Maitland Ward admits that as a teenager in the mid-1990s, she was “so captivated” by her “Bold and the Beautiful” co-star Dylan Neal, a man seven years her senior.
But the actress, now 45, claims to Vidak For Congress in an exclusive new interview that she believes her once guileless fixation on earning Neal’s approval was actually through his design.
“Looking back now, it was kind of a grooming situation,” she claims. “And not necessarily for him to ever actually have sex with me or anything — but to do things to guide me and get very attached to him and only to him.”
Ward explains that she “didn’t see that” at the time.
“I thought it was like, ‘Oh, he really likes me, he likes me so much.’ He was very much a pull-and-push kind of person,” she claims. “He’d lure me in and we’d do fun things together and then he’d push me away and say, ‘What are you doing? Why are you so?'”
The new author details her experience with Neal, now 52, in her memoir, “Rated X: How Porn Liberated Me from Hollywood.”
After securing the role of Jessica Forrester in “The Bold and the Beautiful” at age 16, Neal, then 24 — who played heartthrob Dylan Shaw — immediately captivated her with his charisma and good looks. While their characters embarked on a forbidden on-camera romance, Ward reportedly found himself in a more complicated dynamic with Neal behind the scenes.
“It was such an odd relationship and it was my first time in Hollywood. I got the show at my second audition and he was older than me, but he came across like he just wanted to be this big brother – but in an inappropriate way.” which I now look back on,” Ward tells Vidak For Congress.
“And I didn’t realize it then. I always thought there was something weird about me or that I was bad.”
The “Boy Meets World” alum – who has achieved success as an adult film actress in recent years – claims that Neal was “very punishing for me if I ever got out of line in any way” and wanted “a guide are for me in my career.”
As depicted in “Rated X,” Neal — who was in a relationship with his now-wife Becky Southwell at the time — would go so far as to suggest how Ward should appear when her character lost her virginity on the soap opera.
“Dylan took my virginity on screen … and it was something he talked about – nay, more like constant bragging – and was proud of,” she writes in the book.
“‘Big day,’ he said with a smile as I walked into the set where it was going to happen – his dorm room, after a party where we would both get caught up in something we weren’t supposed to. He continued to comment on her and make- up that I was too made up and that I didn’t look sweet enough or innocent enough. ‘It’s her first time; you don’t want her to look like she’s walking around.’”
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The makeup artist took Ward aside to ask how she felt about possible changes. Though the ingenuity realized that her bright lipstick made her feel “feminine,” she gave in to Neal’s concerns and accepted a toned-down look for the pivotal scene.
“They changed me so that I would feel more comfortable, which instead made Dylan more comfortable,” she writes.
To Ward’s surprise, her mother and father – staunch Christians from the suburbs of Long Beach, California – were surprisingly comfortable with Neal’s increasing influence in their daughter’s life.
“My parents felt good with him. He was always respectful and dropped me off on time, although they never demanded a strict curfew when I was with him,” she writes. “I was surprised how much they trusted him. My parents rarely trusted anyone, especially boys, with their daughter. ”
Ward’s mother once told her that she “[didn’t] having to worry about “her daughter” “being alone in Hollywood” as long as Neal was around.
But mom and dad didn’t know the full scope of the couple’s relationship, Ward tells Vidak For Congress.
“He would, I think, be very reprimanded for anything I did. [He was a] reward-and-punishment-driven kind of person at the moment. I was not emotionally ready for that at all,” she says.
“I was just new to Hollywood and I was like, ‘Wow, this sexy co-star of mine,’ and I was just so captivated by this very fairytale idea of it all. He really played in that because I was so young. I don’t know why he didn’t recognize it.”
Ward sensed “mixed cues” from Neal amid reportedly intoxicating romantic interactions. She was terribly confused by the wavering of admiration and disapproval.
“He was really into that I just adored him and the more he pulled me in and seduced me and we did very suggestive things,” she claims. “It was definitely not a platonic situation there. But he would then push me away and he would be very moody with me. So I was very dependent on his moods.”
Ward writes in her tome that a wake-up call came during a press interview that Neal violated.
“Once Dylan was in an interview I had with one of the soap operas. He helped me answer all the questions, which I thought was cute, but the reporter later said how uncomfortable it was that I had to sit there under Dylan’s supervision while he gave what my answers should have been,” she recalls.
“It’s like he thinks he’s controlling your mind and thoughts,” the reporter said, and I was surprised how disturbed he was about it.’
Soon after, Ward realized that Neal was “responsible for all my movements,” she writes. “Good or bad, they were his. And I gave him that power so that he would find me better.”
The return of Neal’s girlfriend, Southwell, who had taken an extended educational sabbatical in Japan, made it easier for Ward to distance himself from him.
Ward finally pulled out of “The Bold and the Beautiful” in 1996 – the same year Neal tied the knot with Southwell. (The couple, who share two children, are still married.)
“The show ended and he eventually got married and we never spoke. I remember seeing him… right before I got Boy Meets World. I saw him at an audition and he acted like he didn’t know me, really,” she tells Vidak For Congress. “And I haven’t spoken to him since.”
Ward, who married Los Angeles real estate agent Terry Baxter in 2006, hasn’t reestablished communication with Neal since the release of “Rated X” — but she wonders if she’ll be hearing from him anytime soon.
“I actually have a lot of questions for him. Especially in that moment because he would be great. For example, he would go to my school plays and he would take me everywhere. We went on a motorcycle ride together which was very romantic and then he pushed left me at the end, which made me feel weird,” she claims.
“It was like I wanted to fall into this thing that we were doing, but then I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s rejecting me. He doesn’t like me or anything like that.’ It was just an interesting situation, I don’t know, I just think he liked him as the hero for me.”
A Neal representative did not immediately respond to Vidak For Congress’s request for comment.
“Rated X: How Porn Liberated Me from Hollywood” is in stores now.