Daddy Dearest: Soap Star Tuc Watkins Has One Life To Live & Two Kids To Love Photo of Tuc Watkins Welcome Home Darling in Hugo Boss

Fans all over the world kicked and screamed when they received the news that their favorite daytime drama was the latest victim of the great soap opera slaughter , which saw to the demise of long running favorites like As The World Turns and All My Children. And so it was for the fans of ABC’s One Life To Live (OLTL) in April 2011, when the network announced that after nearly 43 years the people and passions of Llanview would cease to exist. The final episode of OLTL aired in January 2012.

Then in January 2013, one year after the last episode aired, the production company Prospect Park brought tears of joy to fans when announced it that it would resume a previous plan to relaunch OLTL as a webisodes on Hulu and iTunes set to begin airing later that year.

In April of 2013, actor Tuc Watkins, who is best known for his long running role as David Vickers on OLTL, and as one-half of the gay couple neighbors on Desperate Housewives, made an appearance on Marie Osmond’s Hallmark Channel talk show Marie to promote the premiere of the new OLTL.

During the interview, Watkins revealed that he was single, a new dad and a gay man, according to the TV Guide report. If he hadn’t already had a large gay fan base, he certainly did after that interview aired.

Although, Tuc Watkins has said the he’d always known fatherhood was in his future. It wasn’t a choice or a decision; it was just something he knew about himself, even from a very early age. However, what he couldn’t have known or even suspected was that not only would he become a father and a soap star, but that he’d become a hot dad role model for the gay community. Not bad at all, Daddy Dearest. Not bad at all.

It’s been two years since Watkins’ landmark revelation on Marie Osmond’s talk show. Unfortunately, due to legal issues between Prospect Park and ABC, the revival of OLTL didn’t make it past the Fall of 2013 before production was suspended. But, the one role Watkins is still playing full-time is the role of dad. The twins Curtis and Catchen are now two years old.

“It’s funny; I’m not the father I thought I would be, at least not yet. When I thought about having kids, wanting kids, I think I was thinking of five-year-olds,” Watkins admitted. The twins were born prematurely, and he said that the parenting required for preemies up to the age his children are now is very different from the fun he had with his niece when she was five.

“I feel like I’m going through boot camp to become an officer in the army,” Watkins said. “Two is more than one plus one, when it comes to twins. And, here’s why. If I’m at the grocery store or the park, I don’t get to appreciate one of my kids discovering something new because what I’m really doing is making sure that the other one is nearby. So, what I try to do is do outings with them individually. Because when it’s just me with them there’s a lot of management involved. It’s a lot.”

And, while there are challenges to being a single gay father, it has truly been a life altering adventure for the soap star. “It is very difficult, but I kind of feel like it’s what I was meant to do. I’m 48, and at 48 I feel like I am hitting my stride in a way.” He admitted that he does have help from family and friends, and one day it would be wonderful to meet the right guy, but as a father he does feel he needs to be cautious about who he brings into his little family.

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Daddy Dearest Continues…

Watkins describes his family and mid-western childhood as incredibly idyllic, “kind of like an after school special.” He said, his parents “were always very supportive and encouraging of everything I’ve done. So, I’ve been very lucky.”

No one ever questioned or guessed at his true sexual orientation. On the outside it just never came up, so it was never anything he had to deal with publicly.

“When I grew up I think everyone just assumed everyone was straight. I didn’t’ know any gay people. What I knew to be ‘gay’ was this sort of imitation that my friends and adults would sort of mimic, of this sort of over the top, flamboyant caricature and I participated in that. I remember imitating that kind of character, because it got laughs,” Watkins admitted.

Internally however, there was confusion and perhaps some subconscious denial. “I feel like I sort of hit the denial button, even before I knew there was a denial button because ‘I don’t’ identify with that [caricature], so then I must not be gay,’” Watkins said. “I think that kind of stereotype can be very harmful. It was harmful to me, it was harmful to men of my generation in a lot of ways, because we were all looking for something to identify with and we didn’t really have the role models then that we’re starting to have now,” he said.

It was not until he moved to a larger city as an adult, where he met people who he felt were a little closer to the middle of the spectrum and that he could identify with that he became more comfortable in his own skin and with his own truth.

Every time Watkins’ parents would come to visit him in Los Angeles his mother would always ask if he were seeing anyone. At 24 years old, Watkins gave himself the ultimatum that no matter where, no matter when, the moment his mother asked he inevitable question he would tell her the truth.

That moment came while at the Crab Cooker in Costa Mesa, California. His mother asked and he answered. “’There’s only so many times I can talk to you guys about the weather,” Watkins said. “’I’m gay.’ And, my mom said, ‘What?’” He said he had been prepared for anything and everything, except to have to repeat “I’m gay.”

“I didn’t really expect push back from them, but they were a little surprised,” Watkins said. They were surprised, because growing up he had posters of Kristy McNichol, Farrah Fawcett, Cheryl Ladd and Lynda Carter hanging on his bedroom walls. “I remember my mom said, ‘I don’t understand. You didn’t have pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger on your wall.’ To which I thought, ‘Of all the people to choose, Arnold Schwarzenegger,’” he said.

