Bree Williamson

Credit: Hallmark

It didn’t take much coaxing on the part of GH Executive Producer Frank Valentini to get ONE LIFE TO LIVE alum Bree Williamson, who played Jessica from 2003-12, to come aboard as Nathan’s much-discussed ex-wife, Claudette.

“He told me that Claudette is spicy and a bad girl and it’s going to be fun,” Williamson recounts. “And I said, ‘Okay, cool, I’m in!’ He also told me, ‘[Co-Head Writer] Shelly Altman is there and they’re writing it with you in mind.’ And that’s really flattering. Acting is hard. It’s a hard career, you know? To have people believe in you that much and want to write for you and build a character for you makes it hard to say no. And I’m so happy I didn’t say no! I have a great job. It’s really cool. Who would not want this? I love Frank,” who she worked with on OLTL, “and I think that if I was going to come back to daytime, this is how I would have imagined that it would happen.”

Valentini isn’t her only tie to GH; the actress counts Kimberly McCullough (ex-Robin) as one of her closest pals. “She was the first person I called when I got the news and the offer and the interest,” Williamson reports. “She was like, ‘Oh, my God, that’s so fun, totally do it!’ And I was like, ‘Yes, of course, I’m going to!’ ” She has also long been friendly with Rebecca Budig (Hayden). “I talked to her all day the other day, and it’s so fun to be able to do that. She’s amazing.”

En route to her first day on set, Williamson says, “I didn’t expect to be, but I was totally nervous. It was weird! I was sitting in my car, like, ‘Okay, this is happening, you gotta go in.’ ” She quickly realized that her jitters were unwarranted. “When I got there, I got to see people I hadn’t seen in a long time, like Michael Easton [Finn, who was OLTL’s John] and Roger [Howarth, Franco; ex-Todd, OLTL]. Roger and I chatted for a while, which was great. And I know [Director] Larry Carpenter and Emme [Rylan, Lulu] and Lisa LoCicero [Olivia; ex-Sonia, OLTL], as well, and Finola Hughes [Anna], through Kimberly. Finola gave me the biggest, warmest hug, and it is hard to describe how good it makes you feel when you walk into a building and people are like, ‘Oh, my God! Yay!’ and they hug you. It was hard to process all the awesomeness.”

Her first encounter with on-screen ex Ryan Paevey (Nathan) was also positive. “He is so lovely,” she smiles. “I walked away feeling like, ‘Wow, what a nice, nice guy.’ He’s an attractive fellow, but you expect soap guys to be good-looking. He was more than that; he was a gentleman.”

Williamson wasn’t sure how fans would react to her hiring. “I was nervous, coming back,” she admits. “I was like, ‘Are people going to want to see me still?’ ” When her casting was announced online, she breathed a sigh of relief. “That day, my husband [Michael Roberts] and I went to a matinee, which we never do, and when we got out of the movie, my phone was blowing up. He was reading [fan responses] to me and he was like, ‘They’re being so nice. They’re so excited!’ And I was like, ‘Awwww!’ It gave me the warm fuzzies.” She marvels at soap fans’ loyalty. “Even when I wasn’t on daytime, they followed other stuff that I was doing and sent me sweet messages on social media and, ‘We’re so happy you’re going to be on CASTLE!’ and stuff like that. It’s just so nice, how they stay with you.”

The actress is happy that her new gig will allow her to stick close to the home that she and Roberts share with their son, McGreggor, 5. “You move to L.A. and you never get a job that’s in L.A.! I’ve worked in many other places, from Vancouver to Nova Scotia, and been away from Mac. I think the longest stretch was two weeks and that was awful. Mac’s at a good age for it; he’s okay with it and he’s becoming more independent. It’s me that suffers, I think, because I really miss him. So, it’s really, really nice that [GH] is in the same location, and I don’t have to get on an airplane. I just have to get in my car! It’s great. Even during the dark week, I’m filming a movie in Ottawa and my son is going to be in Toronto, which is still four hours away, so we’re still going to be spending time apart.”

She’s not sure how long her stint will last. “I’m recurring as of now,” she points out. “But I think the character is going to be really interesting. You’re going to find out about her in snippets,” she previews. “It’s going to be little by little. It’s definitely a soft introduction, not like, ‘Boom! Pow! Here she is!’ ” That the character is Canadian, as is Williamson, is a bonus. “It’s a nice wink, like when they named Jessica’s baby Bree on ONE LIFE. It’s rare that I get cast as a Canadian, unless I’m doing a film in Canada. When we were filming the other day, I said, ‘tomorrow’ [with a Canadian pronunciation] and I was like, ‘It doesn’t matter! I’m Canadian!’ ”

Due to the national preemption of GH on Friday, June 10, the actress will now debut on Tuesday, July 5.