important to Leyden was the conversation between this reporter and himself; his wicked sense of humor had the same effect as three Cosmopolitans. In short, Leyden has the physical presence of a Greek god and the personality of a local pub crawler.
Following two previous returns to As The World Turns as Simon Frasier in 2004, it's comforting to know that Leyden is the same "no frills" guy from our dinner nearly six years ago. Well, with one exception …
"I have lost my Australian accent," acknowledges the actor when it is noted that his tongue's tantalizing tilt falls short and blends together cities from "Any Town" U.S.A. "The fact that I had (lost it) made it difficult when I came back (to ATWT) because Simon is Australian. But I had to lose it because while I was out in Los Angeles, I mostly tested for American roles."
Ah, yes, Los Angeles … the city that Leyden originally fled to following his first departure from ATWT. Straight out of the gate, Leyden made it into the big-time landing the series LAX with Heather Locklear (ex-Amanda, Melrose Place) and Blair Underwood (Jonathan, L.A. Law); high hopes surrounded the show given the credible cast and interesting airport backdrop. Sadly, the show lasted only 13 episodes before being pulled from NBC's lineup. Not that Leyden allowed one run of bad luck keep him down; like any other thespian trying to make it big, he continued to hustle and receive positive notes. "I came close on a lot of things, took a lot of meetings, but that's boring," he laughs. "I'm not going to get into how close I was to this or that because the bottom line is I didn't get it."
If things had gone differently, for instance, fans of Leyden could have seen him among the survivors of Oceanic Air Flight 815. "I did pass on the pilot for Lost," he confirms without a hint of regret. "I had a few meetings with the people involved in the show and there was definitely some interest, but I just didn't care for the pilot (at the time) and you have to go with your gut. Truth be told, the script that I saw didn't even have all the characters and the ones that were included had different names than who is now on the show."
And if truth be told, Los Angeles, while beautiful in landscape and perfectly pleasant, didn't hold the allure of New York for Leyden.
"It can be very depressing because it is so one-sided and directed at the business only, he says. "That's all anyone out there wants to talk about."
New York, well, is an entirely different oasis.
"I love New York," Leyden beams. "When my family would come to visit me here (in NYC), they could be here for two weeks and we'd go to the best museums, restaurants, etc. In Los Angeles, I could pack them all up for a day at Universal Theme Park, but then what? They could go to the beaches, but in all honesty California's beaches cannot compare to Australia's."
Not that his time in California was without any high points. It is where the actor met his girlfriend, Estelle, a fellow Australian whom Leyden describes as "the funniest girl you'll ever meet."
With things going so well out in L.A., why did Leyden agree to return to Oakdale?
"I'll do anything for Terri (Colombino, Katie)," says Leyden. "I love her."
"The main reason - at the end of the day - is that I enjoy playing the character of Simon," he says. "If I didn't like the guy and couldn't have fun playing what he does then I definitely wouldn't come back.
"The writers seem willing to write anything for him; Simon is adaptable because he doesn't have really any ties or history or whatever," he continues. "I like Simon's carefree attitude. Simon is very free. He makes a lot of mistakes, but at least he's willing to put himself on the line to make them. He's spontaneous, fun and mischievous but he's definitely got his issues. What's wonderful about Simon is the fact that he is a flawed character. He's laid back. He puts his heart on the line at the same time."
Leyden would also like to see relations between him and his lady love Katie, who happens to know be married to Mike (Mark Collier), resolved before he bids adieu.
"I would like the show to wrap things up between Simon and Katie like adults, which would basically consist of each of them sitting down and saying how happy they are for the other and move on with their lives. I think the fans deserve something like that," he muses, before adding: "But you know how it is on soaps, there has to continually be that longing."
… And new distractions as is the case with Carly (Maura West) and Simon's recent business venture. While nothing has suggested a serious romance for the two, fans would be naïve to rule out such a pairing completely. Leyden, too, recognizes a new lady may be in Simon's future.
"I wouldn't mind seeing Simon and Carly as a couple as long as the writers continue to take it slow," he muses. "I don't want them to be saying I love you within a matter of weeks. In my opinion, that makes the entire relationship hollow."
While Leyden acknowledges that it has been very easy for him to feel back at home in the Brooklyn studio where ATWT tapes, there have been some rough patches, most notably the recent death of Benjamin Hendrickson (Hal).
When interviewing Leyden back in 2002 for the Daytime Emmy nominations in which both he and Hendrickson were nominated in the Supporting Actor Category, he said: "I love Benjamin's work. For my face to appear alongside his… out of any kind of actor in this genre or actors in general, I totally respect him. He's incredible."
Leyden remains a fan of the beloved Emmy-winner.
"I can't really comment as to what was going on in Benji's personal life because I don't know. I didn't really have a personal relationship with him and we rarely had scenes together, but I considered him one of the greatest actors. He was just awesome."
Once Leyden wraps his most recent ATWT stint, he will head home to Australia for a bit and see what happens. These days, he is much more interested in working behind the camera than in front of it which is how Leyden felt from the very beginning.
"I always wanted to be a writer. I sort of stumbled onto acting when I starred in a play in college. For me, acting is a way for me to pay the bills so that I can write," divulges the actor who is currently working to sell a psychological thriller entitled "The Factory," which he describes as a "Seven" meets "Silence of the Lambs."
"I generally come up with ideas in the morning… drink a bunch of coffee… and usually start writing at night until 2 or 3 a.m."
But what about all those nights when Leyden was up for anything any time and anywhere?
"My partying days are mostly over, but that doesn't mean I still can't get out there and hang with the best of them."
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