By Linda Marshall-Smith
From Shane to Sheffield to Fish to Henry… DOOL’s Charles Shaughnessy Comes Clean
Catch him in My Fair Lady at Pittsburg CLO
What a delight to speak with Emmy winner, Charles Shaughnessy (ex Shane, DOOL). An English accent has always made my heart flutter. Couple that with rugged good looks and acting talent that ranges from live theatre to drama, comedy, animation voice over, sitcom and daytime, plus a great sense of humor and more than ample time to spare this reporter, and you’ve got one great guy.
Boy, did we dish -- about his recent return to Days of our Lives and how he felt slightly disappointed by the way it turned out. We discussed his new role as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady in Pittsburg and how he was both excited and scared to be singing live theater. He shared his recent experience on Soapnet’s SoapTalk, along with all the fun he has voicing the fish on the Disney Channel’s animated program “Stanley.” And so much more! So sit back and relax. Here’s your chance to get to know Charles Shaughnessy a little better.
Shane’s Return to DOOL in November 2002
“It was nice opportunity to go back and reconnect with friends,” said Shaughnessy. “I had very fond memories of DOOL. (There are) a lot of nice people (connected with the show). (Going back) was a lot of fun.”
Although at first, Shaughnessy felt a bit strange. “It was kind of weird going back and everything looking so much the same,” he said with a smile. He hadn’t been on the set at Days since 1992. But he soon got right back into the swing of things. “After a couple of days, it was like I never left.”
As we talked further, Shaughnessy revealed that the return was, although fun, a bit of a disappointment. “Unfortunately, the storyline didn’t really go anywhere,” he said. “I went back at a time when the show was having some problems, and it was just after I left they had a change of writers and a change of all kinds of things.
“I was only there for ten days, and didn’t really do very much. The story really didn’t quite go anywhere. It was a little confusing for myself and for the fans as to what the point was. I got a sense that there was a story that Shane was going to come and get involved in, and that never really happened. It was a bit bittersweet. It was nice to see everyone, and a little frustrating, it kind of reminded me of the frustrations of daytime. But it was fine. It was a good time to reconnect and say hi.”
Would you go back if they offered you another return?
“I don’t know whether Days would work out. I think that it was pretty apparent from those ten days that there just wasn’t anything for Shane to do in Salem. They had John Black in the ISA now, and there was really nothing else for Shane to do there. I think it would be a little frustrating for all for Shane to go back to Salem. I think it was kind of good in a way to get that confirmed, and that everyone – the fans – can know that another return is not likely to happen.”
“But Soaps being soaps,” I said, “they could always bring you back as Shane’s evil twin, or long lost cousin, with the possibility for whole new story direction!”
“That’s right!” he said with a laugh. “Exactly, you never can tell! Anything’s possible in those shows!”
Speaking of evil twins, or characters with a striking resemblance to other characters, Shaughnessy was on DOOL for a total of eight years. He played Shane Donovan from 1984-1992 and again during that 10-day stint in 2002. But did you know that he played a character called Drew Donovan in 1988?
At Soapdom.com’s messages boards, occasionally fans will post that they’d like to see old characters return to their favorite shows. In the past, DOOL fans have expressed the desire to see Shane in Salem. “The character’s name does come up,” I told Shaughnessy. “And I know that when you did come back, there was a lot of anticipation from fans to see you.”
“There was! It was a decision to go back,” he revealed, meaning that he weighed the pros and cons of a return before returning. “Then there was a lot of anticipation. Then it was all a bit of a letdown for everyone. It left a slightly bad taste for everyone. It was anticipated. I was looking forward to it, and then it really didn’t go anywhere. I know the fans were a little upset at the sort of lack of any real story – or any reason for (Shane being back.) But we move on…”
The Role of Henry Higgins
Which brings us to Shaughnessy’s appearance as Henry Higgins in the Pittsburg Civic Light Opera’s production of My Fair Lady (running July 8-20, 2003 for sixteen performances. See Soapdom’s Seeing Stars for more info.) I asked Shaughnessy how he landed the role.
