James Patrick Stuart (Valentin, GH) was a guest on Digest’s podcast, Dishing With Digest, where he reflected on his ALL MY CHILDREN past and Port Charles present.
Soap Opera Digest: You [grew up] in the music industry. Your father, Chad Stuart, was in the group Chad & Jeremy. So first of all, tell us what that was even like. Were you even aware of what your dad did?
James Patrick Stuart: Yeah, I was aware. But much like everything else in life, you know, familiarity … I don’t like to breed contempt, but I wasn’t all that impressed by it. But when I was very young, Chad & Jeremy had the same publicist as The Beatles. His name was Derek Taylor. Chad & Jeremy and Apple [Corps], The Beatles’ company, did a lot of business together. Oftentimes I would be at Derek’s house playing with his daughter and they’re on the couch sitting next to me with George Harrison in his full long hair, long beard. I knew who The Beatles were, so I was kind of impressed with all the celebrities my father knew. But my father being a celebrity, he didn’t feel like a celebrity. He was just my dad. I think there was a time Jeremy [Clyde] was dating Lauren Bacall. So there were celebrities around, but it was just normal to me. And my father coached my soccer team, so he was just my dad, you know? It was just cool when we met celebrities because they were always so happy to meet him. Like Glen Campbell had worked as a session musician for Chad & Jeremy a couple times. When we were finally on THE TONIGHT SHOW, Glen saw him, Glen sort of dropped everything to say hello to my father. And I knew who he was. I mean “Rhinestone Cowboy” was a hit when I was a kid. It was neat that way. But that’s about all I can say about that. It was a cool way to meet celebrities!
Digest: Let’s take a walk back to the start of your daytime career [as ALL MY CHILDREN’s Will].
Stuart: He was a bastard. The funny thing is that he was a bastard for about six months, and what I love is that all these years later people still come up to me and talk about how great that ride was. It really was a moment where the gloves really came off. But to begin with, I was struggling in Hollywood. I was going to class with a couple of unknown punks, Benicio del Toro and Mark Ruffalo, and when I got the audition for the soap I remember there was an earthquake during the read and the casting director got on the desk but I didn’t stop reading! And I think that might’ve led to why I was flown to New York to read with Cady McClain [ex-Dixie]. That was an exciting day because I don’t think I had ever been to New York. I got a chance to run around and have real New York pizza and stuff like that. By the time I got home they said, “You got three days to pack and get back to New York.” I was so green. If you show me any videos of those first few episodes, it makes my toes curl! I almost needed medical attention because I was so nervous. I was so obsessed with all the wrong things. And Michael Knight [ex-Tad], God bless him, he really took me under his wing. He really showed me the ropes. He’s become a lifelong friend and still is. He just sort of showed me how to do it. And the irony was by the time I figured out what’s what, Felicia [Minei Behr], the executive producer, came down to my dressing room, which is probably why all of us have the fear of God put into us when they say, “Please report to Frank’s [Valentini, GH’s EP] office.” It’s some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder. She was like, “The bad news is, we’re gonna let you ride into the sunset, the good news is, we’re gonna give you a hell of a send-off.” The lead-up to Will’s death was just a barrel of monkeys. It was a ton of fun. It really was. I still have a poster in the dressing room signed by everybody ’cause there was so many suspects in his murder. Kelly Ripa [ex-Hayley] was a suspect.
Digest: It was one of the best-crafted mysteries. The photo that you’re talking about with everyone in the trench coats is iconic.
Stuart: Yeah, it is. I have it on my dressing room door at GENERAL HOSPITAL. And I must say, years later, [late AMC Creator] Agnes Nixon, the last time I ever got a chance to talk to her, I ran into her and she said the same thing. She said, “That was one of my favorite storylines that I had done in a long time.” She said, “I’m sorry for the way it had to end, but I really do appreciate you being so gracious about it because it really was great.” That was a nice exchange.
Digest: It’s funny that you mentioned Cady McClain and now you’re working at GENERAL HOSPITAL with her husband, Jon Lindstrom [Kevin/Ryan]. What is it like for you to have all these connections that kind of come back around in this business?
Stuart: I know. It’s a small world. I think you just realize that once you prove that you can do the work, then everybody gets hired and rehired. And then by the time we get to one soap opera left [on ABC], all of a sudden the best that Frank can get are made available. The one thing about Jon I will say is that I knew who he was and by the time I showed up he was playing Santa Claus occasionally and I was like, “Oh, it’s come to that, has it?” And then we did this scene with Genie [Francis, Laura] in the hallway in the hospital and he was just stunning. I mean, not only that, he was well-trained, his articulation was on point … I mean everything about him was just really polished and I thought, “Oh, I get it. Now I understand why he’s still around.”
Digest: What keeps you wanting to stay [at GH]?
Stuart: So many reasons. I think it was a shift in perception. At the time [he was cast in 2016], I was busy trying to land the big nighttime thing. I was like, “What? No, soap operas are behind me. I don’t do that.” And the shift in perception I think was a), I love the danger, b), I love the people and I love the challenge. I take it as seriously as anything I had ever worked on. I was afraid that I was gonna somehow think that the dialogue and the situations were silly. I don’t. Early on, on this particular gig, I looked around and I saw people like Genie and Finola [Hughes, Anna] and I watched how they lent sort of a gravity to it. Okay, yes, this is silly. Of course, it’s silly that suddenly there’s a cave behind a bookcase that we’ve established for decades or whatever the silliness is. But they go, “So what? I’m going to lend my authenticity to the situation and we’re gonna sell it.” And I think the two people I mentioned really demonstrated that they could sell anything. It didn’t matter what you wrote for them, they will make you believe it. I thought, “Well, that I’m interested in.” I feel like once I gave myself over to that, I felt like I’m part of something bigger than myself and who could want anything more? Not only that, you get to go do appearances like we did in Graceland and you come face to face with people whose lives you are improving. I mean, I’m not saying we’re curing cancer, but if he or she enjoys it then it’s my pleasure to bring it to them. The people I work with are so terrific. I mean I’m talking all of ’em. Emme [Rylan, Lulu], Steve [Burton, Jason], Jon…. Just really authentic. Laura [Wright, Carly], who I’ve known forever, she’s gotten a chance to just show me how she’s grown not only as a human being but as an artist. I look forward to going in. I really do.
Digest: The last time I talked to you, neither one of us were sure about whether Valentin was deceiving Nina with this whole Sasha thing. We know now she isn’t really Nina’s daughter.
Digest: Give us your take on this latest maneuver of Nina by Valentin.
Stuart: I love it because if I talk to 10 people on the street, 10 out of 10 of them are gonna say, “That’s awful. It’s so awful I can’t even look at it.” And that’s true. The cool thing about a soap is that it presents these absurd circumstances and then we, as actors, we have to sort of decode it and figure out what would this be like if it actually was happening in real life. And Valentin is in his own private hell because he’s made a deal with the devil because he was so desperate. I don’t think he actually thought beyond the end of just getting her back in his bedroom and getting her back in his life. He needed it so badly that he was willing to deceive. At the end of the day, I think nobody understands better than he does that this is awful. He just wishes he could look her in the eyes and have some authenticity. In fact, there’s a moment there back after they finally made love again where he looks at her and he realizes that there’s no way he could possibly keep up this charade. He’s about to level with her and let the chips fall where they may. Liesl ends up saying, “Your secret’s safe with me. I’ll never say anything.” He basically chickens out. He decides he’s not gonna do it. I think for the last few weeks since, I’ve been always trying to figure out a way to kick the can down the road and not want to face the inevitable. There’s gonna be a consequence for this and maybe today won’t be the day, but the consequence comes. I think unfortunately he’s kind of trapped in that mode where he knows he’s done something wrong and he wishes he could undo it, but he did what he did and got what he wanted.
Digest: How do you characterize the two experiences you’ve had so far in daytime?
Stuart: Well I take them both equally seriously, but at my age and at my place sort of spiritually and emotionally in this life, the first time around I was completely serving myself. I was absolutely doing everything as sort of a springboard. This time around, I take it just as seriously and I work just as hard, but I’m doing it, I think, to offer up to those around me, to offer to Michelle [Stafford, Nina], to offer to Frank and the producers and the writers. I’m basically grateful to be allowed to be a part of a team. I feel as strongly about Valentin as I feel about Will. I love them both. I see the intricacies and the nuances of the characters and I’m delighted for the opportunity to play them.
Worth The Wait
In the 10/28/18 Digest, James Patrick Stuart named Rick Springfield (ex-Noah), who inspired him to learn to play the guitar, as the celebrity he would most like to meet. His wish came true in January, when he and Springfield both performed at the GH fan weekend at Graceland.
“I don’t know that I was nervous,” Stuart reported, “although I was on the side of the stage with Finola, with Wes [Ramsey, Peter], with Laura, and he looked right at me and there was that moment of, like, ‘Holy crap! I’m 13 or 14 all over again and Rick Springfield is looking right at me!’ It was really freakin’ cool, is what it was. Finola knew him, they had worked together, so she was the one who did the intros. We talked briefly; we talked a little bit about music, we talked about the fact that I had been at [his] show in 1981 at the Universal Amphitheatre … It was neat to finally get a chance to meet him.”