Prison bars had become DAYS norm for James Read, who spent the final years of his run as Clyde Weston locked in the slammer. So learning that his character was finally coming to life was a welcome break for the actor.
“I’m really glad I’m not wearing orange anymore,” Read says with a chuckle. “While Clyde was in prison, most of my scenes had been with Rob [Scott Wilson, Ben] who plays my son. I love working with him, but it’s been fun reconnecting with the rest of the cast. They put Clyde in a lot of situations with characters he hasn’t seen in a long time or, in some cases, never before. It was really fun.
Being a new employee at the Brady pub has put Clyde in the orbit of a number of town devotees, including his ex-love, Kate, who lives upstairs with Roman. “It adds a bit of spice to the stew,” Read points out. “It’s a great touchstone for Clyde, and it gives the audience a chance to wonder what might be going on between them.”
During this time, Clyde met and began dating newly single Nancy. “To be honest, I had never seen or met Patrika [Darbo, Nancy] for all the years I’ve been on the show,” Read says. “So for me, that was a whole new character and completely out of left field. I had no idea where that was going or what the level of sincerity Clyde was. That was and continues to be a fun exploration. Like got the chance to share the screen with Darbo. “She’s just a barrel of laughs,” the actor enthuses. “She keeps me on my toes, and I love trying to make her laugh. I think the intent of the story is to show everyone that she definitely has legs.
And there’s the potential for a romantic comedy on the way. “I would say there’s an element of that, because Patrika has such a natural gift as a comedic actress,” Read notes. “It takes another turn. There is a kind of romantic vertigo to [their relationship] which Clyde plays. You really see that element there.
This is actually nothing new for Read, whose long career has encompassed everything. “I’ve done a fair number of sitcoms and lighter parts over the years,” he shares. “I know audiences expect Clyde to be a good-for-nothing, one of the biggest. He’s almost universally hated, except by Ben. Fortunately, the writers see more of the character than that. The relationship with Nancy is a way for them to explore that, I’m glad they gave me that opportunity.
Read, who joined DAYS in 2014, admits it’s hard to believe he’s still on the show. “I don’t think anyone thought Clyde would be long for Salem,” he admits, initially envisioning “a six-month thing. I was happy with that because I’d never done a day before, and I don’t Wasn’t sure I’d like it. It was a way to get my feet wet and decide whether I liked it or not. It worked really well.
Before diving into the day, Read’s resume featured an impressive array of credits, dating back to his role as Murphy Michaels in the 1982 hit REMINGTON STEELE. He landed the gig less than a year after moving to Los Angeles . “It just confirmed for me what I was hoping to find, that I had a shot at an acting career,” Read said. “It was my first time making decent money and my first time in front of the camera. And I learned so many things. I felt like I could probably advance my career better by leaving the show. and looking for lead roles in something, and that’s what I did. Those roles started coming in soon after I left. So it was a good move.”
Read’s next big project came when he was cast as George Hazard in the 1985 miniseries NORTH AND SOUTH, a project he realized was destined for greatness from the start. “It was produced by David Wolper, and at the time he was the king of the miniseries,” Read says. “He had already produced ROOTS, THE THORN BIRDS and half a dozen others. You knew he was going to do a lot of stunts with big stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Hal Holbrook, and it was going to be a big project.
This proved to be a turning point in Read’s life, both professionally and personally. It was on the set of NORTH AND SOUTH that he met his future wife, Wendy Kilbourne, who played his lover, Constance. The couple actually got married on screen before getting married in real life. Read admits it was love at first sight “for one of us”. But as to which, “I’m not saying,” he replies, laughing. “The other was just as smitten, but a bit shy. It took a little time.
“If I remember correctly, three or four marriages came out of the NORTH AND SOUTH, including Genie Francis [Laura, GH] and Jonathan Frakes,” Read continues. Lesley-Anne Down [ex-Jackie, B&B et al] met her husband [Don E. FauntLeRoy], who was a cameraman on the show. The biggest miracle is that three of those marriages are still intact. On-set romances don’t have a very good trail story. They aren’t often there for the long haul, but in this case they all worked.
Read’s career has flourished since, spanning more than four decades and featuring many memorable roles, series and films. Among the projects he remembers most fondly is the movie Eight Men Out. “It comes out pretty strongly,” he says of the true story of the 1919 Chicago White Sox that kicked off the World Series. “That movie had a lot of integrity. It was a real bonding experience and had a fabulous cast – John Cusack, Charlie Sheen, Christopher Lloyd. It’s a very American story and a story that a lot of people have told me at over the years and what they think is the best baseball movie ever made.
