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'Y&R' actor relishes role's complexity, show's intensity

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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It isn't human nature to opt out of the path well taken — unless you happen to be Max Ehrich. At the ripe old age of 21, he's managed to accumulate a list of acting credits that show his preference for complex, multilayered roles that mirror his own intensities.

Among his highlight reel are clips of him playing a homophobic bully on “Ugly Betty” and an intense role as a high-school baseball star whose girlfriend intentionally gets pregnant on Lifetime's “The Pregnancy Pact.”

The poster boy for one who never shies away from a challenge, his current project includes playing the character of Fenmore Baldwin on the daytime soap, “The Young and the Restless.” Audiences have found themselves introduced to the issue of cyber-bullying (a first for the show), watching as the angst-driven teenager attempts to work through the issues and obstacles that arise as he struggles into adulthood. The introduction of plots revolving around young adults was a risk, and Ehrich himself wasn't exactly sure how well he and his co-stars would be received. The response, however, proved to be tremendously positive — something that Ehrich finds humbling.

Hero, villain — surprisingly enough, there's not one he's predisposed to choosing. All things being equal, it's the opportunity to break down preconceived barriers that carries the greatest appeal.

Question: Did you have any preconceived notion as of what working on a soap opera would be like?

Answer: No. I never really knew what it consisted of. And then I saw the intensity of doing a scene in one take, and I love that high-voltage intensity. It was overwhelming, and I like challenges. It's been an exciting process.

Q: Your character has quite the evil, dark side for being so young.

A: Yeah. I don't think, at first, they had the intention of doing that, but then, as the new regime came along, I think they kind of had a really good map of where they wanted Fenmore to come from and where they wanted him to evolve. I think everyone has a bit of darkness, and I think we can all relate. I don't think Fenmore is an evil human being whatsoever. I think that, out of love, he went down that dark path. It just triggers something inside of him which he's never experienced before, which is this envy and this hatred. In Fen's mind, everything is justified; all of his actions are justified.

Q: What is it about Fen that strikes such a chord with your audience?

A: What people are liking is seeing underneath the evil words is this heartbroken little boy — that there's just the right amount of vulnerability and strength. So these two opposing forces (are) going on at once. In one scene, I can be this dominating figure and screaming and, then, this inner child and break down. It's an emotional roller coaster – it's never in one place. As teenagers, we're very vulnerable. It's really fun for me to play because I know Fenmore inside and out and there's many layers underneath. I can't really say I expected audiences to react the way they have because a lot of people don't like teenagers coming on the show. We've gotten them to think differently, and I'm humbled. I feel really drawn to Fenmore, and I'm happy that it translates on the screen.

Q: Do you get the sense that people understand how serious of an issue cyber-bullying is for young people today?

A: I think they do. I hope they do. I've experience bullying, and I think, with social media, all you need to do is post something on Facebook or say something on Twitter. Teenage suicide is becoming epidemic. I think we're lightly explaining to parents and kids who watch the show, how serious of an issue it is.

Q: You've played some pretty intense roles so far in your acting career. What draws you to these more complex characters?

A: My astrology sign is Cancer, so I'm hypersensitive and very aware of what's inside. I've been a very emotional being. I don't like playing simple. I only like complex. I feel like, as human beings, we are complex. The only way I can say it is that I genuinely feel really intensely, and that affects my life. It's a double-edged sword, and I thank God there's a career for me where I can use it. But I really feel really intensely a lot. A hard role for me would be a sitcom or something on the Disney channel. I'd love to do it, because it would be a challenge, but simplicity is not easy for me. It's not easy for me at all. I love that there are jobs in an industry that I can express my intensity.

Q: Given the opportunity to play either the do-good hero or the reckless villain, which do you choose and why?

A: You know, I'd want to do both. A side of me wants to be like Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day Lewis, Johnny Depp. I would like to break barriers. I would love to play something like the Joker, but I'd want to do the superhero, too. I really just want people every time to say, “Hey, that's Max? That's not anything like his last role.” That's my goal.

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