Tyler On Leaving General HospitalSoaps In Depth
In 1996, midwesterner Tyler Christopher accepted his very first acting job in Los Angeles -- the GENERAL HOSPITAL role of princely Nikolas Cassadine -- with one goal in mind: He wanted to learn. Now, three years later, the 1998 Daytime Emmy Award nominee has absorbed more than a few tricks of his trade. Which stands out the most? Probably the one drilled into him by GH's widely respected acting coach, John Homa. "He taught me," Christopher grins, "that when doing a scene, the more simple choice is always the best choice." Sound advice. So sound, in fact, that Christopher has decided to apply it to the rest of his life as well. Now in his mid-20s, he is itching to try more mature roles. So when his GH contract expired, it seemed the simplest choice was not to renew it so that he'd be available for new opportunities. "It just came down to me wanting to expand my ability to be creative and try new things," he explains. "Not that they didn't give me great storylines, but my instincts were tellig me that I needed to go out and try a completely different character."As luck would have it, the opportunity of Christopher's lifetime was just around the orner. But first he had to get through his last day on the set. And although he admits that it was difficult, former castmate and close confidante, Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda) was there to help. "what made it easier was Vanessa telling me that she had all the confidence in the world in me and my ability to go out and live the dream I set forth for myself," he reveals, adding that he was indeed nervous about leaving the security of his job at GH. "Even before I started the show, I always knew that I wanted to do differet things with my life and my career, and Vanessa kept me in tune with that."
Marcil, who left GH last fall to pursue similar goals, provided Christopher not only with support, but a lead on his next job: playing her wayward husband in award-winning writer/producer Sam Ingraffia's new play, Starfire. Just weeks before the show was to premiere, Marcil's co-star (in the play and on BEVERLY HILLS 90210) Brian Austin Green, landed a movie and had to drop out. "Vanessa suggested that I come in and audition for the part. So I read the script and thought it was a really cool character, and they ended up liking me for it," Christopher recalls. "Vanessa and I had always wanted to work together, so to be able to do two real characters and play husband and wife and have all these dynamics going on between us was so great!"In Starfire, which runs through August 15 at L.A.'s Company of Angels Theatre, Christopher transforms himself into a character at the opposite end of the spectrum from the ever-so-proper Cassadine heir.
As Sal, the versatile performer becomes a rough-around-the edges schemer with a Chicago sreet accent, a criminal past, a pregnant wife, and no option but to move to California to live with his disapproving Italian-American in-laws in 1967. "The play's been different every night, so I'm having a lot of fun with it," he says with a smile. "People have been able to se me really let go in my acting and finally pull out all the stops and show what I'm capable of. I hope to find more roles like this -- the more obscure, the better!"
The desire to stretch himself as an actor is something that developed in Christopher over the last two years. While playing tortured een Nikolas on GH, he also garnered laughs appearing on-state in the British satire Loot and in the independent film Catfish In Black Bean Sauce. But it was while playing a blind man last summer n the short movie The Gift -- written and directed by Tanya Boyd (Celeste, DAYS OF OUR LIVES)and also sarring Lauren Koslow (Kate, DAYS)-- that he caught a real glimpse of what he was capable of."I played a blind sculptor who is offered the chance to restore his vision through a rare surgery, but he's hesitant to go through with it because his sculpting is based solely on touch, and he's afraid he'll lose that talent if he can see," he explains. "I wanted to make the audience believe when they looked into my eyes that I was really blind, so I did an exercise to keep my pupils from dilating. It was a real challenge.
Timing is Everything
Confident that he's now ready for whatever comes his way next, Christopher did have a few regrets about having to leave GH just when it seemed that Nikolas was about to become embroiled in an emotional tug-of-war between his older-woman lover Katherine and his "late" half-brother's grieving girlfriend, Elizabeth. "I think Becky (Herbst, who plays Liz) and I could have really worked some magic together if I had stayed, and that made leaving difficult," he sighs. "I'd been waiting three years to carry a real heavy storyline, ad then when I finally got one, I had already decided to leave!" Nonetheless, Christopher does take comfort in knowing that two of his biggest hopes for his character were achieved: bringing out a lighter side to Nikolas nad finally resolving his abandoment issues with Laura. "I'm glad that Nikolas developed a sense of humor and started to grow into a man. He became more mature - not just physically, but emotionally and in every sense of the word," he suggests. "As he became more colorful and dynamic over time, he did become more difficult to play. But it was nice that he wasn't always so tortured and angry all the time."And what about Laura the mother from whome Nikolas was estranged for most of his life? Christopher believes that Nikolas finally came to terms with his resentment for her once Helena came on the scene. "Helena proved herfself to be a person who could have the kind of hold over Laura that Laura had always professed she did," he suggests. "So seeing some of the unspeakable things that Helena had done, Nikolas finally began to realize that Laura was probably right -- she did not have any choice [but to leave him]."Of course, Nikolas' finding out that Stefan was his father provided more than just a little help in his ability to accept that. "That was one of the best scenes that [Stephen Nichols] or I or anyone had ever done on the show," Christopher remembers. "It was very fulfulling." Here's to youAs he takes a last look around, Christopher watns to be sure to thank his daytime fans for their support. "I think we [as actors] sometimes forget why we do this -- that it's not just for ourselves. Rather, we're here to entertain people. So to have people writing you letters and calling you and getting on the computer to chat means that you are entertaining them and touching their lives in a specific way," he reflects. "I'm so grateful to them and I always will be."Although the role of Nikolas now has been recast, Christopher says not to count him out for a possible return. "They treated me very well, and I left a very happy person, so yes, I would definitely consider returning at some point, either to GH or to another soap."From his mouth to God's ears!
You've Got To Have Friends. Tyler Christopher bids adieu to his GH co-stars
Stephen Nichols (Stefan): "The scenes we played when he revealed he was my father really brought us together as people. When you reach out for somebody like that, even [in] a scene, it's just so emotioally bonding. Not only has Stephen become a friend, but he's truly like a father figure to me."
Rebecca Herbst (Liz): "Since Jonathan left...we've become such good friends. When my dog had knee surgery, and I had to bring him to work with me for two weeks, she was great about coming down to my room all the time to help care for him.
Anthony Geary (Luke): He makes such intelligent choices, sometimes I'm just in awe of him. I always know when I do a scene with him, it's going to be good even if I'm not 'on,' because he's so wonderful, he makes up for any inadequacies in [my] part."