It isn’t easy to take a recast role in a popular TV show, for many reasons. Starting with the fact that viewers usually develop a strong bond with their favorite characters and the actors behind them, it’s common that seeing a new face take the place of an already established character causes mixed emotions in the audience.

While lack of popularity was exactly the case of Robert Newman, known for his roles in series such as “Guiding Light” and “General Hospital”, he hasn’t been safe from the usual challenges which came with taking the role of the ruthless Ashland Locke in “The Young and The Restless” in 2022.

Was his sudden addition to the show challenging for him, and why exactly was he afraid of taking the role? Keep with us to know all the off-camera details about this new page in Robert Newman’s career!

Why Was He Afraid To Join The Show?

Regardless of his vast experience acting on TV, Robert Newman admitted on a Facebook post that he was ‘scared to death’ to take the role of Ashland Locke in “The Young And The Restless”, ‘but I think that’s healthy’.

His initial anxiety regarding his new job was directly related to his prolonged hiatus from TV, following the end of “Guiding Light” in 2010, in which he portrayed Josh Lewis, his most iconic and best-known role so far. It’s also safe to assume that Robert’s apparent fear at playing Ashland has to do with his admitted ‘respect for the show’ on top of becoming a recast actor, which is usually a challenge in itself.

That being said, his initial reluctance was replaced by excitement. As he said in an interview with Soap Opera Digest, playing a bad guy in the show was ‘always fun’, and it isn’t exactly a new experience for him, considering his history of soap opera roles.

How Did He Get The Role?

Knowing Robert Newman was going to take the role of Ashland Locke was a surprise for every fan of “The Young and The Restless”, but so it was for him too. As he admitted in an interview with Soap Central, ‘It really came out of nothing, absolutely nowhere’.

Receiving a call from the show’s producers wasn’t the only sudden thing about the process, as even sorting out the character took a matter of just a couple days: ‘It was a real crazy weekend with myself and my agent, and with my wife, Britt… just a lot of really difficult discussions’.

As per Robert’s admission, the show’s negotiations were difficult, given he was invited to be in the show for a certain period, which he didn’t agree with. Fortunately, the sides eventually came to an agreement, and Robert was on a ‘plane to California the following day, after signing a six months contract.

While contract details about Robert’s hiring are unsurprisingly unrevealed, it’s for sure that he got a juicy offer from the show considering he was really needed to fill in the role following the previous actor’s exit.

Adjusting To The Character

Taking on a new role all of a sudden is a challenge for any actor, no matter how vastly experienced they might be. This is the case of Robert Newman playing Ashland Locke from overnight, given how it affected an important part of his personal life.

As he said in an interview with Soap Opera Digest, the hardest thing about adapting to his new job was to be away from home: ‘I had that sense of just barely keeping my head above water, that pedaling-as-fast-as-I-can kind of a thing’, he said in reference to the first couple of weeks in California filming the show, for which he had to move across the country and leave his comfortable life and growing family behind.

Fortunately for Robert, adjusting to Ashland and the show was done in a matter of a couple weeks, despite still missing his loved ones dearly. However, he also confessed to going through certain episodes of anxiety and stress, often questioning the real source of his insecurities: ‘how much of it is really more to do with how out of complete left field, with no advance notice, I picked up and came 3,000 miles away?’, he admitted in the same interview.

While no one can blame Robert for feeling pressured in this new chapter of his professional life, it’s for sure that he’s adapted to it.

Bonding On Set

There’s nothing like a good off-screen dynamic to make the job more comfortable for actors, and even exciting. Such is the case with Robert, who despite joining “The Young And The Restless” cast suddenly, was received with open arms by many co-stars.

As he confessed to Soap Central, he bonded rather quickly with Amelia Heinle, who plays the role of Victoria, Ashland’s wife and central part of his character’s on-going plot line in recent episodes: ‘it’s clear to me why she’s won a couple of Emmys; she’s just really, really good at what she does’, he said in reference to her acting skills, and how rapidly she adapted to acting next to a character played by a different actor.

Besides Amelia, Robert also developed a good job relationship with Eric Braeden, who plays the role of Victor Newman, his on-screen father-in-law. Apparently their first meeting was followed by prolonged talks about Shakespeare and all sorts of acting topics, which was an honor for Robert, given the respect that he has for Eric: ‘It was astonishing to see where he went from just quickly reading through things and blocking to the final tape’, he said in regards to a scene shot by the fellow actor, which he described as an ‘acting masterclass’.

What Happened To The Previous Actor?

Ashland Locke’s character was introduced for the first time in “The Young and The Restless” in early 2021. Initially played by actor Richard Burgi, Ashland’s introduction as a tormented villain quickly gained the audience’s approval.

While it isn’t rare for soap opera roles to be recast, Richard’s exit from the show wasn’t a simple matter. As Deadline reports, he was actually fired for ‘inadvertently’ breaking the on-set rules to prevent COVID-19, which dictated a 10 days isolation period: ‘I felt terrible about it, I still do. It bothers me mightily but it is what it is. I respect whatever the show’s decision is’, as Richard admitted.

