TV Guide Q&A with TylerTV Guide Online - Soaps Question and Answer
Tyler Christopher (ex-Nikolas), who left the General Hospital canvas last summer, is carving out a nice niche for himself in the independent film community. In his first feature film, Catfishin Black Bean Sauce, which opens in select cities across the nation on Friday, Christopher plays Michael, a guy who's causing more turmoil in his roommate's already complicated life by dating a transvestite. Written, produced and directed by Chi Muoi Lo (The Relic), Christopher gets to show off his comical side in this picture about a Vietnamese boy who is brought up by African- American parents and reunited with his birth mother as an adult. Christopher's currently filming the romantic comedy Face the Music, where he himself dons address in the dual roles of Dan and Danielle. If it seems Christopher is far from playing it safe, that's exactly the way he wants it to be. Moving to the stage and silver screen has given this talented young actor an opportunity to take on roles that challenge him as a performer.Christopher took some time from his hectic shooting schedule to talk to TV Guide Online about his newest projects, his feeling on the recasting of Nikolas and why he won't be returning to daytime anytime soon.
How does it feel to be a part of the independent film community?
It feels great. It's a chance for me to get my work out as a lead character, just a chance to do some really good film work with some really good people. And hopefully we'll come out with a great film and something people will really enjoy seeing.
Why have you chosen the independent route vs. getting something a little more mainstream?
It's not that I haven't tried to do that. People want to have the Edward Nortons, the Ben Afflecks, and the Matt Damons in their films first, and then they go to guys like me who are just getting their face out there. This is the route that I've chosen to go, do a couple of lead roles and some good independents that can show a range of what I can do. Hopefully people will see that and then I can move onto the bigger projects. I knew that being on General Hospital wouldn't be the big catalyst that would catapult me into another planet as far as my career is concerned. It was a place to get my face out and show that I can do good work, and that's basically what it has done for me career-wise. I never really expected any more than that.
Your new film, Catfish in Black Bean Sauce, has been winning rave reviews. What makes it such a compelling story?
It's about the struggles people go through when you're from a multiethnic background. Chi, the director who also plays the lead, came over from Vietnam to settle in Pennsylvania, and he was basically a political refugee. The film brings out some of the stereotypes that people have of people with different backgrounds, different sexual preferences, and it brings out some of the subtlety we have in the country against whomever. There are hundreds of different races in this country; Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and they are not excluded from the oppression in this country either. And this film goes back to human nature, the basic of a mother loving her child no matter what. I think people are receiving it well. It's just a very well rounded project, from how it was shot, directed, performed and the story it tells. It tells a very engaging story from an emotional and humorous standpoint. Those are the elements a good film has to have, whether it's a $50 million budget or a half million. How did you get involved with the project? I was still on General Hospital at the time, I read the script and I liked it. I worked really hard on interpreting the character, and they asked me to play the role. This being my first feature film ever, I really had no idea what I was doing technically, so I really pursued it and worked really hard.
What were the biggest differences between doing a feature and doing daytime?
First of all, the way things are shot: There is only one camera vs. the four on daytime. And you have to do it multiple times to get one performance. The changes in the way it was made were the biggest obstacle for me to overcome. And remembering I have four walls to act to instead of the three you have on daytime or on stage. Everything else was pretty much the same, in how I approached the work.
I think people who know you from daytime will be surprised to see that your character is involved with a transvestite in the film. Were you nervous about acting that out?
I wasn't really nervous. I'm a pretty open-minded person, and it takes a lot to make me step back. It was definitely an attraction that made me want to pursue the project. It was so different and so unique, and I knew people would talk about it one way or another ˜ from that standpoint, I really wanted to do it. That was one of the selling points for me.
You got to play your comic side in this film. Is that something you always wanted to try? Yes. My character on General Hospital was always such a very serious, straightforward role, and I knew that I could do physical comedy. When I read the script, I thought I really could add some colors to the script. That was a challenge for me, and a good one.
On independent films you're often on a shoestring budget. What were some comical things you did to cut corners?
Well, when you're on a money restraint, nothing is very comical. Everyone is usually on edge about extra expenses. When you do a big-budget film, you see a lot of things around that probably aren't necessary that add up. We didn't have the great catering food, and we didn't have the big trailers. You can't pinch on the quality of film and sound equipment and in my opinion that's where you should spend your money. Fortunately, for this film, the look of it looks like it could have been a few million dollars. Everyone there knew that no one was getting a boatload of money for the film. Everyone was there because they enjoyed the story and wanted to make a great project.
From dating a transvestite on-screen to playing a girl in your next film, Face the Music. Do you think this is just a coincidence?
I'm hoping it's not a personal trend, I really am. I'm a risk taker; that's how I approach life, that's how I approach my career, I try to pick things that aren't always the safe choice, and then I just go from there. And that's how I'll always approach my work. I don't want to do things just because it's easy, I want to continually challenge myself and having fun. As long as I keep trying things and stretch my own imagination, I'll be just fine.
What did you do to prepare to play the opposite sex?
I didn't have a lot of time to prepare. I had about eight days from the time I said I'd come on board to the first day of shooting. I did go to a speech pathologist who actually works with transvestites in transforming their speech patterns to a more womanlike voice. And she helped me with my breathing ˜ where a woman's voice comes through the mouth as opposed to a man's voice, and so I did do that. There is a technique to it; I didn't just want to raise my voice, the over-the-top, "squealy" girl voice. It's just a subtle change, and I think it's more realistic.
On a scale from one to 10, how good-looking a girl do you think you make?
I think I'm like a six. I have a really strong jawline. We didn't have the luxury of prosthetics and real hair wigs like they had on Tootsie. I had to go on my raw features alone and a little bit of makeup.
Onto your days at General Hospital. Were you surprised they recast you so quickly?
I was disappointed. I thought I had created a strong enough character that he deserved to disappear. That's what happens when people leave and you're popular enough that your character can disappear. But I wasn't surprised because the show had taken so many losses, with the exit of Brenda(Vanessa Marcil) and Lucky Jonathan Jackson
What advice do you have for Coltin Scott, who now plays Nikolas?
I haven't really watched his performance. But I would say just to have fun and enjoy it. It's a great place and a great job, and not to take it for granted.
Given the opportunity, do you think you would ever return to daytime?
I have to say no. At first when I came off, I would say, 'Yeah, I'll return,' but I just know where my heart's at right now, and it's not there. I may change my mind years down the line, I don't know. For the things I want to do, and the things that make me completely happy, it's just not where I'll ultimately end up.