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Sebastian Roche: Coming to America

GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Sebastian Roche (Jerry Jacks) is a man with an intriguing past. Born in Paris, he spent six years as a teen on a sailboat with his family, traveling from France to Africa to South America to the Caribbean before finally settling in New York. Here, Roche, who speaks French, Spanish and Italian, discusses his life — in English.

Soap Opera Weekly: What was it like growing up in Europe, particularly in such a glamorous place as Paris?
Sebastian Roche: My dad was fairly well-off, so I was raised in a very comfortable environment: the very nice suburbs of Paris. It was a very idyllic life. I also spent nearly all my summers in Britain, and Christmas, too, because my grandparents lived there. I adored them and I adored going to Britain. I was a major Anglophile. My brothers and I were raised knowing both languages, French and English. My dad was born in Austria, educated in Britain, and then went back to France. My mom was born in England, but raised in Egypt and Malaysia. We were a globetrotter family.

Weekly: Why did the family decide to travel the world for six years?
Roche: When my dad hit 40 he quit everything. He sold the house and bought the boat and went off sailing the world. I was on that boat from age 12 to 18. We didn’t actually go around the world. We went pretty much from France through the whole Mediterranean basin. We went to Ireland, first. We also went to coast of Africa, South America and the Caribbean.

Weekly: It sounds like an enviable life for a teenager. Was it?
Roche: Yes, it was. I wanted to have friends and girlfriends, [but] it’s pretty difficult to get a girlfriend when you’re combing the Atlantic (laughs). But what I experienced during those six years was the most extraordinary thing. It shaped my life. It provided the defining moments of my life.

Weekly: What would you cite as some of your fondest memories from your travels?
Roche: There were so many things: Crossing the Atlantic was pretty amazing — being at sea for three weeks with no land [in sight], sailing and catching a fish every day, and using your mind to be inventive. We had nothing on the boat but books and music. I also developed a huge passion for spear fishing. I would go every morning and every weekend in the cold. I’d go underwater and swim with sharks and stingrays. I would say the Tobago Keys in the Grenadines was one of my favorite places. You would literally dive overboard with your mask on and you could see 100-200 yards underwater. It was probably some of the most beautiful coral I’ve ever seen I my life.

Weekly: How did you end up “landing” in the United States?
Roche: I was going through a breakup with my girlfriend and I thought, “I’m going to go travel to the States.” I ended up in New York, Los Angeles and all over the place. While I was there, I met with some casting directors through a casting director friend of mine in Paris. They were very interested in me…so I decided to do it. The next year, 1992, I came over and I have stayed ever since.

Weekly: Did you enjoy the move?
Roche: Adjusting to New York was a bit of a shocking experience. It’s a hard city once you get there and you have no money. But it was exhilarating. New York is the most exhilarating city when you’re young. It’s a different culture, definitely. I really came to love it.

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