He also had a starring role in the classic Beaches. “Heavy,” he recalls. “They were all A-listers – Bette Midler, who was at the height of her career at the time, and Barbara Hershey. John Heard is one of the actors I knew very young, when I saw him on Broadway. He was kind of a role model. It was great to be among such a noble crowd. And [director] Garry Marshall was just a hoot to work for.
He also added a mix of primetime guest spots and regular roles in series (AMERICAN DREAMS, CHARMED, WILDFIRE) and movies (Legally Blonde, Legally Blonde 2: Red, White And Blonde) to his list of credits. “Most actors will continue to answer the phone every time it rings,” Read explains. “I’m not at the most active point of my career. The luxury I have is that I can work when I want to work and do the jobs I want to do. I’m really lucky to be in this position. I did a really fun guest star on a show called THE ORVILLE, which is kind of take off from Seth MacFarlane’s STAR TREK. I think my episode is the first of the new season of shows on Hulu and will air in the next few months. It was fun. They called me and offered me the job. This is my golden rule. If I’m in town and available and I like the job, I’ll work.
Still, Read seems just as content to relax and unwind at his California coastal home with his wife Wendy. “I’m a pretty boring guy between biking, playing guitar, playing Wordle and spending a bit of time in the kitchen,” he shrugs when asked to describe a typical day off. “I try to follow my fair share of cooking and do all the grilling. We like to entertain our friends, so we spend a lot of time doing that.
The couple are planning trips in the near future. “My daughter lives in Seattle,” Read notes. “And my son just graduated from medical school. He’s going to be starting residency and moving to Seattle as well. So we’re going to be spending a lot of time in the Northwest.
The draw of Jackson’s granddaughter Read and his wife’s first grandchild is an even bigger decoy. “It’s a real joy,” Read thought when he became a grandparent. “It’s something you always hear. After a while, you’re like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’ Then it happens to you and you’re like, “You’re absolutely right. It’s the greatest thing in the world. It takes you right back to those golden times as a young parent. You remember how special it really is to be with children as they grow up.
And on his future at Salem, Read said: “The progression I’ve seen since starting DAYS has been perfect. I come and go,” adding that if he was doing a project exclusively, “I would look over the fence on the other side.
If he ever hangs up his shoes as an actor, James Read could hang up his shingle as a psychologist. He holds a master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University. “I’ve always been curious about it,” Read says. “When I look back when I was in high school, I just became aware of the whole field of psychology, and it really interested me. In many ways, it’s very close to acting. It all depends on the way people behave and why they behave that way. You’re really kind of in the same world. Read decided to pursue it by becoming a parent. “It was a period right after the birth of our first child “, he notes. “I just became really interested in family dynamics and how to properly raise children. I thought it would be beneficial for me as a father to know some more. I also thought that I might like [pursue psychology] professionally at some point in the future. Although I finally decided not to, I’m really happy to have this education.
just the facts
Born: July 31
Just: Buffalo, NY, but grew up in Schenectady, NY
Family guy: Read married actress Wendy Kilbourne in 1988; they have two children: a son, Jackson, and a daughter, Sydney.
Talk to talk: Read Clyde’s accent modeled after the band’s Levon Helm. “He was from the Ozarks himself and one of my favorite musicians. He was a drummer who passed away today. There’s lots of footage on YouTube of interviews he’s given over the years .
Easy Rider: When he’s not working, Read is “a great cyclist. For 20 years, I have been cycling. I recently returned from Portugal, where I was on a bike trip. I have also done bike tours in Spain and all over the United States. This is my great favorite activity.
Guitarist : “I started playing guitar a few years ago, just before Covid hit. It’s a rare day when I don’t stop and pick up and play for at least 15 minutes or so I wish I had done it years earlier.
It’s showtime: “I tend to watch on repeat. I really enjoy HBO’s limited series on the Los Angeles Lakers [WINNING TIME: THE RISE OF THE LAKERS DYNASTY]. It’s about that Magic Johnson/Jerry Buss era, when the Lakers were basketball’s transformation team.
Games enabled: “I am a voracious and habitual daily reader of The New York Times online and an addicted Wordle reader. I also do crosswords and spelling. I go to them at idle times throughout the day.