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Maurice Benard, Donna Mills, and Laura Wright Talk The Making Of JOY, David O. Russell's Praise Of Soap Actors, And Each Other!

Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace

Christmas Day will be extra special this season for soap opera fans, because four of the genre’s most acclaimed and notable performers will be appearing on the big screen in David O. Russell’s latest film, JOY!

General Hospital’s Laura Wright (Carly) and Maurice Benard (Sonny), Knots Landing and GH star Donna Mills (Ex-Abby, Ex-Madeline), and former All My Children icon, and now Devious Maids star Susan Lucci (Ex-Erica, now Genevieve) all take part in scenes woven through the movie within the fictional soap, “The Joyful Storm”.

JOY pairs O. Russell once again with Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role in story inspired by the rags-to-riches real-life struggles of Joy Mangano, who became the entrepreneur/inventor of the self-wringing Miracle Mop.  Virginia Madsen plays Jennifer Lawrence’s soap-opera-obsessed mother, Terry, and throughout the film’s motif, there are dream sequences where the real life characters in the movie interact with the soap opera characters!  O. Russell also brings back along with Lawrence his other dream team cast members of: Bradley Cooper, and the legendary Robert DeNiro for his third collaboration after the Oscar nominated films, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle.

On-Air On-Soaps conducted an informative, humorous, candid, and genre-appreciating roundtable interview with Maurice Benard, Laura Wright, and Donna Mills to find out: what it was like to work with the famed O. Russell and his A-team on the set, how they were cast in the movie, their thoughts on meeting Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence, their gratitude for O. Russell’s recent comments on the qualities of the soap actors, and much more.  We couldn’t have more JOY than to bring you three of our favorites to mark this occasion for them, their fans, and daytime just as the film is set to open nationwide.

Each of you had a unique and interesting experience on how it came to pass that you landed your roles in JOY.  Laura and Maurice, is it true that Jennifer Lawrence saw you in a scene on GH, and got David O. Russell to watch it with her, and then they decided to get in touch with the both of you?

Photo Credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace

LAURA:  I was told they saw the scene where Carly and Sonny both got arrested.  I was in one jail cell, and Maurice was in the other.  I believe it was after Sonny was arrested for killing AJ.  I was then called in and I actually auditioned with Jennifer Lawrence in front of David O. Russell, which was last November 2014.  It was an improv scene.  There are no “scenes” with David. (Laughs)  He just kind of gives you a scenario and he says, “Go!”

Laura, what was that like for you being there with Jennifer and David … a surreal moment in your acting career?

LAURA:  I am thinking to myself, “Am I really sitting here two inches away from Jennifer Lawrence (Laughs), and playing these emotional moments and beats, and doing improv with her while her dog is jumping all around us?”  It was the weirdest experience ever, but it was so awesome. (Laughs)

What happened with you, Maurice?

MAURICE:  I got a call that I’m going to Boston where they were filming.   So, I had to fly.  It has been ten years since I had flown.  It scared the hell out of me, but I did it!  But when I got on the plane I almost got off again, but my wife Paula looked at me with that look! (Laughs)  So, I stayed on the plane, and when all was said and done I had a great time with Donna and Susan, and kinda Laura. (Laughs)

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Donna, you actually first auditioned for the role of Joy’s mother in the film, correct?

DONNA:  Yes.  I got a call from my agent saying, “David O. Russell is looking for you!”  I said, “Really?  OK!”   David brought me in to read for the part of Joy’s mother. The part ultimately went to Virginia Madsen.  But, I had the same experience as Laura.  David brought Jennifer Lawrence into read with me, which was really nice.  It was all improv.  It was all, “Fall down on the couch and pretend that you’re comatose, and do this, and do that …”   David walked out of the room to take a phone call at one point.  Jennifer said to me, “I know this seems strange, just trust him.”  She then said, “The first movie I did with him (Silver Linings Playbook) I thought I will never work again in this business.  This is the worst thing I’ve ever done.”  She went on to say, “However, I trusted him, and it turned out great.”  Telling me to just trust him, and go with it, was really the best advice that I ever got.  So, I did not get that role, but then weeks, and weeks, and weeks later they called and said, “You got another role!”  I said, “Oh!  OK, great.  What is the role?”  They said, “Well, just go there. You’ll find out.” (Laughs)  That is how this all happened.  It was just wonderful.

LAURA:  Yes, they said to me, “Just go there and find out.”  Nobody had scripts.

DONNA:  Nobody knew what they were doing, until we actually got on the set!

