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Marine Vet Chris Van Etten Talks Tackling The Role Of GH’s Chet, Life As A Double-Amputee, And How He Hopes To Inspire Others

Photo Credit: Jason Marshall

In a two part video interview released today on The Michael Fairman Channel, Chris Van Etten, the actor/model/war vet who plays GH’s Chet Driscoll, and who shares the same name as GH head writer, Chris Van Etten, chatted with Fairman in an very inspiring and enlightening conversation.

Van Etten talks about: being cast as Amy’s war vet brother, Chet, filming his first scenes on a soap opera, and working with GH cast members: Kirsten Storms (Maxie), Risa Dorken (Amy), Ryan Paevey (Nathan), and Michael Easton (Finn) in key scenes where fans were introduced to his character.

In story, Amy pulled off the “Ask Man Landers” stunt to pay for Chet’s medical care, since the VA was not taking care of all his medical bills since he came home from the war. In real life, Chris was enlisted with the Marine Corps, and in 2012 was deployed to Afghanistan.

On one harrowing night, Chris stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) and the explosion caused Chris serious injuries resulting in him losing both of his legs.  The blast also killed his best friend in the battalion.  In a candid moment, Chris recounts the details of the event that would change his life forever, and the weeks and months that followed as he tried to cope with his new reality.

Courtesy/ABC

There are so many war veterans and people who live every day with chronic pain and PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) and Chris talks about how he has managed on a daily basis, when some days are not as easy as others.  Chris reveals how his service dog, Harley who began as a bomb dog in the war, has been by his side through his whole ordeal and beyond, and been a constant ray of light and support.

Before his appearances on GH, Van Etten first became known to the mainstream when he was chosen for Jockey Underwear’s ad campaign, “Show ‘Em What’s Underneath”.  Through fitness and facing any challenges thrown at him, Chris has made great strides in turning his life into an inspiration for others, who have suffered great personal tragedy, loss, or have an undergone a significant change to the life they have known.

We hope you will take the time to watch the two-part interview after the jump, and learn more about Chris’ real life story, and his successes coming out of his numerous challenges.

Would you like GH to write a larger story for Chet? What did you think of Chris sharing his struggles and war story with us in our interview?  Post your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Max DaddeeMichelleblakeSoaphoundJovin Recent comment authors
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Jimh
Jimh

I kind of like Chet and i believe he will get a major story with him attracted to Maxi…but the character of Amy just doesnt work for me on GH but i believe the actress would be better suited for a prime time comedy show appearances…other characters not working for me are Nina, Nathan, Franco…Dr,Brandt…Alexis…The two Jasons-story was done twice on OLTL with Jessica/Natalie and Todd/Victor…twin stories were done on Dark Shadows and Return To Peyton Place…Edge Of Night had lookalike Laura Hillyer/Julie Jamison-Laura was killed off after murdering lover Rick Oliver…Julie was her lookalike Riverboat singer accused of murder too…married laura’s husband Orin and she later died in a plane crash…then her cousin Elly Jo came to take care of Orin with plans to kill his pregnant daughter Liz hoping to inherit the Hillyer fortune…miss EON-daytimes only crime/mystery soap!!!

vinman
vinman

SO VERY RIGHT Jimh….EON….BEST CRIME/MYSTERY DAYTIME DRAMA EVER….

Jimh
Jimh

I wish those early episodes had survived…bugs me they wiped those and reused those tapes and it never will be seen again ecpet for the episodes from 1979 to its last episode…the 60s to mid 80s was its golden era and when the show was at its best!!!

Jimh
Jimh

meant to mid 70s-not mid 80s

Shay
Shay

@jimh…..I like Chet, too….I would love to see him become a regular GH character, provided Nurse Amy doesn’t come along for the ride! She…is…just…too….much!!! The “Man Landers” storyline so overexposed her and highlighted all of her annoying qualities that even small doses of her are impossible to handle. Quite frankly, Kiki would make a perfect mate for Chet, especially since her relationship with Dillion has hit the skids. Given Ms. Jerome’s emerging medical interests, it would make total sense for her to get together with this brave vet as he continues his rehabilitation at GH.

