After Playing Lovable Geek Dillon On GH, Scott Clifton Is Breaking New Ground At ONE LIFE TO LIVE
The first thing Scott Clifton acknowledges during his interview with Digest is that he’s lucky. He dropped out of high school to become an actor, landed the plum role of Dillon Quartermaine on GENERAL HOSPITAL at 18, walked away from said role when the nation was on the verge of a financial meltdown and was hired at ONE LIFE TO LIVE while soaps were trimming casts left and right. “I guess I’m pretty fortunate,” he smiles.
The actor is quick to talk up his newest alter-ego, Schuyler, the recovering drug addict whose mother committed suicide right before he started a teaching job that he soon lost, thanks to a misconstrued friendship with Starr Manning. “I really like Schuyler,” he proclaims. “He’s a lot more layered than Dillon. I mean, you kinda caught Dillon beginning the angst in his life and experiencing a lot of these emotions for the first time, whereas with Schuyler, you can tell he’s been through a lot of s–t already.”
Another notable difference is that as Dillon, Clifton was playing at least two years younger than himself. Now, he’s acting out an older, more mature character. “I’m having to grow out the facial hair and do everything I can to try to look older because I still look like a baby,” laughs the 24-year-old. “There are also differences in status. In any given show or movie or piece of literature there’s always an established status of every character. Dillon was sort of at the bottom of the litter; he was afraid of everybody and seeking everybody’s approval. That character needs to exist and I was happy to play that character because it was really important and it also supports other characters. Schuyler is sort of in the middle of somewhere, and that’s something I have not played yet. So it’s new and I’m feeling it out and trying to do my best.”
Clifton speaks with such affinity for Dillon that a trace of sadness is detectable in his voice as he talks of his GH departure. “My contract was coming up, and I was trying to factor in as many different things as I could to make that decision,” he recalls. “I had people saying, ‘You gotta take your chances. Pilot season is coming up.’ At the same time, I know the writers really liked me, but I think they were having a hard time figuring out what to do with me. Dillon was in a lot of these weird, in-between, purgatory-type storylines and hadn’t really been fitting into any one storyline at the time.”
Some of the blame, he says, he put on himself for getting comfortable in the role “instead of finding a fresh take on it.” Luckily, the producers made it clear that they weren’t going to kill off Dillon and left the door open for a possible return. When Clifton’s four-year deal ended, he worked off-contract a few times, last appearing in December 2007. “It was totally amicable and I left happy,” he declares. “Unfortunately, right when I left, the writers’ strike happened, the mortgage crisis happened and there I was thinking I was going to sell my house and live off of that and I couldn’t sell it. It was really, really bad timing, but my reasons were pure.”
Fast-forward a year later and Clifton was cast in the role of Schuyler, which meant an immediate move from his lifelong home of Los Angeles to New York City. Ignoring the advice of a veteran cast-mate to “go month-to-month,” he rented a place within walking distance of the studio. “I got so lucky. I got a beautiful apartment,” he reports. “And I’m able to fly my girlfriend out every two weeks.”
Having already shared on-screen kisses with Kristen Alderson (Starr) and Crystal Hunt (Stacy), and gotten tossed around by Trevor St. John’s Todd — “That whole day was so fun,” he raves — what would Clifton like to see Schuyler do next? “I think it would be so cool for Schuyler to slip a little,” the actor reveals. “Anybody who’s an addict will tell you there’s no such thing as, ‘I used to be addicted to meth!’” But relapse or no relapse, Clifton is thrilled to be originating another role on daytime TV. “I’ve gotten the privilege of being able to create a character from scratch both times. These people at ONE LIFE TO LIVE were gracious enough to take me under their wings and I really appreciate that. At the end of this contract — if I’m fortunate enough to be here at that time — maybe I’ll want to stay, or if I’m ready to move on, there are new roles and new parts that I’ll be able to tackle, and that’s really important to me.”
Like many of the hunks at OLTL, Clifton is in a committed relationship. He met girlfriend Nicole while his mom was teaching a developmental psychology class. “I came to drop off some papers for my mom’s class and she introduced me to the class and I ended up staying for a little bit,” he recalls. “I ended up sitting next to this girl named Nikki, who I thought was really special, and I asked my mom, ‘Who’s that Nikki girl?’” They’ve been dating for two years and are now having a long-distance romance while she finishes her masters program in L.A. “Her field is called Human Factor Psychology and it’s not actually psychology at all, but she’s basically an expert on making products intuitive and user-friendly,” he proudly explains. “She tries to have conversations with me and I’m struggling to understand what she’s telling me, but yeah, I’m proud of myself for being able to repeat that [laughs].”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: October 31
Hails From: Los Angeles
Fast-Food Nation: Clifton’s first stop on his visits to L.A. is In-N-Out Burger.
Funny Money: He is the only child of Faye, a psychologist and former professor, and Ron, who works for a company detecting bad checks and fraud, “sort of like Tom Hanks was a money detective in Catch Me If You Can,” he explains.
Burrito Elite: After nearly five months of living in New York, the California native has yet to find the perfect burrito. “I just get Chipotle,” he shrugs. “I’m an elitist when it comes to Mexican food.”
His Tube: Clifton is a fan of LOST and SURVIVOR, and recently added THE MENTALIST and KINGS to his must-see TV list.
Just Browsing: His official website is www.scottclifton.com.
This interview originally appeared in the May 26, 2009 issue of Soap Opera Digest