Exclusive Interview: Thom Bierdz Discusses Painting, Being ‘Young And Restless’, Tragedy, The Healing Power Of Forgiveness, By Steven Brittingham, Highlight Hollywood News

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Falling snow descended ever so quietly onto the pine trees below. Some snowflakes landed further onto the ground beneath the trees. These pure white snowflakes only added to the beautiful surroundings. Sounds of barking could now be heard and echoed throughout the brisk air. A pair of furry friends rushed forward down the snowy path. One of the dogs was smaller in size, while the other was much larger and towered above the smaller one. They suddenly stopped, looking behind them, as footsteps could now be heard smashing imprints into the snow covered ground. An unshaven man, with dark hair and striking appearance, was just steps away from the waiting dogs. They greeted him as the walk continued forward. Experienced on a daily basis, throughout all four seasons, both man and dogs enjoy this time spent together. How could they not? Scenic mountains, crystal blue waters, and a soothing forest with seemingly endless amounts of trees. Yes, snow included. 
This man, Thom Bierdz, just happens to be an actor. The falling snow around this actor is not apart of an elaborate movie production, there is no rolling cameras filming his every move. For this is not Hollywood. It’s not even Genoa City for that matter. This is Lake Arrowhead, California, over two hours away from Los Angeles. It is exactly the way Thom Bierdz likes it too.
Actor, author, painter. These three words clearly describe the artistic talents that is Thom Bierdz. Years ago, when Thom Bierdz was just a young man dreaming of film stardom that would equal the likes of Tom Cruise himself, he would find some of that fame on the enormously popular CBS Daytime TV show ‘The Young and The Restless’ on CBS. Both he and his character Phillip Chancellor III became extremely loved by faithful fans. Being apart of a cast that included talents such as Jeanne Cooper, Jess Walton, Tricia Cast and Lauralee Bell, only added to the fact that Thom was going in all the right directions as an actor. Nearing the end of his three year contract with the show, Thom was on his way to that film career he longed to be apart of. Fate though, would take him on a detour. Devastating family tragedy would now enter Thom’s life. Instead of being devoured by anger and consumed by bitterness, this talented man would go on a journey he never thought he would need to take. The journey of forgiveness, even when it seems impossible to offer. Please join me as I interview Thom Bierdz.
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Steven: “Thom, thank you so much for joining me today. You spent numerous years living and working in Hollywood as an actor and artist. What prompted you to make the decision to leave Hollywood and move to Lake Arrowhead?”
Thom: “Short answer is I had had enough. Too much. Over stimulus. I grew so tired of crowds and had anxiety at every turn. It was an official mid-life crisis where I realized I did not become Tom Cruise, which I honestly believed I was going to be, until then.”Bierdz Movie 2
Steven: “You are surrounded by stunning visuals and breathtaking landscapes. Lake Arrowhead is full of beautiful scenery. Has this brought a certain sense of inner peacefulness and calmness to your life? Was this something missing from your life back in Hollywood?”
Thom: “It was like I died and went to Heaven. This is my evergreen mountain paradise, the exact place I’d want to live if I had become Tom Cruise, so weirdly I had my secluded wilderness cabin and no social interaction which immediately cut my anxiety 90%.”
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Steven: “It appears you enjoy taking daily walks with your dog David and your new addition, Goliath. Do you find taking these walks as a great way to clear your thoughts and just let your mind wander to wherever it may take you? David and Goliath must be great walking companions.”
Thom: “Not really. When I am walking walking David, and now with my second rescue, Goliath, I am micro-managing them, making sure there are no coyotes, etc.”
Steven: “As you mentioned, David now has a new pal to hang out with, Goliath. How did you go about finding this rescued dog?”
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Thom: “When the love of my life, Deen, my Chihuahua, was dying last year, a woman at a store said, “Nice dog. Want another? I have a small dog in my car I am driving to a shelter.” This is how I got David, hoping he could help Deen. David is working out great, but he is not as delighted with the solitude as I am, so I wanted to get him company. I online-researched many shelters in my area and took David last week to the San Bernardino Animal Shelter, where I fell in love with Goliath’s soul-searching eyes and passivity.”
Steven: “Other than your furry friends, you live alone. Is solitude something you embrace?”
Thom: “This truly is my paradise. I love being alone and working on my creative projects. Paintings, books, movies, songs, etc.”
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Steven: “Your paintings have been highly regarded and praised within the art community. For good reason too. To say your paintings are outstanding would be a major understatement. When did you start painting? When did you first realize this was something you wanted to fully pursue?”
Thom: “I always painted, but got representation in 2004, so at that point, started to make my living solely on it.”
Steven: “Your beautiful home must be a wonderful place to work on your art projects, Thom. How many days a week do you actually paint?”
Thom: “I have a casual schedule and don’t get painting til about noon, but I do it each day.”
Steven: “Those wishing to remember or honor their loved ones for all time – or even those treasured pets – can have you do exactly that by immortalizing them with the strokes of your brush. I have been so impressed with the human touch you bring to these projects. You have no doubt brought much joy and happiness to these individuals. How does this make you feel as an artist?”
Thom: “It is an honor to be commissioned to paint people and dogs who have passed on, and even those still with us.”
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Steven: “Has your commitment to painting ever become a source of conflict with your acting aspirations? Or do you find it rewarding to be able to express yourself through so many different artistic avenues?”
Thom: “Painting has been my priority since 2004, even with the return to The Young and The Restless in 2009-2011, reprising my role of Phillip Chancellor III.”
Steven: “Speaking of acting, when did you first become interested in performing and becoming an actor?”
Thom: “As a teen in Kenosha, Wisconsin, I was enthralled with Monty Clift’s presence and sensitivity.”
