Eric stars as "Ethan Winthrop" on NBC's soap opera "Passions". Honest, good-hearted Ethan was raised as a member of the wealthy Crane dynasty. In fact, as Ivy and Julian's son, he was even the heir apparent to the entire empire. But Ethan's world was rocked when he learned he was really the son of Ivy and her first love, Sam Bennett, a man he couldn't stand. He has since grown to love and accept his true father. Ethan is currently married to Gwen, his childhood sweetheart, but still harborsfeelings for his ex-fiancée, Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald. Ethan was devastated over the loss of Sarah, the daughter he shared with Gwen, who died at birth. Eric was born on July 27, 1971 in Pennsylvania.
Eric Martsolf: Playing By Heart
Following His Passions, Eric Martsolf Went From Dollywood To Hollywood.
It was the early '90s, Forrest was Gumping all over the country and Eric Martsolf (Ethan, Passions) life was, quite literally, a box of chocolates. "During my college breaks, I was a singer/performer at Hershey Park," he recalls, referring to the rural Pennsylvania candy kingdom. "The performers get to wear many hats over there. We did five shows a day, everything from Gershwin to country to Elvis. And I was also the emcee for this thing that they had called 'The Sweetest Family Of The Day.' I don't know exactly what that involved; I didn't pick them. I'm sure that they had to have a real aura of sweetness around them."
"But once they were picked," he continues, "we'd have 'The Sweetest Parade', which was basically me clad in a silver tuxedo driving 'The Sweetest Family Of The Day' around in a golf cart with all the Hershey characters – people dressed up in giant candy-bar costumes – following behind. Kit Kat, Twizzlers, Gummi Bears, Fifth Avenue, they were all there. It was actually a lot of responsibility at an early age because the candy bars couldn't see three feet in front of themselves, and it was up to me to make sure that they didn't bump into one another." Naturally, the candy bars were indebted to him. "They became some of my best friends. The Fifth Avenue and I were really close," grins the actor.
While it wasn't the most glamorous of gigs, Martsolf enjoyed his summers at Hershey enough to switch his professional focus from law to entertainment. Shortly after graduation, he accepted a position crooning to patrons on a Hawaiian cruise ship. "I was in the All-American Jubilee," he explains. "We did two shows a week, and then my other big responsibility was making sure that everyone on the boat was drinking enough. But there were other duties, like; I had to play bingo once a week. That was an actual duty of mine as a Jubilee member."
It was all very LOVE BOAT ("We had our Gopher, we had our Isaac") – fun at first, but ultimately a little stultifying. "You get homesick after a while," he reflects. "When it gets right down to it, you're on a boat for a year, and it makes you antsy." That being the case, Martsolf headed back to the mainland when his contract expired. Three weeks later, a chance meeting with Dolly Parton's posse in a Georgia hotel lobby led to yet another oddball opportunity. "They were looking for a narrator for the Christmas show at Dollywood," Martsolf says. "I was like, 'What's Dollywood?' I had never heard of it. And I had never in my life imagined that I would move to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. But it sounded like a good opportunity, so I packed up my cowboy boots, hopped into my Honda Accord and went."
Two years later, Martsolf said good-bye to Dollywood and immediately jumped into a four-year run in the Osmond family's national tour of Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Eventually, at the urging of sometime Joseph co-star Jodi Benson ("She was the voice of the Little Mermaid"), Martsolf and his girlfriend, Lisa, who was one of the lead dancers in Joseph and who now does a lot of work for Disney and was working on a project with Deborah Gibson ("Don't call her Debbie") at the time of this interview, decided to give L.A. a whirl. True to form, his first job in the City of Angels was at yet another theme park, playing various characters at Universal Studios. "I am very much indebted to Universal Studios: it definitely helped me pay my rent," he says. "Were there times when I thought, 'Wait a minute, I'm in a skirt, wearing The Scorpion King wig, holding a sword, how did I get here, did I take a serious U-turn?' Sure. But everything happens for a reason. I love where I am now, and I really believe that if I hadn't gone through all these other steps, I wouldn't have ended up here."
"Here is another theme park of sorts: PASSIONS; and this is Martsolf's third trip to harmony. After auditioning for the role of Ethan before production began (the part went to Travis Schuldt), the actor was hired, first as "the demon who pulled Theresa into hell when she committed suicide off the wharf," and then as "the demon cop who Zombie Charity threw into the mix to try and stop Kay from rescuing Miguel." "I was so concerned when I got the role of Ethan. I was like, 'Aren't people going to remember me?' They were like, 'That's the beauty of this show, Eric'" says Martsolf.
And that's the beauty of life: And Mama Gump's infamous platitude about the chocolates goes, you never know what you're gonna get. "I never in a million years would have thought that I would be doing what I'm doing today," Martsolf muses. "I was going to be a lawyer and spend my life behind a desk, which [appealed to my] interest in political science and it would have been the safe and stable path. When I decided to go into entertainment, I knew it had the biggest failure rate of any business. But at this point in my life, I'm confident that I made the right decision. Plus, I'm playing a lawyer on TV now," he concludes, "so really, it's the best of both worlds."
Just Some Facts About Eric Martsolf:
Born on: July 27th, 1971
Hails From: Harrisburg, PA
Alma Mater: Dickinson College (B.A. in political science)
He Drives: A brand-new Audi TT Roadster
Must-See TV: Alias
Cooking Specialty: Cereal. "I'm the first to admit it - I'm awful in the kitchen."
