Just before learning he was once again nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his role as Liam Spencer on CBS’ “The Bold and the Beautiful,” actor Scott Clifton took time out of his busy day to speak with Soap Opera Network about a topic that he is very passionate about: Animals. Although Clifton was battling pneumonia at the time of our discussion, his passion for those animals desperately in need of the love and companionship that one can bring helped him push forward as he provided details on how the storyline featuring the Los Angeles Animal Shelter came about, the behind the scenes reality surrounding Liam’s gift to girlfriend Hope Logan (Kim Matula), and how he went from a dog person to a cat person.
You may be wondering, how did the idea for a storyline surrounding the care of animals in dire need of love and support come about on a soap opera, specifically one that hopefully helps shed light on the little known facts of the undertaking by animal shelters? “Brad Bell [‘B&B’ head writer and executive producer] knew that both Kim and I are huge animal people. I’m not saying that Brad got the idea based on this, but I think he knew that Kim and I would be really excited to do any kind of storyline having to do with animals. So everything started coming together, and then Bob Barker [former host of ‘The Price is Right’] seemed interested in doing it, and a big part of it was we wanted to go to one of the animal shelters, specifically the South LA Animal Shelter,” Clifton says. “This shelter you gotta see it. It’s phenomenal. The facilities are so pristine and the staff really, really care and are really knowledgeable. The animals are kept outside. There’s flowers planted all around so that while you walk down and up the aisles with the cages, you smell jasmine and wild flowers and it’s like a really wonderful place. In and of itself, just speaking of the facility, once we got there and we were shooting, and this was a long time in the works as well, at first we thought we were may be going to have Bob Barker there at the animal shelter. His schedule didn’t line up, and so it was Kim and myself and Brandon McMillan [host, CBS’ ‘Lucky Dog’]. He’s a dog trainer and an animal advocate and he stood in for Bob in those scenes.”
Filming on location is nothing new for “B&B” as it is the only daily soap opera consistently with its cameras outdoors, but on this particular shoot things got a little heavy when going from script to reality. “Sure it sounds good in theory, and yes the facilities are beautiful and the staff is really wonderful there, but you get there and the reality of it hits you,” Clifton explains. “Half the animals there, or if not more, are pitbulls with battle scars all over them. There was a day that the shelter was supposed to be closed and upwards of 20 people just came in and nonchalantly dropped their animals off like it was dirty laundry or something saying, ‘I don’t want to deal with it. You deal with it!’ ‘I’m moving,’ or ‘My new girlfriend doesn’t like dogs, so you take it!’ Just animal after animal. At one point somebody brought in a puppy, a baby puppy, and I guess their dog had given birth to this puppy, and they just discarded the puppy at the shelter and the puppy died over the course of the day that we were there. So on the one hand I came home from this experience with this shelter so happy that places like this exist, that there are people who care enough to do this, and a lot of these are volunteers. They’re not getting paid, they’re just doing it out of their own good hearts. On the other hand, reality really sunk in, and it’s like trying to solve this problem of animal abuse and animal homelessness and overpopulation. It’s like trying to shoot a bee bee gun at a meteor. It really feels like a losing battle, but we all try to keep a good healthy attitude about it, so I came home that night and was really emotional about it because it really hits you when you see it right in front of your eyes.”
Enter Bob Barker! “Bob Barker’s been doing this for a really long time. I mean, he knows this subject inside and out. We’ve [previously] had the chance to work with celebrities, and people who are well known in the public eye before on the show, and it’s always fun and usually they play themselves and we try to make them feel comfortable and we cater to them and a lot of the consciousness for us is like, ‘Are they going to be cool? Are they used to working with actors?’ All of that went out the window once I met Bob. I can’t tell you what an impressive human being he is. He was so noble. He came on, it wasn’t about self publicity or anything like that, he really just wanted to push this issue and spread awareness on this as much as he could. This passion that he has really does come from a place of empathy. It’s actually even hard for him to go to some animal shelters because it’s too painful. He’s been an animal lover his whole life and to hear him talk about it, I just came away so impressed with his knowledge and his passion and I’m a huge fan of Bob Barker. Who knew?” Speaking of Bob, what was it like working with the legendary game show host? “It was great. I really just came away from it just being so impressed with him as a person,” Clifton notes while revealing their time together was short. “It was actually very quick, very professional. They really didn’t have to write him any lines, because he knows the subject like the back of his hand. Really the scene is just me interviewing him in character. He came in and knew exactly what he wanted to say. He had an answer for everything that I asked him. We took a couple of photos afterward and then it was done. It was a very hectic shooting day so I didn’t get to hang out with him afterwards because I had to change my wardrobe and shoot another scene. It was very quick, but very rewarding.”
