He Couldn’t Hide His ‘Guiding Light’

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Grant Aleksander, who plays Phillip Spaulding on CBS’s “Guiding Light,” said he has spent most of his 22-year daytime career trying “to stay under the radar.” Too bad for Mr. Aleksander, a strapping, blond, buff bodybuilder type who this year should attract everyone’s attention as a likely nominee for outstanding actor in a daytime drama.
Nominated only twice previously (including last year and as supporting actor in 1998), he has quietly become one of the soap world’s best and most respected actors. Mr. Aleksander has been lauded this year for helping to turn his character from a hunky teen dream into a tough, complex, hard-to-figure-out guy in the throes of mental illness and psychological breakdown. “I think if you stick around long enough,” he said with a laugh, “you’re bound to get recognized … eventually.”
Modesty aside, this uncharted territory has made Mr. Aleksander’s role one of the most interesting on soaps. “Phillip is something of a crash-and-burn character,” Mr. Aleksander said. “He can be all over the place. It gives me a lot to play. He’s not overly heroic. He doesn’t always do the right thing.”
That’s for sure. One minute he is sharing body heat and doing the nasty, in an elevator, with his dad’s wife, the town tart, and the next he is near catatonic in a psych ward, smelling his daughter’s hair, trying to regain a sense memory about who she is.
In soap opera tradition, the daughter hates the aforementioned tart, who is now married to Mr. Aleksander’s Phillip, who at this writing doesn’t yet know that his presumed-dead baby is really alive. When he finds that out, he might really lose it.
Through it all, Mr. Aleksander continues to give as good as he gets from the writers. Emmy voters love that kind of range.
Mr. Aleksander doesn’t choose to analyze where and how he went from beefcake to respected actor. “I just focus on the work,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to see many talented people never get recognized.”
In Mr. Aleksander’s case, a brief stint on “All My Children” in the early 1990s might have had something to do with it. He raised eyebrows there as a bad guy (terrorizing soap sweetie Kelly Ripa, no less) and proved he was more than just another pretty daytime face.
When he returned to “Guiding Light” in 1996, it was with a vengeance. It seemed the writers had discovered something new, for which Mr. Aleksander said he will be eternally grateful in light of his sometimes-repetitive story lines of the past. “I think Phillip has been married to every woman in town and he has fathered half the population of Springfield,” he said.
It’s not easy being a romantic leading man, but Mr. Aleksander said he thinks, and hopes, audiences have been more focused on his acting chops than on his killer bod. “I never really did feel comfortable being eye candy,” he said. “I’m a lot happier not having that pressure on me [to bring ratings]. I like being the old, haggard eye candy now.”