After all his bravado, machinations and lies to keep the woman he loves, and believing he was the rightful heir to the Cassadine fortune, suddenly it all came crashing down for Valentin Cassadine (James Patrick Stuart) on recent episodes of General Hospital.
Payback can be a bitch, but for Valentin; who’s past has been fraught with numerous physical and emotional tribulations since his childhood, he now finds himself at the lowest point in his life; losing Nina (Cynthia Watros) who’s now taken up with Jax (Ingo Rademacher), realizing he is the biological son of the evil Helena Cassadine (Constance Towers), and not Mikkos, and having all his best laid plans and misdeeds backfire. (Remember, he shot and “killed” Nikolas, and set up the ruse that led Sasha to pretend she was Nina’s bio-daughter.) Now, enter Nelle Benson (Chloe Lanier), who could very well hold the ticket, to Valentin’s rise to wealth and power all over again.
Michael Fairman TV chatted with James Patrick Stuart to get the lowdown on: those heavy and emotional scenes opposite Constance Towers, working with Cynthia Watros as his newest Nina, if Valentin might really kill Jax the next time he thinks about it, and what about a potential relationship between Anna (Finola Hughes) and Valentin?
Not many can play bad as good as James in this industry. He does it so effortlessly and still brings out the humanity in the guy that has t-r-o-u-b-l-e written all over him. Here’s what James had to share about all of Valentin’s recent dramatic moments, a tease of what’s to come, and much more.
Valentin’s world has imploded at the moment. When did you initially find out that he was going to turn out to not be a true Cassadine heir?
JAMES: Well, there were some clues dropped by Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) back when we did the gallery auction where Helena’s portrait went up in flames. Frank looked at me and goes, “Hey, Jack Nicholson it up. Have some fun! You’re not going to be feeling pretty good for a while.” (Laughs) I’m like, “Oh … what are the plans?” He pulled me aside and goes, “Yeah, you’re going to lose Nina, but you’re going to try to take over ELQ. That’s when I started to go, “Wait a minute! That sounds to me like Valentin’s losing his money.” (Laughs) With the character of Nikolas (Marcus Coloma) coming back; it’s pretty great. I think the writing was on the wall there. I put it out on twitter the other day. I said, “Look what they’ve done to my boy.” Somebody chimed in, “They gave him a storyline!” (Laughs)
Who doesn’t love to see you, James Patrick Stuart, play tortured soul? They audience loves to see you get the opportunity to go to those depths in your performances.
JAMES: It’s been really interesting for me. I’ve had a lifetime of playing bad guys because the line was always shorter. (Laughs) Everybody wants to be Tom Cruise, but the Alan Rickman’s of it all, to me, were what was so interesting. Early on, you play one dimensional kind of twisting of the mustache, tying a woman to the train tracks. After a while, you start to watch the truly great actors. They start to take you on a ride. If you’re paying attention, you start to feel what it would be like to be that damaged, and that’s why you do it. Then you start to see the vulnerability. To me, I thought, “This is a great time in my life because I’m ready to do that.” A lot of people say, “I don’t understand. I feel like that makes no sense. because why would I root for a person who behaves like this?” and that to me, I feel is the greatest compliment of all.
So much happened recently to Valentin in one fell swoop; he overhears Nina telling Ava (Maura West) she kissed Jax, then he envisions shooting Jax and then he is drinking himself into oblivion and he gets a “visit” from Helena! But … the scenes between Valentin and Helena really summed up the bitter truth for him, wouldn’t you say?
JAMES: Yes. In the “Helena” scenes, it all basically is revealed. It all comes down in a moment where he “sees” her. I think he realizes with the DNA test; he’s not the person he thought he was, but he certainly had no idea that he had her blood in his veins. The truly tragic moment of the evening is when it dawns on him that he has a daughter with Helena’s blood in her veins. Now, he would kill her a thousand times over in that moment. He can’t do it. He’s fighting phantoms. That’s the bottom below the bottom, and things got worse than he ever thought they would get.
Does Valentin have any idea then, who his biological father could be?
JAMES: I don’t think so. I don’t believe so. I know I don’t. I think once he realizes that Helena is in fact the mother, I think he’d rather just go into oblivion. I think at that point, he’s out of answers. Enter Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) …which is wonderful because I think the world of Nancy, and she saves the day. Alexis basically talks him out of hurting himself, telling him to count his blessings that he is not a Cassadine, etc, which was a really sweet moment.
I assume, when you have this kind of material to play, it must be exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time?
JAMES: I think that’s exactly right. As an actor, I think you want to do this stuff. Maura West and I compare notes all the time. I think it can be kind of emotionally draining. You do feel it, and I felt it when I had spent a lot of time with Nina and Valentin, and when the actresses changed, and we brought Cynthia Watros in. I worked twice as hard to make sure that Cynthia’s landing was as easy as possible, and I really grew attached to the Nina and Valentin connection. So, when Jax steps in, Cynthia’s love life means nothing to me, I don’t care about that, but Nina’s love life means a lot to me! And it bums me out, and I don’t know that I’ll actually be watching any future love scenes between them as much as I love them both! I have a deep attachment to the Valentin connection to Nina. So, the lines get burred because we just play these characters so long.