The revelation opened up a wonderful dialogue for the family, just as his revelation on the Marie show had for the LGBT community.

Tuck Watkins arrived as “David Vickers” in the fictional town of Llanview, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1994. He started out as a charming, but ill-intentioned “James Bond” type of character, but eventually the antics and accidents proved that David Vickers was more of a gorgeous “Maxwell Smart” type of guy.

“I was hired to be this cool, mysterious con man. For the first year I tried to do that and I was fairly unremarkable at it and there were guys on my show who were really good at it,” he said. “And if you want to stay on a show like that where the tapestry is full of a bunch of different archetypes, you’ve got to figure out where you fit in, because if you don’t fit in you’re going to go away.”

The answer to where he fit in came to Watkins literally by accident while on set and doing a take. Everyone laughed. “I was humiliated, because I was trying to be cool and mysterious, but I fell down the stairs. It struck something in me – changed David Vickers for the next 15 years – which was David Vickers, is not a cool and mysterious character, he thinks he’s a cool and mysterious character, who is actually an idiot,” he said. “I think that is what gave him his longevity.”

Soap Opera Digest named Watkins’ David Vickers the “Most Entertaining Male Character” of 2008. The honor stated that “Time and time again, David’s harebrained schemes and Tuc Watkins’ side-splitting performances provide amusement we’re always sorry to see end.”

But, as an actor who loves to play a variety of roles is Watkins ever frustrated or annoyed that some fans will only ever think of him as David Vickers? “No. David Vickers… – Ralph Fiennes has Hamlet, Tuc Watkins has David Vickers. I love David Vickers,” he said. “So if there were ever an opportunity to revive that character, I would jump at the chance because it was so much fun.”

For Watkins his forties were very significant, and would lay the ground work for an entirely new adventure in the second half of his life.

“In my early 40s, I remember feeling – I remember thinking that I was tired of being the most important person in my own life,” Watkins said. “I always knew I was going to be a dad, from a young age, but I didn’t quite know how I was going to do that.”

Aside from the obvious obstacles a gay man might face in the pursuit of fatherhood, there were other considerations like how, when, and with whom. Watkins said he had been in some relationships, some that were very good, but he didn’t want to create a family in a relationship or enter into a relationship that wasn’t true simply for the sake of having children. So doing it alone was something to consider.

“I saw adoption as an option and fostering as an option. And, then a couple of my friends entertained the idea of surrogacy. And, then I started learning about it and checked out some service agencies online, and I thought, ‘I think this is for me.’ That was for me.”

When he was 44 years old, Watkins went into a phase of introspection triggered by the sudden end of a long-term relationship. “I think I kind of hit a midlife crisis, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It was a terrific relationship for a long time. Not all relationships last forever. When we get into relationships we want them to last forever. That is what I wanted, but that’s not the reality of what happened. So, when that did end, I sort of reevaluated what the second half of was going to be.”

To accompany or facilitate his introspection and reevaluation, Watkins took a three-month-long travel excursion. And it worked. He said that when he returned home, he knew exactly what the focus of the second half of his life was going to be, and he was going to make it happen immediately.

“The one thing that resonated with me was that I was going to be a father, and I was going to be a father now. I’m ready to be a father now. And, I also thought that ‘If I don’t do it now, I’m probably not going to do it’ because it felt like I was sort of at a tipping point,” Watkins said. “That’s when I made the first phone call to the first surrogacy agency to go in and have a meeting. So, from that date to when I actually had kids was about two years. When I was 46, I had my kids.”

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Daddy Dearest Continues…

Watkins’ passion for being a father is equally matched with his passion to champion for more diversity in the representation of the LGBT community in film, television and society. Back in December 2014, Watkins posted on Facebook a brief, but pointed criticism of the gay characters on ABC’s Modern Family. That post drew some supporters and some critics, but a lot of controversy; Jesse Tyler Ferguson was one of those critics, and Ferguson posted his reaction on Facebook defending the writers, the show and the reality of his characters with whom he identifies with. The conversation/conflict between the two actors went on for several days on Facebook, and eventually subsided just before the New Year. Watkins said he never imagined he would get the kind of reaction he got from his comments, but he did issue a closing statement about the issue, one day before NYE 2014.

“I posted that sort of as a thought that just went through my head. And, you know I cried “blackface” when I was watching that program. And “blackface” isn’t that right word. But what I did see was a stereotype that distanced me from who I would eventually become forty years ago. So I had sort of a knee-jerk reaction to it,” Watkins said. “I have baggage just like everybody else. And my baggage was the stereotype, the gay stereotype that frightened me as a kid.”

Watkins said that when he saw the stereotype “alive and well” on network television, he suddenly had a visceral response to it. But, he admits that is his personal issue.

“I personally just have a hard time laughing at that overt the top character, but that’s me, and I’ve got my own stuff about it,” Watkins said. “There were some people who said they had a difficult time laughing at that kind of stereo type, there were many more people who said otherwise and were very thankful that that kind of character was on television.”