“It’s funny. I had just gone to NY to audition for Susan Stroman for the LA run of The Producers for the part of Franz Lipkin, the author,” he said. “I’d never done a musical before. I’d never auditioned for a musical before. I’d never had anything to do with singing, so I was pretty terrified at the prospect. My agent said it would be a good idea, and I thought it’s good to try something completely different – a different avenue. An actor should be able to do anything. So, I went to NY and auditioned for them. But I wasn’t right for the role. This character has to be VERY character. But I enjoyed the experience and I’d heard that Susan Stroman said some very nice things about me to the casting director. I heard she said something to the effect of we’ll have to find something for him in the future.”
Shaughnessy returned to LA and said to his wife, “You know what would be perfect right now? A production of My Fair Lady! Henry Higgins. I’m the right kind of character, and he doesn’t really sing, he speaky sings. That would be just great.”
As fate would have it, literally two days later, the phone rang and it was Shaughnessy’s agent on the other end of the line. “Would you by any chance be interested in doing a short run of My Fair Lady?” his agent asked. “You gotta be kidding!” Shaughnessy said with a laugh, and the deal was struck.
Shaughnessy couldn’t wait to perform at the Pittsburg Civic Light Opera (Pittsburg CLO). “It’s at the Benedum Center,” he said. “It’s a 3500 seat theatre that’s been renovated. It’s a beautiful old classic opera house. My Fair Lady is part of their summer season. They’ve been doing Ms. Saigon, Annie, Funny Girl, My Fair Lady and a few others as part of their summer season. I am doing My Fair Lady from July 8-20.”
This interview took place in late June or early July. I wondered how much rehearsal time Shaughnessy would have. “Very short rehearsal. Only eight days,” he said. “I’ve been doing a certain amount from here, learning it and going over some of the music. I’ll arrive with some of it done. And then we will have a very intense eight days of rehearsal.”
“Any other known actors?” I asked. “In this production, there are people you’ll recognize,” he said. “There’s an actor called Lenny Wholpe who is playing Doolittle, who you will recognize from all kinds of guest spots on TV like Law & Order, NYPD Blue. He’s one of those actors who works an awful lot. Glory Crampton is Aliza. She does a lot of Broadway and off-Broadway musicals.”
Now that Shaughnessy is embarking on this musical theatre career, was he nervous about it?
“A bit of both,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting, I’ve always loved musicals. I’ve loved the idea of doing them. There is something very exciting about singing, and I love the kind of energy that a musical has. Yes. It’s going to be nerve wracking and exciting!”
Days of our Lives vs. The Nanny vs. Hollywood Perceptions
With an illustrious career under his belt, including eight years on Days and six on The Nanny, I next asked if doing a sitcom lent a different type of beat to his acting.
“It did and it didn’t. When I’ve done theatre -- my training started out in theatre -- and when you do rep (reparatory theater) you do any number of kinds of things. You’ll be rehearsing King Lear during the day and performing in a French farce comedy at night. You do everything. Acting is acting whether it’s comedy or drama. That’s something that’s a little foreign here in Hollywood. They don’t seem to get that. They seem to think that people are either dramatic actors, or comic actors, or music actors, or commercial actors or film actors. Everyone is categorized. The idea that an actor is an actor, and you put them in any different medium and they do their thing, seems to be hard for them to understand here in Hollywood. So, no, it wasn’t any bit of a strange transition for me to go from Days of our Lives to The Nanny. It was kind of fun to do something different and concentrate on the comedy side of things. Just as it would be nice to go and do more dramatic work again.”
SoapNet’s SoapTalk, From Soap Star to Superstar, and Dennis the Goldfish
On June 30, 2003, Shaughnessy appeared with Lisa Rinna and Ty Treadway as a guest on SoapTalk.
