"My Wedding Day Was The Happiest Day of My Life"
by M.J. Bevans
TV By Day
can't take Tom Berenger strictly at face value. Underneath those remarkable
good looks and rugged male demeanor, there's a lot more going on than you
might suspect. The young actor, who plays Tim Siegal on One Life to
Live, has done his share of living and has had his ups and downs. But,
today, he is a man who knows who he is, what he wants and what he has to
do to get it. There's been soul searching and conflict, but now Tom 'Berenger
is definitely on his way.
While his looks will certainly help him get there, they have also been a problem for the actor. "I used to worry a lot about my looks," he confessed. "You know, they can be a liability in that they limit the roles one can play.
"When I first came to New York, for example, I auditioned for Joseph Papp and the Public Theater. While they liked me, they said I was too good-looking for some of their roles. They were interested in a tougher looking type.
"Many times people tell me I look like Paul Newman, but I'm Tom Berenger. It's hard to live in someone's else's shadow. I hope to bring my own unique sense of life to a part and not always have to be compared to Paul Newman."
Perhaps because of his frequent comparison to Newman, Tom has been very publicity shy and of late has found himself reverting to the ways of his childhood when he "stuck pretty much" to himself.
"I was very introverted...very much a loner," he revealed. "And now I feel like I'm becoming more that way. I don't have much time for socializing. Much of my energy goes into my career."
Tom will tell you that his best friend is his wife, Barbara. They met six years ago on a sandy beach at Indiana State Dunes Park. During the years that followed, they dated on and off, and finally tied the knot one year ago.
Describing Barbara, Tom said, "She's very attractive, but more important, she's really a down-to-earth type--very unpretentious and more of a homebody. More than glamorous, she's gutsy and unselfish. She's been very supportive to me, helping me with my lines, dealing with the long hours-just always there.
"If I had to choose the happiest time of my life, it would have to be the time I got married. The ceremony was held in a small chapel at the United Nations, and we only had about fifteen people attending. We spent a dream night at the Plaza Hotel and then honeymooned at a very quiet spot on St. John, the Virgin Islands. Then we went to Chicago for a big reception for family and friends.
"We've gotten through the first year very well, so I assume the rest will be smooth sailing. If you want me to tell you the secret to a good relationship I would have to say that it's more than just love and sex. You have to be good friends and respect each other's individualism."
Because Tom has a limited time schedule since he's been on the soap opera, he and Barbara try to spend as much time together as possible. They like seeing films and going to the theatre, and when they can, traveling. They do not live in the heart of the city, but in nearby Queens.
"I chose to live in Queens because when I first came to New York I was working for an airline and my airline employees lived in Queens," the attractive actor explained. "I had come to New York after spending several months in Puerto Rico."
After his childhood in Chicago's South Side, the young daytime actor lived in Kansas City, Missouri, Dallas and finally Puerto Rico before making the commitment to acting and settling in New York.
"My mom still lives in Chicago, as does my sister. My dad died recently. We had a good relationship, but as a kid I didn't see him too much. He was a traveling salesman, usually gone during the week."
"Now that we're more adult, my sister and I are closer. I suppose in a way she has had to live in my shadow, since I'm the eldest, and a son...a big football player," Tom grinned.
"I first started thinking about being an actor when I was in college at the University of Missouri. I auditioned for a television play, and the director, who has some professional New York credits, encouraged me to pursue acting. In college I had a double major--drama and film editing.
"I worked with 16 millimeter film upon graduating, and from Kansas City I went on to Dallas. All of this time I suppose I had an unrealized commitment to acting. But then, I guess I ran away from acting. I was afraid of the business--I still am."
Tom "ran away" to Puerto Rico. "It was a beautiful place to live for the first month, but after that you almost prayed for a rainy day to break the monotony of the sunshine. I came to New York with the idea I would probably pursue my acting and after a few months I left the airline and committed myself fully to an acting career.
"But, I 'm glad I ran away from acting for a while because during that time I did a lot of living which I needed to do. My acting career is very important to me now. My greatest wish is to be a very good actor, but I don't like thinking about it. I need more training and self confidence.
"Right now I'm studying acting at Herbert Berghof Studios. I'm also taking fencing and studying voice. I don't like the way I sound."
Since coming to New York, Tom has appeared in several commercials, did a fashion layout for Esquire and was featured in a play. He was to star as Beau in Bus Stop at the Manhattan Theater Club, but the play conflicted with his schedule on One Life.
Tom said that in contrast to his character, Tim Siegel, he would handle his life differently. "Tim's emotionally several years younger than I am, and he's much pushier than I would be. Right now his major conflict is that he's in love with a girl he cannot have."
As for Tom Berenger, well, the honestly shy actor finds it difficult to talk about his personal feelings. "I'm a practical person " he said, "and not at all philosophical, though I can be idealistic. I'm a loner. I like to read a lot and my favorite authors include Hemingway, Salinger, Goldman, Fitzgerald, and most especially, Thomas Wolf. I've done some of my own writing, some plays, but I've thrown them all away.
"As a person, I try to keep things in perspective. Acting is such fantasy, that I try to balance it with a home life and a social life." concluded Tom, a soft spoken young man who's cool and bright on the outside, warm and thoughtful when you get to know him.
thanks to Dutch.