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Exclusive: Lane Davies On His 'Almost Surreal' Return To General Hospital

lane davies

Disney/Christine Bartolucci)


In the late 1980s, Lane Davies and Nancy Lee Grahn became one of soapdom’s hottest supercouples as they brought the fiery courtship of Mason Capwell and Julia Wainwright to life on Santa Barbara. Lightning didn’t quite strike twice when the actors were paired again on GH in the early 2000s, with Davies playing Cameron Lewis opposite Grahn’s Alexis Davis. (Grahn didn’t mince words when reflecting on their short-lived GH pairing to Digest in 2014, saying, “You take the man I have the most chemistry with in my career, the greatest love story of my career, bring him on General Hospital, and make it look like we have no chemistry at all. It takes real skill to make that happen. And by the way, I ain’t blaming me or Lane!”) But that was then and this is now — and now, Davies is making a brief return trip into the Port Charles universe to play attorney Fergus Byrne, who goes up against Alexis in court as she fights to get her law license reinstated. The actor spoke to Digest about his GH comeback, noting, “The material is good, and working with Nancy, it was really just a matter of falling back into the groove — and it was an easy groove to fall back into.”


Soap Opera Digest: How did this new role come about?

Lane Davies: It was a combination of factors, I think. I know Nancy had been sort of making noises, like, “Get Lane back somehow!” So that always helps, when a 28-year veteran of the show wants you back. Then I ran into Patrick Mulcahey [GH’s exiting co-head writer, who wrote for Davies and Grahn at SB, as well] at Bridget Dobson’s funeral [Dobson, who passed away in January, was the co-creator and former co-head writer of Santa Barbara]. We had a lovely lunch and visit, even though it was kind of a sad time, and I think he took a look at me and thought, “Well, he’s holding up pretty well. Maybe we can get him on the show.” I’m honestly not sure, but I think it was a fortuitous combination of factors that got me back. I’m at a stage in my life where if it seems like fun, I’ll do it. My criteria is, Is it fun? Does it involve travel? Does it pay? Any one of those three will get me off my mountain and back to work, but it has to be at least one of those three — and this was all three.

Digest: Explain where you’re based these days for those who may not know.

Davies: I divide my time between the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I grew up [in Georgia] and Prague in the Czech Republic. I work a lot with the Prague Shakespeare Company, which gives me a good excuse to hang out in Prague. Sometimes I go over there and just hang out; I don’t have to have a show [to perform] to go over, but having a play to do gives me an even better excuse.

Digest: When you said yes to GH’s offer, were you intimidated at all to throw yourself back into the singular pace of daytime, with all that dialogue to learn in such a short amount of time?

Davies: I wouldn’t call it intimidating, but I was wary. Men of a certain age, your mental elasticity isn’t as sharp as it once was. I spent a good deal more time on the text than I used to when we were just turning out 60 pages a day on Santa Barbara. Most of the plays I do [nowadays] are plays I’ve done before, so those lines are back there in my reptile brain somewhere and they come back relatively quickly. I find new material much more challenging to learn than I used to. Part of it is just being rusty, you know, and not spending that much time learning dialogue and part of it is just, you know, an aging brain [laughs].

Digest: It’s certainly not unheard of in the daytime world that someone would come back to a show they’ve been on previously now playing a new role, but it also doesn’t happen every day. How did you feel about joining the club of actors for whom that does happen?

Davies: Well, you do enough daytime — and I think I’ve been on every show that’s on the air now [a bit part on Young and Restless in 1981; the role of Evan Whyland on Days of our Lives from 1981-82; and a brief turn filling in for Ronn Moss as Ridge Forrester on Bold and Beautiful in 1992] — and you sort of get used to the malleability of truth in daytime television. A popular character can be played by any number of competent actors and a popular actor can pop up in many different shows because he’s got a following. So, it wasn’t a great surprise to me, but I am sort of flattered that they would have me back two decades later in another role.

Digest: We’re speaking on the cusp of Santa Barbara’s 40th anniversary, which will take place in July. What does it mean to you that your name still resonates with the soap audience today?

Davies: I never ceased to be surprised by it, to be perfectly honest. When I did Santa Barbara, I was hungry for work and glad to get the work. I had no idea that it would open up the world for me. We played in 32 countries or something and we were pulling Super Bowl numbers in some of those. And I’m still capitalizing on it. The loyalty of the fans for Santa Barbara is very humbling, the number of people I’ve come in contact with that said, “It’s the only show I watched” or, “It changed my life” or, “I really identified with your character….” Nancy and I were talking about that, that it just feels good that people like you, especially all these years later.

Lane Davies, Nancy Lee Grahn GH

Tom Queally/ABC

A Lifetime Ago: Davies and Grahn as Cameron and Alexis during his last GH stint, which lasted from 2002-04.

Digest: And I assume the prospect of reteaming with Ms. Grahn held a particular appeal when GH came calling?

Davies: Oh, yeah, that doubled my excitement factor simply because Nancy and I, we buried our hatchet years ago [after clashing on set at SB]. But even when we were wielding hatchets, she was still fun to work with! The audience still liked it, hatchet in hand or not! So, coming back all these years later, when we both, dare I say, mellowed with age, it was just extremely rewarding. It’s always rewarding to work with good actors. But when it’s somebody you have a deep history with, in terms of a working relationship and even a romantic relationship [the pair was briefly involved during their SB days], it just gives you more layers to play with, and that’s always fun.

