Where There's a Will: Meet Jesse Soffer (Soap Opera Digest Weekly Online ~ 2004)
Fans might remember Jesse Soffer from back when he was known as Jesse Lee, playing Bobby Brady in 1995's THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE and 1996's A BRADY BUNCH SEQUEL, as well as for his well-received portrayal as GUIDING LIGHT's troubled Max in 1999. But after choosing to leave GL, Soffer disappeared. He's back now, this time playing AS THE WORLD TURNS's troubled Will — and all grown up (mostly).
By Jennifer Lenhart
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: What have you been doing since leaving GUIDING LIGHT?
Jesse Soffer: I kind of decided that finishing high school had to be a priority, and I put myself through boarding school in Washington, Connecticut. And it was honestly the best decision I've ever made. It was the best four years of my life. It was like college, but in high school. It was coed, and I lived with all my best friends in the dorm.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: After you graduated, did you want to go straight back into acting?
Jesse Soffer: I did. I deferred from a couple of colleges and I planned on being in school, but I wanted to give acting a shot, so I took a year off and auditioned for a lot of stuff. It was kind of going slow and I was on my way to Drew University and then I got this. So I sort of put [college] off again and now I'm taking a couple of classes at NYU. Maybe I will end up there some day, but I'm going to take it slow because this is too great an opportunity.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: What did they tell you about Will?
Jesse Soffer: They didn't tell me much. When I went in to audition, they gave me some lines, but it wasn't actually for Will, it was for someone else, because they were trying to get a feel for people. And I did a good job, so they gave me the Will sides, and they said, 'Okay, Will is in a psychiatric hospital and he murdered someone, but he's not crazy, he's just under his mother's influence' [laughs]. I don't know where it's going: Maybe he's crazy, maybe he's not. So far, he seems like a really honest, sweet kid whose mother has way too much of an influence on him.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: Have you seen the last Will, Brett Groneman?
Jesse Soffer: Because I asked for the tapes, I only saw the wedding sequence where she [Rose] actually dies.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: Physically, you really resemble him.
Jesse Soffer: People have been saying that he would look like me when he grows up, which is kind of cool.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: You've been working with the big names on the show — Martha Byrne (Lily), Colleen Zenk Pinter (Barbara), Roger Howarth (Paul).
Jesse Soffer: Yeah, it's been great to jump into it with them, because they're all so skilled and they know exactly what they're doing. Colleen has been playing her character for so long that she knows exactly who she is and she can turn it on at a moment's notice. So it makes it easier for someone like me to get the tone for a scene, because you can just feed off someone who's that good.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: Was it intimidating?
Jesse Soffer: It actually wasn't. Believe it or not, the day of my audition, my mother came with me because we have family in Brooklyn and when I came out of my audition, my mom was talking to Colleen. So I met her and she said, 'Who are you trying out for?' I said, 'This kid, Will.' And she said, 'That's my son!' And so we started chatting and after that, it kind of clicked. My first day, she showed me around, and I wasn't intimidated at all because I felt like we had already known each other. It was really cool.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: Was it hard to get back into the soap groove?
Jesse Soffer: It was a little hard to get back into it, because on soaps, you do 75 pages a day, whereas on movies you might do two pages or something like that. But I got back into it kind of quickly. It's a skill; once you've got it, it comes back. It's all about what's actually going on. Not necessarily the words, but the emotion of it.
SOAP OPERA DIGEST: You've changed your name for this role.
Jesse Soffer: My middle name is Lee, and I was always an actor as a kid, before high school. Right then and there was when I stopped. Now I feel like I'm out of school and taking this more seriously. And if this is going to be my career and if I am going to do this for the rest of my life, I'd like it to be me, you know? My real name, who I really am.