Photo Credit: Denice Duff
When 2016 arrived on General Hospital, Nina Clay (Michelle Stafford) and Franco (Roger Howarth) finally consummated their relationship, which has been a moment that was months in the making. With the red-hot Michelle Stafford, and Roger Howarth finally having their alter egos hitting the sheets, it was a game-changer for the duo known on social media as “Nico”. And while Nina finally got some lovin’ from her man in the bedroom, she was also put in the most unlikely of circumstances in her new job as fashion editor-in-chief for the publication “Crimson”… and with absolutely no experience!
With Julian Jerome (William deVry) trying to thwart Nina’s attempts at every turn to make the publication a profitable success, somehow Nina has been able to dig herself out of some dire moments with some savvy sensibilities! Who would have thought this? Coming from the once troubled and disturbed woman who came to Port Charles vowing revenge on everyone she deemed had wronged her after she laid in a coma for 20 years!
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with the sensational Michelle Stafford to get her thoughts on: how GH’s latest head writers, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, seem to be envisioning and navigating Nina in story, if she thinks Nina and Franco can survive over time, and what she thinks the future holds for Nina in the new year. Meanwhile in real life, Stafford recently welcomed her beautiful baby boy Jameson to the family, and is about to appear in the new motion picture, Durant’s Never Closes, and just launched a skin care line. Here’s what Michelle had to say about how she portrays Nina to make her a viable character with staying power on the daytime drama landscape, and more!
Last week, GH viewers saw Franco and Nina having sex and hitting the sheets. The lead up to it showed that Nina seemed to still be very sensitive, and somewhat afraid to take that next step in their relationship. I thought you were great in those scenes.
MICHELLE: I know there were differences of opinions from the powers-that-be on Nina and Franco finally having sex. Some people wanted them to have sex like a year ago. Some people wanted it to be more drawn out. I think there was that fight of, “Should they just do it?” But Franco has to earn her love, because she has been basically so portrayed in her life. Franco knows that, and he is sensitive to that. I think for Nina being in the coma, and her mother being responsible for putting her in a coma, and just yesterday she was 20, she missed out on a lot. Emotionally, she’s off, for sure. Franco saves her. She looks at him as if he saved her, which is why I liked the line in the scene where she says, “I was broken.” Nina was. She was shattered before he came around. They are both very painful characters, and there is something about that in life that commonality of pain. You meet people in your life, and let’s say you both have lost a parent, and so there is a commonality in your pain. I think in my case a lot of women come to me who have had a hard time having a baby, or had miscarriages. They will seek me out. So there is a commonality in that, and the same goes for Franco and Nina.
When Ron Carlivati (former head writer, GH) was writing the character, Nina was unhinged, and had her revenge plan. Now, under the latest head writers, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, would you say that they had to soften the character a bit?
Photo Credit: Joshua Shultz
MICHELLE: We definitely had a changing of the guard. But I do remember my very first conversation with Ron. I said, “I want to play someone crazy. I want to play someone off. I want to play someone who is seemingly amazing and the perfect woman, but behind closed doors, she’s insane.” I said, “That’s what I want to play.” Ron said, “Great! I’ll write it.” I don’t know what GH originally had in their minds for Nina, but it could have been very much like another character that I played in daytime, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t playing essentially the same character. So this is what happened: as you work on a show, and continue on it, people start to go, “Hey! I like this”, or “I like this character, but she’s crazy. She took a baby out of a woman’s womb and left her essentially to die. Wow! I shouldn’t like her!” I think you have that after a year, and I will bring up The Young and the Restless. We had that with Phyllis when I started playing her, too. Bill Bell Jr. (Co-creator, Y&R) liked me, and the character of Phyllis. So he wrote her a bit softer. We learned why she was the way she was, and that she had family issues. I think that a bad, evil character that takes babies out of other women’s bodies, I think they only stick around for 8 months on daytime. That is usually because, as an audience member you cannot root for that person, and you cannot continually see that person try to harm others. You have to create a real human being. I would say that would also be true for the character of Ava (Maura West). They created a real human being along with Maura West. I also think GH did that early on with the character of Carly (now Laura Wright). So, I think that is really what is happening here. I was actually told this by someone at ABC at one point: “I couldn’t see Nina sticking around the way that she has been.” So I think that is what Jean and Shelly are doing. They are now looking at the character through a microscope, and figuring out what her back-story is along with her essence.
Nina has definitely been a polarizing character. I kept thinking over and over, “How are they going to save the character?” Did you think that, as well?
