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ICYMI Tyler Christopher Interview

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Tyler Christopher plays "Nikolas" on ABC's "General Hospital." (ABC/ Ida Mae Astute) TYLER CHRISTOPHER Credit: ABC

Soap Opera Digest: First off, congratulations!
Tyler Christopher: Thank you. I’m really, really happy.

Digest: So, last year at this time, you were on a break from GH. Everyone thought you’d be back, but that didn’t come to pass. Why didn’t it?
Christopher: I left literally a week after the Emmys [where he took home the Lead Actor trophy for his GH work] in the middle of negotiations, to take a personal leave. And when I came back, the [contract] offer just didn’t make sense, financially, for me. They said, “Sorry, that’s all we can do,” and I said, “I understand.” And that was it.

Digest: Were you angry, as some GH fans are, that they didn’t try harder to keep you?
Christopher: I wasn’t angry, I was disappointed. I wanted to keep going, so I was just disappointed that we weren’t able to make it happen. And of course, the way that the character went off was sort of anti-climactic. But it happens, you know? It’s daytime. You never know what’s going to happen! Now GH has got Steve [Burton, ex-Jason] back and Billy [Miller, Jason] on all at the same time. Crazy things happen.

Digest: How long after your GH exit did you start talking to DAYS?
Christopher: In January, I took the meeting with Ken [Corday, executive producer] and Greg [Meng, co-executive producer] and Albert [Alarr, co-executive producer] and Marnie [Saitta, casting director]. The day we had the meeting was the day Ron [Carlivati] came on as head writer — they hired him an hour before! And they were already six months ahead in the story, so you can imagine the franticness that was going on, like, “Okay, we want you to be here, we just don’t know how we want to use you yet.” It’s taken this many months for Ron to figure that out, but he and I knew that we wanted to work together again. He wrote me my Emmy story, so it seemed apropos for me to go there and reunite with him. And it’s good, let me tell you.

Digest: Who from DAYS made the first overture?
Christopher: Marnie did. Marnie and I have been friends since I started in this business, since 1995, before even GENERAL HOSPITAL. We had discussed this before; while I was on THE LYING GAME, before going back to GENERAL HOSPITAL [in 2013], we had talked a little bit about it, and then it just didn’t end up happening. Then just this past Christmas she said, “What do you think? Are you interested, are you around, are you available?” I was like, “Yeah, let’s talk!” So I flew out for a meeting and they pitched me a story and I’m like, “Sounds great! I love Ron, I love you guys, I’m pretty easy, let’s do it.”

Digest: Did you tell Stephen Nichols (Steve; ex-Stefan, GH) or Mary Beth Evans (Kayla; ex-Katherine, GH), both of whom were important co-stars of yours early in your career?
Christopher: Back in January, Stephen had caught wind of it, like, “I heard you’re coming out for a meeting.” I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, let’s have lunch.” We went and had lunch together, caught up, and he was like, “You’ll love it here, what a great group of people, you’ll love to work for Ken and this great group of guys and gals.” When we were finally able to make the deal back in early July, he reached out to me again, with Mary Beth, and was like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe this is happening, we can’t wait to work with you again.” It’s full circle.

Digest: What has it been like digging in to a new character after so many years playing Nikolas?
Christopher: Well, it was kind of surreal, because you’re so used to doing one thing, playing one guy for so long. But it was exciting because it’s a new character and they just handed this role over to me like, “Go do your thing.” No “We want him to be like this,” or, “We want him to be like that.” They just trusted me to go out and create this guy, which is great. I mean, that’s every actor’s dream, to be able to be trusted that much. And I gave myself a little history lesson on everybody, made sure I asked plenty of questions, like, “Okay, who are the Kiriakises? What’s going on there? Who are the DiMeras? Okay, who are you related to? Do you like each other? Do you hate each other? Do you love each other? Is it a little of both?” That’s important for me to know, because the fans would go, “Oh, my gosh, he would never be nice to her after what she did to him!”

Digest: What kind of reception did you get from your new co-workers?
Christopher: You know, I didn’t know how I would be received, and I wasn’t thinking about it until I actually got there and everyone knew who I was — my name, my work, knew about my family and all these things, and I’m like, “Wow, you guys are so cool.” Everyone was so welcoming, not that I expected anything different, and it just felt so fresh and new. And, of course, walking in the makeup room and seeing Stephen and Mary Beth side by side just brought back so many memories from the ’90s, and how awesome it was to have Stephen as my first mentor and Mary Beth as one of my first on-screen relationships — and how awesome it is, almost 22 years later, and we’re still going.

Digest: Hitting the set for the first time, did it feel good to be back in the game?
Christopher: That’s exactly how I felt — back in the game again! And to be an integral part of the story Ron is trying to tell feels great. It feels like all the hard work I’ve done after all these years is really worth something, and is beginning to pay off. I don’t mean monetarily — just, “Wow, people like your work and trust what you do, and that’s why you’re here.”

Digest: It pays off in respect.
Christopher: Yeah. Some people say, “I don’t care what people think.” I do. I think it represents your character, how you treat other people, your work ethic, how you perform. When people say, “I love your work,” I take that very seriously because that means, “Okay, I work hard, I do my homework and I treat people with respect, and people notice that.” And that’s what I want my legacy to be. That’s how I want to be remembered, as a guy who worked hard and treated people right.

Digest: Was it easy to slip back into the frenetic pace of taping?
Christopher: In this genre, I very much know what I’m doing, and even with the speed, it’s not really that difficult anymore. I’m so used to it. What we do is a symphony, a well-conducted symphony, and after the first couple days of just getting to know everyone, I feel like I’ve been there for years. That’s a testament to the people there. That’s how they’ve made me feel.

Digest: You signing on with DAYS is bittersweet for GH fans. What would you like to say to them?
Christopher: Well, the first thing I would say is, thank you for your loyalty. They’ve been so gracious in their kind words, even in my exit and my entrance to DAYS OF OUR LIVES. Despite me leaving GENERAL HOSPITAL, I hope they continue to watch my career as it transitions over to DAYS OF OUR LIVES. And I’m sorry that I have to close this chapter in their lives as fans of GENERAL HOSPITAL. I’m flattered that they’re saying, “No, don’t go to DAYS! We need you here!”

Digest: And what would you like to say to the DAYS fans?
Christopher: To the DAYS fans, I would say, once they find out who this character is, I promise I’ll do him justice — and hopefully give them a little laughter, too. I’m trying to give this guy a pretty good sense of humor. The story is so good, and I’m not just saying that. It’s funny, it’s interesting, it’s all of the drama you would expect from daytime, but I just feel like it’s jazzed up a little bit. It’s just got so many nuances that I didn’t expect, and it’s really fun to play. I hope it’s the start of another 20-year journey.

Digest: Since you’re officially not available to play him at this juncture, would you care if GH recast Nikolas at some point?
Christopher: Yes, I would. I mean, they have to do what they have to do, but yes. I mean, when Billy Miller came in to play Jason, for instance, I don’t think anyone saw that coming. That was a big move! If they feel like they need Nikolas Cassadine on the canvas, of course I would be upset, but I wish whoever it is, if it’s Nick [Stabile, who played out the end of Nikolas’s storyline after Christopher’s exit] or somebody else, I wish them well and I hope they give the character as much of themselves as I gave to him. But it would sting a little bit. w