He may have broken a few hearts by leaving Young and the Restless (Y&R), but Jenkins’ decision has meant
the world to the girl he loves most—his nine-year-old daughter.
By Samantha Kemp-Jackson / Photo by Michael Kimel
AFTER YEARS SPENT STRUGGLING to smooth out enough time in his schedule for his family, Jenkins realized it was becoming too difficult to be away from home. He opened up to INBETWEEN about his next steps, his love of being a dad and what it’s like to raise a child in a digital world.
You commuted from the East Coast to the West Coast. How did that affect your family?
My daughter and I are very close, one of the things that has been the greatest blessing about being an actor is that even though my schedule is unpredictable, when I’m home, I’m home. I get to take her to school in the morning and pick her up or go on a bike ride in the middle of the afternoon to the park or for some ice cream. That is something that I can’t put a price tag on. So needless to say, accepting the Young and the Restless job meant multiple days every week when I was gone entirely. Because my wife is an actress, she understood and was able to handle it pretty well. My daughter, on the other hand, never got used to it. It wasn’t like filming a movie where I could say I’ll be back in three to five weeks. It just kept going and she would have a tough time almost every time I left. That was rough.
Y&R has a grueling taping schedule. Did that have anything to do with your decision to leave?
I spent all of my career up to this point doing films and primetime television, so Y&R was a wake-up call. Having anywhere from 10 to 15 pages of your own dialogue every day and shooting anywhere from two to six episodes a week meant a substantial amount of time off the set was dedicated to preparation. I found myself watching videos that my wife would send while I was on the plane of my daughter’s plays or recitals and I realized this wasn’t a schedule I could keep up.
What reactions did you receive to the news that you were leaving?
Y&R fans are probably the best fans on the planet. They are passionate and fiercely loyal. The reactions were great, as always. I had an outpouring of kind words and frankly a lot of, “NO! Don’t go!”
Did you anticipate that finding a work-life balance was going to be difficult when you started working on Y&R?
I did anticipate it being a shift from the usual and it was. But being that we shot year-round,I don’t think I could have predicted the scope of it.
What are some of the biggest challenges for actors in terms of balancing family life? Any tips on how they can circumvent these challenges while keeping their families together?
I’m fortunate [my wife] Ashlee is an actress and understands the industry and all its, well, oddities. That certainly goes a long
way. But I’d say the biggest challenges are the erratic schedules and long absences from home. I think the key for actors is the
same as it is for pretty much everyone else; and that is to prioritize your family over your work. For instance, on a down weekend, instead of hanging out in the location you’re shooting, head on back home or fly your family in. The other advantage is that when you’re not working, there are usually some pretty good breaks to maximize your family time.
Now that your daughter is official a tween, what insight can you share with other dads who are raising daughters?
Being a dad to a daughter is the greatest occupation I could’ve asked for. I’ve given a lot of thought to raising her at this time in history versus when I was a kid. There’s a lot of society that you simply can’t avoid now that we could 30 years ago, like 500 channels on TV and anything you can dream of a click away on the Internet. Sometimes, I think I’m starting to sound like my Mom…but then she’s a pretty smart lady. To me, it’s that much more important now for parents to be as involved in their children’s lives as they can. On the flipside, I’m thrilled that my daughter is growing up in a time when women are being treated more equally and given more opportunity. Even at age nine, I can already see her strengths and possibilities.
That’s something my wife and I look forward to.
What’s next and how will you factor in your family?
I just wrapped a film called The Reason, which is set to release sometime this year. Following that, there is a pilot that my partners and I are developing. Ideally, it will be set on the East Coast, which will allow for more flexibility. I know that no matter what projects I take on, making sure it doesn’t compromise our family life comes first.
Any advice for parents who are struggling with work-life balance?
I always tread lightly with this question because I know that people’s lives can be complicated. That being said, I think that kids are aware of our schedules (whether they are easy loads or really full ones) and they notice if we make time for them. I’ve asked my daughter on many occasions what some of her favourite memories are, and I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that most of her answers are the little things, like reading to her at night or going for a hike. It doesn’t have to be all your waking time, but making sure [your] kids know they come first means everything to them. ■