Corbin Bernsen Interview: On His Life and Famous Mother, 'The Young and the Restless' Star Jeanne Cooper
Film and television actor Corbin Bernsen (who starred as Arnie Becker on the critically acclaimed series L.A. Law as well as the Major League franchise and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang among countless others) currently stars opposite James Roday and Dule Hill in the role of Henry Spencer in the USA Network’s hit series Psych that airs on the USA Network.
In addition to starring in his production company’s (Team Cherokee Productions) latest venture, Rust, Bernsen also wrote and directed the feature film concerning redemption. Rust was released on DVD from Sony on October 5, 2010.
"Not only women enjoy soaps nowadays, but men also. Believe me, I’ve met truckers, Army people, FBI agents, police officers, and lumberjacks who love Mrs. Chancellor. They’re just not home at 12:30 in the afternoon."
Most recently, Bernsen also starred and directed the soapbox derby film 25 Hill for his production company, which features Nathan Gamble, Meg Foster, Michael Tucker, and Ralph Waite.
No stranger to television, Bernsen’s credits include Ryan’s Hope, The Waltons, Mickey’s 60th Birthday (TV movie), Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beyond Suspicion (TV movie), In the Heat of the Night, Touched by an Angel, Tidal Wave: No Escape (TV movie), 7th Heaven, Twice in a Lifetime, The West Wing, Gentle Ben, Just Shoot Me, Third Watch, NYPD Blue, General Hospital (John Durant), Boston Legal, and The Young and the Restless (Father Todd Williams).
The versatile actor also starred as Roger Dorn in Major League (and subsequent sequels), as well as The Dentist and The Dentist 2, and Shattered, among many other features.
Bernsen also has one of the largest snow globe collections in the world in excess of over 7,000, which he keeps displayed at his production company.
The fifty-six year old actor/writer/producer/director is married to British actress Amanda Pays and the couple has four sons. His real-life mother is actress Jeanne Cooper who has portrayed Katherine Chancellor for 37 years on the CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restless.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Corbin, you are a busy guy!
Corbin Bernsen: Yeah, real busy actually, making movies, selling movies, writing movies, the whole thing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you finished filming Season 5 of Psych?
Corbin Bernsen: We’re done filming that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is there a release date yet for the film 25 Hill?
Corbin Bernsen: No, we’re still editing that one.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How did you get interested in doing a soapbox derby film?
Corbin Bernsen: I read an article in USA Today about the soapbox derby and saw that they were falling apart. I thought it was very important to sort of help save it. I got to know them a little bit and thought, “Wow, it’s a shame. We can’t lose the soapbox derby.” The idea really came from that article.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Ralph Waite stars in the movie. I think he’s a talented but underrated actor and he’s never won an Emmy, although he was excellent on The Waltons. What do you think of him as an actor?
Corbin Bernsen: I think he’s a wonderful actor. We were so thrilled that he agreed to come and be in our film. It was a fantastic thing. Ralph is just a tremendous actor. You know, I really haven’t gotten awards either. I’m not saying I’m tremendous, but it’s not about awards. I think for those who love to act it’s always about the work and never really about awards. But, Ralph has had a wonderful career.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is your independent production company, Team Cherokee, basically trying to release only faith-based films?
Corbin Bernsen: No, not only, but that is where my heart is right now and it is the majority of what we’re doing. We have other genre movies, but you won’t find anything too terribly graphic outside of the faith-based thing. But, we do have some sports movies and things like that that aren’t directly faith-based.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): The Christian film Rust reflects your personal rediscovery of God.
Corbin Bernsen: My dad’s passing sort of got me back to my faith. That’s where we were in that film.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Rust is basically a film about bringing and entire town together
Corbin Bernsen: Correct, bringing a town back together. That's the subject of the movie. It's about the faith of a community.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Are you a born-again Christian?
Corbin Bernsen: No, no, I don’t use those terms. I don’t use the term Christian or born-again or anything like that. I’m a man of faith in God. I believe in Jesus Christ, but I believe that all of that is kind of like … I’m not a label guy, certainly not a born-again Christian. I think that’s just a term that’s overused and sounds like “republican.” It sounds bad. It really isn’t, but it’s just a bad term. I’m just a man of faith.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You are quite convincing portraying ministers in films and television.
Corbin Bernsen: Well, I believe in it. I believe in what I’m doing there. I believe there’s a larger message than just Bible thumping over the head kind of thing. I’m just trying to bring people back to their faith, if you will, and let them sort of go from there and make their own sort of personal connections with God and Christ.
I’m not their shepherd. I simply try to lead by some example of how faith plays into one’s life and that the relationship with God is probably a valuable thing that people can benefit from. But, I’m certainly not somebody to stand over them and preach.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I did a feature interview with your mom (Jeanne Cooper, The Young and the Restless) a couple of months ago. I can’t believe she is 82 years old!
