Charles Shaughnessy made his triumphant return to GH — but this time around, he’s playing the nefarious Victor Cassadine and not Alistair Crawford, Holly’s cousin, who he played for a week back in 1984, a few months before landing his long-term DAYS role, Shane Donovan.
While his stint as Alistair was brief, it was impactful, Shaughnessy reports. “GH really led sort of directly to DAYS because Shelley Curtis, who was by then a producer on DAYS, had been a director on GENERAL HOSPITAL and was very good friends with Emma Samms [ex-Holly], and the two of them got together and so when Shane came up, Emma said, ‘You know, you should see this guy….’ ” Shane became a mega-popular player on DAYS and remains such a fan fave that the actor was recently tapped to reprise him on BEYOND SALEM, the streaming DAYS spin-off produced for Peacock. “I was delighted!” he says of getting that call. “I had a blast. It was just a wonderful week, being back with the gang. I’d gone back over the years sort of once every blue moon for a funeral or a sort of one-off story for a couple of days, but every time I go back, it’s like you step through some sort of strange time portal. Nothing’s changed! It’s the same studio, same corridors, same kind of storylines, same characters — everyone a little bit slower [laughs], a little bit older, a little bit grayer, but otherwise, we just pick up exactly where we left off 35 years ago! It’s just crazy, absolutely crazy, how you just literally walk into a kind of time machine.”
Shortly after BEYOND SALEM wrapped, Shaughnessy says, “My agent called and said, ‘You know, I’ve been working on something for a while and it looks like it’s going to pay off. This is the deal: It’s GENERAL HOSPITAL, this character is going to be a limited contract role for at least six months. What do you think?’ I said, ‘Well, sure! Okay!’ It just sort of happened to coincide with this whole BEYOND SALEM thing, so I suddenly found myself appearing on two different shows at the same time, one network, one streaming. It was a complete coincidence. Shane was only in that one week [of streaming episodes] and that was it; there was never any talk about it being longer than just the one story. So it seemed reasonable to go over to GH, which was kind of coming home, as well, to do this gig.”
His new alter ego, Victor, was originally played by his one-time DAYS co-star, Thaao Penghlis (Tony/ex-Andre). “It’s really kind of unique to the soap universe that you can do this, that a character will die and be resurrected by different actors,” he notes. “In the soap world, you can take a character that’s been established and put your twist on it, your little spin. So that’s going to be exciting to do and interesting and different. It’s a fun character, a complex character to play. I’m looking forward to it. I’m very excited to be working, and it’s kind of fun to be in a whole different realm with different people and different actors and different characters and stories. I consider myself incredibly fortunate.”
He does have some pre-existing connections at GH, including Wally Kurth (Ned), who also plays DAYS’s Justin (“He is a sweetheart”) and Finola Hughes (Anna), who was his co-star on an episode of CSI: NY. “I adore her! She is just one of the nicest people. Funny enough, I went to New York in 2003 to take over from John Cullum in Urinetown on Broadway and ended up renting Finola’s apartment in Manhattan. I was living in Anna Devane’s apartment for six months!” Thus far, he hasn’t run into either of them at the studio. “I did bump into Steve Burton [Jason] briefly in Wardrobe, but we’re still in Covid world, so the amount you can mix with people is very limited; any sort of fraternization is very discouraged. So, it’s not like the old days, where you can all get together and run scenes in someone’s dressing room or hang out over lunch, sit in Makeup and chat to each other. That’s not happening at the moment; you have your scene and your scene partners and it’s sort of set up that you don’t bump into each other.”
Fortunately, he gives rave reviews to the actor he is interacting with, Kathleen Gati (Obrecht). “She is absolutely darling,” Shaughnessy declares. “She was so sweet. She took me under her wing immediately and showed me the ropes, showed me where the stage was. Like me, she loves to rehearse, she likes to really work a scene. We were on the same page with that, so that was great. It’s just the two of us at the moment in this rather intense situation and scenes. I’m sure it will expand a bit, but I couldn’t have asked for a better playmate for the first few days. She was just a wonderful person to play off.”
All in all, the actor is thrilled to be sinking his teeth into Victor’s villainy. “I had a very nice talk with [Story Editor] Elizabeth [Korte], because I wanted to get an idea of what everyone was expecting and thinking and where their heads were,” he says. What he learned is that “Victor is a classic psychopath who can get violent, can get aggressive, but a psychopath doesn’t necessarily have to be that. They just have to be master manipulators, and have a complete lack of empathy. You don’t have a kind of purely evil character, you just have someone who is entirely about what they want and achieving their goals, with absolutely no compunction, no moral compass. And that’s kind of scary — and fascinating!