Crimes And The Heart

Timothy D. Stickney is comfortable playing a villain on OLTL, but this sexy stuff really bothers him.

He calls it “RJ’s notebook.” It wouldn’t be admissable evidence in court, but for ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Timothy D. Stickney this dossier provides pretty solid proof that his character, RJ Gannon, is hardly the most — or only — rotten apple in Llanview. In fact, compared to some, he could be considered a good guy — well, almost.

“RJ’s just trying to take care of himself, not even trying to take over anybody’s business,” Stickney offers. “Asa is a criminal, has been from day one. Rae, I’m glad she’s been exposed, but she’s still a criminal. Viki is a crazy woman. RJ’s niece, Rachel…come on, you’ve got a killer in the family! She took a bat to [Georgie Phillips’] head. He doesn’t piss her off. She’s good to know,” he laughs. “These legal pillars of our community (Bo and Antonio) have gotten away with beating him up for no good reason. And Antonio from behind! Rodney isn’t the only brother to catch a real bad beat-down because he didn’t go along sooner.”

Stickney keeps track of these things. “A lot of my time in Llanview has been clarifying the difference between a criminal and a freak. Todd’s a freak, he’s not a criminal. That’s why I write in those sexual/criminal insults with Todd every time RJ sees him. So he knows RJ knows, ‘Look, if we were ever in lockup don’t forget, I’m a bank-robber criminal, you’re a freak.'”

Well, at least he admits RJ is a criminal. And, according to Stickney, viewers will be seeing more of RJ’s dark side in the coming year, plus a little more dimension. During Stickney’s first conversation with returning head writer Josh Griffith, the scribe said he wanted RJ to be “dangerous and sexy again,” reveals the actor. “From my personal view, I never see the sexy part,” he laughs modestly. Stickney, who has played RJ for eight years, embraces the danger. “A lot of actors shy away from being the criminal in the story, but that’s a necessary element. If it’s plotted out well, you don’t have to drop a money clip if you’ve already settled for three weeks that you’re leaving the car in the woods,” he says, referring to RJ’s slip-up in the Lindsay/Allison prison escape. “I’ve had to do a lot of stupid stuff.”

Which is why he’s happy about Griffith and Michael Malone’s return. “They created RJ, cool. They imagined a universe that had him in it. They also had more layers of humanity. They had, I call it, crime: the casino, gambling…drinking was an issue.”

OK, what about that “sexy” stuff?

“There is evidence of a romantic past,” Stickney laughs, referring to Keri’s existence. Stickney was told they are going to see if Keri’s mother, Liz, can fall in love with RJ again. This week they get physically closer. Although the actor says it’s hard for him to palate seeing himself as a romantic lead — “Teacute;a is the only time I’ve done it on this show.” — he looks forward to that beat, as long as Hank isn’t involved. “Historically, that’s what we’ve done. I want to get a toy that RJ gets to unwrap, and then they like him. He has always had to convince somebody that he’s not an ogre — see, no hump. It’s nice that she had already liked him.”

Although Stickney is clearly close to his character, the two men are not much alike. “If you see me in my most angry moment, yeah, we’re all like that, but it takes a lot to get me there. I’ve always been very, very shy,” he admits. “People don’t believe that because I’ve trained myself to hide most of it. But I had a hard time dealing with people one-on-one outside my family when I was a little kid.”

Stickney, the fourth of five children, was born in Texas and grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and Wilmington, Del. “My father was in the Army, so everything was regimented. But he was also a minister, so it was hard/soft,” he explains. Stickney’s eldest brother, Randall, was in ROTC in high school, and his older sisters, Phyllis and Sylvia, watched after him and little brother Eric. The family also owned several restaurants over the years. “We were a business family, a 24-hour house. We had two working parents.” Plus, Stickney pitched in. “I’ve done everything: ribs, chicken, subs, hoagies, Philly steaks…As a kid, junior high, high school, I was always working in a restaurant. That’s why I can’t work in food service.”

Even when he was a struggling actor/student (at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts) in New York, Stickney didn’t wait tables. His “survival gig,” as he calls it, was telemarketing. It was at one of these jobs that he met his future wife, Laura Lee Priestly. “We ended up being buddies, going to African dance classes together. Maybe two, three years later — I’m slow (laughs) — I told her how I felt about her. She said, ‘No, I moved to New York to get away from a relationship.’ So I gave up for about a year and then she came around.” The couple married young — “I was 21, 22” — but it is obviously a successful union. They celebrated their 15th anniversary this year. “I could have waited, asked her two years later, but I didn’t. It’s fun. I always have someone who is on my side. I may have to explain exactly how I screwed up…”

And what does Lee think of RJ’s screw-ups? “My family likes RJ more than I do. They think he’s funny. He would drive me nuts.”

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