When “Castle” went looking for a guest star to stir the pot in the show’s latest murder-mystery, they found an expert in Jack Wagner – the handsome star that's been shaking things up on sudsy dramas like “General Hospital,” “Melrose Place” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” for three decades.
Wagner, 53, who plays a golf pro suspected of murdering his wife (Nancy Lee Grahn, another “GH” alum) on the Jan. 7 episode “Significant Others,” reveals how he popped into the hit ABC series for a one-off appearance and how his stint on “Dancing With the Stars” opened new career doors.
Tell me about how you fit into ‘Castle’s’ mystery of the week.
He’s sort of the suspect – it's his ex‑wife that was murdered, so when they do get to him, they're locked into his history with her. And I have a monologue to really capture everything, and I sort of have to get that monologue nailed – the accusation, pretty much telling his side of the story. And then by the time he throws them out of his house, verbally subtly, you get the take this guy's pretty much wrecked inside and probably didn't do it – but maybe.
Was it your soap opera bona fides that made you a good fit these parts? Is there a soap opera homage or pastiche happening in the episode?
Honestly, it comes down to the best actor gets the part – that's it. I really don't think it has anything to do with being on a soap opera or not. Maybe it did because of the television Q-rating or something like that. Probably if I was casting, and it was close, I would probably give it to an actor that maybe is well-known or something like that. But Nancy’s a really good actor, and that's how I look at it. Just because we've been on soap operas – and Nathan Fillion's been on a soap opera – we're all actors, and that's what it all boils down to: who's going to do the job best.
You got a nice little spotlight when you did ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ What's been happening for you career-wise since?
I've had an interesting year. I was on ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ for nine years, and right out of that went right into ‘Dancing with the Stars’ which was so intense – It sort of was a whirlwind, and then to kind of get back in the night time spotlight again.
I just finished a story arc on ‘Hot in Cleveland,’ and I just was in New York doing an episode of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ – Susan Lucci and I did a task. So I've done some things this year that for me were not only fun, but at least I'm getting out of daytime a little bit, which is okay – but I also love to work! So it's really more about working, and I have a couple things on the plate right now I can't really talk about that are kind of cool – you know, just kind of in a place where we'll see where it goes.
It's been a long time for me that I haven't been under contract, like years and years, so I've been very fortunate, to have gone basically from ‘General Hospital’ in the 80s to ‘Melrose Place’ in the 90s and ‘Bold and the Beautiful’ in the 2000s. I'm enjoying my little window here.
You've always had a nice little side gig as a musician. Anything cooking on that front?
I’ll write two or three songs a year, and I'll still do a concert or two at a couple casinos I've played year after year. But I don't chase a record deal anymore. I'm not looking to follow that music career. The business has changed from the 80s when I had my hit [‘All I Need’] and toured. And the whole process of getting a record deal or getting some sort of song out there is just something that's foreign to me. Music's pretty much just a personal thing right now.
What was it about that sport that really gives you a lot of joy?
It's just unpredictable. You can do everything right, and for some reason everything goes wrong. And you can just do everything wrong and for some reason, everything goes right. It's one of those things. I always compare it to a woman or a relationship: you've just got to wake up and go, ‘Huh – I wonder how it's going to be today? Wonder what's going to be on the plate today?’
Bringing it back around to ‘Castle’, give me your best behind-the-scenes story from this particular guest shot. Did you have an especially fun day?
An especially fun day: after five minutes Nathan and I were like ‘Okay, dude – tell me what it was like having a hit record, the whole 80s thing with “General Hospital…”’ ‘Tell me what it was like when you did “Days of your Lives” and you came from Canada and you were totally broke?’ ‘And what happened in L.A. was I was ready to move back to New York, and then the phone rang…’ ‘Wow – so tell me what it was like for “Melrose Place…’” I mean we were like two little kids. It was hilarious.
I hear that about Nathan. He sounds just endlessly interested in everybody's pop culture pathway.
I think all of us actors are. I mean, when we get to a place where we've actually had a window of 10, 15, 20 years under our belt – and it's not just actors, directors, crew members, even yourself – how did you get to where you are now? It's a pretty interesting story. It has when you travel and what has to happen for this to happen. I find it quite fascinating, especially in the entertainment business.