In his upcoming memoir, I’ll Be Damned, Eric Braeden delves into his traumatic beginnings that eventually led to his starring role as Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless. The biggest surprise? His father was a member of the Nazi Party.
Braeden was born in 1941, in Kiel, Germany and writes that the day after his mother left the hospital, it was destroyed by bombs.
“I knew my father, who was the mayor of our town, was an honest, decent man and there was never a hint of anti-Semitism in our home. Like most German professionals and government officials of the time, he joined the Nazi Party,” said Braeden in an interview with TV Insider. “It was what one did. But he was not a part of the atrocities. In fact, I found out my eldest brother was approached by the Hitler Youth and my father forbade him to join. So I have come to peace with all that.”
Eric Braeden later formed a German-American Cultural Society and continues to work on bettering the portrayal of Germans in the media. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the same strong will as Victor Newman in Y&R.
Here are four surprising revelations from I’ll Be Damned to prove it:
Braeden once cut up cadavers.
One of the first jobs Braeden had in the U.S. was cutting up the knee joints of cadavers for a researcher who studied arthritis. He writes:
“There was no air-conditioning. There were no fans. It was just me, scalpel in hand, sweat pouring off of me, in a large room full of dead people, more than willing to earn my keep but not believing for a moment that I’d found my life’s calling.”
Braeden wanted to quit Y&R.
Braeden originally signed a three-month contract. Though it was extended, he found the script lacking and wanted to quit.
“I’d begun to sink into a depression, not over the work itself but over what I perceived to be the lack of depth in the Victor Newman character,” he writes. Eventually, he convinced the show’s writer, Bill Bell, to give the villainous Newman a backstory.
“I loved it. Victor Newman was now a multifaceted man with authentic motivations and many levels to play,” he writes. “I also related to him personally, of course, from being so young when my own father died and knowing the pain of feeling abandoned and of living impoverished.”
Fighting on set.
Braeden had huge issues with a costar on set, whom he calls his “most egregious castmate” (he doesn’t name him because he signed a non-disclosure agreement). He writes about numerous verbal altercations. In their biggest fight, Braeden challenged him to take a swing (“‘You want me to hit you? You hit me first. Go ahead, give me your best shot,'” Braeden remembers saying.).
The costar was eventually fired.
“He was a very good actor,” said Braeden, “but he’s lucky he’s walking in one piece.”
Marlon Brando told him not to be an actor.
According to I’ll Be Damned, Braeden was tossing a football back and forth with the legendary actor in between scenes when Brando told him, “‘Don’t be an actor. You’re too bright.'”
Though Braeden was “shocked” by this advice, he writes, “I’ve never met anyone, before or since, who cared less what anyone else thought of him. [Brando] did exactly what he wanted to do, and he said exactly what he wanted to say, all with a nonnegotiable ‘take it or leave it’ attitude.”
I’ll Be Damned goes on sale on Feb. 7.