GH’s Mark Lawson (Dustin) Is Thrilled To Get A Second Shot At Soaps.
Mark Lawson, whose three-year run as ONE LIFE TO LIVE’s Brody Lovett came to an end with the show’s 2012 finale, had been hoping for another crack at daytime long before the right role — Dustin Phillips on GH — came calling last summer. “I’ve been eager for it for a while, partly because it scared the hell out of me,” explains the actor. “I missed jumping off the cliff the way you have to on a soap set. You don’t have a whole lot of time to hem and haw and worry about your performance, you just have to go. I felt like I was ready for that again and I wanted that again. And thankfully, this one came along.”
The Lawson who signed on to GH in 2019 is in a totally different place in his life than he was back when OLTL hired him. The actor, who had been a theater geek since landing the role of Turkey Boy in his community theater’s musical version of A Christmas Carol at the age of 8, moved to L.A. in 2003 after majoring in musical theater at the Boston Conservatory and completing a one-year post-grad classical acting course at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, “and I just started grinding from there.” But like many a young, aspiring actor before him, breaking into the business was a challenge for Lawson — so much so that he was thisclose to throwing in the towel on acting to focus on his thriving career as a personal trainer. “In my head, I was going, ‘Okay, the next step is I open my own little space and build my training business from there.’ I wasn’t even really pursuing acting anymore.”
When the OLTL audition came up, he almost didn’t go, in part because he knew landing the job would necessitate a move to New York — one he was loath to make because he was on the verge of moving in with his girlfriend of a year, Cortney. When Lawson was invited to the next round of casting, a screen test in Manhattan, it was a team effort between Cortney, her parents and his parents to get him on the plane. Happily, he got the job and the girl — he and Cortney, who were long-distance throughout his OLTL run, said, “I do” in 2010 at the picturesque Loeb Boathouse in Central Park.
Somewhat surprisingly to him, Lawson remained with OLTL through to its final episode. “You spend your first year on a soap going, ‘Okay, I’m gonna get fired,’ ” he says. “Every three months, you’re going, ‘I’m going to get fired today,’ because every three months, [contractually] they could decide what to do with you. Thankfully, it worked out!”
When the show ended, it was a no-brainer for him to return to L.A. (“I was ready to come home; New York was always too fast-paced for me”), but while his domestic life flourished with the births of his three daughters, Lawson wasn’t having tremendous luck on the acting front. “I had a long spell of soul-searching and not a whole lot of work,” he admits. “I look back on that now as a real gift because it’s allowed me to be so much more appreciative every time I do get to go on set. But that’s not to say that I wasn’t working. I was writing a lot in that period; I finished my first full-feature screenplay,” a horror script titled Deadlift, “and I made two short films and started to realize that directing is something I want to do.”
Along the way, and particularly once his children were born, he found himself able to shuck what he calls “a lot of angsty young actor stuff.” Elaborates Lawson, “I think something that’s happened to me in the last eight years is my priorities shifted off of me and on to my family.” Which is another key reason he was angling for a new soap gig. He explains, “My kids have seen me be the stay-at-home dad for a long time, and they’ve seen me be a writer for a long time, and they’ve seen me occasionally get a guest star or do a Lifetime movie for a couple of weeks at a time, but not consistently doing this [acting]. I just want my kids to see me doing what I love.”
As for the job itself, he’s loving life in Port Charles, and has become a self-described “fanboy” of leading lady Emme Rylan (Lulu). “I kind of hound her,” Lawson says mischievously. “I’m always texting her and being like, ‘Hey, I really liked those scenes today,’ or ‘Here’s a knitting pattern I want you to get into because I selfishly want a hat like this.’ ” (For the record, the hat he’s hoping she’ll knit for him is a beanie. “I need a good beanie. I gotta get something out of this relationship!’ ”) Most of his scenes have been with women on the show, from Rylan to Kirsten Storms (Maxie) and Genie Francis (Laura), and he jokes, “It’s not all that different from being at home, except I get more say at GENERAL HOSPITAL!”
Of course, having his wife and daughters to come home to makes the job all the sweeter. Muses Lawson, “I had this mantra when things weren’t going as well; I would say to myself over and over, ‘Dad’s in pursuit. Dad’s in pursuit of his dreams, he’s in pursuit of his ambitions, he’s in pursuit of the things that are going to make him happy in the long run,’ which is going to make me a better father. I’m getting to live that right now — and they’re getting to see it.”
Just The Facts
Birthday: December 17
Hometown: Born and raised in Bristol, VA. “I grew up in quintessential small-town America.”
The Music Man: The actor received his B.F.A. in musical
theater from the Boston Conservatory — and he’s open
to an invite to perform at the next Nurses’ Ball. “I better start brushing the pipes off just in case! I’m seriously debating buying myself
a guitar to finally learn how to play because I feel that’s a skill I’ve lacked for a long time. Maybe
I can use GH as a motivator!”
Party Of Five: Lawson and his wife, Cortney, will celebrate 10 years of marriage on April 17
(“I just admire my wife for all of the talents and skills that she
has that I don’t. She’s a boss, for sure!”) and are parents to three young daughters.
Three’s Company: Of spending time on the GH set with yarn fanatics Emme Rylan (Lulu) and Kirsten Storms (Maxie), Lawson says, “It’s hysterical. The first couple of times I thought I was getting inducted into a knitting cult!”
Reading Is Fundamental: “I always have a book; I’m always reading something, whether it’s on my Kindle or whether it’s a hard copy. One of my daughters is just starting to read and seeing her world open up because she can now read is really special. I consciously read a lot in front of
them because I just want them
to get in that habit.”
Did You Know?
* Lawson has remained tight with former OLTL co-stars David and Melissa Fumero (ex-Cristian and ex-Adriana). “The Fumeros are my ride-or-die people. They’ve been at all the big life events. They were the first people to visit at the hospital when we had a kid.”
* He’s a megafan of the horror genre and subscribes to a horror streaming service called Shudder. “Back in the day when you would come home from school and you’d throw TV on just to have it in the background, that’s now what I do with Shudder.”
Mark Lawson cherishes the years he spent in Llanview as OLTL’s Brody. “I loved every second of it,” he says. “I mean, I got to work with all of the heavy hitters on that show. I had a lot of scenes with Roscoe Born [ex-Mitch]. There was one day in particular where I was really revving myself up because I had to kick in a door, discover Jessica, discover him, attack him, try to rescue her, and he said something along the lines of, ‘You’re just gonna learn to relax into this at some point.’ I turned that around for a long time in my head; I still reflect on that. I worked with Michael Easton [ex-John; now Finn, GH] so much and watching his ease on set and the way he carried himself taught me a lot. Bob Woods [ex-Bo] taught me a lot. Watching Bree [Williamson, ex-Jessica] play three characters and doing it with such confidence [during Jess’s DID storyline], that was an amazing thing to watch. Then you’ve got somebody like Erika Slezak [ex-Viki], who just exudes grace on set, and that was the thing that I think the younger me lacked. I was fortunate enough to be in the last scene on the last day [of taping the show] with Bree, with Jerry verDorn [ex-Clint], with Erika. I’m just so grateful I was in the last episode and got to be part of that.”
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