© SOD April 10, 2001
by Carolyn Hinsey
Michael E. Knight has been playing ALL MY CHILDREN's complicated Tad Martin on and off since 1982, winning two Emmys in the process. He has been married to Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) since 1992, and they are happily raising six cats and one dog together in Manhattan. But despite his friendly demeanor and eagerness to promote AMC, Knight despises photo shoots and isn't crazy about interviews. This interview was conducted on the spur of the moment one wintry Saturday night in the actor's kitchen.
Why won't you let us do a photo shoot with you?
MICHAEL E. KNIGHT: I'm phobic about pictures. Catherine never takes a bad one, and I never take a good one. I don't want to take a new photo just so the fans can go, 'Oh, look, it's H.R. PUFNSTUFF."
You're crazy. You work out!
KNIGHT: No, I don't. I'm one of those people who comes and goes in waves. Catherine and I were tremendously excited about the piece on EYEWITNESS NEWS about her launch party [for her new makeup Cat Cosmetics], but she was standing there looking like a million bucks, and I was like, "Who is that middle-aged man?" I work with very gentle people, and I think soap fans, most of them, are pretty forgiving people. I figure, "I've gone from Tad the Cad to Tad the Dad, so it's not a big deal." But personally, I'm not happy with it. The picture thing is just an expression of that. I look at my wife, and I feel like an ABC AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL about the "special" boy next door.
But you're happy on the show right now, so this is a great time for you to talk.
KNIGHT: I know. I wanted to do this interview because I haven't talked for a long time. I'm honored that you want to do it, that there's still some interest. Everytime you guys call up and say, "We want you to do a cover," I'm like, "They care?" I know some of the Tad and Dixie fans aren't happy because of the friction, but they've got to understand that we're phasing into something. We can't just send our kids off to school every day; we have to have some kind of conflict. I also think that Cady [McClain, Dixie] has grown into a really stunning woman. There's something dangerous and exciting about Dixie coming into her sexuality and finding out that she's tempted – as we all are.
Your acting has been really good through this whole breakup.
KNIGHT: Thank you. I have to give credit where credit is due – Alan Savage has turned my life around. Having a job for 18 years, actors fall into a trap, going from fatigue to ennui to … About two years ago, I was going for an audition, and I don't audition well. I have a lot of stage fright. I went to see this guy, Alan Savage, who is one of the premier acting coaches in Manhattan. After working with him for about six months – he's very patient, very kind, very funny – he said, "It doesn't matter how much you want to be the guy on the back of the motorcycle, the maverick, whatever; the most notable thing about you is your sense of humanity. You're not John Wayne; you're Jimmy Stewart. So use it." I remember the first time I did a scene for him, he said, "The minute you start acting, I see what you think should be happening, rather than what is happening." I was in class for about a year, year and a half, and all of a sudden, Cady noticed it. She said, "What are you doing? It's great." Simple. I have a whole different attitude.
Don't you think part of that new attitude is Catherine's eternal optimism
rubbing off on you?
KNIGHT: Yes. We were dating for about six months when I met my future mother-in-law. I said, "When is the other show gonna drop?" She said, "It ain't babe. What you see is what you get. This is her." It's been such a life lesson. Catherine just says, "You have so many years on this planet. Are you going to sit around and go, 'Gray hair, blah, blah, a couple of extra pounds, blah, blah, I should be doing this.' Or are you going to say, 'It would be really cool to do that – now what do I have to do to get there?" " That's been a tremendous lesson for me. I wish I could get back the years I wasted. Before, I would say, "I'm growing older on national television, and it ain't fun." Now I say, "I'm my age." That's one of the reasons I stopped coloring my hair. Who am I kidding? My fans can do the math.
You've lightened up on yourself.
KNIGHT: No, I'm just less apologetic. It sounds like such a fortune cookie, but it's true. I went through a terrible period about two years ago when I was all about time going by and things not panning out the way I wanted them to. The machine kind of broke down. And the answer was: acceptance. I can actually pinpoint the day. Catherine turned to me and said, "You are harder on yourself than any human being I know." She said it with such sadness in her eyes. I thought, "Wow, for the person closest to you to that that, then I've got to say, I'm doing pretty good.'"
You are doing better than pretty good.
KNIGHT: I guess. I was always looking at the empty half of the cup, and I'm trying to see it as half-full now. If I get to work with people I love and have fun with at a job I love, go home to my wife and on the weekends, have a cup of coffee with a good friend, then thank you, God.
Does it scare you to say you're happy at AMC? Like ABC might take advantage of
that the next time your contract is up?
KNIGHT: No. They've always been fair, always. As a matter of fact, they're overly fair. I mean, look at me! My weight has gone up and down for years. That's a problem I have. Sometimes the ice cream at 11 o'clock at night looks a little too good for a little too long. I remember when I came back [ to AMC] after falling off the bridge, there was a massive campaign, which was fabulous. But I was 25 pounds overweight. I was looking at this scene that I did with Ray MacDonnell [Joe] on a park bench, and I spent five minutes trying to find my chin. I thought, "Why don't they say something?" If I was in nighttime, they'd be bringing out the William Shattner Memorial Truss [laughs].
So you're not as focused on nighttime and film as you used to be?
KNIGHT: When I was in my 20s, I was always saying, "When I get my nighttime series, blah, blah, blah …" TO my knowledge, there are only two people from my show who have done it: Sarah Michelle Geller [ex-Kendall, now BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER] and Kim Delaney [ex-Jenny, now on NYPD BLUE]. Both are wonderful actresses. Sarah always had an unshakable confidence, which I found enviable. I almost resented it. She's one of these blessed humans who, at an early age, just said, "This is who I am," with no apologies. And that is so attractive in this industry, which is base don rejection. I worked as a reader [running lines at auditions] when I was out of work in Hollywood 10 years ago … when Tad went over the bridge, before Tad and Ted … whatever … and it's so interesting to see an actor come in out of 50, 60, 70 people with no sense of apology. It's not that they're full of themselves, it's, "This is who I am. If I get the job, great." A lot of people can give you confidence, but people who are self-possessed, without apology, who know what they're capable of can inspire everybody in the room. Sarah's like that.
Are you like that now?
KNIGHT: I'm working on it.