Corbin Bernsen: I know. She’s a wonderful lady.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I read that you were going to try to get her on a computer, but she does have a Facebook page.
Corbin Bernsen: She has someone doing it. She’s not sitting there typing. You know, she’s not sitting there daily doing her own things. I think she has people doing that stuff for her, but she’s certainly adding her voice to it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will Father Todd Williams be returning to The Young and the Restless anytime soon?
Corbin Bernsen: They haven’t said anything to me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You had some very emotional scenes these past few months with the whole “Patty” storyline.
Corbin Bernsen: Yes, and I’m always open to return and they know that. I’m available, but it’s up to them. I love to be there. But, that’s one where I don’t push it and just let them see where it plays.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think that soaps have a future, Corbin?
Corbin Bernsen: I do. But, I think the Internet is the future for soap operas. I think that’s the place where they’ll land. I’m not sure they can be supported in daytime television for years and years. They don’t generate enough revenue and the audience is at work.
Soap operas were created for women who were housewives in the 50s and 60s and to sell soap and vacuums. That’s not the landscape anymore. I think the way of storytelling is still valid. I think people love the idea of soap opera serial storytelling. I just think it’s going to be in shorter spurts and be on the Internet.
Not only women enjoy soaps nowadays, but men also. Believe me, I’ve met truckers, Army people, FBI agents, police officers, and lumberjacks who love Mrs. Chancellor. They’re just not home at 12:30 in the afternoon.
Yes, you can TIVO it, but that’s not the real value. I think if you’re home in the afternoon the networks want you to see it in the afternoon. If you TIVO, that is suggesting you’re skipping commercials. So I think the future is really going to be in something mobile that you can see wherever you are and whenever you want to see it. I think that’s going to be the value.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Well, actually all television will be on the Internet in the near future. You can watch basically anything you want online now.
Corbin Bernsen: Yep, absolutely.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You grew up in a show business household. Did that just seem like a normal childhood to you?
Corbin Bernsen: Yep, that’s what I tell people it was. It was just rather normal. It was good because it made me appreciate the business. I mean, I don’t look at it with “googly” eyes or have any great expectations. It’s a wonderful profession, but that’s really what it is and how I treat it. That really comes from my mom.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): What kind of advice did she give you about the business?
Corbin Bernsen: Always love the work. Make it about the work. Don’t turn your nose up at anybody at any level. Love what you do. Love this job and don’t make it about fame and fortune.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you remember anything about your “appearance” in the Elvis Presley movie Clambake in 1967?
Corbin Bernsen: My godfather knew Elvis and worked on those movies so I believe that’s why I was there on the set. But, I do not remember anything about the experience.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Corbin, your first big break came with the daytime drama Ryan’s Hope in 1984?
Corbin Bernsen: Right … well, actually more for me, the bigger break was L.A. Law. Ryan’s Hope was a nice stepping-stone to that. I had a small part in the soap, but actually L.A. Law changed my life.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): L.A. Law happened shortly after Ryan’s Hope, correct?
Corbin Bernsen: It was about a year and a half later.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have any feeling at the time you auditioned that Arnie Becker (L.A. Law) would be the role of a lifetime?
Corbin Bernsen: I knew it was big. You could tell from the script and of course, Steven Bochco was the executive producer. I knew we were on to something good even though everybody was saying, “Be careful. Don’t wish too much!” But, I knew we had something good there.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You played Dr. Alan Feinstone in the horror film The Dentist. Do you have fans still come up to you and talk about that film?
Corbin Bernsen: Yeah (laughs). It’s a funny thing but people do love The Dentist. People will say to me, “Take a look at my teeth.”
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You have a collection of about 7,000 snow globes?
Corbin Bernsen: That’s correct, I do. It’s a little thing that I sort of dig and have over time collected. It has turned into quite a collection. I keep them in a display museum.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you have a favorite one?
Corbin Bernsen: No, not really. Different ones at different times mean stuff. I will pick one up and remember that certain trip when I bought it. I wish I had a favorite. Many people ask that, but I don’t.
I have a favorite gal and that’s my wife. I have a favorite family and that’s my family. I have a favorite mom, but snow globes can drift (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about your upcoming film Barlowe Man.
Corbin Bernsen: Barlowe Man is a film I’m getting ready to start to shoot in March. It’s a story about a young boy who actually has to come to terms with his belief systems, as he is becoming a man, from Santa Claus to God. He has to separate for himself what he has determined to be fact and fiction. It’s a story about a coming of age. That’s really it in a nutshell.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Corbin, you currently star on Psych and are constantly writing and producing films. Do you ever take time for yourself?
Corbin Bernsen: I do. I just came back from ten days in Europe with my wife. I’m very good at taking time and shutting down. The factory can continue while I’m away. It’s important that I do that, and in fact, I have no problem doing that. My relationship with my wife and my family are paramount to me.
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