After Nearly 17 Years At GH, Kristina Wagner Reflects On Everything From Life With Jack To Felicia And Mac … To Tristan Rogers’s Head From The Back
Kristina Wagner’s dressing room at GENERAL HOSPITAL is not the one of a woman who stays put for too long. An irony, it would seem, given the fact that she’ll soon be entering her 17th year portraying spirited Felicia Scorpio-Jones (save for an eight-month respite in 1991 and a couple of summer hiatuses). Unlike the home-away-from-home environs many actors try to achieve, Wagner’s no-frills décor (sofa, chair, table, old, tiny TV) bespeaks a buys life in which her job is but one part. “I can’t stand sitting in a dressing room,” she insists. “That’s probably why this one isn’t decorated too well [laughs]! Sitting around is a waste of life for me. I’ve got things to do, places to, people to see.”
All of which the exuberant actress has achieved during an enduring career that kicked into high gear with her 1984 arrival at GH. “I remember my very first shooting day,” she muses. “There were so many people, but the first actor I met when I went into the makeup room was Tristan Rogers [ex-Robert]. I remember seeing Tristan sitting in the makeup chair — the back of his head. ‘Hi. Tristan Rogers. Wow [laughs].’ Everything was kind of ‘Wow.’ Emma Samms’s [ex-Holly] room was across from mine and I remember her standing right outside my door and saying [in a British accent], ‘Kristina Malandro’ — that was my [last] name then. She was reading my door as I’m inside. ‘Emma Samms is saying my name!’ It was like going into a cloud of something you never imagined you’d be into.”
And surely, Wagner never imagined her personal life would quickly parallel the supercoupledom she’d been led into onstage, as reel-life romance with dashing Frisco Jones turned to real-life love with his portrayer, Jack Wagner. “When I got the part and they said, ‘You’re going to be opposite Frisco,’ I tuned in to watch him,” she grins. “The first time I ever saw him he was doing a love scene with Tania. Jack’s always been a heartthrob [laughs].”
Within months of the actress’s arrival, Frisco and Felicia became a full-on phenomenon. “I think they were looking for another young, kid supercouple,” shrugs Wagner philosophically. “That was the way Gloria [Monty, former executive producer] worked. I mean, I wasn’t good enough to handle what she wanted. But she pushed it and worked with us and made sure it shined properly. She had an interesting way of doing it, but she was responsible for making it shine.”
Unfortunately, there was no one around to guide Wagner through the celebrity she began experiencing off-set. “I hated it,” she admits sheepishly. “And I hate to say that. But I didn’t know how to handle it if someone would come up to me wit their hand shaking — ‘Oh, my God, it’s Felicia.’ It made me uncomfortable. I tried to avoid it, but you can’t. I’m over that now.”
Even more unavoidable was the public’s interest in her personal life with Jack. “It was really hard at times,” she sighs. “But my mom’s greatest advice was always, ‘Be true to yourself.’ If you live that way, chances are you’re going to be able to get through those invasive times where you feel like people are hounding you.”
And the scrutiny only got more intense in 1990 while Wagner was pregnant with the couple’s first child. “It got really personal then. There were some press things that hurt my heart. People were looking for faults because when they see two things working, they want to break it down. It’s human nature, but it was still pretty difficult.”
Things became more difficult for Wagner when, about six months after her son’s birth, she and Jack split. The actress opted to retreat from public life and left GH in 1991 to regroup. “That was a down time for me,” she relates. “Jack had recently left the show and we had lived together through the pregnancy and through the first six months of Peter’s life. Then we split and reality check! ‘Hello — things won’t come to you this easy. Life’s hard. So get over it.’ It took me eight months to do that.
“But I was alone,” she continues. “I mean, I didn’t even have any visitors. It was me and baby Petey. But an adult needs more than that. I realized my love for Jack… I was able to put it more into perspective. He saw that it was slipping away, too. I didn’t do it for that purpose. I was growing up and ready to move on. So I came back to the show [in May, 1992] and I bought a house. I was so proud of myself. Single mom in the nice house; back on the show and had good story. That helped me plug away and move on.”
Which not only included Wagner reuniting with Jack, but the two marrying in December, 1993. (Second son Harrison was born the next year.) Since then, Wagner has managed life as wife, mom and successful actress with aplomb — unlike her on-screen alter ego as of late, who married Mac, only to shatter the union a few months back when it was revealed that she’d slept with Luke.
“[Fans] either love Felicia and Luke or hate it,” Wagner offers. “But Tony [Geary, Luke] is fun to work with. HE’s got that snarkedy brightness [laughs]. And John York [Mac] is just like typical guy, sexual dude. Not that Tony isn’t, but it reads differently with him. They’re so opposite, these two guys, but it’s fun. I have my variety!”
Which, according to Wagner, truly is the spice of her GH life. “I guess that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t branched out to do other things,” she opines. “Here, you get variety. ‘What are we going to do with Felicia? Is she going to cheat on her husband? Is she going to land in jail?’ That’s what I like.”
Wagner also appreciates the stability soaps have provided. “Here, I come in, do my job, go home and be with the kids; it’s great,” she raves. “At this point, to leave the show to try to take my career in another direction would not be wise. Why would I want to get on an airplane and leave my kids for four or five weeks to go shoot a film? They’re my priority, and this is a good job for that right now.”
Which is not to say the picture won’t be different in the future. “That will probably change at some point,” Wagner allows, “because I like to keep stimulated. But I have no specific plans for my future. I know that I want to keep alive and active and scared because if I’m not that, then I think I’ll become a less-interesting person. When my kids grow up and leave me, I’ll always have something for myself.”
Wagner pauses, as if reflecting on this inevitability, then smiles. “I’m pleased with the way things have gone. I wouldn’t wish for anything differently. What I’ve got going is a good thing.”
And with that, she’s up and out. Things to do, places to go, people to see….
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: October 30
Is That A Trick Or A Treat? “We don’t really celebrate my birthday anymore because it’s Halloween time. They don’t care about Mom’s birthday!”
And “They” Would Be? Peter, 10, and Harrison, 5, her sons with husband Jack (Jack, TITANS; ex-Peter, MELROSE PLACE; ex-Frisco, GH).
School Bust: “I was going to be a teacher and teach English and drama.”
Wedding Flowers: “I worked at a flower shop my first year of college and I remember the day Luke and Laura’s wedding was on. Everyone kept sneaking to the back (of the store) to watch it.”
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