What was it like sharing those tough scenes with Constance? No one can play icy, evil villainess like her … and yet in real life, she is such a gracious and kind-hearted woman.
JAMES: In real life, Constance is such a sweetheart, and she’s so grateful to be there. She was so ready to work, and rehearse, and play, and find the stuff, and she was great. I’d been in scenes with her before. Last time, we didn’t really talk to each other. I was with the hump. I was being Valentin pre-surgery. It was some sort of moment in a graveyard, but this time we actually got to interact with each other.
You look at Valentin, and he’s not had the greatest life. Do you bring his entire back-story into your performance; such as when he was deformed with the hump and how he had to literally reconstruct his life both in the physical and in emotional ways for many years?
JAMES: Absolutely. It’s the brokenness that he’s making choices from. He was never truly and authentic person to begin with which is why his love fell apart. He’s always been faking. He’s always been putting on a show. That’s not sustainable in matters of the heart. It was unbelievably easy for Jax to swoop in, because it was inevitable that things were going to fall apart. Of course, that anger and that brokenness were what lead him to want to kill Jax. There’s no question. He was prepared to do that. If you look in the eyes in the fantasy sequence in the shooting, he just wanted to watch him die. He wanted to watch the light go out in Jax’s eyes. He was so furious … and even more tragic is … that was all he could think of, and somehow, he realized in that moment that wouldn’t work, because he’d lose his daughter.
Anna and Finn (Michael Easton) just kind of busted up. Do you think Anna and Valentin will hookup? There is a connection and a history between the two of them whenever they seem to be in proximity of one another.
JAMES: Personally, I’m waiting for that. I hope so! There is a finesse and elegance to that woman, and not only that, there is an effortless to the connection between Valentin and Anna, if one can say that about one’s own coupling. I love to look at it! I think we go together like a wink and a smile. I just find that chemistry really great. I think that’s mostly Finola, though. She can probably have chemistry with most anything.
Valentin was going to leave Port Charles with Charlotte (Scarlett Fernandez), after Nikolas revealed all and the fallout began. Interestingly enough, it was Anna who came to Valentin’s side and tried to talk him down from fleeing with his daughter and showed such compassion for him!
JAMES: Wasn’t that great? She was the one who got him. She was the one who was able to calm the beast. There was no one else he would have listened to. In the moment in the police station, after Charlotte had been kidnapped, and there is that moment where Anna has that bruise, I thought it was such a tender moment. I just said, “If I kiss my finger and touch your wound?” and she’s like, “Do it.” It was just this moment where we had been bitter rivals and enemies for so long, but he just adores her so much it’s undeniable that he sees her wounded and wants to make it better. It’s floating out there waiting to be done. I know that everybody knows it. It’s just a matter of what the right away to go about in the writing would be.
So, you’ve worked opposite two acting dynamos in the role of Nina – Michelle Stafford and now, Cynthia Watros. Was the transition difficult for you when Cynthia came to GH?
JAMES: It wasn’t. It was scary because Michelle Stafford wasn’t just one in a million, I mean, she is one of a kind. The last thing in the world that I would ever want to consider doing myself was recast that actress. So, my deal was (and I’ve said this to Cynthia) I said, “I have no control over this. All I can do is make the landing as easy as possible for Cynthia.” We did a lot of photoshoots together, and I had flowers waiting for her, and I did everything possible to make sure that she knew that she had a friend and that she had somebody that was going to make it as easy as possible. It was rough because a lot of the trolls on social media were just awful to her… just brutal, and she goes, “I have thick skin. I can take it,” and then a week later, she goes, “I’ve closed all my social media accounts!” (Laughs) It’s been fun to watch those guys turn around and go, “You have a really special person.” That wedding stuff was just incredible! She came so prepared and she knocked it out of the park. Cynthia has been wonderful. I love them both. I love her the reddest, and I love Michelle the bluest, and together I love them the purplest. (Laughs)
It’s interesting that all the women in his life such as Anna and Nina, all have a soft-spot for Valentin; even though they don’t necessarily want to be with him. These ladies are just drawn to this dysfunctional guy.
JAMES: Don’t you think? Is it that you want to help him, you want to fix him, you see the potential, you want to help him despite himself? I think that’s what it is.
Do you think Valentin’s still going to try to win Nina back, or is that done?
JAMES: I don’t know. I do know that the Valentin I know will never shake Nina, and when he loves, he loves forever. He can be simultaneously in love with Anna whenever she’s near. I don’t believe he ever truly got over Nina hearing his story and his brokenness and still loving him twice as hard. Years ago, there was a moment where he said to her the stuff that he’s never said, and Michelle beautifully kissed my tears away and said, “You’re beautiful” to me. I think in that moment his fate was sealed. I think he knew that this was his woman forever. So, I just don’t think that that goes away. I think he will always carry a torch for Nina, for sure.
