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Mark Lawson On His GH Exit

Mark Lawson had a lot on his mind the day he learned that GH was killing off his character, Dustin, who he had been playing since July 2019. Explains the actor, “I was actually a victim of the Hollywood Con Queen hoax [an elaborate grifting scheme targeting actors and showbiz tradespeople]. I had about a 24-hour window where I thought, all of a sudden, my life was going to change; I was going to be the fourth lead in this new Tom Cruise movie, I was going to fight him and have all these scenes with him — and then I found out the next day, 24 hours later, that it was all a hoax. So, I get that call, I’m devastated, and five minutes later, Frank [Valentini, executive producer] called me to let me know that unfortunately, Dustin had to go.”

Lawson took both pieces of news in stride. “When Frank kind of gave me the gist of what was going to happen, I was fine with it,” he says. “I’ve always been recurring; I always knew [my last day] could happen at any time.” As for the con he fell victim to, he muses, “There were people who were really, really grifted. There are just terrible stories. I got off really lucky and, in fact, I feel like I took something good away from it. There was a moment where I thought I was on the phone with a studio head who was basically offering me this role, but making me commit to whether I wanted to audition for the role and at some point, I finally said, ‘I’ve been out here since 2013. I don’t want to audition for the role. I’m ready for the role. I want the part.’ And I’m going to keep that [determination] with me. So, there was some good that came out of it.”

As his final day at GH approached, “I just really wanted to prepare myself and go in and do what I do every time, which is go in ready to go — fully prepared, emotionally ready and available — and that’s what I think we did,” the actor declares. He describes that day on set as “really emotional, because I have had such a good experience there. GENERAL HOSPITAL and I have had kind of a flirty relationship for a few years. I have screen-tested for a few other parts, and then I got [offered] this one, which was wonderful, but there was no promise it was going to go very long, so every day on that set, to me, was like golden time. Every day was like, ‘Hey, I didn’t expect this one!’ I’m not trying to down-talk some of the work that we did, but there were days that felt like pretty mundane, ‘We’re going to the coffee shop’ kind of scenes. And even those, I was really trying to mine everything I could out of it and appreciate it. And I got to spend a lot of time and work with a lot of wonderful people. Emme [Rylan, ex-Lulu] and I got really close. Kirsten [Storms, Maxie] and I got pretty close, too. We didn’t have as much work together, but she embraced me from the start. I think Wil [deVry, ex-Julian] actually posted, ‘Mark, a good guy who fit in really quick at the show.’ That’s how it felt — I felt like I was part of the team almost immediately, regardless of contract status or any of that stuff. So, going in to that last day, my mission was just, ‘Go in and do what you’ve done every other day. Make the day easy for everybody else and stay as relaxed as you can because the emotions are going to sneak up on you.’ And they did! Dustin and Mark’s circumstances kind of came together in that scene with Dante in the hospital room. It just kind of got to flow out and that’s exactly what I wanted for an exit.”

He’s proud of how his death scene turned out. “I wanted a lot for Dustin,” Lawson notes. “I really respected his fundamental chivalry, and so I really wanted that last scene, particularly, to feel like he’s still trying to fight to get back to Lulu, he’s still trying to fight to make sure that she’s taken care of. I feel like I got that out of that scene and I was very happy with it. And Dom [Zamprogna, Dante] was right there with me and I really appreciated that. We shot [the final episode] a little bit out of sequence, so I got to watch Emme’s reaction to Dustin’s death and got to talk to her before I actually did it, and then she and Kirsten, I think, sat at the monitor and watched [me film my last scene]. It was somber. It was tough, but I also feel like we all knew that we were doing really good work that day.”

Lawson was gratified by the fan response to Dustin’s demise on Twitter. “I was really overwhelmed and moved by the support that day,” he nods. “There was a lot of love, and it’s felt and I appreciate it, and I hope they follow me on to the next thing! I do have 1 Night in San Diego out right now on Apple and Dish Network and DirecTV for rental or sale. It’s something I’m proud of, so hopefully people can check that out.”

The actor says that as a result of his time on GH, “I feel more confident and prepared for whatever comes next than I ever have before. I decided a long time ago that if I got another run at a soap, I would just squeeze the juice out of every moment and I feel like that’s what I’ve done. And I’ve gained a lot from doing that. I feel much sharper and much more mature and connected to who I am as a man, and I think that is going to serve me well in the future. I feel like I’ve got more momentum, and I’m moving with confidence, more so than I did when I finished ONE LIFE [TO LIVE as Brody in 2012]. I’m just forever grateful.”