For "The Young and the Restless" star Eric Braeden, 2016 was a memorable year. He turned 75, celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary, joined cast members for Y&R's 11,000th episode and completed his autobiography "I'll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America's #1 Daytime Drama."
The Feb. 7 release was appropriate since Braeden's first appearance on the popular daytime soap was 37 years ago this month.
"It's been quite an amazing run," he acknowledged, but he believes daytime drama actors don't always receive the same recognition as their nighttime TV counterparts.
"We shoot 100 to 120 pages a day," he said. "Imagine what that means in terms of memorization. The most I ever learned was 62 pages of dialogue in a single day. Actors in a weekly nighttime series would crap their pants if they had to do that. But the simple fact is you do it, or you're out. And not only do we have damned good actors on our show, but an incredible crew. They're at work by 5 o'clock every morning and never home before 9 p.m. or later."
Born in Germany four years before the end of World War II, Braeden says fate handed him some luck.
"I grew up near Kiel, which was 96 percent destroyed by over 500,000 bombs that hit the city," he said. "Part of our house was blown away, so I could have very easily not survived."
He moved to Texas as a teenager and soon headed to Montana, where he was awarded a college athletic scholarship. After filming a documentary about traveling the Salmon River in Idaho, Braeden found work in film and television throughout the '60s and '70s, often being cast as a villainous German, most notably in the TV series "Combat!" and "The Rat Patrol."
Gradually, says Braeden, he steered away from the villainous German roles. He played the lead in 1970's "Colossus: The Forbin Project" as a scientist battling a supercomputer.
Since joining the Y&R cast in 1980, opportunities for other TV or film work have been limited, but he did accept a role as John Jacob Astor in James Cameron's "Titanic" in 1997.
"Astor goes down with the ship, and James asked me if I wanted to do that scene," he said. "We rehearsed without the water, of course, and then did it. Water came pouring in from all sides on this huge set, and as I turned on the staircase, 150 tons of more water came down from the top. I don't recall that scene with an enormous amount of pleasure, to be honest."
Even though his commitment to "The Young and the Restless" limited other opportunities, Braeden has few regrets.
"Had I done nighttime TV or film, I would be directing them by now," he said. "But I get to work every day at something I still enjoy doing."