Brian Gaskill is known for his acting, but is one of these creative types who succeeds at everything he does. He writes screenplays, had CDs of his poetry, directs and since the start of the pandemic, has become a prolific painter.
He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of “Rafe,” the sweet romantic angel on the hit Soap Opera from the 90s, “Port Charles” which was a spin off of “General Hospital.” That is where I first noticed him, and I knew I had seen him around before that. In 2010 after emailing him and wondering “how do I know you?” It was discovered that this Hawaiian born actor grew up at the Jersey Shore where I lived for 17 years. I knew I had seen him around-his striking good looks are hard to forget.
Before seeing him on “Port Charles,” I remember him in the Aaron Spelling Prime Time series “Models, Inc.” Other TV appearances included “The Bold and the Beautiful” where he portrayed Oscar Malone from 2003-2004 and then as Dylan Lewis on “Guiding Light.”
Through out the years, I have seen him in several movies, including the critically acclaimed “The Broken Hearts Club”
Whether portraying a sweet romantic angel or a demonic man, his talent shines thru. When I see him on screen as an evil person, I have to remind myself that this is the man I have known for over 10 years-a super creative, talented soul and not a deranged lunatic. The sign of true talent is when you forget who the actor is behind the character, and you lose yourself within that character.
That is Brian Gaskill.
Interview and Photographs by Debra L. Rothenberg
Debra L. Rothenberg: How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to be an actor?
Brian Gaskill: I started doing theater when i was about 13. Honestly, it scared the hell out of me, but i wanted it anyway. Back then i had the opportunity to play THE GREAT ROLES, ya know, like Peter Pan and Linus Van Pelt..ha..but in all seriousness I loved the people that surrounded that whole world. From that day on it was simply my home.
DLR: How old were you when you first performed in front of people?
BG: I think I was 11 in THE TRIAL OF JACK AND THE BEAN STALK…I was the shyster that sold Jack the beans for the cow.
DLR: What is your dream roll, or did you already have it?
BG: The other day I was playing a game with my friends on facebook. I said, ‘What is your dream show? Pitch it to me like this: it’s the love child of BLANK and BLANK crossed with BLANK’…My answer for myself was Parenthood and High Fidelity crossed with Quantum Leap….a cross of heartfelt family comedy drama set in an indie music store where the music literally causes time travel…That I would love…my dream role on stage is any part in Waiting for Godot…and in the movies I really love stuff by Charlie Kaufman but also Stuff like Silver Linings Playbook… slightly edgy characters that don’t have all their shit together yet…leaves room to grow… Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl there’s another type of dream. I guess I dream a lot.
DLR: If you are portraying a character that is nothing like the real you, how do you prepare? How long after does it take you to decompress and what do you do?
BG: I’m not gonna pretend to be able to give advice about people‘s acting like I know exactly what I do all the time. I will say I don’t think there’s a character that exists that we cannot find some connection to. Everybody wants something. You just look at everything like metaphor. We are all human and we are all connected. In some ways it is quite a relief when you are just playing a really evil person that you don’t think you have anything in common with. Then you don’t feel that responsibility like you’re somehow playing yourself, and because of that you let go more maybe… but sometimes I like when you’re playing a character that fills you with the best of all human traits. It feels good because part of that stays with you. You learn some thing. I think you take pieces of every character you play with you… when you feel too close to the character, it’s probably not good for your relationship with the director. Since you’re playing yourself, you pretty much think you know it all…ha ha
DR: Most actors say portraying the villain is more interesting. Do you agree and why?
BG: The main thing here is I don’t really look at characters as if they have white hats and black hats. If I find somebody really evil I like to think about what is good about them. And then when someone is very good I like to think of what his problems are and what is wrong with him and maybe even dark. So I don’t completely agree unless you’re working in an environment where people are not going to allow you to try to make it complex. But if you are in a good environment where creativity is flowing, I think either way it can be interesting
DLR: What have you done if a fan thinks of you as the character you are portraying?
BG: When I was on Port Charles I played an angel. Sometimes it got a little tiring people thinking I actually was an angel. I mean not literally but you know what I mean. At the same time I heard so many great stories from people who said that the character of the angel inspired them to live their life differently. It was a great feeling. So I am grateful. Once I was playing a little jerk on All My Children and people would come up to me on the streets on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and grab my arm and tell me that I should behave better. I mostly just laughed. It’s fun to see. It’s part of the magic.
DLR: Are you always allowed to improvise if you feel you know the character you are portraying better than how the script was written?
BG: Mostly never. I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody. But it happens. If you’re working with somebody like Denzel Washington you better be ready to improvise. That’s what i hear. And that can be super exciting. And frankly. it happened a lot on soap operas. I just shouldn’t probably talk about it out loud or somebody might come after me ha ha.
DLR: You have also directed, both short movies and music videos, including not only directing but shot and editing “Pining Away” by Greta Gaines and “High Desert” by Mars Arizona (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fRml7mnlZA&list=PLC19B089408A18329) How difficult or different was it to transition from actor to director, and how is it when you are in the scene you are directing?
What was it like directing musicians for a music video ?
