Soap Opera Digest: How did you become involved with the show? I understand you're friends with [Executive Producer] Chris Goutman.
Daniel Hugh Kelly: I am. We go back a ways, and I'm unclear of exactly how it came about, but he was interested in me to play this role and it was an opportunity to go to Branson, Missouri, and I had never been there before. Plus, the fact that it wasn't a long-term commitment kind of appealed to me. It enabled me to get back to New York. I've been away from this area, where I grew up, for many years.
Digest: How was Branson?
Kelly: Very different! I got to see The Righteous Brothers well, Bill Medley and his son, because Bobby Hatfield has passed away and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Both of them were great; I really enjoyed their shows. What really impressed me, particularly with Bill Medley, was that after doing a phenomenal show, he sat out in the lobby in excess of an hour signing autographs for all the people. It's that kind of environment; you don't see that kind of dedication for the fan base a lot. That was very touching. As nice as it is, it's not what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Digest: What was it like shooting on location?
Kelly: I didn't have to do a whole lot, so it was great. I had more time off than I had to work. The young kids who are carrying the show had to work a lot.
Digest: You got to eat a nice lunch.
Kelly: Exactly! I got to yell at my kid and then I went to see The Righteous Brothers, so it worked out all right.
Digest: Was it difficult to get back into the daytime groove?
Kelly: It has. Keep in mind that 30 years ago when I was doing this, they had teleprompters attached to the cameras, and they don't have that anymore.
Digest: Really? On RYAN'S HOPE?
Kelly: Oh yeah. It was one of the reasons I left, because I got pretty good at using them and I didn't know how good that was. Now that I'm older and I really need them, they don't have them.
Digest: What else has changed?
Kelly: It's very, very quick. On the one hand, I really do enjoy working faster. It can get very tedious on a set, so if the crew is working fast and the director is moving it along and people know their lines, I prefer that. Even though I prefer that, this is very fast.
Digest: What do you think of the character?
Kelly: I really like him. I was never in the military, but I've played military guys in THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN and things like that, but I've never really had an opportunity to play a guy like this. So I'm trying to have some fun with him in the brief time that I'm here, trying to make him as nice as I can, but he's apparently pretty mean. I really enjoy the role.
Digest: What role do people recognize you the most for?
Kelly: People don't recognize me for one specific thing; they just feel like they know me. I was at a bar last night watching the Yankee game. It's an old neighborhood haunt where I used to live and there were several people in there who recognized me and as usual they're not sure where I'm from. Sometimes, I think they think they had an affair with me and everyone was drunk or they think I went to high school with them. To be quite honest, I get off on that. I'm very polite about it, but it always comes down to "Where do I know you from?" I'll tell them a show or a movie or something I've done, and they say, "No, that's not it." So you end up repeating a lot of your credits until very often I will say, "We were drunk and it was a long time ago, but I thought you were good and I hope you thought I was [laughs]." And I kind of let it go at that because otherwise it does become insane.
Digest: The most recent thing I recognize you from was a 2005 episode of SUPERNATURAL, which I love.
Kelly: Those two guys [Jensen Ackles, Dean; ex-Eric, DAYS OF OUR LIVES and Jared Padalecki, Sam] are just great, great kids. I was on one of the early episodes of the show. They were still finding their way and the script wasn't great. I remember saying, "You've got some real thoroughbreds here. If you could get them some material, this show's gonna be good."
Digest: You have such an extensive resumé; are there any credits about which you are particularly proud?
Kelly: A number of them. I really enjoyed CITIZEN COHN because I'm distantly related to the character I played on that, Congressman Gallagher. I enjoyed THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN because I'm named after my mom's oldest brother, who was a fighter pilot in the South Pacific during the war. He was flying a plane that crashed and they never found him. So when I got to do TUSKEGEE AIRMEN with the Army Air Corps, that meant a lot to me. The same thing with FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON. My uncle was heavily involved with NASA, so to do that was a real honor, as well.
Digest: That must have been an exciting project to work on.
Kelly: It was so well done, and money was not an issue. They just wanted to get it right, so you were using a lot of the original equipment. When we were doing a lot of the control room stuff, they had the original banks of televisions and desks and even chairs. I was doing one scene there and I was leafing through this binder with all this paperwork. It was original paperwork! It wasn't something like blank paper or from a courthouse somewhere, which is what you usually get from the props department.
Digest: You played Astronaut Eugene Cernan. Did they have a lot of technical advisors?
Kelly: They had a lot of the original astronauts. I had lunch one day with Dave Scott, who commanded Apollo 15. I asked him what it was like going up the gantry next to the Saturn V [moon rocket]. I've seen a lot of shuttle launches, but people say if you'd ever seen a Saturn V, you'd never forget it. There's ice falling off, it's steaming, making a lot of noise, and it's 40 stories tall. And they didn't really know whether it would blow up. He said, "You know? I was looking at the view." I was stunned when he said it, but it was the perfect, perfect answer and so typical of these guys. They were such brave men and so cool. That line was straight out of The Right Stuff.
Digest: In between doing all of these movies and TV shows, you also went to ALL MY CHILDREN as Travis, from 1993-94.
Kelly: I never really left daytime. I agreed to do a few episodes of ALL MY CHILDREN, but then it was turning into a lot. The people who were production assistants on RYAN'S HOPE were running ALL MY CHILDREN at the time. The same thing with ONE LIFE TO LIVE last year; I don't consider myself above and beyond anything. I'd like to meet new people and do different things. I'm not going to say, "I'm too good for this." I've done a lot of regional repertory and I've always believed that the actors in regional theaters around this country and on daytime are extremely underrated. This show is no different. Jake [Silbermann, Noah] and Van [Hansis, Luke] are both really talented; Alexandra [Chando], who plays Maddie, just phenomenal. They're good kids and good actors. This is a well-produced, well-written show. Everyone on it, particularly the actors, have just been extraordinarily outgoing.
Digest: Do you keep in touch with anybody from soaps?
Kelly: I don't. I rarely keep in touch with anybody from any show that I've worked. I did with the guys from PONDEROSA who played my sons. But you never really say good-bye in this business. I was walking up Columbus Avenue a few months ago and who comes down the other way but Ilene Kristen [Roxy, OLTL; ex-Delia, RH]? She looks like she's 25, like the last time I'd seen her! So you always run into them or work with them again.
Digest: What advice would you give a young actor about sustaining a career in this business?
Kelly: I've always believed that any actor who can make a living in this business and my definition of that is that you don't have to do anything else and you can put your kids through school, including college I have the utmost respect for. It's not easy. I would advise young actors not that anyone would ask me but not to stick your nose up. You want to do good work. I used to, when I was younger, get upset when the scripts weren't as good as I hoped they'd be, but I learned on RYAN'S HOPE and relatively speaking, the writing on RYAN'S HOPE was extraordinary that if you focus on making the writing work, you'll become a better and a happier actor.