Digest: Tell me what it felt like to step back into the GH studio, your old workplace, after 20 years.

Davies: I felt a little like Rip Van Winkle, you know? The building was the same. Some of the sets were the same. The dressing rooms are the same. Some of the staff had changed — there’s a different security person at the front gate — but other than that, it was almost a surreal feeling of stepping back in time.

Digest: Tell me about the whole Nancy experience.

Davies: I don’t think we have that much time, Mara!

Digest (laughs): I didn’t mean from the day you met her, I meant this time around.

Davies: Oh! This time around it was just fun, for the most part. Nancy said, “This is just like falling off a bicycle!” I think she meant “falling off a log” or “riding a bicycle” but she mixed her metaphors and we giggled about it for several days. It didn’t take us more than five minutes to kind of get back into a rhythm. So, all in all, [it] was great fun. I actually stayed in her guest house while I was out there, which gave us some extra time to rehearse. I won’t say we were together 24/7, but we got to spend a lot of time with each other.

Digest: Obviously, the idea behind putting the two of you back on screen together is to capitalize on the tremendous chemistry you displayed as Mason and Julia. Do you have a theory as to why the combination of two actors sometimes results in magic, and sometimes doesn’t?

Davies: I don’t know if it’s even theory anymore, I think it’s just chemistry. You know, two people sit down next to each other on a sofa and there’s some sort of quantum interchange between the two people that they feel and the audience picks up on — and you either have it with another actor or you don’t. If you don’t have it, it’s very hard to fake. And soap audiences are so attuned to that that they can spot the phony a mile off. You’re dealing with an audience that basically is tuned in to watch for that reason — the stories are fun and some guys look great with their shirts off and blah, blah, blah. You know, all the superficial stuff. But really, I think the audiences are watching for that chemistry between characters and they know when it’s there and they know when it’s not. And as an actor, you know when it’s there and, you know, when it’s not. Having been in shows where it didn’t exist, it’s very hard to fake.


Grahn Davies

Bill Nation/Sygma via Getty Images

The Look Of Love: Davies and Grahn as their original soap alter egos, Mason and Julia on Santa Barbara, in 1987.

Digest: What other GH cast members did you get to interact with?

Davies: Most of my scenes were with [Nancy and] Carolyn Hennesy [Diane], who was a delight to work with; [she] works very much on the same sort of wavelength that Nancy and I do. I didn’t get to work with anybody else in the cast. There are other people in the cast that I would love a chance to work with; Maurice [Benard, Sonny], in particular, I think would be great fun to get stuff going with.

Digest: Santa Barbara devotees will recall that it was actually Jon Lindstrom’s [Kevin, GH] character, Mark, who was responsible for the death of Mason’s first great love, Mary, who was infamously crushed by the falling letter C atop the Capwell Hotel. Did you happen to run into Jon at GH?

Davies: I didn’t run into him this time, but I did run into him the last time I was on the show. We had fun on Santa Barbara. We didn’t get to work together that much, but Jon is, as you know, a first-rate actor, and anytime you get to work with good actors, it’s just fun. It’s half the reason you do it.

Digest: On the subject of your last time on the show: Did anyone inform you that Cameron’s namesake, his grandson Cameron Webber, is thriving at Stanford University in the world of GH?

Davies: I didn’t know that! I knew I had a namesake on the show, but I didn’t realize he was at Stanford. I’m pleased that he’s doing so well academically [laughs]. That’s very funny. I thought for years that I had a daughter on Days of Our Lives, by the way [Sarah Horton, who was originally Evan’s biological child], but down the road they decided it was Neil’s baby and not my baby.

Digest: Well, to have any blood relative stand the test of time on a soap opera is no easy feat, so congratulations on that grandson!

Davies: Yeah, at some point, if I go back, they’ll have to put us in a scene together, just for a little wink to the audience, an easter egg.

Digest: There was a ripple of excitement among the fans when it was announced that you were going to appear on GH again. What would you like to say to those viewers who are loud, proud and enduring Lane Davies fans and are looking forward to seeing you on the air this week?

Davies: Well, first I would just thank them for remaining a fan for all these years. And if they want to see a lot of old Santa Barbara people, we’re having a 40th reunion on August 2 at the Colony Theater in Burbank. There will be a great number of old cast members, writers, [Co-Creator] Jerry Dobson will be there, and it will be a combination reunion and memorial to Bridget Dobson. [Tickets will go on sale next month.]

Digest: This stint is just for a few episodes, but if the powers-that-be decided they wanted to extend it, would you be open to it?

Davies: Oh, totally. Like I said, I’m at a point in my life where if it’s fun, I’ll do it, and it’s always fun to work with Nancy. And I like camera work. I don’t do that much of it anymore, but I’m not fully retired. I call myself semi-retired, which basically means I’m lazy. But I had great fun this time and it fits my sort of life schedule of extreme slothfulness mixed with occasional bursts of energy and productivity [laughs]. It suits that rhythm quite well.