BG: Everything feels connected when I am creating. I made independent music videos for independent artists and many of them were my friends. They trusted me to bring my voice to their work. I mean my “creative voice“… I got to know them and they let me sort of put my spin on who they really are out into the world. I was very grateful for those relationships. Since I was holding the camera the whole time I almost felt like a character in the scene. It felt second nature in many ways. When I did the Mars Arizona video and I was actually in it… I was still the only person in the crew. It was just me and the camera. It was a whole lot of fun. Like being a kid and making a movie in the backyard. You just do it.
DLR: If you can remake any movie and be the leading man, what movie would it be? If you were cast as the leading man, but felt as if the supporting roll was better suited for you..what do you do?
BG: The main movies that I think should be remade are the ones that need to be remade because maybe they weren’t as good as it could’ve been the first time. Like back in the old days there are so many great movies but they’re also so many movies that only missed the mark because they were made during a time where they really were not allowed to tell more truth than they were telling. That being said I can’t figure out what movie I would want to be a part of remaking… I really think this old Christmas Movie called “It Happened on 5th Avenue” should be remade…not sure what part I would play but I really think that needs to be done. It is very timely and not many people know it.
DLR: Throughout the pandemic, you have started painting and have become a prolific painter. Did you ever paint before or was this something new? Creatively, how did it make you feel?
BG: I drew a lot as a kid but never really painted. I was staying in an art studio in lockdown/quarantine etc with my girlfriend to get away from the city. Her mother is an art teacher and we stayed in her studio…all the materials were there, and I guess I sorta went crazy…painted almost every day for months. It kept me sane in an upside down year…But I never felt more right side up. It reconnected me to my heart and creative desires. I’m very grateful for 2020. I mourn all the people who have died, but also for many it was a huge unexpected and needed pause.
DLR: Would you like to see your paintings in a gallery one day?
BG: Yeah, that would be a dream…but I don’t know much about that world…it has been amazing to just innocently create without thinking about where it’s going.
DLR: You are a father to a 15 year old daughter. What would you say to her if she told you she wants to be an actor?
BG: Not really sure. Mostly I want for her to be kind and to find her most authentic self, whatever that may be…I love her so much, and when you love a child like that you just want them to be happy.
DLR: You were born in Hawaii, grew up at the Jersey Shore, lived in LA and now NYC-is there any area that you feel most at home?
BG: Always most home in the Asbury Park /Ocean Grove corner of the world on the Jersey Shore…but I gotta tell ya I really feel at home in Brooklyn. Other than that my home is on a set or rehearsal hall or stage…and then there’s that dream of living on a cobblestone street in Europe somewhere…
DLR: When you aren’t acting or painting or writing a script, how do you like to spend your time? Describe a perfect day for you.
BG: Lately it’s been cooking breakfast, walking, reading, listening to an audio book…stopping with my dog at a sidewalk cafe and slowly savoring a great coffee or glass of wine. Other than that I wish I could go to live theater which doesn’t exist right now. I dream of bringing my daughter to a big night out on the town in Manhattan.
DLR: Some people don’t know you are also a songwriter, with the most recent being “Morningside Heights” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdjElCnpWrQ&list=PLE1D1FF63814DCD24). How do you approach writing a song as compared to writing a script?
BG: I have been writing poems since iIwas 15 or so…although I did musicals back then, I’m not really a singer. But I have dreams and fantasies of being a rockstar LOL…don’t we all? Maybe it just comes from growing up on the Jersey shore…Sometimes the poems want to be songs and I get my friends to help me make that happen…mostly just for fun
DLR: How do you decide on what becomes a song and what will become your poetry and spoken word such as “Giving Up Time Travel For The Rain” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4czMb47gpY&list=PLRtLEuK2niaMFbiV_083_XO_79kegK1qX)
BG: I don’t decide anything…a few became songs but mostly I wrote them as lyrics to begin with…the emotion decided for itself how it wanted to live, I guess.
DLR: What do you feel comes most natural for you? Acting, painting or writing?
BG: I am on a quest (like we all are) to live and find out why I’m even here. Whatever I do that propels me forward on that quest is where I feel most natural. Could be any of them…sometimes it is none of them. Of all of them though, acting is the only one that has been an actual job. You are kind in including my hobbies in the conversation though. I am grateful for all of it.
DLR: Are you classically trained or have you taken voice lessons? Your voice whenever as a character you are portraying or the spoken word is quite beautiful.
BG: I went to SUNY Purchase acting conservatory…so yeah…I am classically trained…at least that’s what they told me…I don’t feel very classic. But I’m super grateful for those years of my life. I quit in the middle of my junior year because the training and the relationships were so intense, but I thought better of that and thank god they let me back in after winter break. And I graduated a year and a half later.
DLR:What is one thing no one would know about you?
BG: Publicly? Damn l’ve done a lot of interviews over the years…and the truth is I usually say too much, to the point where soap magazine writers would tell me they cut stuff out because maybe I was too honest..ha..I’m not sure there is anything people don’t know about me…besides the fact that, like most artists, I’m probably way better than I have had an opportunity to be. Ha ha…Other than that, if you don’t know then there is a good reason for that…gotta keep a few things for myself, ya know?
For a full list of the music videos Brian Gaskill has directed, check out his youtube station:
Follow Brian on instagram at: