Christian Jules Le Blanc has always played a television heartthrob. From his early days on As the World Turns to his current role as confident lawyer Michael Baldwin on The Young and the Restless, the soap star has accrued twelve Daytime Emmy nominations and won three for the role
These days, the openly gay actor is turning heads for a different reason: his long, snow-white hair. Le Blanc let it grow during lockdown and was completely unbothered by it, joking that “some people actually pay money to get their hair this color.”
It has served him well. These days, he’s been granted a temporary leave from his Los Angeles taping schedule and has taken on the role of Big Daddy Pollitt, the wealthy yet unrefined, plantation owning patriarch in a new and smoldering version of Tennessee Williams’ classic play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
In addition to his performance art, Le Blanc is a visual artist who works with the medium of colored pencil-a hobby he happened to pick up but one that has led him to gallery exhibits and notice from buyers.
Manhattan Digest spoke with the former New Orleans resident about his early years, his acting technique, and why Tennessee Williams still matters.
MD: Talk a bit about your stage debut
CL: My debut on a serious stage was with Julie Harris, during the nineties, along with Eileen Brennan and Laura Esterman in a play called Ladies in Retirement. I’d studied with Charles Nelson Reilly, but I was originally supposed to be medicine.
MD: You were a medical major? What was the point when you went from medicine to acting?
CL: Tulane was my alma mater in New Orleans and I wanted to be a doctor. I volunteered in local hospitals in the area. I was on a leave of absence from the hospital and had a desire to try acting. My mother told me to be safe and my father said to do it while I was young. I booked a little gig in Mississippi and I really liked it.
Ultimately, I quit medicine and went off to LA to seek my fortune. You do what you’re passionate about. And once you get the passion… passion with capital “P”, you find your true love. You do it because there is no other answer and that’s what makes it worth it.
You know, there’s a lot of stuff to learn if you haven’t been on stage and this long, specifically how to get through a matinee and a night performance. I gotta tell you it has been a big chore as far as managing my energy. That’s a craft in itself!
MD: Were you initially contracted on Y&R, or was it just a guest spot?
CL: In those days, they signed actors to a couple of years. I had the sexual harassment storyline of a sleazy lawyer, Michael Baldwin. The actress playing the victim was, in real life, the boss and show creator William Bell’s daughter, Lauralee. I thought it wasn’t a great idea at first, but I ended up having a ball. Then my character redeemed himself and became a hyper genius lawyer who earned his position.
MD: I understand that you’re writing a children’s book?
CL: Yes. My first art exhibit of anything that people commissioned was in the coconut grove theatre. I did these little Wind in the Willows-esque kind of fantasy children’s drawings. When Julie and Charles saw them , they thought I should be drawing all the time. They would send me pictures of animals from newspapers all around the world as inspiration. So now, I have a book but it’s not been published. The artwork took off before the the actual words of this book, and it’s a children’s novel. It’s all in colored pencil.
MD: Have you been stopped or recognized here in New York since you’ve been here for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?
CL: My hair used to be disguised by a hat, but Young and the Restless fans have stopped and have mentioned it because it just gets whiter. I love New York because you can just strike up a conversation with anyone on the street. Plus, it has all the romance of beginnings for me because this is where I moved before I lived in LA.
MD: How did you adopt the Southern accent for the play?
CL: I have no linguistic approach. I just talked like relatives I know who are from Texas, Beaumont, Houston, Dallas, dripping down into South southern Louisiana and going up into Mississippi.
Big Daddy is literally described as a redneck. That’s what Maggie calls him. He’s unapologetic. So mine is a most extreme southern accent. It can veer into parody if if I’m not careful, but I went to a few great linguist sites online which have everyone saying the same couple of lines, from different parts of the south at different ages, professions, races, and lengths of time they stayed there.
MD: What is about Tennessee Williams and his work that is so alluring. Why do we keep coming back to it?
CL: Because this play—and many others he’s written- is about sexuality, humanity, family, dysfunction, alcoholism, and drug addiction.
I read a book called Follies of God by James Grissom about the women who inspired Williams, some of whom would be inspirations for his stories. It covers direction that Tennessee gave the actors. There’s this wonderful one with Jessica Tandy, the original Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. He told her that when he was a little, effeminate, southern gay and he knew he was going to be bullied, he could see it coming. To offset that, he would tell stories, and he knew that if he kept going with his story, he could keep the bullies at bay. He said that Blanche is like that. She’s on the planks and there are sharks underneath and the only thing keeping her alive is to stay on the planks.
I get goosebumps thinking of that because it’s everybody that’s ever lived. That’s the humanity the whole situation, the outsider looking in and feeling alone and desperate to fit in. Oh! it’s just amazing!
I’ve just scratched the surface because things come to you while you’re doing the run. It’s just so thrilling. That’s the excitement of live theater. It’s not just one and done. It evolves, lives and breathes.
Also, on a simpler level, even when we were just hunters and gatherers gathered around a campfire, somebody would tell a good story and it would enrapture us. It calls to something that’s deeper and common to all of us.
MD: What are the things that you like about stage acting that you can’t get from television and vice versa?
CL: I will tell you, there are some of the most amazing actors in the world, as you can tell just from where people started out. To Marisa Tomei, who was pretty damn good even years ago when I met and worked with her. So was Julianne Moore. Good acting is good acting wherever you find it. And it’s rare that I think people know or assume that, even in the entertainment business.
I remember Juliet Mills who was on Passions, and she played a witch who threw spells. She was nominated for a Daytime Emmy because she became it, she didn’t comment on it. In her core, she owned all the preposterous things that became normal, which is the heart of acting. It’s only believable until you yourself, believe it with every fiber of your being and then everybody else will suspend reality. It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with Tennessee Williams or witches. If you’re doing it, you want it to be real and good.
Letting go of everything in theater is different from film. You can be insulated in a taping studio, and you get your private time and you can prep. When you dive into a live stage theater experience, you just go on instinct until all of a sudden there’s a curtain and you wonder why people are applauding. Because it’s done and hopefully, you’ve lost yourself that way.
The best example of acting is to just take off the parachute and fall. Holding on is the problem. Resisting change because it’s terrifying and not accepting it is the problem. That’s where you make the mistake. It’s not a holding on, it’s a letting go of it all.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof currently runs Off Broadway at St. Clements Church (423 W. 46th Street between 9th/10th) through Aug. 14th, For tickets and information, click here.