In The Nik Of Time
--by Robert Schork
For GH's Tyler Christopher, portraying Nikolas' journey to manhood in real time has been worth the wait.If there was any innocence left for General Hospital's Nikolas to lose, the Cassadine heir apparent definitely had plenty of opportunities to eighty-six what was left of it this past year. For starters, there was the May-December romance with lusty older woman Katherine, who was also his Uncle Stefan's former fiancee. The uncle, by the way, turned out to be not his uncle but his father (or so we're now led to believe). Then there was the gradual thawing of relations between Nikolas and his half brother, Lucky, who, just as the brothers finally reconciled, up and died on him (or so everyone believes). Oh, and to add insult to injury, the revelation of his true paternity means he's no longer the Cassadine heir after all. What's a young, oversexed, dethroned Cassadine prince to do?
For Tyler Christopher, who portrays Nikolas, the answer is to act his heart out. Over the three years he's played Nikolas, Christopher has eagerly welcomed the character's evolution toward adulthood, and the concomitant story possibilities and acting challenges that it presents. "In all reality, if these things actually happened to a real person, he'd probably be in the nut house," Christopher wryly jokes. "But we can't really play that" -- especially when half of the show's female characters all taken their turn there -- "so I do have to ignore it a little bit in order to make the story work."
What has worked for Christopher is his character's sexual liaison with Katherine. "I think it was a good choice to put him with someone who's older. [The Cassadines] come from a different country and a completely different society, which makes Nikolas a very different teen-ager. So, even though there's this age difference, he can relate to her a lot more than most girls his own age. "I thought it had a very sensual side, a very adult-like side," Christopher continues, "so I think it definitely has brought new flavor into the character that I very much enjoy," Christopher contends that he and co-star Mary Beth Evans, who plays Katherine, "were very comfortable" with their characters' romance "from the beginning. Not so much the sexual stuff, that's scary for anybody. But it really wasn't too bad of a transition for me. We'd talk about the scene, what's going on, everytime before we would go up on stage and do what we rehearsed together. We're very much in tune with each other."Katherine and Nikolas' romance caused quite a stir in GH circles, as fans either loved it or hated it -- the latter often because they felt Nikolas was being taken advantage of by someone who diddn't relaly care for him. "Well, maybe that was her intention at first, but I think that Katherine couldn't avoid how much she was attracted to Nikolas, and how much she did enjoy being with him, so I think that has kind of reset her agenda into enjoyment and friendship, more than anything else." But Christopher hesitates to use the L-word where Katherine and Nikolas are concerned. "I wouldn't call it a love affair between the two characters; it's more along the lines of infatuation." A lust affair, perhaps? "Yeah, just the dnager of the whole thing, I believe is the attraction -- at least for Nikolas."
One place where love has never been in question for Nikolas is with his uncle-turned-father, Stefan. Usually on soaps, such surprise changes in one's familial relationships spark resentment and more conflict, but Christopher welcomed the refereshing way that GH chose to develop Nikolas and Stefan's reunion as father and son. "All Nikolas has ever wanted was a real family. Now he has that. As a result, his relationship with Stefan is really closer than ever. He understands all of (Stefan's) motives. The revelation definitely sent the character off on his own, though, I mean, he's been lied to and manipulated long enough. I think it was time for him to finally stand his own ground and make his owan way. But, the relationship between him and Stefan is more truthful and more freal." Especially now that his father is once again courting his mother. "Again, everything he's ever dreamed of -- to have a mother and a father and everybody under the same roof -- is coming true, and that's something that less than a year ago he thought would never be possible."
One dream that was shattered for Nikolas was the fraternal relationship he eventually iniated with Lucky. In the months leading up to Lucky's death, Laura's two sons gradually found their way to common ground and, ultimately, to an honest affection for one another. "You can only hate someone for so long, and then you stop being able to find reaons why you hate that person," Christopher explains "And I think that's what it finally came to. They both realized that the fight wasn't theirs, that it belonged to the people from years ago that they really had nothing to do with. They just decided that they've seen how destructive it can be, and they didn't want any part of it."
And within that revelation, they found that they actually had things in common and actually liked each other. But just when he started to experience what a true family might be like, it's yanked righout of from underneath him. So, obviously the weight of those circumstances are going to weigh very heavily on Nikolas, but he has other people who are involved in this, like Elizabeth and his mother, who are 10 times more emotionally invovled in that than he is. So his emotions have to take a backseat as he plays caretaker for everybody."
When one looks at lall of Nikolas' female relationships, a common denominator emerges: All of the women in 'Nikolas' life -- except for Emily -- have deceived him about something in one way or another. "That does have an effect on people outside of the soap world. But I think the fact that every woman has always lied to him would be difficult to constantly play. But Nikolas' friendship with Emily is something else. Male/female friendship is one thing that a lot of shows don't explore, and I think it was good that we went that route. I think daytime needs more of those relationships."
Christopher has announced that he plans to leave the show when his contract expires this summer. As for the new challenges that await Nikolas and whoever portrays him, Christopher says, "Right now, with Lucky leaving, and the new pople coming and going in his life, the character is in this major transition period. And he's becoming more independent, and his own person, so it could really go anywhere."
For Christopher, portraying an adolescent's ascension to manhood in real time has been rewarding for him as an actor. "It gave me a better chance to grow with the character, rather than kinda jump way into...when he's with Katherine, you see the more mature side of him, but I still like to show, when he's around Emily and Elizabeth, that he still is just a kid, and he still likes to do things that kids do, and still likes to hang out and eat pizza like they do." Although one probably couldn't imagine seeing Nikolas Cassadine chowing down in pizza and a Coke when he first arrived in Port Charles, "that he was able to grow culturally, too, was really good. It makes the audience realize that's the kind of thing he's always yearned for: just to be a normal.
Soap Opera Weekly - July 6, 1999