With Two Kids And A Booming Business, Michelle Stafford’s GH Drama Is A Welcome Break From Reality
It’s been a rocky year for Michelle Stafford’s GH alter ego, Nina, whose beloved brother, Nathan, was killed in the line of duty and whose marriage to Valentin fell apart. But there is a bright spot on the horizon, courtesy of the recent reveal that the baby Nina was carrying at the onset of her 20-year coma survived her mom’s long nap.
Given that Nina’s fondest wish has been to be a mother, a possible reunion with her daughter “would kind of fix all her problems,” Stafford notes. “But my guess is that she’d have more from it. I did that with kids: I cried forever, ‘I want kids, I want kids!’ And now I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, what was I complaining about?’ ”
The actress’s children, Natalia, 8, and Jameson, 2, are unquestionably the apple of her eye, but raising them — especially as a single mom — has brought its fair share of challenges. An average day in the Stafford household is, in her words, “on a scale of 1 to 10, a 15” in terms of craziness. “They fight all the time and they cry all the time — and they’re snuggly and beautiful and loving all the time. They’re so smart and so assertive, which makes it harder on me, because they’re not docile. Especially Jameson. My daughter was so assertive that I thought, ‘Oh, okay, I’m going to get a poet! A sweet, sweet poet.’ No, I got more of a lunatic [laughs]!”
Stafford is candid, both in interviews and in the slice-of-life videos of her family that she regularly shares on social media, about the ups and downs of parenting because, she says, “I want other mothers to know that they’re not alone. I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got. I do have help; it’d be impossible to go to work as a single mom without help. But it’s tough, man.”
For her, the roughest patch came in the wake of Jameson’s birth. “My son was very difficult the first year of his life,” she recalls. “It was no joke. I would actually go to sleep stunned. I had a couple of moments where I was like, ‘I made the worst mistake of my life.’ And I had my daughter, who was very jealous of him, as she called it, ‘taking her place.’ ” While life with two kids has gotten easier, she sighs, “I’m so exhausted! And I’m running a company,” her organic skin care line, Skin Nation, “at the same time. I really do question my sanity a lot. It’s changed me as a human being, having kids — but I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Three Of Hearts: Here’s Stafford on a recent family trip to Colorado with kiddies Natalia, 8, and Jameson, 2.
Compared to the rigors of single mom-ming and CEO-ing, slipping into Nina’s skin is a walk in the park for the actress. “Work is my vacation,” she declares. “Honestly, it’s not work, it’s play; all I do [at GH] is play and have a good time. It is so much fun to go to work, and I think between the kids and running a skin care line, I appreciate it that much more now.”
Four years in to playing Nina, Stafford remains enthusiastic about her character. “I’ve loved Nina in all her incarnations. I loved the beginning when she was nuts, and then I loved working with Roger [Howarth, Franco]. That relationship was really interesting, I felt, these two extremely damaged lunatics finding this beautiful love.” After “Frina” split in 2016, Stafford notes, “There was a quiet time for Nina, but I think that was purposeful. I think they knew that for Nina to have legs, they would have to make her sane; she couldn’t just keep going into the loony bin. Now we have a real, solid woman who’s truly grown with the GH audience. She’s evolved into a very strong, independent, liberated woman who’s also very damaged — and, of course, that’s the only type of woman I like to play, because you have a portal into her soul. The audience can identify with a woman who has been so abused but is trying to work her way out of it. That’s what I love the most about Nina.”
While many veteran daytime stars lament the quickened production pace that has become a reality across the genre, Stafford embraces it. “I like the speed of it,” she offers. “I don’t want to sit around and ponder and bulls–t with other people and try to figure [the scene] out. That actually wouldn’t be fun for me. Part of the fun of this job for me is like, ‘Oh, gosh, this scene that seems kind of wonky, how can I make it work? And how can I do it in one take?’ I say every line as written, because I believe you can make any line work. That’s my job!”
Twenty-four years into her daytime career (she burst onto the scene in her two-time Daytime Emmy-winning role, Y&R’s Phyllis, back in 1994), she is still thrilled to be a working actress. “I love actors,” she beams. “I wouldn’t want to hang out with anyone else. I think that we’re a different breed of humans. I mean, who else gets up in the morning going, ‘I’m going to basically do what a 2-year-old does every day,’ playing dress-up and pretending and screaming and crying and feeling all these emotions and being in a state that no one would really want to be in. Like, not in a million years would we want to be in a state of loss like Nina has been in since losing her brother, but I’m going to do it for fun! And money!”
When her scenes are done, she heads back home to the (mostly) controlled chaos of her family and business. And when the going gets tough, she says cheerfully, “I was just telling Maurice Benard [Sonny] this the other day, that I always just go to the image of me on my deathbed. I was like, ‘I’m going to be 105, on my deathbed, both of my children will be by my side and I’ll be a happy woman. I’ll feel like I gave it my all and it will all be worth it.’ ”
Without You: “I think she’ll feel his absence until the day she dies,” says Stafford of how Nina has been affected by brother Nathan’s (Ryan Paevey) death.
My, How You’ve Grown: Since viewers met loopy Nina, pictured with Michael Easton as Silas in 2014, “She’s evolved into a very strong, independent, liberated woman,” her portrayer notes.
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: September 14
Hometown: Chicago, IL, but her family moved to California when she was still a baby.
Kids Today: Stafford has two children: Natalia Scout Lee, born on December 21, 2009, and Jameson Jones Lee, born on October 23, 2015.
Brotherly Love: Stafford recently caught on video Ryan Paevey (ex-Nathan) diving from her second-story deck into her ground-level pool during a recent hangout. “My kids were losing their minds with excitement — and I was excited, too, but at the same time I was like, ‘Oh, my God, if Ryan Paevey dies at my house….’ ”
Oh, Donna: Stafford relished her recent, albeit brief, on-screen reunion with Donna Mills as Nina’s mom, Madeline. “She is a great person, a total pro, and I think she is just brilliant in that role.”
Beauty Marks: In addition to being a beauty entrepreneur
as the founder of her own skin
care line, Skin Nation, Stafford recently began serving as a beauty correspondent for EXTRA. “What woman wouldn’t love that job?” she exclaims.
Single File: Stafford is still navigating the dating world as a single mom. “I just had to cancel a date because I didn’t have a babysitter at the last minute. I was like, ‘Come over here, we’ll watch a movie after the kids go to sleep,’ and he was like, ‘Nah.’ ”
Did You Know?
• Her first soap role was Frankie on
the Fox sudser TRIBES, which had a
four-month run in 1990.
• She appeared in a commercial for Herbal Essences shampoo in 2001.
SPLITTING UP TOGETHER
Though Nina’s tempestuous marriage to Valentin is over for now, he is certainly not out of her orbit — good news for Stafford, who describes his portrayer, James Patrick Stuart (Valentin), as “an incredible co-star. He is very respectful of me and the choices that I come up with; he doesn’t demand that our scenes be played a certain way. When we’re in a scene, we need each other, and we understand that we both need to be present. But we don’t live in our characters. The minute we leave [the set], we’re done. We know that our job is to learn the lines, hit our marks and make the scene good. We both have a very full life outside of work. Now, I don’t ever want someone to read my interview going, ‘Oh, does she mean that Peter Bergman [Y&R’s Jack, her longtime co-star during her run as Phyllis] isn’t like that?’ I’m not saying that! I’m not comparing him to anyone else; we just have a really fun, professional relationship that’s unique to us. And not a lot of actors have what he has as Valentin, the ability to be just a completely horrible, unscrupulous, evil human being, and chicks still love him!”
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