The Artist Formerly Known As Baker

The Artist Formerly Known As Baker

GH's Nikolas has a new name, a new fiancee and a new passion: theater

If change is really for the better, then General Hospital's Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) is one lucky man. The young actor changed his name (to his middle name from Baker), his love-life status (his engagement to co-star Vanessa Marcil is official) and he's involved in an acting stretch that has him vaulting from the dour world of a Cassadine to the comedic world of a British bank robber.  In addition to putting in long hours on GH, he's appearing on stage in a revival of Joe Orton's play Loot. With his brooding good looks and multidimensional "rebel without a cause" style, he's come a long way in a very short time -- and he knows it."I was auditioning like everyone else, getting turn down after turn down, which is part of it," Christopher says matter-of-factly.  "A little hard work and a little preparation paid off for me, especially if you look at how long most people spend out here before they get their break or before they get work. "I was only out her for a year and a half," he adds, "I take that very seriously. I know that doesn't really happen every day."

Yes, Christopher has that classic look that goes over big on daytime television. But when he began auditioning, the world of daytime seemed like a million miles away.

"I wasn't trying to direct myself into any particular arena," he reveals. "It's hard enough to get a commercial in this town, much less a regular paying daytime drama.  It was a blessing for me, just as if I were to get a film or a primetime show.  It's all the same to me. Y ou've got to start somewhere," he adds. Well, GH isn't just somewhere, Christopher concedes. "I'm very happy to be on the show that I'm on, which has won three Emmys (for Outstadning Daytime Drama) in a row. In top of that, they surround me with the daytime icons: Tony Geary, Genie Fracis, Stephen Nichols. I'm right in the soup mix."

GH, obviously, has been my big break," he points out. I've seen what it's done for me so far in terms of getting respect.  Finally. If you don't work, you don't really get the respect of being an actor.  "Now I've got a chance every day for an hour to show the rest of this city what I can really do. I love every minute of it.  It's really a blessing every day."With the day-to-day grind of portraying Nikolas Cassadine, a man whose life is all high intensity and emotion, also comes the natural need to occasionally lighten up.  "Everything is so serious with my character that it stays with me," the actor admits. "Sometimes, by the end of the day, it exhausts me. That's one of the reason I'm doing a comedy right now.'There is, however another reason.  "Aside from me just enjoying what I do, this is a good arena for people to see me in and say, 'There's no way that's the guy from GH,'" he says. "It's a really difficult piece. There's a lot of physical comedy. It's a very, very dark comic piece. You have to hit the marks right in order for the audience to get it."But I wanted to do it because it is so difficult," he adds. "Not only do I have to do a British accent, but on top of that, I have to make it funny. Nikolas isn't a very comical type guy. He's a very serious person. I have that side of me and that I do have a love for the craft. I'm doing this for free. It's 12 hours a day on top of GH. It's very time consuming."I've never done theater before," Christopher reveals. "We have a lot of rehearsals, which is different from GH. I have a dialect coach and I'm trying to lsiten to the director and the other people in the play that have done theater before. Just watching them, knowing that there is that fourth wall out there, that it's the audience and not the televisionn screen anymore -- I'm working at it real hard."

Christopher has just begun to stretch his acting muscles, but fear doesn't seem to be a four-letter word in his vocabulary. With every challenge comes an enthusiasm to conquer it. "I'm always thinking ahead," he says. "I want to do films. I want to pace myself and not just jump in. I kind of want to mold my way into it."There is a transition between what I'm doing now and that place I want to be," he adds. "If you're not careful, then that transition isn't going to be smooth. I don't know how that transition works, which is why I've hired people to do that for me. You need people on your side. And I have a lot of them.


Soap Opera News July 1997 --by Rosemary Rossi



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