MICHELLE: The whole time I have been like, “I will show why Nina is the way she is.” I think those are the most compelling characters. When we are working through this world, people are flawed. In daytime TV, we don’t want to just watch a bunch of “normal” people. We want to see their flaws. We want to see them overcome their flaws, actually. We want to see them be better, and do the right things, but maybe continuously fall apart. But, can you imagine living your life knowing your mother intentionally put you in a coma that lasted 20 years? She tried to take her daughter down. You don’t have to look too far to see where Nina’s rage comes from. If I was in a coma for 20 years, I certainly wouldn’t have the muscle tone (laughs) that Nina has. We suspend our disbelief there! (Laughs). I personally understand where her rage comes from. I think from the beginning, when she comes back her husband Silas doesn’t want her anymore. She doesn’t fit into this life. The only emotion she can grasp is revenge. It’s the only way she feels powerful. Now that she found someone who loves her for herself, which is probably the first time this has happened in her life, that’s a beautiful thing. It has changed her.
Did you have a conversation with the ladies, Jean and Shelly, about Nina, and where they wanted to take her?
MICHELLE: I think I wanted to know what their take was on the character, because they are the ones that are going to map it out. The one thing I did want to happen for her is to see her evolve into a strong woman. I just think in daytime that is what women want to see, even if the character is weak. The audience wants to see her get her strength, and her life back. That was really important to me … that we see her evolve, and that she is not bouncing around like a 15-year-old anymore. Another element that I am adding to that, is now that she has had sex she wants to do that all the time! She just wants to have sex every single second of the day. (Laughs)
So, now all day long Nina is craving sex with Franco? (Laughs)
MICHELLE: They are writing that, which makes me really happy. (Laughs) When Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) said, “We are not going to have Franco and Nina have sex for a while. Franco has to earn it.” I said to Frank, “I think he has! He put his life on the line for her.” Frank said “No, no, no.” I said, “OK. Then you have got to write-in why she is not.” You have to address it, because the audience is going to go, “Why are these two hot people not ‘doing’ it?” These are two adults. It doesn’t make sense. They are so in love, and they are not consummating anything. So, when they made Nina so insecure about it, and being able to communicate to Franco how she felt, I thought, “OK, this works.” She was scared, and that’s true. We are all scared when we sleep with someone we love for the first time. There is not one person who does not feel that way. I loved that about her. The woman in the audience really responded to that. They loved that there was a character who was afraid to hop in bed. It was refreshing to them, and that was the consensus.
Did you watch back the sex scene when it aired? What did you think of it?
MICHELLE: I saw it back. I liked it. It was a very professional experience, and Roger was extremely professional.
There was a lot of messy hair! I liked Roger and your messy hair! (Laughs) I thought they cut out of the scene a bit early though.
MICHELLE: I liked everyone’s messy hair. I liked it, and look, Roger is hot. What woman doesn’t want to see Roger Howarth on-screen? He’s super sexy, and that is just that! (Laughs)
So many of the women I interview in daytime all say that, “Michelle Stafford has the most rocking body.” I would concur. You are in great shape.
MICHELLE: That is really nice of you. Thank you. You know, I should start figuring out what I do. But, I’m tall, so that helps …and you should see my mom! She’s pretty hot. I appreciate you seeing that, because now I am of an age where I own it, and go, “I’m a hot piece of ass.” I also eat really well. I have exercised since I was 19-years-old. Now if I go a month without working out, I think your body can adapt, and it sort of clicks on. But listen, I have flaws. I am just hiding them. I mean, please!
So when you have to do daytime sex scenes, do you have the freedom and confidence to do them … or is it still an uneasy, and uncomfortable thing to have to do?
Photo Credit: Michael Doven
MICHELLE: Sometimes, it depends on my partners, and how they feel. Like when I would do sex scenes with Joshua Morrow (Nick, Y&R). He is like a brother to me, and so every single day I was at frat party when I worked with Joshua. So, we kept it really fun. You have to keep sex scenes like this really fun, or else it’s uncomfortable. Roger is a married guy. It can be weird, but it wasn’t. He was so lovely about everything, and at one point he had to hide my boobs when my dress had to fall down in the scene. I said, “Roger don’t look down.” He was like, “OK, I won’t.” He’s a good guy like that, and he will have your back. You know, he’s not going to walk away and leave you standing there with your boobs facing the crew.
Who came up with the idea for Nina becoming the editor of “Crimson”?
MICHELLE: Oh, it was totally Jean and Shelly. I think it’s really cool. The wardrobe that I get to wear now is kicking! I love everything that I get to put on, and I’m so excited. I was jumping around! Shawn Dudley-Reeves (costume designer, GH) did an amazing job with the wardrobe … it’s very edgy, and very New York. He really out did himself. You see it all kind of come about from the red dress at the Nutcracker gala, and from that point on it has been Nina’s new wardrobe. Shawn really knows how to dress me.
In terms of such a leap in character development, were you at all thinking: “This doesn’t make much sense. Nina has no business experience, or any experience in the fashion world.”
