For those who knew him, nothing has been the same since reality and fantasy so horribly collided on Aug 5, 2002, when Josh Ryan Evans died the same day — and the same way — as his Passions‘ character, Timmy, died on the air. Except for Evans’ mother, Cheryl, and the rest of his immediate family, the sudden tragedy probably hit no one harder than Evans’ on-screen partner-in-crime, Juliet Mills (Tabitha).
For Mills, the impact of the “double death” of Evans and his character continues to be felt on two tracks, as both she and Tabitha have undergone change. “She’s definitely not the same because of that loss,” Mills remarks of her character, “because of missing that loving little soul in her life. She’s not nearly as smiley and as fun or as funny. It’s a shame, but it’s true.” Evans’ unexpected death necessitated major revisions to scripts and even long-term story, chief among them the creation of Cracked Connie (originally Cracked Timmy). But neither the gender-bending nor the addition of another small-person character, Cecil, was enough to quell the backlash from fans, who felt
the show was trying to replace Timmy/Josh.
Mills views the backlash as a necessary catharsis for everyone involved. “Psychologically, it was a very good move on the part of (creator/head writer) James Reilly and the producers. It was a very difficult situation. The great storyline of him coming back and the miracle at Christmas had to be scrapped instantly. So they made Cracked Connie a little bugger that Tabitha couldn’t stand. She was rude and put down Tabitha’s relationship with Timmy, and that gave us all something to react to — me and the fans. After the shock of Josh dying, it was the only way that I could get through those first few months. I’d think back to all of the long hours we worked together, and me carrying him about for three years and him wrecking my shoulder,” she says with a laugh. “And how maddened I’d be by him sometimes, yet how I loved him and respected him so much.”
While the passage of time has allowed for some healing, Mills admits it can still be difficult to play a scene that invokes Timmy’s memory. “A lot of the other actors feel it, too. Thankfully, we don’t see the montages or flashbacks on the stage; we just read in the script where they’re to be inserted. But now, I don’t find it so difficult talking about him or thinking about him, because I so strongly believe in the afterlife. Josh is still here among us. I feel him around me sometimes when I’m on the set –especially in Tabitha’s house. Josh was a magical little character, and I know he will remain with me forever.”
Not only is Mills a big believer in the afterlife, but also in reincarnation. How fitting for an actress playing a 300-year-old witch. “We reincarnate over and over again to perfect the soul, and during each life we learn lessons,” Mills declares. “The spirit form keeps coming back, but in a different body. We learn that we’re all one. We’re one with the… well, I’m getting really profound here. We’re one with God.
“Josh believed that, too,” Mills continues. “He felt his [late] brother Timmy got him the job on Passions. And there’s no question he was preparing himself. He knew he was going to die. He didn’t tell anybody else, not even Cheryl. He did all sorts of things that prepared her, set her up. She’s still getting flowers from him every month. And he ordered her a dress that arrived in time for her to wear to the funeral — a black dress with red roses all over the top. The timing of it all, it wasn’t per chance.”
Mills traces her beliefs back to her childhood. “I was brought up believing it without talking about it, just knowing it. I was born in a house that was built in the 15th century. You can’t be so vain as to think it’s all about you this one time. It goes on and on. Josh and I didn’t have that many profound conversations, per se. He was a laugher and a joker. We were always talking about movies and showbiz memorabilia and the people I knew in the business. But occasionally, in passing, we talked about all the good luck coming down his way. And how he realized that his own conviction and positive intention is what allowed him to get out of his hospital bed as a sickly child and become an actor and make a living as a celebrity, and drive in a limo and meet famous people and all that. The whole experience of his life validated everything he believed and knew to be. They say that solitude is the quickest way to enlightenment –well, he spent many, many hours alone lying in hospital beds, staring at the ceiling when he was a minute, little creature. That time made him very sure of his path and his eternal soul.”