INTERVIEW

GH Director Makes On-Camera Debut

GH fans who pay attention to the credits  likely already know the name Phideaux Xavier, a longtime, Daytime Emmy-winning director of the show. But he’ll be introduced to new sets of eyes when he appears on the November 11 episode as the lead singer of the band performing at The Savoy.

Xavier was caught off-guard when his on-screen presence was requested by Executive Producer Frank Valentini. “I love to direct on GENERAL HOSPITAL, but I’m also a musician,” he begins. “I had never really thought about merging my love of music with my day job; I would never presume to try to use my ‘in’ with the show to try to get that special perk. GENERAL HOSPITAL has been extremely gracious in allowing me time off periodically to work on my music and I recently had three months off the show to work on music and I was preparing for a very small concert in New Jersey, walking down the street in New York City, and I get a call from Frank. He said, ‘Hey, Phideaux. Listen, we have an upcoming scene in Curtis’s nightclub that requires a band and we were thinking, perhaps you could perform on the show.’ ”

Xavier’s instinct was to say no. “I just instantly said, ‘Wait. No, that makes no sense. That’s crazy.’ I just thought it was way out of left field and plus, they wanted me to do it in two weeks, which was a very short time to get everything together. So I was like, ‘No, no, no, I can’t.’ But Frank and Mary-Kelly [Weir], one of the producers, who was on the phone call that day, they were like, ‘Come on, Phideaux, do it! Do it!’ So as one can only do in life, I said yes. It just so happened that I had written a new song called ‘Do What You Will’, and I sent Frank a copy of the song, and he liked it, so I had to essentially finish the song as quickly as possible to get it into a position where I could perform it on the show. When I came back to Los Angeles, I worked on the song with my engineer and producer and performed it on Friday of that week!” It was, not surprisingly, a nerve-wracking time period. “A few days before, I just sort of sat in my house as my body hummed with anxiety over the appearance,” he admits. “However, once I was in the building and got thrown into makeup and hair and sat in my dressing room, I felt pretty Zen. And once I got on the stage, I just let the spirit of the performance take over.”

Xavier enjoyed his taste of what the talent goes through at the studio before they get to set. “I’m always the one in the control room, waiting for the actors to come up from downstairs,” he points out. “I’m directing and I’m blocking with the actors and I’m working with the camera people, but I’ve never really had  a great knowledge of exactly what happens down below. So to have to go in and sign in and be assigned my dressing room and go to makeup, it was very instructive and a lot of fun. Everyone was great and very supportive of me downstairs. I think they enjoyed the idea that this was their opportunity to dress me up and make me look as silly or fun as they wanted.”

To fill out his fictional band, Xavier enlisted his producer, Paul Roessler, to play guitar and keyboard, and his sister, Kira Roessler. “She is a huge GENERAL HOSPITAL fan, and she also happens to be the former bass player for a punk rock band called Black Flag, which is pretty legendary. So I invited her to play bass on this song and appear with me on GENERAL HOSPITAL, which she has been following since she was 14 years old. And then we hired a drummer named Nathan Riggs.”

The cast was tickled to find out who would be taking the stage in their scenes. “The script said ‘Singer’ and all the dialogue was like, ‘Oh, the band was great,’ so the script did not stipulate who the singer was,” Xavier explains. “I was in the dressing room right across from Brook [Kerr], who plays Portia, who I’ve known since I worked on PASSIONS. She kind of lit up when she saw me.  I said, ‘I can’t believe I’m on the other side!’ She was very excited for that. Maurice [Benard, Sonny], of course, is always the trickster on the set. He came up and gave me his Maurice eyes, which were burning into me like, ‘You better not mess up!’ But he is so supportive and great, and Laura [Wright, Carly] was very complimentary afterward. With most of the cast there, we have a little bit of a bond, where they know that I’m there for them and rooting for them and that I am going to make their day as easy as possible, that I won’t be in the way of their process to do their deepest work. So I think for a lot of them it was kind of interesting to be on the other side, and they were like, ‘Now he’s the one onstage and we’re going to be supportive of him!’ But singing to the cast was pretty surreal and some people told me afterward that they were gratified to see me in a different light.”

Xavier sums up the day as “an out-of-body experience. You have to understand that I started watching soap operas when I was in high school. I watched GENERAL HOSPITAL and DAYS OF OUR LIVES and ANOTHER WORLD and I never thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to be on one of those!’ The idea that, ‘One day, you’ll be performing a song that you wrote on GENERAL HOSPITAL’ was nothing I ever thought possible. I’m just so thankful to Frank for letting me have this opportunity.”

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