I am a fan of Neil Patrick Harris — I have been since I was young and regularly watched Doogie Howser, M.D. — in fact, that show somewhat made me want to study to become a doctor, before I decided at some point that I just didn’t have the intellectual ability to learn that much about the human body, biology and chemistry.

Neil recently updated his Twitter stream with a comment about professionalism in the acting world. Specifically, he made a directed remark about another actor, Eric Braeden, who had been meant to appear on his current television program How I Met Your Mother but backed out. It would not have been his first appearance on the show — the second, in fact. Braeden nearly didn’t do that appearance, either.

The producers and the director are fans of what I do on Y&R, so it initially came from them. But I have had a longstanding antipathy toward guest-starring on nighttime television because I’d done that an enormous amount in the ’60s and ’70s. I was infuriated by the singular decision by a former head of Universal Studios to lower guest-star salaries by 75 percent – from $7,500 per show to $2,500.

To me, $2,500 represents working about five and a half weeks. I suppose if you are used to making a lot more money, that isn’t an acceptable cut. Nevertheless, he made the appearance the first time and nearly made the second appearance but bowed out.

Apparently veteran soap actor Eric Braeden was supposed to do a cameo appearance last night as Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) dad but he decided not to show up at the last minute. Therefore they had to hurry and find a replacement, and lucky for them the talented and graceful Ray Wise was more than willing to take Braeden’s place.

This is exactly where things turned ugly. Harris posted a twitter update saying that Braeden was a “D-Bag” and that “He agreed to a cameo as Robin’s dad, then last night he bailed, saying the part wasn’t ’substantial’ enough.” It is true that he later posted a message regretting the initial message, but he had already put it out there, as Meg Ryan said to Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally.

It seems like Harris may have had somewhat of a point in that Braeden should have either not accepted the role the second time around or just have done it based on having accepted it. Nevertheless, I have to wonder — what makes a role more substantial than another? Is it the length of time spent onstage / on the screen? Can there be a substantial role that takes one minute?

6 Comments

  1. There is bad behavior all around here, Gordon.

    I agree the 75% pay cut is substantial, however, those are only minimums, and actors with muscle are able to negotiate larger appearance fees. My instinct is Braeden was in negotiation with the producers to be paid somewhat above the new minimum for the appearance — probably for the original $7,500 minimum — and then, somehow, at the end, it all fell apart, and there was no other option but to back out. If the producers had a signed contract, they have many avenues for punishment, but it doesn’t sound like a deal was ever set — even though everyone wanted it to happen.

    Neil was completely wrong to go public with the spat. That’s bad form.

      1. I think Braeden stayed pretty quiet, didn’t he? That’s a class act. He knew there could be no winner. Sometimes things fall apart. It didn’t work out in the end — the producers played a game of chicken with him on salary — and Braeden walked away and took the hits for standing on principle. You don’t have the sort of long-term career he’s had if you’re difficult on set or hard to work with every day.

        1. Braeden commented to Entertainment Weekly.

          “I really don’t know who that fellow is. He’s a guy who stars in that series,” Braeden told EW, laughing. “It’s very unfortunate. First of all, I came back from hip surgery. I was off for three weeks. I’ve doubled my work, 30 to 50 pages a day for me, alone. Everyone knows that I’m exhausted. I was not about to appear on a show for two lines, because that’s what it amounted to.”

          He didn’t know how many lines it was before agreeing to it at first?

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