Even though the consequences of his acts were severe, it’s important to point out that it was an accident on his part. As Richard stated, he had complied with the five days isolation period recommended by the government, without realizing that the show had different rules. Prior to the incident, he had tested positive for the virus following a visit back home for Christmas, and though he tested negative back on set, not following the exact requirement led to his firing. However, he apparently has no hard feelings about the show’s decision – ‘They’re doing the best they can, as we all are’, he concluded.

Robert’s Reception

Playing a recast role isn’t an easy matter for many reasons; the aforementioned audience liking for the previous incumbent, often affects their perception about the incoming actor, on top of the usual struggles the cast has while adapting to a new co-worker on stage.

In the case of Robert Newman, the biggest issue the audience had while seeing him as Ashland Locke was the fact that some of them remembered him for his character Joshua Lewis in “Guiding Light”, as CheatSheet reported. However, Robert’s well-earned popularity for that same role is what ultimately gained him the hearts of his new audience in “The Young And The Restless”, even though it took him a couple of episodes after his debut to accomplish that. Just taking a look at the comments on his Facebook page, comments going from ‘you are doing an amazing job at making this role your own’ to ‘I am so glad to see you on TV again’, are easily found.

That being said, Robert’s limited time in the show isn’t exactly what his long-time fans were expecting, but they’re surely excited to see him on TV again after so long away.

What Is Ashland’s Character About?

No matter how much we love seeing Robert Newman on screen again, that doesn’t mean that his character Ashland Locke is any less questionable. While his tragic past as an abused kid abandoned by his mother might have gained him a bit of sympathy from viewers, the fact that he stole his late friend’s identity, forged a will and faked the death of his friends parents and became a ruthless businessman aren’t incidents easily forgotten.

As Ashland built an intricate web of lies surrounding his life and fortune while trying to hide the fact his real name is Robert DeFranco, he’s also fallen prey to other characters’ traps. For starters, Harrison, whom Ashland thought to be his son, was actually the product of an affair between his then-wife Tara and Kyle Abbot. Upon discovering the truth behind the paternity, it was admittedly saddening for the audience to see a usually proud and stoic Ashland being emotionally torn.

Following his separation from Tara and growing attraction towards Victoria Newman, Ashland heartbreakingly reveals he’s diagnosed with cell sarcoma at Stage six, further thickening the plot.

Is Ashland Going To Die?

Regardless of his villain status, Ashland’s divorce from Tara was good news for many viewers unlike his growing romance with Victoria Newman. As expected, pairing up the heroine with the bad guy isn’t an easy plot twist to accept, though the audience was surprised to see Ashland becoming increasingly emotional, and opening up to her regarding his illness.

However, blissful times don’t last when it comes to soap operas, and this wasn’t an exception. Though Ashland told Victoria about a part of his troubled past, his lies slowly came undone soon afterwards, as Jessie Gaines Jr, the only person to know the truth about Ashland, asked him for a final payment for his silence. It wasn’t long before more people knew Ashland’s true identity, including Victoria, who surprisingly married him regardless.

Just when the audience thought Ashland might be straying away from lying, he faked his cancer treatment and following recovery. It turns out that his cancer diagnosis was a lie all along, and even though it was eventually discovered, Victoria not only forgave him but accepted running away from Genoa City together.

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However, though now the audience knows Ashland isn’t in danger of dying of cancer, nothing in soap operas is for sure and his character could possibly come to a tragic end in other ways.

Robert’s Other Roles

General Hospital & Santa Barbara

Robert Newman’s career on TV started in the 1980s, with his role of Prescott Harrell in the popular drama “General Hospital”. He was introduced as Peter Harrell’s brother, and was left with the task of finding an Aztec treasure with Jack Slater, whom he later fatally shot.

Ambition led Prescott’s character to commit several crimes, including shooting, assault and kidnapping, which is quite an impressive list considering his character was in the show for only a couple months.

Robert’s next acting opportunity came the following year in “Santa Barbara”, another daytime drama, focused on the high-class Californian family the Capwells. Robert’s role was as Kirk Cranston, the plotting man who got in the way between Cruz Castillo and Eden Capwell, effectively seducing and marrying her, using their relationship as an advantage to discover her family’s secrets.

Kirk’s character’s lies are slowly discovered following Eden’s miscarriage, prompting a series of incidents which led to attempting to murder several characters, before disappearing for good after a fight with Cruz. Although Robert only played Kirk for a couple of months, the character served him well in growing his reputation as a villain type of actor.

Guiding Light & Theater

Probably Robert’s most iconic role to date is as Josh Lewis in “Guiding Light”, a character he on and off portrayed starting from 1981 to the show’s end in 2009. Despite being a villain, Josh is considered one of “Guiding Light”s most iconic characters, to the point of being included by Entertainment Weekly and Soap Opera Digest in their respective Soap Opera Supercouples lists, with his on-screen wife Reva Shayne, portrayed by Kim Zimmer.

Following “Guiding Light”s cancellation, Robert mainly focused on roles in plays, such as “Peter Pan” and “Gypsy” among several others: ‘I’ve been working through four to five plays a year, almost every year in different parts of the country. I’ve been doing guest spots, and then, of course, the auditioning’, he commented to Soap Central in early 2022.

Robert’s return is even more meaningful given his extended hiatus from TV. Even if his time as Ashland Locke eventually ends, nothing makes his fans happier than to know that he’s active and as talented as always.

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