LAURA:  All the crew laughed at us.  We were like, “Do we get a script?”  And they would go, “Umm. Yeah, but it doesn’t really meaning anything!” (Laughs)

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

DONNA:  It was a very unique experience.  He is a very unique director.  I think a bit of brilliant, really.  David has such a vision in his head, and he knows what he wants.   I don’t think every actor could work with him, because it’s a very strange way of working, but he loves actors!  He loves what you can do.  So, just like Jennifer said, you just have to trust him.

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LAURA:  David is also very passionate about it.  It’s his words, and his vision.  He is very supportive and wants to hear what you have to say, and he is a 100% part of the scene, because he is right there with you.

Maurice, what was the role you played in the soap opera “The Joyful Storm”?

MAURICE:  I don’t know! (Laughs)  I just play a guy.   David would tell me to say things and I would do it.  I had a nice scene with Susan Lucci.  It was scary, but it was a blast.  You basically get on the set.  David would say things like, “Maurice smile.”  You kind of had to listen, and not listen.  It’s a challenge, but I was into it.

Courtesy/ABC

DONNA:  David was usually shooting with two cameras, too.  So that one camera would be getting a close up of Laura, and one camera would be getting a wide shot, etc.  However, you never knew what camera was shooting what.

So Maurice, you don’t play a Sonny Corinthos-type mob boss then?

MAURICE:  I kind of decided to play it like the Sonny character, unless David would tell me not to do that, but he never did.  So, I just kept doing what I was doing.  We would kind of figure it out and then we just do the scenes.

Soap fans are trying to envision how the fictitious soap opera “The Joyful Storm” is woven into the movie.  It has an integral part in telling Joy’s story.  What can you share?

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

LAURA:  The character Terry, that Virginia Madsen plays, is obsessed with soap operas, and that is basically how she kind of raised Joy in that world.  With the journey that Joy goes on, she flashes into this dream world of daytime television, and that’s where we are.  We are in our own world, per se.  We never worked directly with Virginia.  Susan Lucci had a bit more direct contact with Jennifer Lawrence, but it still was in a very dream-like state.

The stills from the motion picture reveal there are a lot of big soapy hair styles going on for the female soap characters!

LAURA:  I have to say at first I was so proud, because I was going, “I don’t have to use a wig!” But now, you don’t know how bad I wished I had used a wig!  Donna and Susan would walk in and put the wig on their heads and be done; meanwhile I am still sitting there in hair and make-up being teased and pulled – it was awful!

DONNA:  Well, that’s because you have great hair!

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

MAURICE:  I had a wig on the whole time! (Laughs)  And, I did have sideburns, too!

DONNA:  We actually have four different looks in the movie spanning four decades.

Maurice, what did you think when in his Hollywood Reporter roundtable interview with other noted directors, David O. Russell called you the “Marlon Brando of soaps”?

MAURICE:  Marlon Brando was an idol of mine when I started acting.  I was just so humbled from David saying that.  Laura called me “Marlon Brando” just today!

LAURA:  Laura does NOT call him “Marlon Brando” (Laughs).  I call you some things Maurice, but I can’t say them here! (Laughs)

In several mainstream press interviews, David has commended very highly the talent, the work ethic, and the professional athlete-type qualities that actors in the soap genre bring to the table.  It has been such a major moment for this medium, when often old-school notions in Hollywood have always held that those who work in daytime dramas are the poor step-children of the profession, etcWhen you saw David’s remarks on how all of you impressed him, what went through your minds?

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

MAURICE:  I was talking to some people on the set of GH just the other day, a bunch of directors, etc.  I don’t think anybody ever, director or what not, has praised daytime actors as much as David has.  For us, we have so much respect, and so much love for that. We are not used to hearing that.  Would you agree with me, Donna and Laura?

LAURA:  You’re right, Maurice.  I have never seen this amount of press and praise to a group of actors in a medium that most people couldn’t even handle, especially the way we shoot the episodes now.

DONNA:  The way it’s done now, it does take an Olympic athlete to do it, I think.

Donna, you and I had previously talked that when you did your very first arc on General Hospital, you were trying to get a handle on the pace of daytime, nowadays.  It was very challenging for you at the beginning.   It is a far cry from when you first appeared on the daytime soap Love is a Many Splendored Thing at the beginning of your career.  Many who don’t work in the medium don’t understand, or respect the work that actors do, and the performances they are able to pull off with basically little to no rehearsal.  But someone like David O. Russell clearly got it, and the type of talent it takes to perform in the rigors of soaps.

Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel

DONNA:  Right, and even when I did do daytime on Love is a Many Splendored Thing, it wasn’t like it is now when I have been on General Hospital.   It wasn’t that kind of intense.  It was always sort of intense, but not like it is now, that’s for sure.  That was a hard transition for me to do.  I really loved the fact that David recognized what it takes, and because of the way he works, he tapped into actors who could do it in a second, who didn’t falter and pause, but just went and did it.  He loved that, because he is very in the moment, and of the moment.  David wants his actors to be that way, too.  We all could do that.  I think he was really impressed by that.  I wouldn’t doubt that somewhere along the line he will do something else with soap opera actors.

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LAURA:  Also to what Donna just said, it’s so true … David is so in the moment.   He just goes for it, and gets so caught up in the scene.  I think that’s why it changes so much and no one knows what they’re doing, because as its unfolding his mind is going: “Now try this. Now do this, and do that.”  He loved that we were able to do that without stopping, and going, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t know …”  I think then it would sort of break him out of his moments of inspiration.  So, working with people who can really work on their feet, and can go with it, and trust that it’s going to be put together well, I think is very important to him.

Photo Credit: Francois Duhamel

DONNA:  David kept talking in the press interviews he did: “I told Susan Lucci and Donna Mills to have a catfight, and they just went and had the catfight.”  But it didn’t make into the picture.

LAURA:  The catfight was amazing!  It was so good.  I was standing right there going, “Oh, my God.  This is awesome!” (Laughs)

What are your character names in “The Joyful Storm”?  Susan Lucci’s is Danica, we know that much. (Laughs)

LAURA: I think mine was Clarinda.

MAURICE:  I think it was Jared, but I don’t know.   Donna, do you know? (Laughs)

DONNA:  Maurice, your name kept changing! (Laughs)  I don’t think I ever had a name. Wait, the name of my character was on the dress rooming door, but nowhere else! (Laughs)

LAURA:  So funny!

Photo Credit: HutchinsPhoto.com

Did each of you work with Susan Lucci in your scenes?

LAURA:  We were all together a lot in the scenes. We would all go to dinner together, as we all stayed in the same hotel.

MAURICE:  Laura never invited me out, though.  But, I forced myself to go. (Laughs)

LAURA: (Laughs) The one time we go out Maurice’s wife Paula and I got lost, and Maurice was pissed off in the passenger seat, because we couldn’t get back to the hotel, and we missed the turn three times in a row!  Then we couldn’t stop laughing, and so we missed it again, and then I accidently stabbed Maurice in the face!

MAURICE:  Exactly, with her nail! (Laughs)

LAURA:  It was a mess! (Laughs)

DONNA:  And it was like two degrees in Boston at that time.  It was so unbelievably cold! (Laughs)

Courtesy/20thCenturyFox

When you finally saw the movie JOY, what did you think of it?

DONNA:  I was pissed off the catfight scene wasn’t in it! (Laughs).  I think the movie is really wonderful, unique, and different.  It goes right to your heart, and gets under your skin.  I think JOY is fabulous.  I think Jennifer Lawrence, and everyone one in it is fabulous. The cast is different than they have ever been before in David’s films.  I have never seen Robert DeNiro do a part like this.

LAURA:  I’m going to go see it Christmas Day when it opens with my kids.  I can’t wait!

MAURICE:  I haven’t seen it yet, either!

Did you all meet and work with the other Oscar winner on the set, the incomparable Robert DeNiro?

DONNA:  He came and introduced himself on the set going, “Hi. I’m Bob DeNiro.”  And we were going, “No, kidding!” (Laughs)

LAURA:  At one point, we were all on the set of the soap opera world together, because we were the soap opera characters, and then we kind of became their characters.  So, we went into the background as they came into the scene, and that is when we met Robert.  It was great!  We all just hung out on the set together like actors do waiting to perform.

Courtesy/20th Century Fox

Did the three of you have a pinch-yourself-moment of “Oh, my God.  This is thee Robert DeNiro?”

DONNA:  Oh, yeah!

LAURA:  Of course!

MAURICE:  When I was young, Robert DeNiro was like a God.  So when I was introduced to him I was trying to be cool, but you get nervous.  Robert could not have been nicer.  The other actors treated us great, and with so much respect.  It was truly a special experience for us.

So, what did you think about the comments from Laura, Maurice, and Donna on working on the film of JOY?  Can we score this as a major victory for the daytime genre, where these talented actors are being recognized for their performances and work ethic by acclaimed director/writer David O. Russell, and Oscar-winning actors Robert DeNiro and Jennifer Lawrence?  What do you think of the premise of  the fictional soap “The Joyful Storm”? Will you be hitting the theatres to see Maurice, Laura, and Donna over the holiday season?  Share your thoughts on our roundatable discussion in the comment section below!

