INTERVIEW

GH’s Donnell Turner Weighs In On A Year Of Big Changes For Curtis

Soap Opera Digest: What were your thoughts when you heard Curtis’s father, Marshall, was coming to Port Charles?

Donnell Turner: Well, it wasn’t a surprise, but I was grateful! It was something that had been kicked around and you throw things against the wall and hope it sticks, and this stuck. I gotta say, a shout-out to our writers. They really are thoughtful and careful and conscientious and I can’t say enough about that. I’m pleased. I was a part of the audition process and Robert [Gossett, Marshall] blew away the competition. I felt the look was right and then his chops, of course, were there and I was just so excited when the writers actually put ink to paper and made this part of Curtis’s life more complete.

Digest: What did you think of the writing of those emotional scenes when Marshall revealed his identity to Curtis and Curtis articulated how growing up without a father had impacted his life?

Turner: We got to see another layer of Curtis. There was some vulnerability that we perhaps hadn’t seen. When I read the scripts, I got misty-eyed for a lot of different reasons — for what this represents culturally, as well. So, to have a semblance of a complete family, a complete Black family, felt good. So, I was excited. I’ve been really excited about this storyline every day. It’s not even work! It’s a dream come true, really. The feedback I’ve seen has been good, and I’m grateful. And I know this is long-lasting. This is not something [where] I’m expecting immediate results. It’s a slow burn. But we’re keenly aware of what this represents.

Digest: How would you put into words what Curtis has been grappling with in the wake of Marshall’s return?

Turner: He is grappling with questions, with the why. There’s anger, there’s hurt, there’s confusion, there’s insecurity there. The Curtis that I think we know would probably be ready to punch somebody, so he’s holding that back for answers, for information, because there are more questions than vitriol, and at the end of the day, this is a guy who would love to know his dad. Who wouldn’t? You know, as an actor, you don’t always know the end, so you don’t always know how big to play the moments. You can’t take it to 10, because then something else happens, and you have nowhere to go! Plus, you don’t know how long a storyline is going to go. So I didn’t want to play yelling, shouting, yelling all the time. We definitely wanted some of those tender, soft nuances, and we wanted to give the scenes texture. We’re trying. That’s the goal; I’m not saying we’re there! But we’re trying to show the softer side of the situation versus the spot-on, obvious yelling.

Digest: Let’s touch on the TJ factor. It seems like it’s not sitting right with Curtis that TJ appears so willing to give this guy the benefit of the doubt.

Turner: Curtis is more reluctant than TJ. To Curtis, it’s frustrating, it’s hurtful, that TJ is so accepting. But Curtis is also grappling with some understanding that TJ doesn’t have 30, 40 years of questions, so he would be a little more accepting. There’s not the same history of questions and instability and, indeed, anger. Curtis understands that; that’s why he’s not feeling betrayed. He would probably like other people to feel the same way he does, but he may be alone in that.

Digest: Another return affecting Curtis is a more immediately happy one: Drew is back! What does it mean to Curtis to have his buddy back in his life?

Turner: Oh, that’s his man, you know? That’s his guy. To have him back feels great. Curtis would always confide in Nina, or Jordan, or Laura, and then later, Portia, and before that, he had Hayden, but Drew was his male counterpart and best friend and so to have him back means a lot, especially now that things are a little different from when he left.

Digest: Stella also came back to town recently. Is Curtis picking up on Stella knowing more than she’s saying about Marshall?

Turner: Vernee [Watson, Stella] really showed the audience that there is more there. But Curtis doesn’t know. You know, it’s funny; you can look at a script and read it, and then when actors portray it, you get something else totally. And so it almost looked the way it was played that, I don’t know, maybe they [Stella and Marshall] had something going in the past! And that’s interesting; maybe there is something there. Who knows? Wouldn’t that be some soap opera stuff!

Digest: The Curtis/Stella relationship is so sacred to Curtis; how do you imagine he might feel to find out that Stella was keeping things from him, not being straight with him?

Turner: Yeah, that’s gonna be a betrayal for Curtis, because he holds Aunt Stella to a higher standard.

Digest: So, try as Curtis might, he has not been able to get the full story from Marshall about why he stayed away from the family for so long. Is that gonna cut it?

Turner: No, that’s not gonna cut it. I can’t imagine Curtis putting up with that too much longer. After a while, it’s, “Hey man, talk or be gone.” Personally, I am surprised Curtis has been this patient this long!

Digest: Opposite all of this drama with his father, Curtis just consummated his relationship with Portia. Why do you think he felt ready to take things to the next level?

Turner: First of all, let me say, I absolutely love Brook [Kerr, Portia]. Absolutely love her. She’s an angel and blesses our set. And Curtis must feel the same way [laughs]! The budding relationship with Portia symbolizes the turning of the page in Curtis’s life. Not just no more Jordan, and the divorce, but the nightclub. No more P.I. [business]. Just a whole different life that doesn’t involve shadows and secrets and lies. Portia comes with a clean slate, or so we believe, and she has been nothing but a supportive angel in Curtis’s world.

Digest: How do you feel about Curtis’s change of profession and this new kind of life that your character is living?

Turner: I’m honored. You know, we’ve got a set that’s mine, and what a show of appreciation. How else can they say, “You belong and we want you here?” That’s not lost on me. Every day I go to work and I go on that set, and I know that it was made for me, it’s humbling and it makes me want to do my job the best way I can and treat everyone well and just remain grateful. I love The Savoy. They talked to me every step of the way about different things and told me what they were going to do and how excited they were, and I was excited, and I love it. I love the scenes we do there and I love Curtis growing up. We’ve seen Curtis just kind of being a subordinate, hanging in Dumpsters, one-liners and the big eye rolls and the comedic moments, and we’ve actually seen this guy grow up over the last six years. So, appropriately, I feel like he is in the leadership position that he’s earned and that we’ve all watched him get to.

Digest: I have a concern about The Savoy that I need to bring to your attention.

Turner: I have several! Okay, go ahead.

Digest: How are they going to have a spiral staircase that all these drunk people need to go up and down to get in and out of the club?

Turner (laughs): Well, you should have seen it before they put glass over the stairs! The ladies’ heels were going through the stairs, so it was a nightmare, the first episode. And I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m gonna put it out there — and I don’t know if this is a running joke with the writers, but it definitely is to me: My club is never locked! People always just walk in. “Oh, your door was unlocked,” that’s the line that they always say. I think it’s comical at this point! It could be a drinking game. We gotta work on the security system. But other than that, both Curtis and Donnell are very happy. Also, stay tuned for more live acts! That’s an idea we’ve been kicking around and I think we’re going to start to showcase some indie artists.

Digest: Especially in light of his involvement with Portia, do you think that Curtis is at peace with the divorce from Jordan?

Turner: I think he’s at peace because he’s at peace with Portia, and that’s what he mainly wanted. Yes, he loves Jordan, but I believe Curtis is all-in. I don’t think there’s one foot in and the other foot is monitoring Jordan’s progress up north [where she’s undergoing treatment for her kidney issues]. He told Drew recently that seeing her in the hospital made him realize how much he still loved her, but he had to move on. He couldn’t deal with her secrets and lies anymore. I remember saying those lines many times to many people, so I truly believe he’s over it. He turned the page from his past life — complete with changing his love interest.

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