THE "GUIDING LIGHT" Justin Marler Arrives in Springfield
This is an interview Tom did for Soap Opera Magazine. December 1976
|Tom as Justin Marler with Jackie on 'The Guiding Light'|
'Flashback to not so long ago, Tom O'Rourke was a man with an indeterminate future. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do and he wasn't having much luck.
Ten years later, seated in his dressing room at THE GUIDING LIGHT studio, is a handsome, promising young actor, who looks as if he's been wearing success-symbol grey flannel suits and button down shirts all his life. Yes, it's Tom O'Rourke. Same guy with a new lease on life. Now he has a career, a new job he loves and a steady girl he adores.
Flashback again to 1966, when Tom, fresh out of the army, (in which he was a paratrooper) has visited "every employment agency on 42nd Street- about 63 of them" in New York - no luck. A friend suggested he go to Chicago, with the pep talk: "If you can't get a job in Chicago, there's something wrong with you." On the day he leaves for Chicago, he finally receives the notice he's been waiting for, to go down and take the police exams. He had been thinking of becoming a cop. Too late. He's Chicago bound.
Tom was about 25 when he took off for the second city. In all, he spent about 6 years there, during which time, he did some of the following things: owned a tavern, worked in a film lab, became a still photographer, became a model, signed up for evening acting classes at the Goodman Theater, got a scholarship, attended full time and became a dedicated actor.
"Up to that time," says Tom, "I'd only seen a half a dozen plays in my life." He grew up on the West Side of Manhattan, and he was poor. "Theater was a luxury," he recalls. "I used to sneak in to see Joseph Papp's stuff in the park when I was a kid. Once I tried to steal some of the swords off the stage after Romeo and Juliet."
"When you're a kid, you don't know you're poor. All your friends are poor. There's no stigma attached to it. There's nothing to compare it with. It's your universe. You had the park, which was marvelous. I know Central Park like the palm of my hand. And there was the Museum of Natural History. I used to spend hours there."
Because his parents were divorced when he was a kid, Tom and his two brothers were raised by their grandfather, a Commander in the Merchant Marines. "Our house was like a museum," he recalls. "He had spears and flags and cannon balls. It was like a big curio shop all filled with wonders and magic." It was an ideal setting for a growing boy with an actor's imagination.
Tom has been playing Dr. Justin Marler for about five months now. He has never worked a soap before. Prior to this, "it was all theater," he says. "I was doing a show at the American Place Theater, Robert Lowell's The Old Glory, when this show auditioned me. It was nice. I finished that show and came right on this.
Tom is delighted with his new income and working schedule for another reason: He is getting married in the spring to Marcie Casterline, an actress and a model. It's his first and he hopes, will be his only trip to the altar. "This is it," he says. "This better be it. I don't plan on doing this again."
Before Tom met Marcie, he says, "I was something of a ladies' man. I had a good time. I think I satisfied all my curiosity. You get it all out of your system. And I did my running around, and dated a lot of wonderful gals, and we had a great time, and I was always very honest about it. I didn't want to mislead somebody into thinking something else was going to happen when it wasn't.
"I knew exactly what I was looking for. It's the screwiest thing, the way it happened. We met at an audition. I was about a half an hour late, and there she was sitting there when I arrived. I had always said to myself that I would know. Know. And I looked over at her, and I thought, This is it. This is it. She's five-foot nine, a redhead, has gorgeous blue eyes, and she's beautiful.
"After I talked to her, and the more I got to know her, the more convinced I was that this is the most fantastic, brightest chick I ever met. Because, aside from the physical attractiveness you're looking for, the most important thing between two people is the whole intellectual exchange, feedback, communication. If you don't have that, forget it.
Though they've known each other for three years, Marcie and Tom are still in the starry-eyed stage. They've planned a spring wedding specifically because they want to honeymoon in Paris in the spring. "Marcie worked in France a lot," he says. "And has been telling me how terribly romantic it is.
As for the wedding, it will be a small ceremony for family and close friends, says Tom, followed by "an immense, wild party, with a cast of thousands" which Tom would like to hold at Tavern on the Green in Central Park. After all, didn't he practically grow up there? Joy Rodney.
This is an excerpt from DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB