Interview

ICYMI - Josh Swickard Interview

Credit: JPI

Josh Swickard is the son of a preacher man — but to hear his son tell it, a “very chill” one. “People are like, ‘Uh-oh, you’re a pastor’s kid! That means trouble!’ ” chuckles the actor, who made his GH debut in February as PCPD Detective Harrison Chase, Finn’s surprise half brother. “I never rebelled, although when I was 16, I did steal one of my dad’s beers from the basement. He was like, ‘Did you steal my beer? Not a good move, man.’ I was super-fortunate to have parents that weren’t too strict.”

His parents were so trusting of their only son, in fact, that when he was a teenager, they gave him permission to skip school to drive a female friend to a model casting in Chicago. “To this day, I have no idea why they would let me do that!” he marvels. But the decision ended up being a game-changer for Swickard, whose own modeling career began that fateful day. “I didn’t wake up one morning and say, ‘Ooh, I really want to be a model!’ But that day, I spoke to the agent and he said, ‘You could make some money modeling.’ Chicago is a really good market for brands like Kohl’s and Sears,” and knowing he’d have to help support himself through college, “I thought, ‘Okay! I’ll go to school in Chicago.’ And I used print modeling to pay for it.” But after two years of jugging a modeling career and an ambitious academic program (he was studying accounting, finance and Mandarin Chinese), “I was burned out,” he recalls. “I was like, ‘I need a change. I’ll go be an actor!’ ”

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Your Roots Are Showing: “My faith kind of shapes everything I do,” says Swickard, whose father, Bob, is a pastor. Also pictured: mom Gina and sisters (from l.) Kalia, Elayna and Elyssa.

In truth, performing had always been in his DNA; both of his parents majored in music while in college, he and his siblings all play instruments (piano and drums for him), and starting at around 8 years old, he performed in plays in church and school, and was even in his hometown’s opera company with his mom and dad. So on the advice of his Chicago-based acting coach, he decided to give L.A. a shot. “I had like five grand in the bank, put everything in my car and drove off.” (For the record, Mom and Dad approved: “They want me to be happy and because they were both performers, they understood [my pull to it].”)

The perfect day job helped him find his footing in Los Angeles. “I took a class at SoulCycle, a group fitness class, and fell in love with it. So I became an instructor, which was my saving grace; it was something I loved doing, it paid my bills and it allowed me to get out there and audition. I still sneak in and teach classes.” He occasionally auditioned for soaps, “and I let my brain go, ‘Oh, what would that look like?’ I realized that with daytime, you get a sense of normalcy and routine and with this industry, you usually don’t have that privilege. I loved the idea of being on a soap and the fact that it worked out — and worked out with GH — is awesome.”

Especially because Swickard thought he’d botched his audition. He originally tried out for Peter, and made it all the way to the screen-test stage before ultimately being deemed too young for the role. But he’d flown in from a film set on a red-eye  and was on next to no sleep when he did said screen test, “And I walked away feeling like, ‘That didn’t go well.’ But apparently, they liked me, and when [Ryan] Paevey [ex-Nathan] was deciding to move on, they were like, ‘Oh, we can write this cop role for him.’ ” When the offer came in, “My manager and agent and I conference-called and we pretended that we were [deliberating], but all of us knew, ‘We’re taking this!’ ”

He received a warm welcome when he joined the cast. “All the vets on the show have just been really solid when it comes to, ‘Do you need anything? Do you have questions about how things work? Wanna run lines? Knock on my door.’ And I feel really lucky that I’ve been partnered up with Michael Easton [Finn]. He’s kind of a legend in the daytime world and I get excited on a day I know I’m going to be working with him. Nancy [Lee Grahn, Alexis] is another one. She’s a dream! She’s next level — and an absolute hoot. I thoroughly enjoy my time with her.”

JPI

Partners In Crime-Fighting: “I’ve gotten tight with Dom [Zamprogna, Dante],” says Swickard. “We’ve had to shoot quite a few scenes together and naturally you go, ‘Wanna get some lunch and sit and talk?’ He’s been great.”

Swickard appreciates that Chase has been introduced more slow and steady than fast and furious. “Being new to this world, you’re digesting so much dialogue and thankfully, they’ve kind of sprinkled me in instead of having me dive in headfirst. There have definitely been weeks where I go, ‘Boy, there’s a lot to say.’ People like Nancy and Michael, they’ve been flexing that muscle for a while and I’m still only a few months in; it’s still a little nerve-wracking.”

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Make Me A Match: They’ve yet to share a scene, but fans rooting for a pairing between Swickard and Hayley Erin (Kiki) have already given them a squish name, “Chiki”. “Hayley and I think it’s hilarious!” the actor reports. “She’s one of my closest friends on the show and so cool, so I think ‘Chiki’ would be great!”

But he’s an eager student of the education that GH has to offer. “There are a lot of actors who are like, ‘I never watch my own work,’ ” he notes. “I kind of wish I was that guy because it sounds really cool, but I’m the guy who’s like, ‘I need to watch it!’ I need to study it so I can go, ‘Okay, that landed, that didn’t land, and this is why.’ I really want to learn and everyone says that daytime is the best boot camp. Every week I haven’t been killed off, by the grace of God, I’m going, ‘Sweet! Now I have another week to grow and to learn.’ That’s been my whole perspective on GENERAL HOSPITAL: to wake up every morning and go, ‘How can I do it better?’ ”

 

JUST THE FACTS

Birthday: July 4. “It was the best,” he says of sharing it with Independence Day. “Until you’re 12, you think the fireworks are for you. Plus, it’s spaced out from Christmas, so presents are nicely distributed.”

Provenance: “I was born in a little town called Quincy [IL] and I spent elementary through high school in Springfield, IL.”

Relationship Status: “I am off the market currently.”

We Are Family: Swickard’s dad is a pastor and mom is a music teacher-turned-private voice coach. The actor has one older sister, Elyssa, and two younger sisters, Kalia and Elayna. “Occasionally, they’d gang up on me but it ended up being amazing and it really helped me understand women. I’d call them halfway through a date and say, ‘Hey, it’s awkward. What do I do?’ ” Plus,
he winks, “There might have been a little preferential treatment toward me because I was the
only boy.”

Space Invader: Swickard has yet to be assigned a permanent GH dressing room, but has big plans for his: “Lava lamps, TV, cute art. It’s gonna be a whole thing.”

Play List: “In my car, I listen to country and hip-hop, and at home, it’s, like, Gipsy Kings and Mozart — music I can cook to and memorize lines to.”

Going Places: During GH’s dark weeks, “I try to get out of town, whether it’s home to visit family or, ‘Hey, does anybody want to go out to the desert or go skiing?’ ”

 

DID YOU KNOW?

• He has become exercise buddies with Maurice Benard (Sonny). “That’s been a treat. He’s just a really wise guy and I always learn a lot when we’re working out.”

• He’s a motorcycle enthusiast. “I own a few. Right now, my baby is a Harley, a Dyna. I have an old one that’s kind of busted up and I’ve turned it into my project bike that I get to rebuild and make my own. I’m really excited about that.”

 

SIDE BY SIDE

Josh Swickard’s Hollywood journey has been paralleled by his good pal, Michael Mealor, who recently debuted on Y&R as Kyle. “When I was 19, I moved out to L.A. for three months just to sign with reps,” he sets up. “I walked into Wilhelmina to sign a contract with a print agent and I was joking with the booker, like, ‘You know, y’all are lucky you caught me because I was about to join the military’ — I secretly have always wanted to join the military and still do — and this dude behind me with, like, a big, thick Southern accent was like, ‘No way, me, too! But my mama wouldn’t let me!’ I turned around and it was Michael. He is from Atlanta and he was [also new to L.A.] and honestly, ever since then, which was seven or eight years ago, we’ve been best buds.” When Swickard became a spin instructor at SoulCycle, “I made him take my very first class and then two weeks later, he went through the training and became an instructor. Then I booked GH and literally three weeks later, he booked Y&R. I was like, ‘Well, okay, we’ll just keep doing things together!’ The next stage of our life, whatever it is, we’ll hit a fork in the road, hopefully. Either that or we’ll get married at the same time and move into houses next to each other and just keep it going!”

 

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