In 2018, Ryan Paevey opted to leave GH after a four-year run as James Nathan West. His cop character was killed in the line of duty, leaving behind a pregnant wife, Maxie (who later birthed his namesake son, James), and a plethora of grieving “Naxie” fans.
Reflecting on his time in Port Charles, Paevey says, “GH was my first thing; I was a total newcomer. When I showed up and they offered me the job, I was like, ‘I’ll take it!’ You’ll say yes to anybody that will say yes to you. It’s not like I got to be choosy. I didn’t have a resumé that commanded that. So, I got lucky when they created Nathan. They could very easily have created a jerk for me to play and then nobody would’ve liked me and I probably would’ve gotten fired and that would be that! I’d probably be back at the sushi restaurant” — he was a bartender and server at Sushi Roku in Santa Monica prior to GH — “and life would look very different. But I was lucky the character they created for me was a nice guy, a likable guy.”
Not only did Nathan’s charm secure Paevey’s position in Port Charles for the full term of his contract, but it inspired a poignant farewell arc and three-hankie funeral. “Nathan got a serious send-off,” he nods. “I’m blown away by the level of canvas mobilization that I observed in my exit. It will always kind of dumbfound me a little bit, but in a good way. So many people that I had grown close to gave such absolutely mind-blowing performances for what was really a storyline that took care of my character. I was really honored. I was sitting over here like, ‘What did I do right, man?’ I lucked into that storyline and everybody involved did a really, really good job.”
So much so that when he shot Nathan’s open-casket funeral, “My only real job that day was to hold my breath and hide crying. These people who had become close friends of mine were, like, crying on my chest, I mean, obviously I responded. There were definitely some takes where there’s tears on both of our faces! My job was to make it so that you didn’t see that.”
In general, Paevey sums up his GH years as “a strange time in my life. I never wanted to be an actor, and then GH was the first time where my managers were like, ‘Quit your day job. You got a thing.’ It was just total virgin territory to me. I learned a lot about the business side of things … maybe not a lot about craft of acting, as I’m sure everybody is aware of the open Twitter campaign against what a garbage actor I was in the beginning of the show! Trust me, there were people lining up around the block to tell me how much they couldn’t wait for me to get fired!”
When he left, “I didn’t have anything lined up; I had no idea what was next. I was willing to risk going out and trying for something new and failing and not booking [jobs] and going back into working in bars and being a handyman again. I mean, that’s what I grew up doing. I have way more experience being poor than I do having money. I just wanted to know what else was out there.”
A relationship he had already forged proved to be key to his next chapter; with a few Hallmark movies already under his belt, the network signed him to a deal to ensure his continued presence in the network’s feel-good fare. “Hallmark has been really, really good to me,” Paevey says. “It is very much like a family. I’m friends with producers here, not because ‘maybe if I befriend this person they’ll give me a job,’ but because they’re good humans and we became friends in the process of working together.”
Inking the deal with Hallmark also offered Paevey reassurance that he was on the right professional track. “I got into this business as a gamble,” he points out. “When I started working with my manager and started going out on auditions, I always viewed Hollywood as a ‘snowball’s chance in hell’ kind of gig. I got lucky when I got GH, and I got lucky again with Hallmark. To have been welcomed into a family that promises that they will take care of you is great. That alleviates what I consider to be the only real negative about this business, and that is the not knowing. Every time you walk off a set you’re like, ‘Is this the last time? Is this the last one I’m going to book? What do I do? Am I going to be okay?’ The removal of that fear is great. It’s nice to be at a point in my life where if you want guacamole on your Chipotle bowl, you get that guac!”
His latest film for Hallmark, CHRISTMAS AT THE PLAZA, premieres on November 29. “My co-star is Elizabeth Henstridge and she’s awesome,” he begins. “I play Nick. His family runs a decorating business that he’s sort of inherited; he kind of shifted the business into Christmas decorating and he’s decorating The Plaza,” the storied New York hotel. “She plays a studious type, a cultural anthropologist/sociologist/natural historian. She’s doing a presentation on Christmas at The Plaza, but she’s not a big Christmas fan. They run into each other and in Hallmark style, she maybe thinks he’s a little bit boorish and he thinks she’s cute and quaint and maybe a little stuffy. We grow fond of each other and he kind of convinces her that maybe Christmas isn’t all this hokey-pokey nonsense; it’s actually kind of nice.”
He shot the film in New York and Winnipeg, and not only did they film at The Plaza, but Paevey bunked there during production. “My last Manhattan experience, I lived in Harlem and I was broke and just trying to figure out how to eat and stay warm and all that fun stuff,” he marvels. “To be inside The Plaza Hotel is kind of a trip because aside from it being a nice hotel, you can just feel the history in the stones on the walls, all of the movie stars who’ve stayed there. It’s a sort of accidental time travel when you’re there.”
The finished film is close to Paevey’s heart. “I’ve got to say, this last one was one of my favorite experiences I’ve ever had,” he enthuses. “Nick is a bit like me, he’s a bit of a self-deprecating, ‘Aw, shucks’ kind of guy. I had a blast on this last movie! I’m kind of bummed it’s over.” But it may just be over for now. “There were whispers on set that we were already thumbs up for another one. I think we did a really good job; I think we made something really cool.”
Paevey is proud of his body of work for Hallmark. “Hallmark is really kind of keyed into an equation that really works,” he praises. “While a lot of people will accuse it of being repetitive, that’s kind of the point! We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. If repetitive and overly sweet are the worst things that can be leveled against you, I think you’re doing okay. There has to be one place that you can go in Hollywood where everything is happy. It’s good to have one place that you can go where you don’t have to worry. The kid’s not gonna get leukemia at the end, the dog’s not gonna die — like, it’s okay to grow attached to these characters and to relax emotionally and just be happy.
Did you know?
• Paevey and Kelly Kruger (ex- Mac, Y&R) became “fast friends” on another Hallmark project, FROM FRIEND TO FIANCÉ.
• The actor speaks “a bit of Japanese, and can read and write Japanese a bit as well,” he shares. “I’ve always been really infatuated with the culture.”
Just The Facts:
BIRTHDAY: September 24 HOMETOWN: Torrance, CA
DAYTIME HISTORY: James Nathan West, GH, 2014-18.
SPARE ME: In his free time, Paevey occupies himself with “motorcycle stuff; I go camping; and I’m still involved to a degree in the family business, which is construction. I’m almost always helping Pops do something. He flips houses and things like that.”
COP TALK: Paevey is pleased to see fellow PCPD alum Brytni Sarpy (ex-Valerie) fitting in so well at Y&R, where she now plays Elena. “She’s happy as hell over there. I kind of thought her and Bryton [James, Devon] were going to hit it off. It seems that they have. Brytni and I, we’ve been through some stuff, shall we say. She’ll always have a spot in my heart.”
OH, SHOOT: The actor began shooting trap about three years ago, “as training,” he explains, “so that on the off chance that I would get a role that required me to [fire a gun], I won’t look like a doofus!”
FISH FOOD: Paevey doesn’t splurge on much — but sushi is the exception. “It’s the one time in my life that food gets fancy. There’s a place here in L.A. called Matsumoto on Beverly Boulevard that’s unbelievably expensive, but one of the best sushi experiences I’ve ever had in my life.”