Jack Wagner gets candid on 'B&B's' groundbreaking lung cancer episode
On “The Bold and the Beautiful,” Jack Wagner’s character got a wakeup call about how his smoking habits could put him at risk of lung cancer.
Turns out the actor, who admits he smokes the occasional cigar, also learned some startling truths he wasn’t aware of.
“Just the fact that 60 per cent of lung cancer patients never smoked and another thing that’s very sad is the stigma attached to lung cancer. People kind of figure (when someone is diagnosed), ‘Well they deserve it, they caused it themselves,’” Wagner tells CTV.ca during a press stop in Toronto.
“(Lung cancer) is just very under-funded and the rate of survival is very low. It’s real sad. I think we got that across on the show.”
The topic was highlighted on the soap opera’s 6000th episode, which aired on Feb. 7, 2011, and featured real-life cancer patients, including Kathryn Joosten, who plays Mrs. McCluskey on “Desperate Housewives.”
Wagner’s character Nick Marone had just gone through a cancer scare after doctors found a spot on his lung and character Stephanie Forrester (played by veteran actor Susan Flannery) introduced him to the patients to show him how crucial it was he quit smoking.
The groundbreaking episode, which featured no script, was an intimate and emotional look at the effects of lung cancer and Wagner hopes it helps raise awareness for the life-threatening disease.
“It’s tough to quit smoking. I think once somebody gets sick you want to smack your head against the wall and go, ‘What was I thinking?’ so hopefully we can get some people to pay attention.”
In real life, the actor knows all about how cancer can affect lives.
He lost his father to multiple myeloma in 1990 and his brother is currently living with leukemia, after undergoing a successful bone marrow transplant a few years ago.
Wagner has become actively involved in raising money to help fight the disease and established an annual celebrity golf tournament for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) five years ago.
“We’re hopefully going to go over a million dollars this year, just from this little golf tournament.”
Wagner has been playing Nick on “The Bold and the Beautiful” for the past eight years, but has been a mainstay on both daytime and primetime television since the early 1980s.
After a stint on “Santa Barbara,” he got his breakout role as Frisco Jones on “General Hospital” in 1983 and soon became a household name. Even though Wagner has gone to do many other things, including playing Dr. Peter Burns on “Melrose Place” for four years, movies of the week and a recent guest spot on “Hot in Cleveland,” he says he’s still most recognized for his role as ‘Frisco.’
“‘General Hospital’ was so massive in the 80s and that’s when people my age or even younger watched that show. A generation grew up on that show, Luke and Laura, I came in on the cusp of that so there’s still a lot of ‘Frisco,’” says Wagner, who also launched his music career on the show.
“The Bold and the Beautiful” is currently the most-watched soap opera in the world but Wagner knows that many soap operas are struggling to hold onto their viewers and ratings.
“We all grew up, our grandmothers and mothers had about three channels to watch, so we watched those soaps and now, a generation has grown up with the Internet and computers and video games.”
Wagner says it’s on everyone’s minds about how daytime soap operas can evolve but he thinks it’s about sticking with what works.
“Obviously sex and nudity sells, but that’s what people go to cable for but that’s not going to happen on network daytime television … so I think it really is always going to come down to story. How do you make a story interesting enough so people will tune in? That’s always going to be it.”