Last week, as Sonny barely clung to life following his fall from the bridge in New Jersey, he was aided by a kind stranger played by Mikey Jerome, who won the third season of the SOAPnet reality show I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR. His victory led to a short-term role as Ted Osbourne on ONE LIFE TO LIVE back in 2006.
Jerome’s daytime comeback came about by chance. He explains, “I became a bartender in this beach town called Hermosa Beach and I have a pretty big following down there. One of my friends, Darlene, is friends with Frank Valentini,” GH’s executive producer, who was Jerome’s EP at OLTL. “She said, ‘Mike, you know Frank?’ I said, ‘Yeah I know Frank! He’s the one who took me through the SOAP STAR thing, he’s the one who made my dreams come true!’ He cast me on ONE LIFE and I think I was there for nine months total, doing two episodes a week or one episode a week here and there. She gave me his [information] so I could get in contact with him. I emailed him, and he called me back like 15 minutes later. He said, ‘You know, Mikey, Covid’s really tough right now, but I would love to get you back on ABC.’ I sent my information along and then [Casting Director] Mark Teschner emailed me and said, ‘Frank would love for you to do an audition,’ so I put the audition on tape, I sent it in, and a few weeks later, I found out I got the role.”
For Jerome, the opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time, given how Covid has affected his livelihood. “I was super-excited because I got let go from two jobs; I’m not working right now and I had just bought a house [before the pandemic], so I was like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable, to get to work,’ and to act again was unbelievable, too. I was like, ‘What a great guy Frank is, man.’ When you’re in a dark moment, you lose both your jobs…. I try to stay positive, and this gave me a fulfilled sense of purpose and I’m just really appreciative.” When he reunited with Valentini at the studio, he had the chance to express his gratitude. “I just said, ‘Thank you. You’re making my dreams come true twice and I really appreciate that!’ ”
But the job was more than just a paycheck to him; it had special meaning because not only is he a long-term GH viewer, but so was his late mother, Kathy, who was a huge fan of Jerome’s scene partner, Maurice Benard (Sonny). “Sonny was her all-time favorite,” Jerome smiles. “My mother passed away a little bit after I got done with ONE LIFE TO LIVE, and truth be told, the reason I went out for the SOAP STAR show is that me and my girlfriend watched GENERAL HOSPITAL, and while we were watching that show, a commercial for I WANNA BE A SOAP STAR came on. My girlfriend was like, ‘Mikey, you’ve been taking acting classes, you should go out for that,’ and that’s the whole reason that I went out for that show. A one in 10,000 chance! But we’d been watching Sonny, Maurice, for years!”
Jerome didn’t know at first that his scenes would be with Benard. “When I did the audition, it didn’t say Sonny [in the script], it just said, ‘Man’, so I thought it would be just a one-page scene, and then I found out it was 14 pages and with my all-time favorite actor ever, Maurice! I was a little nervous, but I was excited. And he was great — very cool, very nice, saying, ‘If you want to run lines, we’ll do it.’ It was pretty amazing to act with my all-time favorite soap actor! I had watched him for so many years, and I wanted to go in there and do a good job. In between scenes, we’re cracking jokes with each other. He was telling some bad jokes [laughs]. It was pretty cool! And I got to hang out with him a lot, which was cool.”
As a bonus, he also got to meet Kelly Monaco (Sam) and Steve Burton (Jason), the latter of whom made a strong impression on Jerome. “He was so friendly to me. I’m chilling in my room and he actually took five minutes to come in and talk and was really, really cool. We were talking about where he lives and where I live, and his kids and how I like to go body-surfing — he was like, ‘Oh, my kids love to body-surf, and I’m a surfer as well.’ I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool, man.’ He had a pretty heavy day [of filming] and he didn’t have to do that.”
He also received a dressing room visit from Wally Kurth (Ned). “Wally, he lives a town over from me and believe it or not, we’ve become friends, so I told him a couple days before, ‘Dude, I booked this role,’ and he was like, ‘I think I’m going to be there that day!’ He’s been a really cool friend to me. I look up to him. He’s a great actor and he was telling me, ‘Memorize your stuff so that you know it inside out and backward, and then you can just have fun when you’re out there.’ So he actually came into my room, too, and he said, ‘Do your scenes and own it, man.’ ”
Jerome had a blast on set. “The stakes were pretty high in the scenes, so it was definitely a challenge, but I loved it and I loved the opportunity — and to get to do it with Maurice, man, how crazy is that? It was a surreal experience, for sure, especially working with him. We shot it over one day and it was a long process. Those guys, they work their tuchuses off over there! It was a really cool thing. I’m praying that somehow they bring me back as one of Sonny’s cronies.”