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Patrick James Clarke
Afternoon TV Magazine, November 1982
by Bruce Berman
Article Provided By Wanda

Actor Patrick James Clark is the latest incarnation of Ryan's Hope's most likable Doc -- and it's a role very close to his Irish heart!

"I'm a nice guy, all right!," protests Patrick James Clark, "but I'm really not that nice!"

P.J. (as he will be referred to he herein) is the latest in a succession of actors to play Dr. Patrick Ryan on Ryan's Hope, and is one of the show's most likable characters.  The above reference, of course, is to Patrick James as much as it is to Dr. Ryan.  The similarities only begin with their breeding (New York), names, and shared Irish ancestry. P.J. freely admits that they share so much, he is often unclear where one personality begins and the other ends.

"I'm closer to Patrick than any character I've played," says the classically-trained actor. "Like him, I am capable of giving in the ways that really count, and I can be supportive of people close to me and committed to causes. We both want to do a lot, and are both sometimes naive enough to believe it can be done single handedly. There's an obsessive, somewhat selfish side to this of which I think Dr. Ryan would prefer to remain unaware."

When pressed about this 'demanding' dimension, P.J., who talked with me over breakfast at a coffee shop near his apartment, is uniquely frank. He speaks about the notion of charity, of taking whenever you give, of the fallacy of 'selflessness'. For P.J., an inflated ego is this side of 'Mr. Nice Guy,' and he claims to speak from personal experience.

"Both Patrick and I like to be known as persons who do the 'right thing'.  We feel good about our causes - Patrick about the clinic he is forever starting, and I about my 'acting'.  Perhaps we're even a little smug about it. There's always that other, less apparent side to these things."

The product of a working class family, P.J. called the Bronx home until age 9 when his father (a recent cancer victim) moved the family to Baldwin, Long Island, a nearby suburb. P.J. describes himself as a sensitive but 'streetwise' kid who could handle himself in about any situation (with or without his fists), yet who could recite long passages of poetry by heart.

While playing Dr. Patrick Ryan is enough challenge in itself (it's P.J.'s first major acting job), it is made even more difficult by the fact that he is not the first to do so. Actually, P.J. is the fourth in a succession of actors to play the part. However, says P.J., the demands of afternoon TV are something he finds far too fascinating to worry about.

"You have to be totally professional. There is no room for attitudes and little room for error. You're expected to do your job precisely even if you don't fully understand where your character fits into the story. Daytime is really not a place for prima donnas or actors who are unsure of themselves.

If P.J.'s humility in front of the TV camera is a function of his growth as an actor, arrogance early in his career almost undermined it. Actually, he almost continued preparation for a legal profession, and forsook a theatrical one.

It was during his junior year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where Patrick was studying pre-law in hopes of becoming an attorney. While attending a speech course the instructor asked would anyone in the class like to participate in a 'cattle call' (a solo recitation before an entire lecture class of 350). P.J., who had no previous stage experience, volunteered.

When the time came for him to do so he remained surprisingly calm, mainly, he now realizes, as a result of ignorance of what he had gotten himself into. Not only had he not rehearsed his assigned lines, he did not fully understand them and did not think it necessary to ask questions. He failed miserably. Still, despite his naiveté, P.J. really did want to act, and the strange experience, he feels, probably stimulated his growth - both as an actor and as a person - more than it hurt it.

Arizona had merely whet his acting appetite. After graduating the following year, P.J. received many scholarship offers to study theatre on the graduate level, as well as to teach introductory courses. After much deliberation, he accepted an invitation to attend Florida State University.

P.J. attended for three years, doing regional theatre all over the U.S. and earning the kind of experience that can be achieved only through constant work and careful study. It was wonderful having the opportunity to work and to refine your skills and not have to worry too much about falling flat on your face. "When the gentleman who was to become my agent, Mr. Bloom, saw me in a play in Pittsburgh, he asked to meet me. We hit it off right away, and before I knew it I was on a plane headed for New York and an audition for a part on Ryan's Hope."

After P.J. received word that he had landed the part of Dr. Ryan, he knew preparation would be in order.

As part of his preparation for the part of Patrick Ryan, P.J. spent several days and nights at Bellevue Hospital, in its infamous emergency room, observing physicians and their character. "I discovered the younger staff, residents and interns, are a lot less formal than the doctors I knew as a kid or had seen in movies and on TV. They're less afraid to allow their feelings to show.
 
"The way I see it - Patrick is not unlike this. While he is more comfortable when people relate to the 'healer' and 'helper' in him, there is a passionate side that he reveals when the timing is right. Believe me, I know him like I know myself."

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