MICHELLE: They wrote that in for her, and so it’s fine. I am good with anything they want to do as long as it’s logical. Nina is very savvy, and smart. She conned Silas, and everyone else. I think the reason people may not think that is because sometimes she bounces around like a teenager. So people will equate that with being a dumbbell. I think we are going to see that side of her more, and just how smart she is.
Do you think that Nina is fully aware that Julian (William deVry) is setting her up to constantly fail?
MICHELLE: She is not aware of it, and that is where she falls. She is a very smart person, but not very street smart, only because she has been out of the game for 20 years. 2016 is actually going to be a really great year for Nina. We’re going to see this really great ballsy, smart woman evolve from someone that was so betrayed. She is not going to do it by being evil. She is going to do it with her intelligence, and I really dig that.
What did you think of the plot point when the issues of “Crimson” came back all messed up, and completely in green?
MICHELLE: That was so fun. Can I just tell you how much I love my little Kirsten Storm (Maxie)? She is so funny and adorable, and we have such a good time working together.
What about working with Robert Palmer Watkins (Dillon) in the “Crimson” mix?
MICHELLE: Oh, my God. He is the greatest guy, and the three of us are kind of finding our vibe. Dillon comes into the picture, and is a little stiff in the beginning (laughs), but he is loosing up as time goes on! (Laughs) His position is just trying to deal with these two lunatic chicks. There is that scene where we find out the issues turned out all green, and it’s kind of funny, because Nina is having champagne out of the bottle while we are celebrating. Nina has champagne in one hand and a glass in the other. She sees the issues came out green and she starts screaming, “Don’t panic! Don’t panic! Don’t panic!” That was really fun! Then Ryan Paevey (Nathan) comes into the mix. Nina is telling him how she is handling the situation. Maxie is against the way Nina is handling it. So we have this scene with Ryan, and so I said to Kirsten, “Why don’t we make this scene about that we are competition for his approval?” Because that is what really happens with sisters. (Laughs) We played it like that. So, Maxie was upset that Nathan was taking Nina’s side. (Laughs)
Did you love how Nina was able to save the day with the “Green” issue of “Crimson”?
MICHELLE: I love that Nina put out the “Green” issue, and then she spinned it that it was an environmental issue, hence the color, and after that it goes out to the world people are responding to it, going, “Oh wow! So ‘Crimson’ is saying that we are making a huge social statement with this issue.” It turned out to be the best selling issue that “Crimson” has ever had. (Laughs)
What do you think the future holds for the boss/employee relationship between Julian and Nina?
MICHELLE: Julian wants to fold the magazine. What is coming in the future is that Nina is eventually on to him. She looses it on him like: “You’re trying to purposely screw me over, and suppress me. No!” So we will see her smarts come out in that way, too. She wants to make “Crimson” a success. This is so important to her. It’s her life. She has never had anything else, but money. She had this mother who was hovering over her all the time trying to get her money. Now Nina is doing something for herself. That is a big deal in our lives, especially when we finally accomplish something for ourselves. I think as time goes on it’s going to affect her relationship with Franco. I think there is a very interesting element about that. That is what I was talking to Jean and Shelly about, because Franco has always has been fixing her, and now she is saving herself, and that had got to affect their relationship. But that could be, and I don’t know if it will be, but that could be the end of it for them, because then Franco doesn’t need to fix her anymore. That is such an interesting relationship thing, because that really happens out in the real world.
Now we are seeing Franco trying to help Jake (James Nigbor) through art therapy. The little boy has something very disturbing going on that will reveal itself. This can’t bode well for Nina and Franco, because it also pulls Franco more into Elizabeth’s (Rebecca Herbst) orbit.
MICHELLE: Franco is helping Jake with his anger issues, and he is now growing closer to Elizabeth because of it, which is great.
I think Jake is not going to want Franco spending time with Nina!
MICHELLE: I think Franco is having so many problems with this kid that he is working with this, that he can’t get find time to get together with Nina. Maybe, the kid doesn’t want Nina and Franco together, too. I could see in the future that Nina would want to have a baby with Franco; she is in love with him. She missed out of so much in her life, and didn’t have a baby. That is a very, very, very deep pain for a woman.
What did you think of Jason Thompson (Ex-Patrick) departing GH for your old stomping grounds at Y&R?
MICHELLE: Oh, Thompson! I was one of the last to know. I said, “Are you leaving?” And he said, “Yeah”. Then I saw another actor in the hallway who said, “Yes. Jason is leaving and he is going to Y&R to play Billy Abbott.” I’m like, “What? No! What?” I congratulated Jason. I told him there are great people over at Y&R, and then we went on to talking about other things.
Did you submit yourself for the Daytime Emmy race this year?
MICHELLE: No, I didn’t. To be honest, I have been so busy with my newborn son, and the new skincare line I launched that I didn’t jump on it.