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Mo
Mo

It would be even more fabulous if they had been hired for roles in the film not in the soap.

AJQ
AJQ

The soap portion is integral to the film, they are in the film.

It’s not surprising to hear that Jennifer Lawrence watches GH or that the other actors were so respectful to the soap actors. First, actors respect actors and they know it’s a crap shoot and a lot is left to chance. And a lot of people watch soaps, even A list actors. Maurice might be surprised at how many people on that set knew Sonny Corinthos. The man has been on network television almost daily for two decades.

It’s also nice and not surprising that Jennifer Lawrence, who might know a little something about acting, thought so much of Mo and Laura. I hear fans of certain other actors on GH constantly talking about how great they are. You don’t hear that a lot from fans of Mo and Laura because it’s a given, it doesn’t need to be said. I think being recognized by JLaw and David O. Russell speaks volumes.

KansasGuest
KansasGuest

People who watch GH sometimes forget that MB & LW are *not* Sonny & Carly because they are such good actors. When LW played Luke’s mother, it reminded people how good she really is because it was such a different character with the exact same face. It certainly made me appreciate her ability more.

Mateo
Mateo

I am glad that these actors experienced the praise they so deserve. I think that what they do on a daily basis is so spectacular. I can’t wait to see them in the movie, Joy.

Aria
Aria

I know the industry likes to separate actors and that there’s this hiarcchy with A list b list c list as a way
To distinguish them from one another but to me an actor is an actor. And these four are Emmy winners . I hope they knew that as far as talent go they are equal to their movie star co workers. I’m looking forward to seeing them on the big screen and eating my popcorn..

Sean
Sean

I’ve been obsessed with this movie since Donna talked about it in an interview months back. I’ll be seeing it at the cinema for sure & I can’t wait to see Donna on the big screen.

judy phelps
judy phelps

absolutely ready to see it. I love these emmy soap actors and think it was a brilliant move, not to mention Robert D is one of my all time favorite actors.I am proud of MB, LW and DM as well as SL casting in this film.

Fanny
Fanny

What a GREAT experience for them.

MBmomof3
MBmomof3

Can’t wait to see this film.

Timmm
Timmm

I have so much respect for daytime actors. Its good to see big movie stars respect them as well. Silver Linings was awesome and I would have seen this regardless but having Maurice in THIS makes it a must see over Christmas weekend!

madluv4u
madluv4u

I saw the film. Not Jennifer’s best. The minir soap plot in the movie was silly and insignificant. Everything really could’ve been better. Of course, soap actors are going to say great things about the movie because this is their opportunity to be seen on the big screen and it may open doors for them to do more features in the future, but really this movie sucked!

CR MILLS
CR MILLS

I WATCHED THE MOVIE AT HOME…WHEN READING THE CREDITS I SAW DONNA MILLS NAME..I AM A HUGE FAN…I HAD TO GO ON LINE TO SEE WHAT ROLE SHE PLAYED…NOW I HAVE TO WATCH AGAIN ..AND WATCH THE SOAP …SORRY DONNA…LOVE YOU…AND LOVED THE MOVIE…CR MILLS

General Hospital

GENERAL HOSPITAL: Lucas Gives Wiley To Michael; While Willow Learns the Devastating Truth

Friday’s episode of General Hospital, brought the highly-emotional moments viewers had been waiting for all-week long; following the year and a half reveal that Nelle (Chloe Lanier) and Brad (Parry Shen) engineered a baby switch with Willow’s (Katelyn MacMullen) dead baby, Wiley being passed off as Michael (Chad Duell) and Nelle’s newborn, Jonah, and Jonah being raised by Brad and Lucas (Ryan Carnes) as Wiley.  Now with the truth out, it was time for two of the heaviest beats of the story to be played out.

When Willow comes to at the hospital with Chase (Josh Swickard) by her side, needless to say she is dazed and freaking out that Nelle took Wiley.  Chase tells her he has some things to tell her and it’s not going to be easy to hear. Willow braces herself and then Chase tells her the story of the baby switch and how her baby died a SIDS death while at Brad and Lucas’ and then how the babies were switched.

Photo: ABC

In a heartbreaking and powerful performance from Katelyn MacMullen (yes, she is our pick for “Power Performance of the Week”), Willow struggles to come to grips with the truth and starts to realize all of Brad’s machinations, as she thinks back to herself how could she do that to her son … to trust him with Brad, only to have the little infant die.  The devastation played by MacMullen, whose Willow, now must realize her baby never lived the full and happy young life she thought, was gut-wrenching.

