Soap Opera Digest: How did you get the news that you would be leaving the show?
Johnny Wactor: I found out on Friday, July 29th that I was not going to be renewed for the end of my contract. That day, I was flying to New York to shoot a movie that I was producing. My manager told me to call him and he was like, “Hey, this is what’s happened.” I was like, “Oh, okay. Well, I wasn’t expecting that today, but I’m about to hop on a plane. I’ll deal with it when I get back.” Later, I read the scripts and it was like, “Okay, they killed me off.” The following week, I wrapped my movie on Tuesday, flew back [to L.A.] Wednesday morning, got tested for Covid at GH on Wednesday, and then I filmed 60 pages on Thursday and 55 pages on Friday and that was my last six episodes of GH.
Digest: With a compressed timeline like that, I imagine you had to do some compartmentalizing just to get through everything.
Wactor: Definitely. I didn’t really have time to process it. Acting in and producing a small-budget movie, all my energy had to go into making the thing happen, and then when it was like, “You’re dying on the day you get back,” I was like, “Well, I just have to fold whatever emotions this is causing into my movie, and when I get back, I’ll keep doing what I do, which is come to work and do my best. These are just the circumstances in my life and the circumstances in the story.”
Digest: Did you get emotional shooting your last scenes, or when you had to clear out your dressing room?
Wactor: You know, because I was filming so many pages, I didn’t really have time to kind of think or be emotional or reflect on anything. I had told Frank [Valentini, executive producer] that I wanted to talk with him whenever he had a chance and we didn’t get to on Thursday because it was a long day and we had to be back early the next day. But we finished all of my scenes on Friday right before lunch and they made an announcement that it was my last scene and so I gave a little speech. I knew that I would want to say something just because of my time there and my relationships with the people in the cast and crew. I was a little emotional. It was strange, you know? Saying good-bye to people and it happening so fast. I’d been there for almost three years. I didn’t clean out my dressing room that day but I went and spoke with Frank and I won’t share all the details, but he had a lot of kind words to say. It was a positive experience. I’ve got no bad blood and I wish everyone at GH the best, and Frank and all the producers were like, “You never know! You might come back.” That’s soaps, you know? I could die and be back in a few months. Or maybe I move on to something else. We’ll see! But I came back on Monday or Tuesday of the next week to clean the stuff out of my dressing room and I met Gregory Harrison [Gregory], who was using my room. I had seen him around, but we’d never spoken, never met. We ended up talking for an hour-and-a-half. He’s a really good guy and it was kind of a blessing that we got to meet. We have a lot in common and we had a really great conversation. He’s a wonderful person.
Digest: Let’s talk about Brando’s demise. Was this your first time dying on camera?
Wactor: I’ve died on camera one other time in an episode of NCIS. We called it “death by omelet” because I ate a poisoned omelet and was foaming at the mouth, which is similar to coughing up blood! When Brando got stabbed in the chest, I was coughing up blood and bleeding out in the rain and people were crying over me, so you’re just lying in this cold water, and in between takes, it’s not like you can dry off. They just put a blanket over you and try to keep you warm before you go lay on the cold concrete again. But it’s fun, you know? It adds to the acting. You’re cold and so it’s easy to act like you’re cold! The most physical part was in the last episode, where Brando is seemingly better and it looks like he’s going to survive and then he starts seizing uncontrollably. The scenes where I’m seizing, those were very physically demanding and exhausting.
Digest: When your castmates found out that you were leaving, who did you hear from?
Wactor: Sofia [Mattsson, Sasha] texted me. She and Bonnie [Burroughs, Gladys] were the first people to reach out to me and they were shocked and very sad and also very supportive. Katey MacMullen [Willow] called me after reading the script. So did Marcus [Coloma, Nikolas]. Maurice [Benard, Sonny] and I talked when I got back to set. Some people didn’t know [in advance], like Dominic [Zamprogna, Dante]. He was like, “You’re dying today?!” Some people, even when they saw Brando dying, they assumed he would pull through, since so many people almost die on a soap. So a lot of people didn’t know until the following week and I had people reaching out to me. Lynn Herring [Lucy] was very sweet, and I got some very supportive and kind words from Nancy [Lee Grahn, Alexis], and Cynthia Watros [Nina] had some really great advice and kind and supportive words. Jeff Kober, who plays Cyrus, he’s not on the show regularly so he found out later and reached out to me: “Yo, I heard you’re not on the show anymore, are you okay?” He’s become a really good friend and we met for lunch last week. Truly, everyone was just lovely, which made it harder knowing it was my last days there because I got to work with really great people.
Digest: When you look back on your run, what were the highlights of your experience?
Wactor: My first few months on the show, I would go up to the stage early because I was new and still kind of uncomfortable and I wanted to watch people on set and get more comfortable on set, and I remember sitting in the dark, preparing for a scene, and looking up at all the lights and the rafters and I just had this moment of, “Oh, man. I’m living out my dream. I’m able to make a living as an actor, which is an extremely rare thing to do.” That was a poignant moment for me. Beyond that, I just learned so much working on this show. I learned how to work fast. I got a lot of great advice from a lot of great actors and got better at my craft from watching and talking to other great actors. I made some good friends. It was just a really wonderful experience and it’s helped me in life and in my career, so I’m just grateful. I know that I’m a much better actor because of this show. It’s scary looking at the unknown and going back out into the audition world because I know how difficult it is, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m more experienced and I’m definitely more confident, and I know that I needed that. I had some moments before GENERAL HOSPITAL where I was on some big stages and I felt … kind of not ready, not as seasoned as I needed to be. And now, that’s not even a question.
Digest: Can you see yourself being interested in another daytime gig?
Wactor: I never say never. I’ve got some friends over at YOUNG AND RESTLESS that I wouldn’t mind seeing and working with. I’m grateful for any opportunity, but in the meantime, it’s been two or three weeks since I last shot GH and I’ve been looking at other shows I’d like to be on [outside of the soap world]. I’m also producing some of my own stuff with some really creative and talented people, so I think it’s going to be a blend of working on some of my own movies and getting on some network shows, too.
Digest: Is there anything you would like to say to your fans?
Wactor: Absolutely. Coming on to GENERAL HOSPITAL, I didn’t know how diehard the fan base was — and also how critical they could be if they didn’t like you! There’s definitely some fans of GENERAL HOSPITAL that aren’t fans of Brando Corbin, but the ones that were fans of Brando Corbin, some of them have become friends. So many of them were so supportive and lovely and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of them through fan events and speak with some of them on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve never been on a show that had such a large fan base. It was all new to me and it was a blessing. It made it fun to go to work and then be excited about seeing people react to the storylines you were in. That they actually cared was really cool. I’m grateful for the fans, for fans of GENERAL HOSPITAL and Brando Corbin and of mine. They made my time on the show all the sweeter.