You have some other exciting projects happening: The motion picture, in which you have a key role in Durant’s Never Closes, has its premiere next week in Phoenix. What was that like to work with Tom Sizemore, who stars in the film?
MICHELLE: Sizemore is bigger than life! I love the guy, and he is an amazing actor. He didn’t miss a line, and he was on point when we did our scenes. He was great to work with. I like my stuff, and I was really directed almost down to like a line read. The director was very specific about what he wanted. It’s interesting to me to see how I maneuvered it. Sometimes the choices weren’t necessarily my choices, but again he wanted very certain things like no tears, and the emotions of my character all underneath the surface. I have never been directed so much. It was interesting to see. People are enjoying our scenes the most from the feedback the director is getting from those who have seen the film, thus far.
You play Suzie in Durant’s Never Closes. Is she a good person at heart?
MICHELLE: You realize in the movie that Jack Durant is probably already dead, and this is a man coming to terms with his life throughout the film, and how horrible he was to people, and the mistakes he made. My character comes into the bar to see him. She is the love of his life. Suzie is the character that he betrayed the most, and the one person he feels most guilty about. She is a lovely person, but she is in love with the bad guy. What are you going to do? We have all been there and done that, right? She is love with the dangerous, brooding, interesting guy, and we have all been there.
You recently added your beautiful new baby boy to the Stafford family. How did you arrive at the decision to name him, “Jameson”?
MICHELLE: I wanted to name him “Jones”, and my daughter Natalia wouldn’t have it. My dad was like, “Jones? What kind of name is that?” So then I responded back, “Well, I’m definitely naming him ‘Jones’!” (Laughs) Then I thought to myself Natalia is going to be saying his name more than I am, statistically. I said “Jameson”, and she wouldn’t let go of it. I guess Natalia really named him. So my son’s name is Jameson Jones Lee Stafford. Lee is my stepfather’s last name People are asking me, “Are you going to call him ‘J’ or ‘JJ’”? I am like: “No. I’m going to call him, ‘Jameson’.” He’s almost three months old now.
Movies, motherhood, GH and now you even have a launched a new skin care line, “Coco Luxe”. You are one busy gal!
MICHELLE: Yes, I am currently selling it through Amazon. As the year goes on we will have like 20 products. They are unisex products, and they are organic.
Can we just talk about those passionate GH #Nico fans on social media?
MICHELLE: Oh, my God! The Nico fans are out of their minds! (Laughs) They are a bunch of horny chicks, and I love em! They are so funny, and there are some very cool comments. It’s really out of control. They have been very supportive, and they love the coupling. I think the characters provide a different vibe on GH, and are very romantic. And how interesting it is to have this romantic love story from these two somewhat crazy characters? Roger is such a good actor. He is so present. Roger understands how to make something interesting. When I am in a scene with him, it’s one thing, but when I see it back I see something I didn’t notice that is so good. When I am acting in a scene with him, I am listening to him and reacting to that, and not watching him act. When I do watch it back, I love the way he plays Franco, and how in love he is with her. I can’t say enough great things about his work. I think he is great. He always brings something new. It’s a really fun working relationship that I have with him … it really is.
Being that it is you and Roger Howarth, fans are suspecting that the two of you ad-lib a lot in your scenes. Is that true?
Photo Credit: Michael Doven
MICHELLE: No, we never do! It’s so funny that people always think we do. Roger is not the guy who is going to throw something at you that you didn’t expect. I’m an actually more of that person, which not always worked great with Roger; he really likes to know what’s coming. He likes to work out what’s coming so he knows. Now sometimes I can’t tell him exactly how I’m going to do something, because we’re acting. I think that is sometimes where we have had challenges with each other! (Laughs) Anyone who works with me knows that about me – once I’m acting – I am acting and in it. That’s what you get with ‘The Stafford’! (Laughs) Roger has it worked out to the point so when he does it on camera, he can be free with it. I think that is his style. With Roger, I am going to get a really great actor to work with, who likes to play, and really can act. I appreciate that about him. I am just really interested to see what the writers are ultimately going to do with these two characters.
So in closing, if the writers were to break up Franco and Nina, who else do you think Nina would have the “hots” for on the Port Charles canvas?
MICHELLE: I don’t know, but if they were to break up we have to work up to that point. Now, she is someone who still doesn’t really like Ava, and she knows it wasn’t right, but she had no control over her emotions. However, I think these first six months of the year; viewers are going to see a very different Nina that people can really get behind.
So, what did you think of the Nico sex scene? Do you hope Franco and Nina stay together, or do you find a possible Liz and Franco pairing intriguing? If so, who should Nina then become romantically involved with? What do you think of Nina becoming the editor-in-chief of “Crimson”? Are you excited to see how the character evolves through 2016? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!