"He's A Trooper:
Army Vet Mark Valley Is At Ease As Days' New Jack"

by Malissa Thompson  |  Soap Opera Digest, Vol. 20, No. 3
January 31, 1995

JUST THE FACTS:

Birthdate: December 24, 1964

On the Army: "There's a stigma attached to it, which implies that if you are in the Army, you don't have a creative bone in your body. I'm sick of that stigma."

New York Vs. Los Angeles: "People in L.A. move at a different frequency than people in New York. It almost feels like I'm a 33 L.P. that has been placed on a phonograph set at 45 speed.

Languages: Fluent in French and German. "I'm teaching myself Italian."

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Mark Valley is one soldier who takes the Army slogan "Be all that you can be" literally. After five years of military life, Lieutenant Mark Valley quit the service to become --- gasp! --- an actor. Hardly what you'd expect from a West Point Graduate and Army Combat Engineer. But switching gears at the oddest times is par for the course for this 30 year old adventurer.

Valley even switches gears in the middle of lunch at a tiny Italian cafe on Sunset Boulevard. As he eyes the menu, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed actor unexpectedly launches into an impersonation of Jack Nicholson. Seconds after ordering in flawless Italian, Valley grabs the tape recorder off the table. Suddenly, his voice drops to a whisper and he's Star Trek's Mr. Spock on the deck of the Starship Enterprise. The waiter is not impressed, but Valley doesn't care -- he's faced much tougher audiences. "I first did theater while I was stationed in Berlin, and some of my fellow officers treated me as though I'd had a full lobotomy," grins Valley. "Most of them thought I was crazy."

The reaction wasn't much different the first time the then-aspiring actor took a stab at the stage back in high school. "I tried out for this play and I wanted the lead, but I wound up as the bodyguard with no lines," recalls the New York-born Valley, who was raised in Ogdensburg, a small, upstate town minutes from the Canadian border. "It was very painful. I guess I wanted instant fame."

Luckily, Valley had his parents and three younger sisters there to soothe his bruised ego. "When the play was over, I rushed out to take my bow and nobody clapped. I was so excited that I'd forgotten to wait for the curtain call."

Stardom having eluded him, Valley veered in another direction. "No one forced me to go to West Point," he declares. "I looked at it as an intense challenge where I would gain some experience and profoundly improve myself." Four days after graduating from the Academy, Valley moved into his Army barracks. Acting wasn't an option. "Even though every base had a theater, I was always in combat arms, which meant that I was out in the field every month," explains Valley. "Besides, getting involved with [an Army] theater program would have been like joining a military tactics program at Juilliard. That's not why I was there."

Lieutenant Valley was content with following orders until a casting director spotted him at an Army store in Berlin. "This stranger walked up to me and asked if I wanted to be an extra in a film," he laughs. The next day, Valley was seated across from Oscar-winning actor Anthony Hopkins on the set of The Innocent. The fateful experience gave Valley the impetus to quit the Army and sign with a Berlin agent. After doing a few plays, he moved to New York in 1991.

Valley worked at a variety of odd jobs and did a brief stint on Another World as Father Peter before landing the plum part of Days of our Lives' devilish Jack Deveraux. Was he concerned about replacing the extremely popular Matthew Ashford? "I've done extensive biographical research on Jack," he offers. "That's what concerns me, not how another actor portrayed him." Valley has his own theories on his alter-ego. "Jack has come to a point in his life where he realizes that there are certain things he can't live without -- like his wife," says Valley, whose own love life appears to be a lot less complicated. "I'm single, but I like to keep my personal life, personal. I don't really like to talk about relationships -- past or present."

Valley will discuss what a great time he's having at work. "Nothing compares to how much fun acting is. You have the license to be whoever you want," says Valley, grabbing the table dramatically. "If this weren't a restaurant, I could jump on this table and scream." Instead, he picks up his glass of Pellegrino, takes a sip and smiles calmly, happy to be an ordinary civilian -- at least until dessert arrives.

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Side Column: DEMOLITION MAN

"My job kind of consumed me," grins Mark Valley, referring to the five years he spent in the Army as a platoon leader. "I was a 22-year-old lieutenant in charge of 25 guys, who basically built things then blew things up." Valley's duties took him around the world, but he spent most of his time in Germany. "I found [the country] incredibly fascinating. I lived in a village for 18 months and it was great."


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