“A couple of things came up one after the other,” Shaughnessy revealed. “Linda Ellerbee was taping a show called from Soap Star to Super Star. And then there was the SoapTalk segment, which was a lot of fun. Seeing Lisa Rinna again. I am one of these distinguished alumni of the soap world,” he said with a smile. “But it’s fun. I enjoy that. I enjoy those people. It’s an enjoyable job. So it’s nice to check back in with it again.”
Shaughnessy went on to explain that his SoapTalk appearance was all in the family. “SOAPnet is all part of Disney. I did the voice of an animated character on the Disney Channel series, Stanley --which actually got me an Emmy last year. I won the Emmy for it. It was kind of exciting, coming out of left field like that to win an Emmy. Of all the things I’ve done on TV, I get it for a cartoon fish!”
Shaughnessy voices Dennis the Goldfish, Stanley’s pet. “It’s all this cross pollination. That was Disney and Soapnet is Disney, so they like to talk about that, and promote that. I’ve also done a number of Disney movies in the meantime, too. They keep running over and over. The distinction between the different media is getting very blurred nowadays. Movies, TV, daytime, reality is basically people bouncing much more freely through the boarders then they used to. It’s a good idea to have a presence as widely as possible.”
He went on to say that the show Stanley runs over and over on the Disney Channel. “As with all the Disney shows, they run them ceaselessly,” he said with a smile. “I love voice work. I’d love to do a lot more. But again, it’s a niche job. A few people do a lot of the work. But it was a lot of fun. Who knows, it’s another string to the bow, and it could end up being another whole area of work.”
Shaughnessy, who was born in London, England was accepted into Cambridge University Law School. While there he joined a comedy troupe. Upon graduation, he enrolled and trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London where he met his wife, actress Susan Fallender.
“She was from Studio City, CA, but training in London for three years,” Shaughnessy shared... “After that I did reparatory theatre work in England and then a couple of TV shows, and then left to come to LA to get married. When I arrived in LA I did some theater work at the Ahmanson and the Mark Taper Forum. About a year after being here I got a week on General Hospital which led to Days of our Lives for eight years, with some movies of the week in between. I left Days and after a year of doing various episodics, TV movies, and a couple of small features, I got The Nanny. (‘Oh, Mr. Sheffield….?’ What is it, Ms. Fine?’) That was that for six years. After that, back to jobbing actor work (which resulted in) -- a few TV movies, a few features, a play, back to Days for a stint, and now, My Fair Lady.”
If another soap opera other than Days courted Shaughnessy, he would not be adverse to a return to daytime.
“I wouldn’t say no out of any kind of principal,” he said. “It would depend on what it was. If it was something that was intriguing and an interesting character, yes. I think daytime is a terrific job, especially when you want to stay in town and you have a family. When you’re young and on your own, it’s fine to be taking off to exotic locations for two months of time. When you have a family, the last thing I want to do is spend nine months of the year away, shooting a series in Toronto. Daytime is very attractive. I would absolutely consider it.”
To his fans from Days of our Lives, Shaughnessy sends this special message:
“Daytime is a fascinating world. An amazing world. I will always treasure those years as Shane Donovan, and the extraordinary support of the fans. Many of whom I still hear from today, on and off. I just hope that they continue to enjoy their soap watching, and that I may have the opportunity at some point in the future to be back in front of their faces on a daytime show!”
Anything is possible -- especially as daytime runs in the Shaughnessy family. Charles is brother to David Shaughnessy, Executive Producer of Young and the Restless.
Charles Shaughnessy, a.j., Kristin Archbold, Pittsburg CLO, Matt Polk.
Photo Credits and Additional Information
SoapTalk photos, At the Microphone voicing Dennis the Fish, and Charles Shaughnessy headshot courtesy Charles Shaughnessy Prod.
For more photos and info visit Charles Shaughnessy’s Official Website
My Fair Lady production photos, Matt Polk © 2003 Pittsburgh CLO. For more photos and info on My Fair Lady visit Pittsburgh CLO
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