Jimh
Jimh

You know i mentioned that two under a different post…Kii and Chet…this Kiki has actually grown on me…well some so i dont mind her at all!!!

Jimh
Jimh

Sorry for typos…trying not let CFS get the best of me…Chronic fatigue is horrible-i feel like im constantly sedated!!!

rebecca1
rebecca1

I love ALL the characters you don’t like, jim…except Dr. Brandt. It’s not that I don’t like him…he just hasn’t been on enough or fleshed out. Perhaps his only purpose was to mentor Kiki and show interest in Alexis. Either way I think they did a disservice to James DePaiva who was so great years ago as Max Holden on OLTL.

Love Amy. Not her introduction…too obvious an attempt to recreate Amy Vining which was a fail. But once they gave her her own personality I just adore her. She’s too cute…and heart of gold.

Jimh
Jimh

I think her intro was a bit turn off to me..it might have been easier if she was somehow related to the original Amy…now i like the actress and think she could work greatly in prime tie comedy shows but i just cant get into her Amy character…i also like Nancy G but i dont like Alexis…James is just a filler moment to keep Alexis and Julian apart-i wish he had played Jeff Webber instead since i doubt Richard Dean Anderson would reprise the role…im sure Dr.Brandt isnt all he appears to be and will have a dark side…my opinions could change…wasnt too big on this Kiki and now i like her!!!!

Jovin
Jovin

Can we cut to the chase here?? Chris Van Etten is hired as co head writer of GH. Then a completely different CHRIS VAN ETTEN is cast in a role in the show. I’m not sure about Hollywood, but where I come from, Van Etten is not a very common last name. John Smith….sure!!! Frank Williams…okay! Chris Van Etten…two of them, both being hired by soap opera General Hospital?!?! Not a chance!!! Lol.

blake
blake

GH would be smart to keep Chris Van Etten and Chet on the show long term. He’s a good actor, very good looking and sexy!

su0000
su0000

Vet Chris Van Etten is a Marine , he is a survivor.
The journey he had, losing both legs, is unimaginable.
For him to become what and where he is, that folks is a hero in itself..

He has fought his battles and won his war, he will do well in all he does..
Hope to see him again, in GH .. He did very well !

Shay
Shay

Amen, su!!!!! Mr. Van Etten represents “The Few, The Proud” with honor and dignity!

Jovin
Jovin

You’ve lost your edge bro!!

blake
blake

I agree su0000, very impressed by Chris Van Etten!

Charday
Charday

What a beautiful person he is!

blake
blake

Agree!

rebecca1
rebecca1

Fantastic interview, Michael! Chris…you are beauty and grace. Your candid talk was so incredibly real, your smile so warm and your feelings so beautifully expressed. You truly are an inspiration…not to mention quite the looker! 😉

Soaphound
Soaphound

Agreed, and I want more of Chet. Sure beats more of this depressing drug story (despite the excellent Jessica Tuck). Kiki is free again, or soon will be.

blake
blake

You are right, more of Chet would be great for GH!

brian
brian

I really like Amy ! I wish people would just appreciate her more ! I find her quite funny and a welcome addition to the show…..

rebecca1
rebecca1

I agree, Brian. I’ve said so on other posts as well as above.

JK
JK

REFRESHING TO SEE A REAL PERSON AND A REAL HERO ON A SOAP!!!! HOPE A GOOD STORY LINE WILL DEVELOP….GH IS ON FIRE RIGHT NOW…..JUST DROP THE LATEST NEW SAVE THE NEIGHBORHOOD STORY.

blake
blake

Thank you so much for interviewing Chris Van Etten, a true hero! It also doesn’t hurt that he’s very handsome! So glad GH has had him on, I hope to see more of him and Chet on GH, how about on contract?

Michelle
Michelle

I LOVE the idea of Chet and Kiki together! He’s a refreshing character, please write more for him GH. I also really like the dynamic between he and his sister, love Amy too.

