Roger Howarth, who first joined the GH ranks in 2012 when he crossed over as his ONE LIFE TO LIVE alter ego, Todd Manning, and went on to play two more characters (first Franco, then Austin), has exited the show in what the powers-that-be at GH describe as a storyline-dictated decision. After shooting his final episode, the actor opened up to Digest about his exit.
Soap Opera Digest: When did you find out that your contract wasn’t being renewed and what was your reaction?
Roger Howarth: Well, several weeks ago, I got a phone call from somebody I’ve known for a very long time who I love very dearly [Executive Producer Frank Valentini] telling me that when my contract was up at ABC, I would not be offered a new contract and that the character of Austin would be killed, and that this was something that they both wanted and needed to do to move story. And it took me a minute to kind of adjust, to kind of hear the news; it took a second for me to let that settle in. And then, immediately, I realized how lucky I was to have been able to do something I really love doing for more than a decade with people who I really enjoyed working with. I’m a lucky guy. I had a great run and this was a decision made by people who make these kinds of decisions for a living. For me, I felt it was very much like the scene in Moneyball and Jonah Hill had just told me I’ve been traded. I feel very respected and supported. For a long time I’ve enjoyed coming to work, learning lines and saying them with really cool people.
Digest: Fans of yours have expressed disappointed that the character of Austin was not as high-impact or as developed as Todd and Franco were. Was that something you sensed or and/or were frustrated by?
Howarth: Look, I love being an actor. The actor’s job is to get a script, learn the scene, perform the scene. And I always enjoy doing that. There was never a day where I didn’t have one moment of absolute joy. When I was at GENERAL HOSPITAL, there was always a moment, every day, where something magic happened — and I’m not saying I was responsible for it! Here’s an example. I was working with Maura [West, Ava] and Nicholas [Chavez, Spencer] one day in the Cassadine living room and Nicholas walked on the set and Spencer said to Ava, “Where’s my father?” And he did it so well. It was amazing. So that’s the kind of day that I always try to design for myself, and I got a lot of those days playing Austin. In terms of his involvement on the canvas and whether he was a Quartermaine or not a Quartermaine or, you know, some of the other stories that kind of began and for one reason or another shifted into a different story, it’s not something an actor can really control or concern themselves with. It is not our job. I know that the people who have that job are lovely people who work really hard. So while I understand your question, I don’t feel like I’ve been slighted in any way or that there was bad juju around these decisions. I think that the writers and the producers and the directors work really hard to entertain a really loyal and dedicated audience and I hope that they succeed in thrilling the audience for another 60 years. I will say this: I’m really proud of myself — like, totally truthfully, honest to God, I always tried my hardest. So for me, ultimately, there’s no loss. I know I did everything I could.
Digest: You had an unorthodox run on GH insofar as you played three discrete, unrelated characters.
Howarth: I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I was supported by writers and producers who had enough faith in me as an actor to ask me to play three different parts. Think about that! Lucky me. That’s pretty great.
Digest: What were the highlights for you of playing your previous roles, Todd and Franco?
Howarth: I don’t write the show; the writers write the show, so the writers have highlights, you know what I mean? My job is to have a highlight in the day, every day. That was always the task, to find a second where some glimpse of humanity came through because of something one of the characters did. And there were tons of those. It’s all a highlight reel when you’re talking about working with actors like Laura Wright [Carly] and Michelle Stafford [ex-Nina; Phyllis, Y&R]. I’m certainly really grateful to the viewers for their positive response to the Franco and Elizabeth story. I think that the character of Franco was really floundering a little bit and Jean [Passanante, ex-head writer] wrote a very slow, thoughtful story about people changing and embracing change in their lives. Franco only survived as a character on GENERAL HOSPITAL because he was a part of a family with Elizabeth and Jake and Aiden and Cameron and Scotty and good friends with Dr. Obrecht. He was not in isolation and you got to see his love and affection for lots of other people. I think that keeps an audience really interested.
Digest: Austin was a little less isolated toward the end, when he was tied into story with Ava and Cyrus.
Howarth: I loved working with Maura. I think she’s amazing. Just a beautiful, talented actor and I can see why the fans just love her so much. I did think that there was a real potential there between those two characters, just as I thought there was potential to develop an on-screen relationship between Cyrus and Austin. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Jeff Kober [Cyrus] a little bit. I think he is also just a great, beautiful actor.
Digest: What was your last day of work like?
Howarth: I was overwhelmed with just how much I love what I do. I love telling story and I got to do it for a long time. I started my relationship with ABC when I had just had a child [son Julian, who was born in 1992, the same year Howarth was cast as Kent on LOVING and went on to join OLTL] and now I have a grandchild and that’s a lot of opportunities and a lot of people that I got to work very closely with to tell a good story. It’s not just that I felt that on my last day, I still feel that way, but I felt it pretty strongly on the set. And everybody was very sweet to me. The producers gave me flowers and I got to say thank-you and good-bye to an awful lot of people who I really admire.
Digest: What has life been like since you finished shooting in October?
Howarth: Life is great. Everyone I love is happy and healthy. I have a grandkid who has taken her first steps. I’m adjusting to the idea that I have a lot of potential [career-wise] and I’m not scared and I’m not anxious. This feels like a new beginning to me and I really do believe that all things happen for a reason and I have a great trust in that. It’s a very exciting time to be me. I’m just really grateful. I know it sounds a little cliche, but I really am. I’m just really grateful that I got to do something I loved for a long time and I’m excited about what’s next. I don’t know what it’s going to be, but in some sense I feel like I’m just getting started. You know, it was never the plan to keep the job for as long as I did. I did it because I enjoyed it and it was rewarding, but I moved to New York City with a bunch of other young actors and we were carving out lives for ourselves. I got to have the life that I’ve had for the last however many years, but I’m certainly ready for what’s next.
Digest: Are you open to doing another daytime show?
Howarth: One hundred percent. Thanks for asking [laughs]. Yeah! I’m an actor. I love acting. If somebody’s gonna ask me, I’m gonna go! I’m gonna get in the car.
Digest: Anything you’d like to say directly to the fans?
Howarth: Well, first, can I say thank-you to you? You and your publication have been so supportive of me for so long, and I’m just really thankful. But to the fans: If you’re reading this and you watch the show, thank you so much. Really. The daytime fans are the most loyal, smartest, most discerning, enthusiastic, supportive bunch of people in the whole history of entertainment ever and they’ve been very kind to me and very generous with their support. So I want to say, “Thank you for watching, thank you for all of your support and love. We’ve all tried really hard to please you and I’m glad we got to spend this time together. It was cool. I had a great time.”