You are in the throes of a storyline that has gotten GH fans talking, to say the least. Let’s start with this burning question: Do you think it’s Valentin’s fault that Charlotte got shot since he withheld the truth from Anna? “Well, yeah! mean, I don’t know that Valentin has come to terms with that yet. I think that’s gonna be a process. One of the reasons I’ve always rooted for my boy Valentin is that he understands that the truth will set you free. But he’s a traumatized human being. His early formative years were nothing but trauma. and the idea that he could be in a loving relationship where he tells the truth and is genuinely authentic, I think is a fairy tale [for him]. And that works for a soap opera. I think the thing that I am aware of is is that he’s always known that he would never be able to keep Anna. He said it to her in so many words when they were by the Metro Court pool. She’s like, ‘What are you thinking of?’ He says, ‘I can think of a thousand ways I’m gonna lose you.’ I believe in the power of attraction and the poor guy, he’s making it happen, he’s steering into the tree. The very thing he doesn’t want to lose, he’s doing everything to make sure that happens, unfortunately. And so yes, of course it’s his fault! He should have given her the benefit of the doubt and he should have been honest with her right out of the gate.”
Little Girl Lost: Nina (Watros) and Valentin were relieved when Charlotte (Scarlett Fernandez) regained consciousness.
How do you think he justified to himself the decision to keep Anna in the dark? “I think he felt that he was protecting his daughter. He felt that he was trying to buy time, and by the time he started to doubt whether or not that was the smart thing to do, it was already too late, right? He’d already waited too long. He felt that there was a the risk that he was going to lose Anna, so it was much better to just stay the course, hopefully get Charlotte some help and brush this under the rug. And I think that people do tend toward denial. Like I always say, ‘Denial ain’t just a psychological coping mechanism [laughs]!’ ”
There was a scene between Nina and Valentin some weeks back, when she became privy to things not being copacetic with Charlotte, where he told her that she understood him the best. That really rankled “Vanna” fans! “Oh, yeah! Well, you start to crack the script and you go, ‘Okay, the writing is on the wall.’ The truth is, I think he needed someone. He needed to talk to somebody. And it made sense that it would be Nina because Nina is a safe harbor, somehow, these days. I think that whether or not he genuinely felt that she understood him better than anyone, in that moment, he just sort of felt like, ‘I’m so glad that I could tell the truth to somebody.’ So I think he was feeling that way at that moment, but I agree [that ‘Vanna’ fans were not happy]. What’s fun is to retweet all these ‘Vanna’ fans saying something like, ‘You know what, I’m a ‘Vanna’ fan, but I was an Anna fan first, and Valentin’s being a jerk!’ Maura West [Ava] and I have talked about this, how it’s always going be our turn in the dog house. You know when you signed up to be the dark horse of the Cassadine family that this is going to happen every once in a while. Valentin and Anna had a nice little honeymoon, but people are going to have to remember that Valentin is a broken human being. He cannot — he’s incapable of sustaining love. He did everything right for a while, but as soon as there was a hiccup in the road, he didn’t know how to handle it.”
Tell me about shooting the scenes in the stairwell where Anna slapped Valentin. “Ah, yes, when a little too late, Valentin decided to come clean with Anna. I just love being slapped by Finola [Hughes, Anna]. Getting slapped by Anna is great! So much so that I kept haranguing her all day. I said, ‘Can’t you hit me twice?’ She was like, ‘No, I won’t do that.’ I said, ‘Now, come on, I really think that it would be great if you hit me, you gather your thoughts, and then you smack me even harder!’ But [those scenes] were heartbreaking. It was really the moment where she thought she had it figured out, but she hadn’t. And by the time Valentin tells her what’s going on, you watch her lose all illusions. They used to say in acting school that playing a loss of an illusion is about as low as you can go, when you thought you knew what the truth was and then you realize that you didn’t all along. That’s when the bottom drops out, and that’s when she hit me and she said she never wants to see me again.”
Did you and Finola go through your usual process of getting together to work through those scenes in advance? “Yeah, with Finola and me, we always make time; even if we can only rehearse for 20 or 30 minutes over Zoom, then that’s what we do. I mean, you can always wing it on the day, but we just really value our time together. We’ve known each other for so many decades and we’ve just valued the characters and their history and it just means something to us that we spend that time, and I think the proof in the pudding, I mean, watching her work is just always so great. Even when we’re not in scenes with each other, we tend to watch each other work and we’ll have constructive comments. I got to see her stuff with Maurice [Benard, Sonny], just falling apart, coming to terms with having shot a child — and the child of your lover! It’s just delicious. I mean, it was just really, really great. It was wet and heartbreaking and great fun. I actually was so enthralled that I sort of forgot that that meant that the fans were gonna want my guts!”
Almost Paradise: Valentin and Anna (Finola Hughes) in simpler times.
“Vanna” fans are really biting their nails right now. What would be your message to them about the potentially bumpy road ahead? “You know, I’m a ‘Vanna’ fan. I remember when you interviewed us together and asked us, ‘Which one of you is a bigger “Vanna” fan?’ and right away, Finola said it was me. I’ve been so blessed. Michelle Stafford [ex-Nina; Phyllis, Y&R] and I had just a wonderful run and we got along like a house on fire and she’s best friends with Finola. So when she left, I was like, ‘Well, what am I gonna do now?’ She said, ‘Well, you’ve got Finola,’ and she was right! She told me that, what, four years ago? It’s been so much fun, but the the truth of the matter is that, especially in 2023 where people’s attention spans are so short and we have to create three episodes a day, it’s tougher on the whole process [of a soap opera] to come up with fascinating stuff where people are happy. It’s just a much smoother machine when there’s conflict, you know? And it’s the nature of the genre. I think everybody who’s been watching the show for a long time knows that nobody gets to be happy for very long around around Port Charles!”
This week, Valentin has scenes with Laura where it will come into clearer focus for him that Victor is responsible for poisoning Charlotte against Anna. What can you tease about how Valentin reacts to learning that the travails that could have cost Charlotte her life came courtesy of his not-so-dear old dad? “Those are pretty wicked stakes, when your dead father — your untouchable dead father — is pulling strings that could have killed your daughter, put your daughter in prison, put the love of your life in prison, could end your relationship with the love of your life. That’s pretty bad! But where we are at the moment is that we’re trying to get Charlotte to heal and Valentin is hoping to stall any decisions to be made about his relationship and hoping that will take care of itself. Valentin has been so good as the international man of mystery, but in moments of, you know, legitimate affection, he’s always been so pedestrian, just so useless. That’s one of the things I love about it, is the tragedy of it. I truly believe that we human beings, what we do during the formative years, they’re so important, and if we get screwed up, we can really continue to create wreckage through our adult lives. And that’s what Valentin is doing.”