Max Daddee
Max Daddee

I appreciate his story, but GH pretty much skipped over his PTSD story and has moved him aside, it seems. I didn’t see signs of good energy that I like to see in an actor. Perhaps his GH role hasn’t been the best of fits for him. I’d like to see James DePaiva get more camera time and get in the forefront of some storylines. He’s my kind of actor.

Breaking News

Brandon Barash Replaces Tyler Christopher At DAYS

According to reports from Soap Opera Digest and Daytime Confidential, former General Hospital favorite Brandon Barash has temporarily replaced Tyler Christopher, in the role of Stefan DiMera at Days of our Lives.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Brandon played mobster Johnny Zacchara on GH from 2007-2016.

Because DAYS tapes well in advance; look for Barash to hit the air sometime in early 2019.

What are your thoughts on Brandon as temp replacement for Tyler as Stefan O? Comment below.

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Breaking News

GH’s Maurice Benard Takes On Role Of John Gotti In Upcoming Lifetime Movie

Who better to use their mobster experience playing the iconic role of Sonny Corinthos on General Hospital, and put it to good use, when taking on the role of a real-life mobster than Daytime Emmy winner, Maurice Benard?

As revealed over the past weekend, Maurice Benard is hard at work filming a Lifetime Movie based on the life of Victoria Gotti called “The Victoria Gotti Story”.

Sharing the news via his social media, Benard expressed: “Thank you lifetime and everyone involved 4 a Beautiful opportunity.”

Recently, John Travolta played the notorious New York mobster in the movie Gotti released earlier this year.

The infamous Gotti, had a wife and a daughter both named Victoria.  So as to which point of view the film is focusing on is yet to be released.

So what do you think of the casting of Maurice as John Gotti? Intrigued to see the Lifetime Movie when it debuts? Comment below

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General Hospital

General Hospital’s Max Gail Opens Up On Portraying Mike’s Battle With Alzheimer’s & Making A Difference In People’s Lives

“What happens the day I wake up, and you guys are the strangers,” says Mike to his son, Sonny and his wife Carly (Laura Wright). “I left you before to my everlasting regret, but it’s going to happen. I’d do anything if I didn’t have to do it again, but it’s going to happen – one way or the other.  At least this way I could leave some good feelings, instead of disappearing before your eyes.”  Those words were said during a gut-wrenching scene on Friday’s episode of General Hospital, as Mike tries to come to terms with his deteriorating mental state in his battle with Alzheimer’s, and the hard realization that he may be better off in a care facility, instead of at his son’s home.  These scenes, as all the scenes in this storyline, have been exquisitely played by Max Gail (Mike) and Maurice Benard (Sonny).

When Max Gail arrived on the GH canvas as the recast Mike Corbin in a role made soap-famous by Ron Hale, viewers did not know what to initially expect.  What they did know was that Max is an accomplished actor with a body of work from primetime dramas and comedies, film, and the stage, and that if he is coming to GH, he must be coming on board for something major.  Before GH, suffice to say, Gail is most remembered for his role as “Wojo” on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller that aired from 1975-1982.

In story on GH, Mike, who abandoned Sonny as a child, once again re-enters his son’s life, but soon we learn that he is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and that the soap is tackling a story that is an important medical, social, and familial issue of our time.

Gail has been a revelation in this role.  A clear frontrunner for an Emmy, playing the facets, the levels, the characteristics, and the heartbreak of a person who is slowly losing everything they know near and dear to them, as in the end they are ultimately stripped of their dignity from this most horrific of diseases.

On a personal note, and as part of this conversation with Max, it was important for him and for me to share, that I lost my mother at the end of April of this year to Alzheimer’s.  So his work hits close to home, this story hits close to home, as it has also resonated for many viewers who have shared their stories on social media and when Max makes personal appearances.

Here now is this very special interview for Michael Fairman TV with an actor whom we can all agree is touching all of our lives.

You’re portraying a person suffering from Alzheimer’s and play the progression of the disease.  Do you feel pressure as an actor to get it right for those who have loved ones, or person’s afflicted with it?