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Meanwhile, in yet another top-notch performance, William deVry (Julian) showed the pain and the need to unburden himself as Julian talks to his sister. Ava (Maura West) and spills what happened.   He goes so far to admit to Ava that he knew what Brad had done. Ava cannot believe he did not go to Sonny (Maurice Benard) right away with this Intel, but Julian just could not do this to his son, Lucas and rip the baby from his arms.  Julian says he will face-off with Sonny and not leave town, if it comes to that.   Ava says they have to come up with a way to silence Brad … before Brad gives up Julian’s part in the whole baby cover-up.

Photo: JPI

And in yet another masterful performance, we have to give it up to Chloe Lanier.  Who can play Nelle and spin stories and the tears so well, that if you did not know this pathological liar you would think she is telling the truth. When in opposing holding cells at the PCPD, Nelle lays it on about Brad so that the guard can hear them. She blames Brad for being the instigator in the baby switch and taking advantage of her – a distraught new mother, confused and dazed on the route where the baby switch happened.  It works! Brad is moved to a different cell and thinks look very grim for him.  Nelle smiles through her crocodile tears!

Photo: JPI

Then, in what we all knew had to happen, and even so, was still as heartbreaking as ever; Lucas spends his final moments with Wiley as his father in the kitchen at the Corinthos’ along with Bobbie (Jackie Zeman) and Carly (Laura Wright).  Lucas starts to tell his mother and sister, all the things Wiley needs and likes, such as having a story read to him.  All of this brings the tears as they know Lucas has to give the child back to Michael; who has been robbed of a year and half as the baby’s rightful father.

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Michael tells Lucas they will work this out, so Lucas remains a constant in Wiley’s life. He also tells Sonny and Sasha (Sofia Matteson) he feels so badly for Lucas, but they tell him to be happy for this chance to have the son he grieved for.   In the end, a tear-filled Lucas hands Wiley to Michael as everyone watches on in sadness for one father … and joy for the other.  Ryan Carnes was poignant in the scenes; as was Chad Duell.

Courtesy/ABC

So, what did you think of the performances from Friday’s GH featuring Katelyn, Ryan, Chad, William, Chloe and Parry? Comment below.

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General Hospital

GENERAL HOSPITAL: Michael Blasts Brad As The Truth About Wiley Comes Out

FINALLY! On Wednesday’s episode of General Hospital, Lucas (Ryan Carnes) memory is jogged just enough that he clearly remembers Brad’s (Parry Shen) shocking words before their car crash; where Brad confessed that Wiley was Nelle (Chloe Lanier) and Michael’s (Chad Duell) biological son.

At the Corinthos home, Lucas stands up and announces to Michael that Wiley is actually his believed to be dead son, Jonah. Carly’s (Laura Wright) mouth drops and then she takes over getting to the root of the truth of the baby switch.

Brad is cornered and left with no choice but to fess up. He explains how Wiley died when he was no longer breathing, and how he was driving with him, when he ended up on the route where Nelle left Michael to die in the car he was driving (Michael recalls this bit of Intel in a flashback).

Then, Brad explains how Nelle appeared with her newborn baby and claimed the whole thing was engineered by Nelle …  and how he was so upset and panicked, that he went along with her plan.

Michael lets Brad have it for all of his lies and machinations, and the pain it has inflicted on so many people for over a year and half.  How on earth could he do that? Carly also lays into him.

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Meanwhile, Sasha (Sofia Matteson) has urgently called Chase (Josh Swickard), who leaves “Wiley” and Willow (Katelyn MacMullen) behind, and heads to the Corinthos’ where he hears the whole sad truth about the baby switch.

With Chase gone, Nelle goes looking for “Wiley” who is with Willow, and the two get into a major throwdown catfight.  Nelle comes out the victor and goes to get her baby ready to leave town with her son.

So, what did you think of how the truth finally came out?  What did you think of Michael’s tirade on Brad? What do you think will happen next? Comment below.

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General Hospital

GH’s James Patrick Stuart Talks on Valentin’s Downfall and Potential Rise to Power

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.

Photo: JPI

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.

Courtesy/ABC

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.

Photo: JPI

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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.

Photo: JPI

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.

Photo: JPI

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)

Photo: JPI

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.

Courtesy/ABC

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.

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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.

Photo: JPI

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)

Photo: JPI

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.”

Photo: JPI

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.

Photo: JPI

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.

Photo: JPI

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.

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