Steven: “In 1986 you landed the role of Phillip Chancellor III on ‘The Young and The Restless’. For three years you worked with some incredible individuals on the highly praised daytime drama. What was it like to be apart of such a talented cast?”
Thom: “Very exciting to work with some phenomenal talent, and on the number one soap in many countries. Each week I was paid thousands to fly to different malls and sign autographs. Huge confidence booster.”
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Steven: “Did you ever experience feeling overwhelmed with all of the work responsibilities when first joining the show? Or, did you find yourself adjusting quickly to the demanding pace of daytime?”
Thom: “The work was not daunting but my introverted self had a hard time delivering my lines on camera without being self-conscious.”
Steven: “It was not very long before your character became popular with viewers. As exciting as this may have been, were you caught off guard by this new found fame?”
Thom: “Not at all. I had wished for it, planned for it, and expected it. My drive was unmatched by anyone I knew.”
Steven: “The Young and The Restless has often  included social issues within specific storylines. Often with riveting results. When you exited the show in 1989, Phillip apparently perished from his injuries due to a car accident resulting from drinking and driving. Did you find portraying Phillip’s battle with alcohol challenging as an actor?”
Thom: “As a method actor, tricking his mind, playing heavy and emotional scenes were fun for me.”
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Steven: “When you departed Y&R, was it in the hopes of launching a film career?”
Thom: “Yes, I left after my three year contract, planning to become Tom Cruise and do features.”
Steven: “Life is full of twists and turns. Joys and happiness can often be experienced when we least expect it. Unfortunately, the same can be said for sadness and unexpected tragedies. As a young man, you experienced a horrifying tragedy in your life. Not only did you lose your mother shortly after leaving Y&R, but you lost her due to the actions of your own brother Troy, who has since been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Learning that your beloved mother was beaten with a baseball bat by the hands of your brother must have been beyond overwhelming. How does a young man deal with such devastating news?”
Thom: “Luckily for me, I always knew life extended beyond this plane, so I dealt with it rather maturely, but my mom was such a great mom, it was so unfair.”
Steven: “Before this heartbreaking tragedy occurred, did you or anyone in your family ever suspect Troy might have some serious mental issues?”
Thom: “Yes, my mom had taken Troy to dozens of doctors begging for help.”
Steven: “Many may wonder how one could one ever find forgiveness in such a situation. Yet, that is exactly the approach you eventually chose to take. The journey of forgiving your brother Troy is displayed openly in your book “Forgiving Troy: A True Story of Murder, Mental Illness and Recovery.” This must have been a deeply emotional experience putting this situation into written form. What did you learn about yourself while writing the book?”
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Thom: “It was a very long process so I learned many things. I learned Troy and I had so much in common, we looked alike, were very introverted and sensitive, prone to temper, creative.”
Steven: “Did you intend the book to help others benefit from the power of forgiveness within their own lives too?”
Thom: “Sure, but I felt obligated to write the book because I had experienced miraculous events.”
Steven: “When you think of your mom today, what are the first things that come to mind?”
Thom: “She was so honest. The older I get, the more I realize how rare that is.”
Steven: “Has painting helped you to cope with all that has transpired from this tragedy? Do you see your mom showing up in some of your work today?”
Thom: “Painting has been a huge coping mechanism. My best work is my art brut and expressionism where faces and symbols pour out of me unedited. Like my BLUE X series at www.ThomBierdz.com . 025
Steven: “Over twenty years later, your character returned to ‘The Young and The Restless.’ Phillip was indeed alive! What was it like for you to return to Genoa City after such a long absence?”
Thom: “It was great because I was out as a gay man and my character was gay too, and both those seemed impossible twenty years prior.”
Steven: “Phillip revealed to family and friends that he was gay. As an openly gay man yourself, were you pleased to see the show incorporate this into your storyline?”
Thom: “Very.”
Steven: “Beloved Jeanne Cooper, who portrayed Catherine Chancellor since the CBS show debuted all the way back in 1973, is unforgettable. Jeanne passed away in 2013. When you look back on your time with this remarkable woman how would you best describe her?”
Thom: “Jeanne did what she had to do. She provided for her family as a single mom, she worked an almost unprecedented fifty years in show-business, and on the set she made the crew laugh and nurtured young talent. She had much required of her and she nailed it.”
Steven: “As we discussed earlier, anyone can have you paint loved ones or pets. How would those interested go about contacting you to make arrangements? How does the process work?”
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Thom: “Please contact me through www.ThomBierdz.com or at FB Thom Bierdz II.  People email me their photos and ideas, and I email back composition ideas, and when they approve them, I paint. A few weeks later it is done. I email them a pic to see if they want changes, then varnish and frame and ship it.”
Steven: “I thank you Thom for this interview, for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me today. One final question. With 2016 just days away, is there anything you wish to experience or accomplish in particular this upcoming new year?”
Thom: “Oh yes. There are many exciting career opportunities setting up for 2016. This could be my most prolific year yet!”
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As the dark haired man who earlier was out taking a walk with his dogs sits down to work on a painting project for a customer wishing to have a loved one remembered, two things become instantly clear. First, with each careful stroke of the brush, a true artist in every sense of the word can be seen doing what he loves the most in this world. Secondly, the customer who will be receiving the finished project by this masterful artist will soon be filled with joy and happiness when the finished product arrives to their home. All thanks to that actor living in paradise in a cabin surrounded by snow, Thom Bierdz.
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 Written By: Steven Brittingham, Contributing Editor; Steven Brittingham is an actor, writer residing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Steven has one son Jacob. He was raised and adopted by his grandparents. He is currently writing ‘Memories Left Behind’, which is based on his own true life experiences of being adopted, life as an actor in Hollywood and the journey of saying goodbye to his grandmother during her final days.
Photographs are Courtesy:   File; Thom Bierdz Private Collection
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