Courtesy/ABC

MAX:  It’s more like an urge, or a calling to find some kind of truth in it that I can connect with.  One of the things I’m inclined towards showing is someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia often just drifts off somewhere else.  “Where am I going?”  This has happened to me many times in life.  For instance, when I was a youngster, I can remember getting in my car, and I’d driven a long way from some party or something like that, and I’d been drinking, and I didn’t remember it.  I knew I’d gotten home somehow.  So, it’s not out of my realm.  I’ve learned that there are no set behaviors really… other than that it usually ends up being really difficult for caretakers, and seemingly really painful for many, if not most people suffering with Alzheimer’s, and losing connection and losing the ability to just function.  We are kind of on the cusp of that in story at GH.  I think it was originally proposed that I would play the part for just a few months, and to give me an out if it wasn’t working.  Maybe, there was a placeholder idea to ship Mike off to a home or something, but the storyline has touched so many people that it has been continuing.

The story has been so effective.  You’ve done such an amazing job, and the fans love Mike and what you’re doing with the character, and they’re on board on this journey.  It’ll be interesting to see how far they will take this with Mike.  Will we actually see him not being able to communicate anymore?  How far will the writers go to show the horrific aspects of Alzheimer’s? 

MAX:  I’m not sure.  You know, I’ve had times where I’ve got the scene, I get the writers, and I get the heart of it.  Other times, I find where that transition is from where Mike is lucid and clear, and other times what that state of mind is and that switch is, and what that is in behaviors and energy level.  I think there’s an ongoing downturn for Mike, and for me as an actor finding something in the moment and finding how it works with things that he does remember.  They’re trying to find a place for Mike within all of the interwoven drama of General Hospital.  I, frankly, had no idea how complex the range of storylines was.  Mike doesn’t really have control over his story.  I don’t want that as an actor.  Mike has some intentions that are really important to him.  I’m trying to find that balance where there are times when he has a pathetic, very sad remorse about what he has missed.  I think that underlies his feelings for his son, who he never could quite reach, because of his own failings as a father.  Sonny’s formative experiences growing up were then with his abusive stepdad.  Finding all of that is really important to do in a way that doesn’t make Mike just this sweet older man with Alzheimer’s.   It’s a wonderful challenge to be presented with.

Courtesy/CBS

You brought up that Mike is seemingly very sweet in his demeanor now.  My mother, who I shared with you died a few months ago from Alzheimer’s was a strong-willed, feisty woman.  As the disease took hold of her, she became very sweet.   She became almost childlike.  The fire had gone out of her eyes.  You knew she didn’t know who you were, and so, all of that, as you know is so tough to witness as her son.  In terms of Mike and his ultimate care, everyone says they love him and want what is best for him, but that he needs to be taken care of because he gets confused, doesn’t know where he is sometimes. etc.  Sonny has been grappling with putting him in a care facility to be looked after, or to keep him with the Corinthos family under their roof.  However, Mike has come to a realization that he may need to be in facility all on his own, and doesn’t want to burden his son by living with him anymore.  That was a poignant moment, and another one of the best scenes has been when Mike couldn’t remember that Sonny was his own son. 

MAX:  Right and he doesn’t know if he’s around friends or around enemies.  This can be true of Alzheimer’s patients.

I had that happen with my mother when she came out to Los Angeles to see me for the last time.  She was out of her element, she was confused, and she broke down and cried in the hotel room.  She asked my father, “Why did you bring me here?” and he told her, “We came to see our son.”  It was heartbreaking.   Later, she had a moment of clarity and realized more of what was going on.  I think it’s those in-and -out moments that you portray so well on-screen.  I feel that they are very realistic to what I, and others, have experienced.

Courtesy/ABC

MAX:  I appreciate that and sharing that with me, because you never know as an actor.  That place of “Where am I?  What is this?” makes me think of that “Summer Wind” moment from the Nurses’ Ball when it wasn’t just, “I’m embarrassed.  I don’t remember the words.”  It was, “I don’t know where the f**k I am.  I thought there was a band there, but there’s not.”  So, in a way, I just had to be there on this big soundstage and just feel this big space around me.  I could barely see that there were people out there.  It’s kind of a terrifying thing to a lot of people, but I think Mike has something in him that makes him want to be okay with all of this.  He doesn’t have to freak out and get accusatory.