Do you see Valentin becoming darker and darker now that he had found out he is Helena’s offspring?
JAMES: Well, yes and no. I remember watching these scenes and we’ve done a lot of this stuff, and you know how easy it is to sort of go, “Let’s go dark, let’s go dark, let’s go more dark,” and after a while, I go, “You know, maybe he does learn something. Maybe there’s hope for this guy after all.” Of course, more bad stuff will happen to him, and he will do more bad stuff, because that’s just who he is. A leopard can’t change his spots, and those are his survival instincts, but there are some new colors, and it’s all a direct result of all of just these horrible things that have happened to him… mostly learning that he is part Helena and he can’t undo that.
We saw that Nelle (Chloe Lanier) called and then goes to see Valentin, because she wants to sell her shares of ELQ. So, obviously he has the potential to become really rich here which is what would give him his power back. How do you think that will go over with the rest of the Quartermaines? (Laughs)
JAMES: (Laughs) A lot of the Quartermaine actors have been asking me that in the hallways of General Hospital! Isn’t that interesting how he’ll just sort of switch families? (Laughs)
Of all the people, just as Valentin’s life is in the gutter and he is at his lowest, who should show up with a sort of lifeline, Nelle! How will he go about attempting to gain control of ELQ?
JAMES: Valentin knows he has to get the majority shares to gain a control of the company, and he has to do it fast before people see that he’s doing it. So, that’s where Michael E. Knight (Martin Gray) has been. He’s gallivanting the states rapidly accumulating shares. (Laughs)
It’s been so fun seeing you and Michael Knight on-screen and on a daytime soap together again, as so many remember you as Tad Martin and Will Cortlandt on All My Children. How has it been getting the chance to work with Michael?
JAMES: My God, are you kidding me? He taught me! He’s the guy who taught me. I didn’t know how to do this. Nobody instinctively knows… this is a very unique art form. It’s more Jazz than anything else, and he showed me how to do it! Walt Willey (Ex-Jack, AMC) showed me how to do my hair, and Michael Knight taught me how to break down a script! And, what’s so funny is he is still doing it. In a scene on GH, when he threw in that line, “From now on, you pay in advance,” I just about fell on the floor! I thought, “There he is! That’s the Michael I’ve always known and loved.”
Who would have thought that you guys would get to share scenes like that again on soaps? You just never know in this life who may be wind up back in your orbit.
JAMES: It’s incredible. That’s what we say all of the time… “Who would have thought?” You could never plan something like this and that we’d still be doing it at this point.
Now with Lulu (Emme Rylan) learning that Valentin is not a Cassadine, and Nina apparently moving on to a relationship with Jax, what do you think it will mean for their relationship in raising their daughter, Charlotte?
JAMES: I think in the short-term, Valentin’s shelved any ideas of getting her out of Charlotte’s life. He’s sort of putting out the fires in his own personal life. Charlotte needs a mother in her life, and he’s quite willing to share custody as they always have been. She seems to be looking at this as an opportunity to paint him as an unfit father, and she wants full-time custody. So, we’re back to that again. It looks to me like Lulu is kicking Valentin while he’s down.
It was so nice to see you, and some of your GH co-stars such as: Steve Burton (Jason) and Maurice Benard (Sonny) show up for Y&R’s Eric Braeden’s (Victor Newman) 40th anniversary on set celebration at CBS. It was quite the event; speakers galore, and so many from our industry and beyond in attendance.
JAMES: It was pretty profound. Eric has always been kind to me. I only worked with him on one movie, a western, called The Man Who Came Back, and that was probably 12 years ago. He has been so complimentary of me in interviews and in his book. So, if he does that with me, I can only imagine how many dear, dear friendships he has. So, the fact that everybody showed up like that from the president of CBS Entertainment to local councilmen, and that they were willing to do be there for 2 hours was really proof of how much they love him. Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R), who I don’t even think was working that day, came in for it and spoke at the event. There was so much respect shown for Eric and what he has meant to this medium.
Your album The Apple Tree was so well-received, and everyone always loves seeing you get the opportunity to sing on General Hospital as well. Will you continue to put out more music in 2020?
JAMES: Yeah, that’s the plan. I have another one that I’m working on. I have a bunch of songs. I’m in no rush to get it out. Unfortunately, I lost Glen Roven, who wrote the cello part for Book of Love, passed away right after the Nurses’ Ball where I played Book of Love, which is really heartbreaking, and then, Michael Sherwood, who helped me with a number of songs on the record passed away right after The Apple Tree came out. So, I’m a little gun-shy. But, I’m planning on having something out by December for Christmas.
In closing, what would you say the fans should look forward to in the weeks ahead from Valentin?
JAMES: Look forward to that moment where Valentin is so low that there’s nowhere to go but up! The comeback is going to be one for the books.
So, what do you think of how Valentin’s life hit rock bottom? Do you think he will ever win Nina back? Do you think he will takeover ELQ? Share your thoughts on James’ recent performances and his thoughts contained in this interview via the comment section below.