Watkins acknowledged that gay characters of the 80s and 90s were issue oriented with good reason. Those characters were dealing with the AIDS crisis and coming out, and being ostracized by friends and family he said. “We’ve gone through all that now. Now we’re at the point where people can just be gay, characters can just be gay without an explanation,” Watkins said. “Everybody’s got their own journey and everything. I just kind of want to make sure that the kid in the middle of the spectrum is taken care of.”

Watkins said he is happy about the dialogue that his Facebook post has ignited, and he wants to encourage others who are doing their part. He feels that Hollywood has a huge part to play in this movement forward because the country and the world are always watching.

“There are different roads to pressing forward. We’re not all going to agree on how we ought to press forward. The French Revolution was not won by a bunch of people who agreed with each other. And, it was won,” Watkins said. “We have a responsibility to speak our truth, to try to make the world a better place. And, sometimes we can put our foot in our mouths while we try to do it.”

Watkins wants to make sure that people understand that “there’s a difference between not discussing, and touching on it and just moving forward, rather than over explaining yourself or a character over explaining himself.” And though the activists and pioneers of the past might be shocked by that idea, he feels it really is the next phase of the LGBT movement.

Watkins does caution against confusing presence with inclusion. “I think that there are still a lot of gay characters on television where the punch line is how gay they are,” he said. “When the punch line is gayness it’s not comedy, its ridicule. And we must move beyond that.”

It’s no longer acceptable he said for a show or a film to claim LGBT inclusivity simply by having the same gay character. “We really ought to push through. The over the top flamboyant gay person has been on the front lines of what it means to be gay for decades. That person, that caricature should remain, but he needs to be joined by other types of gay people to show a more thorough representation of the army.”

As a father and as a man who hopes to find love again one day, Watkins also feels very strongly about the struggles for equality happening in the U.S. and the unfortunate lack of open hearts in others who would deny his family.

The June 2015 decision from the Supreme Court of the United States regarding the constitutional right to same-sex marriage is expected sometime before June 30, 2015. A decision that is close to home for Watkins.

“Race has been – race was the primary issue that America went through in the 20th century. I think a person’s sexuality is something that we’re currently going through. The Supreme Court is about to decide once and for all, the constitutionality of gay marriage,” Watkins said. “It’s sort of part of the zeitgeist right now, and I hope that we individually and collectively push towards equality for everybody. And right now, probably because I’m a gay person, it’s very important to me. It’s one of the things I think about a lot of the time.”

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed in to law by Gov. Mike Pence earlier this year, has moved the LGBT rights spotlight right over the mid-west. The controversial Indiana bill could allow Indiana businesses to turn away LGBT patrons on the premise of religious beliefs/freedom when it is scheduled to go into effect in July 2015.

“I went to college in Indiana, and much like my home state of Missouri, I found the people in that state to be loving and inclusive. I think there is a disconnect between Governor Mike Pence and the people of the state of Indiana,” Watkins said. “Pence has avoided the spotlight since signing the “religious freedom,” law and I believe he is seeing that his action does not reflect the broader views of the people of Indiana.”

The recent comments made by fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in a March 2015 interview with Italian magazine Panorama regarding gay families and IVF caused an uproar among many in the LGBT community: “We oppose gay adoptions,” “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog,” “No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.”

The two men founded the Dolce & Gabbana (aka D&G) label and were a couple for 23 years, before breaking up in 2005, they have also been open about their stance against same-sex marriage and have said, “The only family is the traditional one.”

“I was surprised to hear Dolce and Gabbana make judgment on what they consider non-traditional families. IVF and surrogacy are amazing technologies that help create families. Gay people want to create families just like straight people. I’m not sure we should qualify “love.” Furthermore, I think we should collectively foster harmony,” Watkins said.

He acknowledges that here has been a lot of progress and change thanks to the generation before him, and his current generation. “There’s a reason that Rock Hudson’s generation was very closeted, because it was a pretty scary time. It’s tough to stick your neck out there,” Watkins said. “I want more for us. I want more for my kids. I want my kids to be able to laugh at the gay guys on modern family, but at the same time I want them to wonder ‘Does the guy on CSI have a boyfriend?’ I want them to consider both.”

Watkins wants that kind of presence and conversation to be more prevalent. But he said he realizes that, “the generation that’s coming up after me who are much more bold and honest and fearless than almost anybody in my generation. So I have a lot of hope for what’s coming up.”

He knows progress takes time and it takes steps, but Tuc Watkins has just One Life To Live and two kids to love, and he just wants speed things along a little bit to make the world a better place for his twins.

“My goal, long after I’m gone, is that my kids and my kids’ kids don’t talk about people’s sexual orientation in a way that is sort of off topic. It’s just part of who we are.”

Happy Father’s Day Tuc!
We wish you lots of luck on all of your adventures in fatherhood!
– Effie Magazine

Photography by Kelly Marie Brinker.
Hair by Alfonso Afanador & Makeup by Nina Lares,
The Factory Hair & Makeup Studio.

Wardrobe provided by Chicks & Blokes, A. Luxe Designs, Mon Atelier by Ali Rahimi, Art Lewin Bespoke Clothiers & Ted Baker-London.


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