Courtesy/ABC

What has it been like working with Maurice Benard as your on-screen son?  Do you watch back your scenes together and ever go, “Oh, that was great!?”

MAX:  Yes, there have been a lot of those!  There are some scenes that are so emotionally focused, and we get a lot of delight in each other.  He has been playing this character in this situation for so long, so it’s just kind of in him.  Maurice has presence.  I think when I went in to read for the part of Mike, I had gone through pilot season and had gone in for some interesting pilots.  I didn’t feel like I was really connecting in the readings, because most things are by tape these days, anyway.  When this part came up, a soap hadn’t really been on my radar.  I knew I’d be going in to read with the actor, so I said, “Okay,” and I looked at the material, and then I checked out Maurice on IMDB.  One of the things that got my interest was that he has been diagnosed and takes medication to deal with bipolar disorder, and that’s become a part of his life, and it’s become part of his character.  I thought, “Wow, that’s really interesting.  This is a survivor, and he’s risen to something that takes a certain kind of balance and courage.”  I watched some clips, and when I went in for the reading of this kind of an amalgamation scene of what the story elements were going to be, I felt like we connected before we’d even started the dialogue.

Well, Maurice certainly loves working with you! He has been very supportive and vocal about that.

MAX:  It’s mutual.  We can take really little simple moments, and we can find something deeper in it, and it doesn’t have to be an, ‘I’m going to start crying now’ moment.  Although, I would love for Mike to have a moment of self-observation where he goes, “Gee.  I cry a lot more than I used to.”  I think there are people who are like that, and it’s okay for certain people to cry, and for other people it is not.

Courtesy/ABC

There was a part of my mom that knew something was wrong.  She’d go, “Why am I crying?  I don’t know why I’m crying.”  She got confused as to why she was feeling that.  She couldn’t connect it all, and at times she kept saying, “I don’t understand.  I don’t understand.”  Those were the things she would try to express.

MAX:  I have a feeling that Mike has those moments too, but he finds a way for it to be okay.  There may be a point where someone with Alzheimer’s can’t pull it off anymore, but how we find those and those specifics, I don’t know.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

Working on a classic sitcom such as Barney Miller is vastly different than working on a daytime soap opera.  While now being at GH, have you found any commonality within the experience?

MAX:  If I can take a moment and reflect on Barney Miller, because it was a great experience and one that I found was not so easy to find again over the years.  One of the things that really resonates is that when we started shooting the studio audience laughed too easily.  We would end up retaking the scenes.  Sometimes, we didn’t have the end of the show written, because they tended to let certain things start to show up in the earlier parts of the script.  Danny Arnold who was the writer, creator and producer of Barney Miller would always take over the way Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) does in a way … looking to be respectful of the director, but still seeing things on his own.  Frank has a really wonderful eye.  He’s much more connected into the overall storylines, the motivations that went into the writing, and what he sees in the moment.  I always welcome him on the set because the directors, who have a range of talents and sensibilities, are tasked with coming up with a whole lot of shots to cover, a whole lot of tricky angles, and all of that.

Courtesy/ABC

Vernee Watson has been amazing as Stella, who is also Mike’s social worker.  Does Mike have romantic feelings toward Stella?

MAX:  Vernee is wonderful.  I didn’t know Vernee had been on the show when I came on board.  She won an Emmy, and I’m not surprised.   She is so present and so specific, and she’s very bright and gets what all of these elements are, and so, I think they have a connection.  For whatever ways Mike has lived in his like, there isn’t some strange, exotic draw that she is black, and Mike is white.  I like that because both my first and late wife, and my second wife, with whom I’ve had children (and we’ve been separated for awhile, but have a great relationship) are African-American.  So, in my world that is not a big deal.   I think there’s an affinity there between Mike and Stella.  You know, he’s alive.  He’s old, but he’s not dead.  There’s an ease with women he likes.  I think there are a whole lot of reasons for them to not get involved.  One is just professional, and she’s a social worker.  We just shot something where I say something to somebody else about, “back when I still had all my marbles,” you know, he’s in another stage of life, which many people go into gracefully, while many don’t.

