By Elizabeth Rose, Contributing Writer
Newburyport – In the late nineties, Steve Blackwood was hunting acting work in Hollywood when he had several one-day temporary parts on Days of Our Lives, a popular NBC daytime drama. He played a florist and a bank teller.
But Blackwood was determined to find a steady acting job. Years before, as an undergraduate at Oakland University in Detroit he had taken his first acting class and gotten hooked.
“They applauded, and I got hooked, like a drug.”
In 1997, Blackwood was called in again to Days for a three-day role as the Italian henchman, “Bart Beiderbecke”, to archvillain, “Stefano DiMera.” He arrived with a plan.
“In acting, the main thing is to know what your type is. My type was not an Italian henchman. I leveraged what I knew about myself.”
He demonstrated that he had talent and appeal.
“Your talent can be hidden if you don’t play to your strengths, and my strength was comedy. I made him a funny Peter Sellers bumbling type of character, not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”
Bart Beiderbecke added laughter. The audience posted fan mail and the producers listened.
“So, I went from temp to permanent and did 10 years on the show.”
Days of Our Lives is one of the longest running daytime dramas on television now completing its 56th season. Blackwood’s name appeared on 716-episode credits.
In 2007, Blackwood learned from producer Steve Wyman that his character was about to have a final exit.
“Steve came into my dressing room and said, ‘Steve, I’ve got great news. It’s sweeps week coming up (one of four annually recurring weeks when Nielson ratings determine a show’s future on the network), and you are going to be an integral part of it. There’s going to be a knife fight and you’re going to be caught in the middle.”
Wyman confirmed that it meant the end of Bart Beiderbecke..
“Steve said, ‘Yes, isn’t it great? All the magazines will be calling you for interviews.’”
Blackwood recalls that his response was quick and honest.
“I said to him, and I was so proud of myself, ‘No matter where you go, and I don’t think it’s going to be for long with this show, you’ve got to learn people skills because you have zero.’ And he left.”
Blackwood said producers treated actors like cogs in a machine.
“This is the way we are going to do this cog,” he said. “In reality, 90 percent of actors in the Screen Actors Guild are out of work. When you lose a regular job, it’s devastating.”
His final show felt like death.
“My comedy self died. It was like a death in the family,” Blackwood said. “My mother cried when Bart died.”
Steve, his wife, Karen, and their young daughter returned to Blackwood’s hometown in Michigan where he would remake himself. Blackwood described himself as “a mess” as a college student. He was an average student, lacked self-confidence and drank too much.
“I never even auditioned for any plays at the Meadowbrook Theater on the Oakland campus. When I went back, I ended up teaching acting, and did two shows at Meadowbrook. I received a lifetime achievement award from Oakland and a best actor award. I came full circle.”
After four years in Michigan, the Blackwoods moved to New England to fulfill on a marital promise Steve had made to Karen. After settling in Newburyport, Blackwood formed his MASTERCLASS to teach the acting method of personalization to Boston actors. He also founded Blackwood Productions, his own independent film production company. Until the pandemic, he held regular weekly classes, coached actors privately and produced four short films, I Feel, Spice, Meet the Author, and Stuck.
“I teach my actors how to deal with producers and writers, how to step into roles as themselves, how to feel they are enough.”
In terms of Days, Blackwood says it paved the way for his future success.
“I loved doing Days. I loved doing my comedy. It was heaven to do my dream role on a soap opera no less,” Blackwood said.
For more information visit www.steveblackwood.com.