GH’s Wally Kurth Weighs In On Ned’s Identity Crisis
Soap Opera Digest: I think it’s fair to say that Ned tripping at the Metro Court Pool, sustaining a head injury and waking up thinking that he was Eddie Maine was not on many fans’ bingo cards!
Kurth: No, I don’t think anyone saw that coming! And that’s good.
Digest: What was your reaction when you first learned that Ned would wake up as Eddie Maine?
Kurth: My first thought was, “Oh, fantastic! That sounds great!” Just because, “Amnesia? Eddie Maine? That sounds like a challenge! That sounds like something that’s just completely wacky! Let’s see if I can pull this off!” That’s always what every actor wants to do, you know? “How do I make this work? How do I sell this?” So I was just excited. And you know, Eddie Maine — that time on the show [when he was first introduced in 1993] was so much fun. Not just the music, but the character and the way he looked at the Quartermaines. He got to get out of the suit and tie, literally and figuratively — and he’s doing it again! And that’s always nice, when you can step away from the role that you’ve put yourself in in your life — even in real life. I always try to bring my real life into these stories, because it just gives it more depth or resonance for me when I sat the lines, if I can speak to something that is true for me. And the truth for Eddie is that he doesn’t want to live in this big mansion! He doesn’t want to live with these people. Not that he doesn’t like these people, but he really feels like he needs to be on the stage. He wants to just make music. The last thing he wants is to be in a business suit and be, you know, the son, the husband, even the father. Being a father, that’s the one thing that he seems to be somewhat more bending towards. He’s had scenes with Leo and he’s had scenes with Brook Lynn and I feel that if there’s a shift that’s happening with Eddie, it’s happening as a father. He seems to like that aspect of Ned’s life, the relationship with his daughter and with Leo. It’ll be interesting to see who else [from Ned’s life] he ends up feeling more connected to first. Maybe his wife, maybe his mother.
Digest: So, how was the tripping stunt filmed? What was actually you and what was a body double?
Kurth: Well, I’ll tell you, I was pretty honored because the guy who was my stunt man [Anthony Molinari], I just happened to be talking to him in the makeup room and he was relaxed and talkative and I asked him, “Do you do stunts a lot?” And he goes, “Yeah, I worked with Mark Ruffalo for eight years.” He did all the Hulk movies! And then he goes, “I’ve also covered for George Clooney and Matt Damon.” And I went, “Oh, I’m feeling honored now! I’m feeling good. This is sweet!” He did it all in one take. He was really good. I did the towel trip and I did a forward fall onto a mat. And then when Anthony came out, he actually said the line, the same line that I had just said, and then he did the fall onto the deck and rolling into the pool and then he laid there for a while, and then when you saw it pick up, it was me, obviously, laying in the water when they turned me over. It was really fun to get in the water with a suit on! It was a nice, warm water. And I don’t get to do very many stunts, so I loved it! I loved having to take a fall onto a mat and all that stuff.
Digest: I was thinking that when I watched it: “This must be such a fun of change of pace for Wally!”
Kurth: It really was, because it’s been years since Ned’s had a fight or gotten in any kind of physical altercation. So getting hit by Drew a couple of weeks prior to this, and then doing the thing at the pool, I really did love it. It’s very fun.
Digest: Were you at all nervous about getting the trip on the towel right? Is this something you practiced at home?
Kurth (laughs): You know, when it came to the fall, they were like, “Ready?” And I was like, “Just hold on, give me a moment.” I did take just a moment to get my head around it, you know? You’ve sort of got to envision how to do it because when I left Nina on the patio, I was almost running out the door. I didn’t plan that, but it worked out great because they said, “Hey, if you could be running in, that would be good.” I said, “Perfect, because I was kind of running out away from Nina. So let’s just keep that high energy going!” And then I just hit that towel and I felt like it went pretty well and then I landed pretty well on the mat and everyone was like, “That looked great! Fantastic!” When it was Anthony’s turn and he came out, I was actually watching the monitors and not only did it look great, but his line reading was so much like my line reading, I said to the director, “Just use his voice, too!” They didn’t, but boy, I thought he made the stunt look fantastic. It was in one swoop — he hit the deck, rolled right into the pool. It was very cool.
