Thirty-five years ago today, Don Diamont was cast as a hunky, Daisy Dukes-wearing groundskeeper who catches the eye of a young and insecure heiress on CBS' The Young and the Restless. Twenty-three later, he would jump to The Bold and the Beautiful to create the character of businessman Bill Spencer Jr., a role he still plays today...when he's actually working, that is. Diamont, like so many other people, is sheltered at home because of the Covid-19 outbreak. So the 57-year-old actor is celebrating his 35th anniversary with CBS at home, where he talked to EW about playing two fan favorites on two very different soaps.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If you were on the B&B set today, would there be a celebratory cake?
DON DIAMONT: Oh, there'd be fireworks, a marching band, a cake! I have no idea. Probably nothing.
So how will you celebrate?
How I spend every day! Just doing our thing at home. That's it. I don't think there's any party planned.
It's gone in the blink of an eye, right?
It really is. If you go over all the events of your life, you realize how much time has gone by.
Can you recall where you left your character's story on The Bold and the Beautiful, before the sheltering at home order went into effect? Is there something hanging in the balance with Bill?
There's always something hanging in the balance! He's always getting in trouble. Yeah. His relationship with Katie [Heather Tom], I would say, is hanging in the balance.
Let's go way back when you first auditioned for The Young and the Restless. Do you remember that?
Yes, I do. I know that it came about because Bill Bell Sr. had seen me on Days of Our Lives, which I was on for only about nine months. I used to say I was fired and voted best newcomer in the same week. There were probably seven or eight guys when I screen tested. And this is back when they actually did screen tests! I remember the makeup guy, Shane, saying, "I know you're going to get this. You're going to get it." But I think he said that to every guy. I did feel confident. [Former Y&R executive producer/current B&B supervising producer] Ed Scott directed my screen test. That's how far we go back. I screen tested with Brenda Dickson [the original Jill Foster]. I was warned that she was quite a character. I was told to just kind of be ready for whatever. She blew smoke in my face during the screen test. She was pretty out there.
What were you told about the role?
I don't recall them telling me that I was going to be a love interest for Traci Abbott, maybe they did. But it was clear pretty quickly that it was going to be the case given that I was shirtless and in Daisy Dukes, doing scenes with Beth Maitland for the duration of the summer. I know those Daisy Dukes sold at an auction back in the day. I think they got a pretty nice amount. I remember autographing them for a fan club event.
Was this a running joke? Would you ever be fully clothed?
I still joke about it. If they could have had me naked, I'm sure I would have been just naked. I was absolutely the new meat on the show at that time. But Bill Bell moved me pretty quickly from that guy with his shirt off to a guy in the shipping department at Jabot Cosmetics. I devised some brilliant plan to make the department more efficient. I moved pretty quickly into a three-piece suit. Honestly, it didn't bother me to start off that way. I wasn't an idiot. You want to build a fan base. If it had just continued, I'm sure I would have been upset. But I had no issue with it at the time. I was 22! I was fit. I had to build the fan base.
And fans liked you, didn't they?
The character became pretty popular, pretty fast. I wasn't a hated character. I think Brad was sincere. He wasn't just after Traci and her money or to be part of the Abbotts. He had genuine affection for her. I got crazy amounts of fan mail, though they liked to keep that stuff [secret]. A little birdie had told me that I was close to the top in regards to fan mail and focus polls. Got a little inside information at the time!
So then why did they get rid of Brad 23 years later?
I guess there was some palace intrigue, but I don't really know. A new head writer was brought in and she just saw fit to get rid of Brad Carlton and Colleen Carlton, his daughter.
And you drowned in a frozen lake.
Yes, the Navy SEAL drowned in a frozen lake while rescuing a kid. Pretty good stuff. When head writer Lynn Latham came in, she created this huge storyline that Brad was really a man named George Kaplan, and his mother had been a Nazi prison camp survivor. She had all this information on this former commandant and the commandant's grandson. It was pretty prophetic, that storyline. Now you have Hunters with Al Pacino on Amazon. So in reality, Brad Carlton was George Kaplan, a Navy SEAL who was more adept at killing than anyone he knew. He was on the run and protecting his grandmother. He was an extremely good swimmer, which was why it was so stupid [that he died drowning]. If anybody was trained to handle that situation, it was him. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me, I can tell you that.
You really weren't out of work for very long.
Thanks to Brad [son of Bill Bell], no. He created a character for me on The Bold and the Beautiful that would be the role of a lifetime. I was just so blessed. I always talk to my kids about this. It's a cliché, but I'm living proof that when one door closes, another door opens. Brad gave me the ball and let me run with it. He is an incredibly collaborative showrunner. I'm also grateful to Peter Bergman and Eric Braeden and Michelle Stafford and Eileen Davidson and Beth Maitland. [When I was first hired,] Brad told me I had a lot of friends on Y&R. They said, "You've got to bring Don onto your show. You need him on your show. He deserves to be there and this shouldn't have happened."
For those who don't watch B&B, is your character, who is a publishing magnate, a good guy or a bad guy?
He is an emotionally challenged guy. He tries to do the right thing. He has been so successful in life that he puts a lot of value and belief in, "I will have to continue to do what got me here and I know what's best." But he also had a very challenging childhood and some of those emotional scars wreak havoc sometimes. His emotional life gets the better of his intellectual capacity.
And what about his wardrobe? Does he get to wear more suits?
No, no. He's not a suit wearer. He's a jeans and button-down shirt guy. He is the guy that would wear the tuxedo jacket and jeans to the White House with an open collar because he doesn't need them.
You've been sheltered at home for over two weeks now. Are there small things you miss about work?
Breaking my TV son's balls! I love my cast mates. I just miss interacting with them on a daily basis. I guess what I definitely miss is just walking into that studio. I've been walking in there for 35 years. I never take that for granted. I am always aware of how lucky I am. It has gone by in the blink of an eye, but there's a whole lot of life that has taken place there over 35 years.
The Bold and the Beautiful