Special Interview

Will Power

James Patrick Stuart

Credit: Bjoern Kommerell

Nearly a quarter century after his ALL MY CHILDREN run, GH’s James Patrick Stuart (Valentin) still owes a lot to Pine Valley.

JUST THE FACTS

Birthday: June 16

Hometown: Hollywood, CA

Just The Four Of Us: Stuart and his wife, Jocelyn, married since 2000, are the proud parents of two sons, Graham and Colin.

The Follower: GH is the third series Stuart has in common with Matt Cohen (Griffin). “He and I know each other from SUPERNATURAL, and we both did the  convention circuit for a while because the SUPERNATURAL fans are such a rabid bunch. And then we were on the same episode of HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER. So when I showed up on the [GH] set, he looks at me long and hard and then he goes, ‘Dude, are you following me?’ ”

Hey, You: He still gets recognized as AMC’s Will, which he played from 1989-92. “It happened just the other day. This woman knew everything. She went, ‘You’re not Will Cortlandt, you’re Will Cooney!’ I was like, ‘Wow —impressive!’ ”

From the moment Digest gets on the phone to chat with James Patrick Stuart about his return to daytime, it’s clear that he has maintained close ties to his original soap home, ALL MY CHILDREN. “I was just having dinner with my friend Michael Knight [ex-Tad; Simon, Y&R]!” he reports.

Stuart was aware of Knight even before taking over the role of Will Cortlandt, Tad’s devious and doomed brother-in-law, in 1989. “Way back in the day,” he recalls, “my agent said, ‘You’ll be working with Cady McClain [ex-Dixie] and Michael Knight; you should really check it out.’ I popped it on and Tad and Dixie were in bed and Opal blusters in and takes over the room and I thought it was one of the most charming things I had ever seen. Now, fast-forward, and here I am, eating barbecued chicken with my buddy Michael on his balcony!”

The actor has also stayed in touch with McClain and Jill Larson (ex-Opal). “When Jill comes to town, Cady will literally summon a meeting of the four of us. Those three became friends that I just couldn’t live without,” he marvels. “They are just such amazing people, and it’s kind of amazing due to the fact that I spotted them on TV! I watched the three of them together and they became life-long friends.”

AMC gave him more than a few dear pals and some  on camera experience, even if he couldn’t appreciate it fully at the time, “when I was young and stupid and arrogant,” as he puts it. Over the years, he’s come to value how much of an impression he made on AMC’s loyal audience. “It’s humbling, truly.” Because he considers daytime to have been “a huge and pivotal part of my life,” his GH gig is particularly meaningful. “To have the chance to get to go back and do it again has been really yummy,” he enthuses.

Stuart is thrilled to have reunited on the GH set with Genie Francis (Laura), who played Ceara on AMC during his stint as Will. “She was like a big sister to me,” he says fondly. “She and Jonathan [Frakes, her husband] used to take me out to dinner and order more Chinese food than was necessary so they could send me home with some, because they knew that I was living by myself. She has raised two children since then, but her soul is still the same. We were able to pick up right where we left off.”

Though the real-life warmth between them won’t make its way on-screen, Stuart is relishing the chance to see her strut her stuff as Laura. “I grew up watching Luke and Laura, and to watch her stand on her own two feet as a character is so interesting and exciting. In this industry, some people just kind of phone it in. But Genie is somebody who can actually find a way to let their soul talk to you for a second. That’s what she does. That’s what she’s done forever! So it’s been cool to be around her. There was a bit that I watched her do recently and I went up to her afterward and said, ‘You know, you surprised me. That was a moment that could have really been over the top, and instead, you tugged me!’ I’m as cynical as anybody, but she tugged my heartstrings!”

He also goes way back with GH actors he first met while toiling on daytime, but never worked alongside, like Michael Easton (Finn, who was on DAYS as Tanner when Stuart was on AMC) and Laura Wright (Carly, who then played LOVING’s Ally). “Michael is a guy who I probably hadn’t seen for 15, 20 years. Laura Wright, I knew as Laura Sisk [her maiden name]. Kelly [Ripa, ex-Hayley, AMC] and Laura were really close and I remember we would go on dates, we’d go to concerts, we’d go to the China Club, we’d go to SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. We were all just goofy kids having fun in the city. A bunch of us were trying to break into nighttime TV and Michael got a pilot that didn’t get picked up and he was really frustrated. We all kind of went through that together, as friends just trying to survive Hollywood. [GH] has been like a reunion, and I just really want to connect with everybody and hear about all their adventures.”

Stuart-Ripa

Stuart has amassed an impressive array of credits since Will was killed off in 1992, from sitcoms (SEINFELD) and prime-time dramas (SUPERNATURAL) to feature films (It’s Complicated). “I get bored easily and I love a smorgasbord,” he says of the diversity of his roles. “If you were in my house, my wife would take you out to the garage and show you, ‘There’s  a recording studio, scuba equipment, rock-climbing equipment.’ I’ve gotten the chance to do so many things that when my agent [brought up GH], it was almost like, ‘Yes, of course, why not?’ ”

He’s particularly grateful for a chance at a daytime “do-over” from a perspective on the industry that he didn’t have as a fiery youngster. “I was full enough of myself back then to think that I was going to take on the world — and I think you have to have that in this business; otherwise, you would do something else. The first time around, I looked at the opportunity on the soap opera as a springboard to other things. But now I see the power of soap operas as a really special thing, and I see how much they mean to people. I’m happy to come back and give it the attention and respect it deserves.”

THE HONEYMOONERS

James Patrick Stuart and Michael E. Knight have had plenty of memorable adventures, including a 1990 visit to the White House. “Tad had just been blown up by Billy Clyde — fallen off a bridge and drifted off to do pilot season in Hollywood [laughs]. George Bush, Sr. was still the president and when we walked up to him by the Christmas tree, he goes, ‘Well, there’s some familiar faces!’ Barbara Bush and her whole staff, they were all big-time fans.”

But their most memorable trip occurred in 1993; after Knight tied the knot with Catherine Hickland (ex-Lindsay, OLTL et al), it was Stuart who accompanied him on the honeymoon. “She and Michael had this trip to Nevis planned and she booked Les Mis, so Michael goes, ‘I’ve got this nonrefundable honeymoon in the West Indies. Will you come with me?’ ” It’s a memory that still makes Stuart howl. “In those days, I was in the best shape of my life and I refused not to wear my Speedo. Michael was like, ‘If you wear that by the pool with me one more time, I swear to God, I’m going to kill somebody!’ And everybody thought we were lovers! Every time the door would open and there would be food or videos or something, he’d over-explain. He’d tip the guy 20 bucks and go, ‘This is my buddy! My wife is back in New York doing a show!’ And now, all these years later, he’s the godfather to my youngest son!”

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