Did you know? Clifton grew up a dog lover, but he is currently the proud owner of three cats. “I was a dog person growing up and I love dogs. I had a hybrid wolf growing up, and one year I moved to New York City to be on [‘One Life to Live’]. I was dating my now wife long distance at the time. I would only get to see her once every two or three weeks, and I would call her and say, ‘God, I really want a dog. I really want a dog.’ I’m just like, ‘I feel lonely here in New York. I don’t really know anybody. I want a companion.’ And she said, ‘You idiot! What are you kidding me? You’re gonna walk a dog two times a day? You live in a tiny little apartment, but you’re not nearly responsible enough to own a dog in New York City,'” Clifton recalls. “She was absolutely right, there was no way I ever would have pulled that off.” So how did Clifton go from dogs to cats? “One day she was visiting me and we were walking down the street, and there was a kitten adoption that was just happening [on the street]. There were these two twin brother cats, little babies, and it was a very cool adoption organization. They said, ‘You can either adopt one adult cat or two kittens, because if you are going to get a kitten they need to have a companion.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool that they care enough to make you do that.’ So I adopted these two twin brothers. [Before doing so] my biggest thing was, ‘I am not going to become a cat person! I have never been a cat person. This is ridiculous. I can’t believe you are making me adopt these cats!’ But it just took a few months with them to realize that they’re not these sort of off-putting arrogant little creatures. Their brains just work on a different operating system and once you understand how cats think, which is differently from how dogs think and how they process their emotions, they’re really, really fun.”
Named Sawyer and Desmond after the popular characters from ABC’s “Lost,” Clifton returned to Los Angeles after his run on “OLTL” came to a close. With the twin brother cats returning with him, the actor found out the sad reality of having a house pet spending time alone outdoors, even for a short period of time. “Once I moved back to Los Angeles, one of them heartbreakingly got eaten by a coyote almost right away. We found him [with] half of his body left,” he says with emotion in his voice. “It’s so tragic. It was so stupid of me to think that I could take two indoor apartment cats, bring them to LA with zero survival skills, and just think that I could let them out all day and that they would handle themselves just fine with [predators around]. I was so naive!”
Desmond was the name of the cat that died, leaving his brother Sawyer all alone for the first time. After losing his brother, Sawyer began adapting some of Desmond’s character traits. “[Desmond] was a cuddler. He really liked to be held. You could cradle him like a baby. [Sawyer] was never like that until his brother passed away, and now he’s kind of a combination of the personalities of both,” Clifton explains. “It was really interesting, but I think that was the way he mourned his brother. Even when we found the body, we wanted to make sure that he understood what was going on, so we let him smell and see the body of his brother. He got it and he went through this mourning process, and that was when we decided that we needed to get him another companion,” he says referring to the addition of Thomas to the household a few months later. “Thomas was a little predator minded. They found him in a hoarder’s house. This women, I guess there were like 17 cats, some of them were dead, there was a whole family of cats living under her house and Thomas was just this one little kitten. We ended up adopting Thomas and he’s such a sweetheart. He’s very different from Sawyer [who’s] now kind of an old grumpy man while Thomas is a little sweetheart. So, those are our boys… Thomas and Sawyer. That was actually a coincidence, by the way. It’s not Tom-Sawyer, but he came came with the name Tom.”
Earlier we noted that Clifton and his wife currently have three cats, so with Thomas and Sawyer already part of the family, where does the third come into the picture? Enter Walter White! On the show, Liam rescues a little white cat and gives it to Hope as a gift. In real life, the cat used by the show is the same cat Clifton adopted from his experience for the storyline. As the decision was made to adopt another cat, and integrate him into their lives, Clifton and his wife learned their decision to do so wasn’t just requiring a simple, “I’ll take this one.” It required greater commitment. “It turned out this particular cat had a really good temperament and disposition in terms of being really calm around people – he seemed really tranquil. Well it turns out, he wasn’t just naturally calm or tranquil, he was on the verge of death! So if nobody adopted him… he had a broken foot, he had respiratory disease. He had all kinds of infections. He had stomach parasites. He had 100 and something fever, which is really, really high for a cat,” Clifton says of the astonishing medical conditions the precious animal was living with. “We spent thousands of dollars taking him to a vet almost everyday to nurse him back to health, and that’s another reason why I’m really glad that I adopted him, because I’m in a very privileged position in life and not everyone may be would be able to afford spending that much money to nurse a cat back to health, so now I’m really glad that we did.” So how is a now healthy Walter White handling his new surroundings? “He’s constantly jumping on my other cats and playing with the other cats, hiding in corners and jumping on them and attacking them. He’s got a lot of energy. He has had to work on the show since [adopting him and subsequent medical procedures] and he’s doing fine. He’s great. We love him so much and he’s become an integral part of our family.”
In addition to Clifton and his wife, the storyline inspired additional adoptions by CBS Daytime talent and staffers: “B&B” stage manager Laura Yale took in a dog she named Molly and Supervising Producer Edward Scott and his wife, actress Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman, “The Young and the Restless,” adopted a dog they named Reilly.
“The Bold and the Beautiful” airs Weekdays on CBS and Weeknights on TVGN.