 

What do you think about how Mike knows about who was buried at Charlie’s Pub?  He was trying to keep the truth about Charlie Delaney from coming out, which turned into a gas leak that blew up the bar!  This storyline ties in to Sonny’s mobster dealings as well.

MAX:  Well, this is where they put this effort in the storytelling to connect Mike in some way and be intertwined with Sonny.  Of course, it reveals certain things about Mike that he’s never revealed to anybody before.  So, that’s kind of cool.  I think when he knows what and how much sometimes is not clear.  That’s why I started talking about Barney Miller because the other thing was a lot of times when we go together for the table reads, they didn’t have the end of the story.  They had a first draft, maybe. Dan would talk about it, and they’d say, “Next week, the main story is going to be this man in his fifties who is coming to terms with the fact that he is gay,” or whatever those underlying themes may be with the different characters reactions.  So, we knew elements going into it and that sometimes I  didn’t know what the writers are really intending.  In terms of Mike, he’s kind of back and forth in certain moments.  I have to resist the idea that they trap me by just being careless.  I’ve learned that just trying to fix the script often gets you into a place where you “rehearse yourself out of it,” as they say.

Courtesy/GoodDayLA

You appeared on the morning show Good Day LA  a few months back with Laura Wright (Carly), and Maria Shriver, who has founded the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.  What was that like meeting Maria, and helping get the word out about the effects of this disease and the work Maria is doing?

MAX:  It was great to do.  Maria had sent out a tweet that is was wonderful what was going on, on General Hospital.  On Good Day LA, she talked about her work, particularly focusing on the fact that more women are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s than men.  So, then Laura and I sat down and did an interview alongside Maria.  We actually had a nice conversation before.  They did a web interview also as a follow-up.  That was very cool, because Maria is very smart, and I’d never met her, but it was great to see what she was doing.  Whatever we are dealing with in the show is sort of my opportunity in the real world to bring awareness and shed light on the subject.  I’d love to see an ongoing conversation online amongst people who can share their stories with each other.  That’s a lot of what they’re doing.  They’re raising money for research, but people need to be able to talk to each other when you’re a caregiver.  Coming out of the early sixties and early seventies when I was playing a cop on TV, I never was a fanatic activist.  I certainly got the behavior of the Chicago police at a certain time in terms of the energy and conflicts of the time.  There was something to think about, but at the same time, I had opportunities to kind of share that all cops aren’t bad, just look at the show, Barney Miller.

Courtesy/ABC

You were my favorite character on Barney Miller as Detective Wojciehowicz!  I think for many who watched the show you were, too!

MAX:  I think “Wojo” ended up being the heart of the show.

Max, you’re helping people through your beautiful performances including me.  Congratulations on that.   I’ll continue have to have a box of Kleenex handy as I watch how it all unfolds for Mike.

Photo: IMDB

MAX:  Well, I really appreciate your questions.  I’m just planting that seed.  That is really what I would like to do after talking to you and so many people.  That’s something I’d like to put out there.   We each have our own domains and responsibilities and all of it overlaps, and you can kind of get in touch with that; if you just go around the circle and share it, and then go around again.  I’m looking to help people out there in the world who are watching and are looking to share in the conversation.

So, what did you think about the heartbreaking scenes on Friday’s episode of GH between Mike and Sonny?  What have you thought of Max Gail’s performance throughout his GH run?  Have you experienced the loss, or are watching someone you love, or care about slip away from Alzheimer’s?  Share your thoughts via the comment below.

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Video du Jour

This weekend we mourn the loss of General Hospital’s beloved Susan Brown who played Gail Baldwin. Here is her final scene from 2004 when Gail and her husband Lee (the late Peter Hansen) showed up at Lila’s funeral and had an exchange with Alan and Monica. Share your thoughts on Susan’s passing via the link below. Leave A Comment

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