The American Dreamboat

The American Dream Boat

Tyler Christopher left the Midwest for Hollywood, but took his family values with him

Dark-haired, dark-eyed Prince Nikolas Cassadine is an awkward teen, unsure of how best to assimilate Americana. His portrayer, Tyler Christopher, a native of Delaware, Ohio, knows just how that feels. 'I'm very American in every way that Nikolas is no. Growing up in the Midwest taught me to be humble, respectful and kind -- it's a different way of living. It wasn't an easy thing for me to move to Los Angeles and try to fit in," Christopher reveals. "I brought the Midwestern mentality with me because I still believe that there's more the life than what you see here in Hollywood."

Just as Nikolas' status as a royal makes him feel sensitive about being different, Christopher also was an uncomfortable teen. "I was undersized most of my life, and that was such a big thing to me," he confides. "That time when you're going through puberty and girls are bigger than you is just devastating, especially since I wanted toplay sports."

Fortunately, as Christopher grew, so did his confidence. The die-hard Cleveland Indians fan got his own start in baseball in high school and dreamed of one day becoming a professional, but it wasn't in the cards. "My college (Ohio Wesleyan University) had such a great team, and I thought I was going to be able to come in and start playing right away, but when I didn't, I took it hard," he recalls. "My drive to attend classes started to slip because the competitiveness and challenge I'd become used to weren't there anymore.

"Without that motivation," he adds, "I didn't know what to do with myself. So I just stepped away and this (acting) is where it brought me."

TRUE ROMANCE
The move to Hollywood changed everything for Christopher. Not only did he land a job portraying a member of one of daytime's most intriguing families, but he also met his future bride, now-former cast mate Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda). What really drew me to Vanessawas her incredible honesty -- she's like that with everyone around her," he offers. "It makes for the best relationship."

Like Nikolas, who dumped Sarah when they got too close, Christopher too had very little experience with girls as a teen. "I only had one girlfriend throughout high school because I was so shy and insecure about the way I looked," he says. "I figured I'd just stay with one girl so I wouldn't have to go through asking anybody out anymore."

A Match Made in Port Charles
The love story of Tyler Christopher and Vanessa Marcil

Some may say that Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) was a lucky guy to have a woman as beautiful and talented as Vanessa Marcil (Brenda) fell in love with him. But she would be the first to say that it's the other way around: She's the lucky one. "I went with a lot of LA guys," she tells Soaps in Depth, "so I just think Midwestern men are refreshing." And they don't come much more all-American then Christopher. "Tyler cares about football, honesty and family," she marvels. "Rather then going to a Hollywood party, he'd prefer to stay home, invite a friend over, and barbecue. That's really what life is all about." However, it wasn't Christopher's values that first drew Marcil to him but the same talent that earned him a Daytime Emmy Award nomination in his first year on GH. "Men are brought up to be big, strong and tough," she explains. "I've seen a lot of male actors who are good in a lot of areas, but when it comes to being vulnerable, they can't quite go there 100 percent. But Tyler can." In fact, as Nikolas, Christopher has played the gamut, from volatile to vulnerable.

"As an actor," says Marcil, I think he's natural, powerful and emotionally available." Of course, that's not to say that when the couple got together, there wasn't at least a little room for improvement. "When we first met, I gave him a little makeover," she admits with a laugh. "He was really cute because he was all for it. And I'm kind of into fashion myself, so it was fun to dress him up. And the results of the experiment? Suffice it to say, Marcil notes, "It doesn't hurt that he's the most beautiful man in the world, so he dresses up pretty good!"

Having learned a thing or two over the years, Christopher knows what kind of girl Nikolas needs. "Nikolas would enjoy being with someone who could teach him things because he's uncomfortable with the prince title and would rather be like other people his own age," he suggests. "Emily's got the right personality, but she's not mature enough yet. And Robin's great, but she just wants to be friends." With his character's love life on hold, Nikolas is concentrating on redefining his feelings for his mother, Laura. "In order for him to ever have a working relationship with her, he has to resolve the issues of the past," Christopher says, "and they haven't done that yet. I think it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Worse is right! Asked what Nikolas will do when he finds out 'Uncle' Stefan is really his daddy, Christopher gets pensive. "I don't know if he will be angry or just be grateful to discover that he has a father after all those years of thinking he didn't," he explains. "It'll probably drive him away from the family until he comes to realize that what he's stepped away from is exactly what he's always wanted."

THE LONGEST YARD
How ironic that just as Nikolas is about to get the one thing that he's always wanted, his portrayer is having to give up his hope of ever becoming a ball player -- thanks to a knee injury last October. "I was playing flag-football with a bunch of friends when I heard it pop --I didn't realize at the time how bad it was," he recalls. "For the next six months, every time I would run, I would instantly fall to the ground and not know why."

One knee surgery and several months of rehabilitation later, Christopher is still struggling. "It's been a year and I still wake up every morning in excruciating pain," he admits.

Fortunately, not being able to fill his spare time with athletics has provided Christopher with an unexpected bonus; the energy to do projects outside of GH. First on his agenda for the year was a role in an independent film, Catfish In Black Bean Sauce (due out sometime in 1999). "It's a dramatic comedy, and my part is mostly the comedy part, which is new to me," Christopher reveals. "Personally, I have a good sense of humor, although it's dry and sometimes misunderstood. I think my performance in the movie will surprise a lot of people because it's so different from what theyÌre used to seeing me do."

Marcil has a slightly different take on her fiance` cute personality. "I think Tyler's sense of humor is more on the silly side," she confesses. "When ever I'm in a grouchy mood, he does all these geeky, outdated dance moves like the running man or the cabbagepatch. He commits to them 100 percent, and he makes me laugh every time."

EVER AFTER
With Marcil recently having left GH to pursue a career in primetime and film, some have speculated that Christopher may follow suit. "I would like to go outside of here and do film and dramatic television," he concedes, "but I'm only halfway through my contractual time with GH, so this is where my focus in right now." At 25, the actor from America's heartland is happy with the path his life has taken, and thrilled that gambling on Tinsel Town hasn't changed him much. "I've still maintained my appreciation for family and have kept pretty much the same group of friends for 20 years," he explains. "I've seen Hollywood tear down some wonderful people, and I just hope it doesnÌt do that to me."

LEARNING FROM THE MASTERS
Tyler Christopher takes tips from three class actors.

Not only did Nikolas' portrayer lad his GH job with a show that's been around for 35 years, but he also lucked out by getting to playopposite some of daytime's most revered veterans. "For a first job, it wasn't a bad way to step in," he confirms. "Oddly enough, I wasn't intimidated by them because I was so scared about other things that I didn't have time to stop and think about it!" Here's what the pupil -- who earned a Daytime Emmy Award nomination after his first year on the show -- says that he learned from the masters:

Genie Francis (Laura): "I learned from Genie how to stay in touch with the emotional side of the character. I use Laura as a viewpoint because the issues that she and Nikolas have between them have bearing on everything that Nikolas does."

Anthony Geary (Luke): "Tony taught me that if you can take a scene and interject a little bit of humor, then the really seriousmoments will stand out a bit more. So many things that he says are just so bizarre that you can't help but laugh. He's such a great actor. I have the utmost respect for him."

Stephen Nichols (Stefan): "Stephen showed me what it means for somebody to care about you. A lot of the stuff we did in the beginning was about him always looking after me, and I never doubted him for a second. when I was growing up, I always wondered, "Does this person really have my best interest in mind?" And I've learned that from Stephen and from Stefan that he will always steer me in the right direction."

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