Greg Rikaart happily reports that he is nothing like his DAYS alter ego in real life
“I am a lovely guy off camera!” chuckles Greg Rikaart, who is causing grief for “WilSon” as Salem’s newest resident troublemaker, Leo Starke.
Rikaart, a native New Yorker, describes his childhood as “Happy and sort of uneventful. It was stable and loving. Staten Island is a great place to grow up.” He performed in plays in high school, then after graduating from Villanova, Rikaart headed West to try his luck in Hollywood.
He wasn’t an instant success, the actor reports. “I first got here and didn’t know what I was doing,” Rikaart recalls. “I was bombing audition after audition, and then, like a year later, I was getting callbacks. Even before I was booking roles, things were headed in the right direction, so I was like, ‘Okay, I feel like it’s just a matter of time.’ And then the snowball starts going and then you book a job and suddenly you feel a little more confident, like maybe you do know what you’re doing just a little bit. Incrementally it got easier.”
Rikaart notched his first real credit in 2000. “I played a thuggish guy — can you imagine me, a thug? — on this show called STRONG MEDICINE. I had one or two lines. And then shortly after that, I played a young, pleasant high school student on GILMORE GIRLS. Those were my first two paid jobs.”
He then hit the big screen as Museum Teenager #2 in X-Men 2. “That was crazy!” he shares. “I spent a weekend sharing screen time with Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Jimmy Marsden … I think the scene that I was in probably is maybe two to three minutes long, if that, and it took four days to shoot! It was a super-fun experience.”
It was his role in the movie, he believes, that led him to audition for DAWSON’S CREEK’s David. “I sometimes think that the cachet around that movie — because people were really excited about that movie — probably helped me a little bit to get me the part on DAWSON’S,” he muses. “I remember whoever the guys who were running the show that year when I went in for my audition, they were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll get to the audition in a minute, but tell us about X-Men!’ ”
He found out he was hired while working at California Pizza Kitchen, and the call altered the course of his life. “I was waiting tables and I had just gotten there for a Friday shift and was really burnt out,” he says. “I’d been working there for a little over three years. My phone started to ring and I ran to the bathroom and my manager told me I got the job. I remember being so happy and then also being like, ‘Oh no, I still have to work here for the next six hours!’ Without exaggerating I was hustling and waiting tables on Friday, and on Monday I was getting flown first class to North Carolina [to film]. It can be a little whiplash-y how quickly it can change. I’ve also been on the other end of it, where it can whiplash back in the other direction.”
Rikaart appeared on the sixth and final season of the hit show. “Then came a stint of unemployment, and then came Y&R!” he relays of what became a 14-year stay in Genoa City. “It changed my life, truly. I never imagined it. In my experience, I drank the Kool-Aid right away. You don’t appreciate how hard it is to get a job, and once you have one, you realize how fortunate you are. I was very pleased to be there and to stay there. I certainly hoped it would last because I really did enjoy being there, and loved playing that role and was really fond of everyone that I was working with. In my wildest dreams, I don’t think I ever could have imagined what it became.”
Rikaart’s run came to an end in 2017 and the actor took some time to regroup. “I was incredibly fortunate in that I have a supportive and successful husband who was like, ‘All right, you’ve been working for a long time. Take a minute. Take a breath and just breathe and don’t worry about what comes next,’ ” he says. “I kind of had to mourn that loss, and also at the time I had a 1-year-old, so it was easy to focus on him. I think while I was certainly sad about the job ending, having a kid really does help put the things that are important in life in perspective. I’m grateful that I get to spend a lot of time with my son because it’s going by in the blink of an eye. And then I kind of dusted myself off and my team and I were like, ‘All right, let’s restructure a little bit and see what’s gonna be next. Back to the grind.’ ”
That’s when DAYS came calling. “I was auditioning and just hustling and DAYS came along and took me off the market again, which I was grateful for!” Rikaart enthuses. “It’s been great! The character that I’m playing is still sort of in his infancy, so the work that I’m getting to do with him is really fun because I’m still sort of discovering. My last job was challenging for different reasons but wasn’t challenging in this way, so this has been fun. I’ve been so fortunate because I’ve gotten to work with some really great people here.”
That’s not the only element of his new job that he appreciates. “What is super-gratifying to me about this part is I love having the opportunity to play a gay man,” he says. “And what’s so fantastic about the stories being told on this show is that there’s not a token gay character who just happens to exist; there are three gay characters and they are involved in heavy story. The fact that one of them gets to be a bad guy shows how far we’ve come. I’m really grateful to get to play in that world. I have no complaints. I’m a very lucky guy.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: February 26
Hails From: Staten Island, NY
Family Man: Rikaart married Robert Sudduth on May 9, 2015 in Hawaii. They welcomed son Montgomery Argo via surrogate on June 12, 2016.
Say My Name: “Like ‘Rick’ and ‘art’. Put them together. I’ve long since stopped correcting people. Life is short! It gets mispronounced all the time.”
Getting RESTLESS: Rikaart played Kevin Fisher on Y&R from 2003-17 and won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2005.
Winner, Winner: Rikaart’s DAYS co-star Drake Hogestyn (John) presented him with the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in 2005.
Keep In Touch: Rikaart remains close with his Genoa City pals. “Missy [Egan, ex-Chelsea], Melissa Ordway [Abby], Peter [Bergman, Jack], Christian [LeBlanc, Michael], Tracey [Bregman, Lauren], Jimmy Freeman [former producer], Matt Kane [publicist], Doug [Davidson, Paul]…. These days with social media, I also keep tabs very easily on everybody else.”
Brotherly Love: Of becoming on-screen sibs with Christian J. LeBlanc (Michael) on Y&R, Rikaart recalls, “We had a fan event not long after I had started, and Christian and I sat next to one another and Jack Smith, who was writing the show at the time, saw us sitting together — and I think that’s where the seed was planted of, ‘Oh, those guys look alike!’ And from that [came] the story that basically kept me there for a long time and gave Kevin some roots.”
Just Relax: “I exercise when I can. I like getting a massage if I can sneak out and find time to do that. Sometimes I just like to drive; that’s something I’ve discovered about myself. Sometimes rather than going to the Starbucks that’s close to my house, I’ll drive 20 minutes away because I can just put a podcast on in the car and zone out. That’s a good way for me to unwind.”
AND BABY MAKES THREE
Rikaart met hubby Robert Sudduth in July of 2005, and they tied the knot a decade later. “We didn’t really connect or go on a date until September,” Rikaart explains. “I was interested in him when we first met, but I think I was there with somebody else and he was there with somebody else. I had to wait until it was free and clear to make a move! We went out in September of 2005.” They got married in 2015, but having a child was already on their radar. “It takes a long time,” he says. “It was over two years from when we first sort of signed a contract [with a surrogacy agency] until Monte was born. We had this really wonderful surrogate named Marcela, who is just outside of Sacramento.” Becoming a father was worth the wait. “Without sounding like an emotional cliché, it really just sort of puts everything in perspective, and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Rikaart says. “He is just exceptional and made me discover a depth and a capacity of love that I don’t think I knew existed. I had a bad dream about him last night, I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember it woke me up at like 4 o’clock and I couldn’t fall back asleep. As soon as I woke up, I knew it was just a dream. I dreamt that I lost him in a mall. But you feel everything. Everything’s on overdrive; all the good stuff you feel at a 10, and any bad stuff you also feel at a 10.” As for family expansion, Rikaart says, “Yeah, I think that’s in the cards. We’re not pregnant or anything but it’s something we’ve talked about.”