Best Quality: Persistent
Worst Quality: Procrastination
Musical Talent: Drums Website: www.ericmartsolf.com
Eric Martsolf: Torn Between Two Loves
Much Like Ethan, Passions' Eric Martsolf Grappled With a Difficult Decision
After a few months on the job as Passions' new Ethan, Eric Martsolf has successfully adjusted to life in Harmony and adapted to the rigors of soap opera – save for one thing. "I haven't been a morning person since I was born. That's the hardest part of the job for me actually," yawns the actor, interviewed mid-morning on one of the rare days he's had off since he replaced Travis Schuldt in the midst of a major arc. "The producers threw me a curveball when they made my first scene the execution of Theresa. That was interesting, to say the least! But after I got over that hurdle, everything else has been smooth sailing."
It wasn't long after he sobbed over Theresa's corpse that Martsolf had to peel off his clothes for another rite of passage for soap actors: his first love scene, with Natalie Zea (ex-Gwen). Although many an actor dreads the thought of baring all in front of cast, crew and America, Martsolf would pick bed over dead. "I'd rather do a love scene than a death scene any day: Especially when you're dealing with actresses like Natalie and Lindsay (Korman, Theresa). These are beautiful women, so it's not like it's a great hardship. It's much harder to watch them be put to death by lethal injection than to get under the covers with them."
But make no mistake about it: Martsolf has done far more for Ethan than flashing skin and flexing muscle for the camera. He's been retooling the character from the inside-out. "I have made a few choices. The scripts have allowed me lately to put some fire into his mannerisms and his behavior. Lindsay and I recently did a very emotional scene that we both just dove into. I took Ethan to a place where he hadn't been before, and that's rage, being enraged with Theresa's lies and her deceit. Ever since then, Ethan's been a little more willing to be open with himself and his emotions. Besides, Ethan needed a little bit of a backbone. He's been walked over and walked on for a long time. Everyone around him is constantly scheming. It's only a matter of time before … I'm waiting for him to go crazy!"
Martsolf admits to going crazy himself – in the wardrobe department. "Ethan's got a new sense of style," the actor proudly reports. "He's a little more GQ and Armani; he's coming into his own. Wardrobe is wonderful. They bring in five different designers and say, 'Well, what do you like?' And of course, I tend to go for the most expensive designers."
If Martsolf seems to have very distinct opinions on what Ethan is about, perhaps it's because his first look at the character was akin to glancing at himself in the mirror. "It blew me away when I initially got the breakdowns. We're the same height, have the same background, the same coloring, the same relationship issues." Time out. Does this mean that he was caught in a torrid triangle? "Maybeeeeee," Martsolf coyly teases. "But family life is the one significant difference between us. The Crane family and the Martsolf family are two different entities by far. I don't think there's another family in America like the Cranes!"
Martsolf hails from Pennsylvania, where Mom is a schoolteacher and Dad an attorney. A pre-law major in college, "I initially pursued law because there was that desire to follow in my father's footsteps," Martsolf says. "But ironically he was the one influence in my life that told me to do what I wanted to do and not what the family insisted that I do. He motivated me to make that journey into entertainment and go for it. And as a result, he's the happiest guy on earth. He's watching his son do what he wanted to do from the beginning. My father had never before watched a soap opera in his life. And now he watches and tapes it every day. He knows more about the characters and relationships than I do. I go to him for advice: 'Should I dump Gwen? Should I go with Theresa?'"
Dad may be his biggest fan, but he's by no means the only one. "People keep streaming out of the woodwork every day. 'Remember me from 16 years ago, when I extracted your wisdom teeth?' I'm like, 'What? My childhood dentist?!' But it's so welcome. It's been wonderful to see people generally happy for your success. Especially because everyone was fully aware of my conflict: Do I go with the 9 to 5 secure occupation, or do I follow this crazy path? All throughout college I battled. During the summers I entertained (Martsolf was a performer at Hershey Park), and during the academic years I studied. I always had these two loves, and I could not come up with a legitimate reason to follow one or the other. So when people from my past who have found me on the television look me up and say, 'Eric, we were expecting to see a law practice in Pa. with your name on it. Instead we see you on NBC. What's going on?!' I take great pride in telling them that sometimes you just take a U-turn in life. I went with what was in my heart as opposed to what was in my head."
Eric Martsolf: One on One
The Former Crane Heir Answers Some Pretty Tough Questions
Recent fad I admit to trying: Watching American Idol
Favorite actor: Al Pacino
Favorite actress: Kathy Bates
Favorite movie: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Scarface
Greatest fear: losing a loved one
Favorite TV show: Will & Grace
Favorite singer: Barry Manilow
Role for the opposite sex I would most want to play: Jennifer Garner's role as Syndey Bristow on Alias
If I could only keep one household appliance, it would be: a blender
Something you'd be surprised to know about me: I love '80s glam rock.
Currently reading: Passions' scripts
Favorite book: The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller
Favorite food: coconut
Least favorite food: squash
Favorite comfort food: strip steaks
Favorite item of clothing: my jeans
Nobody knows I can: be overly sensitive
Greatest achievement: living comfortably
I can imitate: Neil Diamond
If I couldn't be an actor, I'd be: a singer
Cause I most believe in: PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
If I had one wish: Homelessness would be a memory
What I treasure most: my family
First thing I do when I wake up in the morning: hit the snooze button
Last thing I do before I go to bed: run lines in my head (honestly!)
Most embarrassing moment: having to change a diaper on-set
Best word or phrase that describes me: I'm not what ya think …
What I dislike most about my appearance: my "keep it because it adds character" spider bite
If I could live anywhere, it'd be: Maui
Greatest love: my fiancee, Lisa Kouchak
My heroes: Ric and Nancy Martsolf
My epitaph: If it feels good … do it.