Digest: Obviously you, Wally, know all about the relationships that you have to play Eddie as having no memories of. How have you approached acting opposite Jane Elliot (Tracy) and Lisa LoCicero (Olivia), for example, as though they’re essentially strangers to your character?
Kurth: When Eddie wakes up, he remembers certain things but he doesn’t remember the most important things, which are those relationships, and that really is a fun challenge, to program my mind into knowing certain things and not knowing other things. I mean, that’s what an actor has to do! You’re basically loading up your computer and programming your computer, your brain, to obviously, remember your lines, but also, you’re putting yourself in a situation; you’re preparing for a scene that you’re entering into, so you know all the lines and you know all the blocking, and then, when you turn it on, you kind of have to start all over again, as if you’re doing it for the first time. And that is a trick. It doesn’t always work, you don’t always get it, but that’s what I always strive for. This whole Eddie challenge has been a wonderful acting experiment for me. And people seem to think that it’s working, so that’s good! People are happy about what I’m doing. But, again, it’s almost like I’m playing a different character, and that’s pretty cool, because I’ve been doing this character [Ned] for a long time. And it’s always nice to play someone different.
Digest: This isn’t a textbook amnesia storyline, as Eddie Maine was Ned’s rocker alter ego and stage persona as opposed to a discrete entity separate from Ned. So how do you understand what is actually happening to Ned?
Kurth: Well, I did a little bit of research and there is a technical term. I can’t remember what it is, but basically, it’s where you remember certain things from your past, but you don’t have a real recollection of your current events. It’s almost like a PTSD situation where your mind goes to a time that makes more sense to you and feels more comfortable, where maybe it’s happier, and you go there to protect yourself, like a defense mechanism. That’s kind of how I look at it. And I think for Eddie Maine, that’s being on stage.
Digest: We have yet to see the return of Eddie Maine’s infamous leather pants. When you got the heads-up about this story, did you have any “I’m going to have to wear leather pants” anxiety?
Kurth: Ha! I don’t know if it was anxiety. It was excitement! Exhilaration! You know, [in the original storyline] we did a lot of singing, a lot of fun songs, getting up there and being full of swagger and strutting around…. There really is something about getting up there and being on stage that is a character. Wally being on stage is different than Wally at home, just like Eddie and Ned. It’s almost a different point of view that you have to assume. But I have to say, I did keep one pair of leather pants, and I told the guys, “You know, I’ll try them on to see if we could possibly bring them in,” and they didn’t say, “Bring in your black leather pants!” I think Frank [Valentini, executive producer] even mentioned, “We’re not gonna do the whole black leather pants thing,” so I don’t know. But I did try them on! My wife is not gonna be happy that I admit this, but I tried them on and they didn’t altogether fit. But according to [wife] Debra, leather does shrink. So I’m going to blame the lambskin leather for the reason why I can’t cinch myself into the old black leather pants. Can’t possibly be me! It can’t be the 30 years in between [laughs]!
Digest: Because Ned does not remember hearing Nina confess to calling the SEC, his storyline fate is now inexorably linked to hers. This is really the first time you’ve shared story with Cynthia Watros (Nina).
Kurth: I know! It was great! I really like working with her. I didn’t really Cynthia, but I think she’s a wonderful actress. We don’t have much time, much rehearsal; we just zip through this stuff. So, next think you know, we were in each other’s faces and going to town, just acting away! It was fun and I would love to work with Cynthia more. We’ll see what happens! At this point, I’m having so much fun and I don’t see why they would have him get his memory back anytime soon when they’ve got lots of story that they could tell.