INTERVIEW: Emmy nominee James Patrick Stuart on his "agonizing" General Hospital storylines and baby swap drama

Posted Thursday, June 03, 2021 10:29:19 AM
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General Hospital's James Patrick Stuart opens up about his Emmy nomination, why Valentin is like the shark in Jaws, and the roller-coaster drop moment coming in the show's current baby swap storyline.

They say the third time's the charm, so will General Hospital star James Patrick Stuart's (Valentin Cassadine) third Daytime Emmy nomination be the one that leads to an eventual Daytime Emmy win? Fans of the extremely talented actor certainly hope so. In fact, pretty much everyone under the sun is shocked that he hasn't taken home an Emmy trophy already! He plays one of the best baddies in soap operas, and the ABC drama's writers have given him some seriously intense material since he joined the show in 2016. It has continuously gotten more intense as the years have gone by, and Stuart continues to prove that he can knock the ball out of the park, every single time.

2020 was an especially tense year for Valentin, and Stuart tells Soap Central that it means the world to him to be recognized for his work. He also opens up about the thoughtful way he brings the complicated character to life and shares his enthusiasm for the Maxie (Kirsten Storms) and Brook Lynn (Amanda Setton) baby swap storyline that is eventually going to blow Valentin's world apart.

Soap Central: Congratulations, James! How do you feel about your Emmy nomination?

James Patrick Stuart: Oh, it's great! It's fun. It's a great group of people, and it's always more fun to be nominated than not nominated. I must say, though, if I had my way, I would choose a category that didn't have Max Gail [Mike Corbin] in it! [Laughs]

Soap Central: Yeah, you are up against some tough competition, him included.

Stuart: Sometimes, you absolutely think, "Well, gosh, I had some good scenes," but this is one of those years where I really am just happy to be nominated. It's a great feeling to be included with that group of guys, all four of them.

Soap Central: You went almost 30 years between Emmy nominations, your first being for playing All My Children's Will Cortlandt back in 1992, and now you've gotten one right after the other. Did you change the brand of water you've been drinking or something?! Why are you on fire all of a sudden?

Stuart: [Laughs] Yeah, I don't know! [GH executive producer] Frank Valentini and [our head writers] Dan [O'Connor] and Chris [Van Etten], after awhile, they felt like they could give me [deep material]. They trusted me. Once Valentin fell apart, once his love left, and then with his child, all that stuff became really, really juicy. The stuff that I did with Michelle Stafford [ex-Nina Reeves] was as satisfying as anything I've ever done, because she is so much fun. I mean, really, she is a barrel of monkeys poured into a hot, sexy cocktail dress. She's a superb human being. But once she took off, all of a sudden, the storylines got more intense and more agonizing. So, I guess what I am trying to say is, Michelle Stafford is the reason I wasn't getting nominated for Emmys! [Laughs]

Soap Central: She's gonna love hearing that! But, yes, there's been lots of juicy material for Valentin, so which scenes did you submit for your reel?

Stuart: Gosh, it was a while ago, but I'm pretty sure Genie Francis [Laura Collins] was in one of them. I think it was one of the ones where Valentin opted to give up custody of his daughter. There was quite a bit of Scarlett [Fernandez] in there, too, because I really love the Valentin and Charlotte connection. And then, there was one with Michael Knight [Martin Grey], where Valentin discovers he's not a Cassadine, after all. I kind of felt like it was by association: just put me next to Michael Knight, who has three Emmys, and let the chips fall where they may! [Laughs] It's like product placement.

Soap Central: I like that you just mentioned that because I wanted to ask you how much of an influence your scene partners have on your own performance? I'm guessing it's quite a bit?

Stuart: I love that you asked that question -- it's a very informed question, and I think that hopefully one gets to a place in one's creative life where you end up reacting as much as you are acting, and you are very aware of your scene partner, and you're very aware of choices in the moment that they're making. It inspires the next move that you make, so, yeah, Nancy [Lee Grahn, Alexis Davis], Michael, Genie, these are all great people to spar with. They're easy to react off of, because they're so active themselves.

Soap Central: I love to watch you as this character, and I'm curious about the fact that you play the bad guy by day yet read children's books on Instagram by night. It's this really unexpected mix, so is that your approach to playing Valentin and bringing him to life? Sort of digging into the good and the bad parts of him at the same time?

Stuart: Yeah, absolutely. I've said this before, but you don't play a bad guy. Anybody who sets out just to play a bad person is really missing the meat, the main course of the meal. There are broken people in the world who darken other people's lives, some of them even intentionally, but getting into why somebody would feel empowered doing that is part of the fun. I've always said that Valentin's upbringing led him to a grown-up life where he wasn't fully functioning in any relationship. That's what was so amazing -- about the only redeeming thing he had was this little girl [Charlotte], and this connection he had with her was the only pure thing he had in his life. I think she was his redemption. And any connection he had beyond her was because of her. I've always enjoyed that, the idea of just finding the humanity in somebody, even if he is a beast. Even when I was a kid, I identified with the shark in Jaws! I thought, "Why? Why would he do that?! There must be a reason!" [Laughs]

Soap Central: As you mentioned, fatherhood is so important to Valentin, which is why I find it crazy that Brook Lynn even wants to mess with him on that level!

Stuart: I just love that! The writers blow my mind. What they do, that star chamber that they're functioning in up above us, floating above us, and then handing down scripts, they blow my mind. They have to think about so many moving parts, so many people, so many characters, so many relationships, but they took notice of that, and they decided to play with that. Like, "That's one of Valentin's strengths. How can we really muck with that?" [Laughs] And I love that that is looming out there somewhere. Whenever they decide to have that come crashing down, when the curtains part and Valentin learns the truth, I love that that is out there, waiting to be seen. I'm just as curious to know as anybody what that's going to turn into. What would you do, you know? I've thought about it while going to sleep a couple of nights, like, what would I do if I learned that one of my children didn't belong to me, after all, and that somebody was willing to lie to me to that degree? And then, also, what would Valentin do? That's the fun part, like, what lengths would he go to? I'm interested in finding out myself.

Soap Central: You know that it's coming, but he doesn't, so do you find it difficult to not let that inform your performance today?

Stuart: Yeah, that's another really great question. One of my favorite acting teachers ever told me that when in doubt, always play that you know. Uninformed is a really weak acting choice. And unfortunately, in soap operas, we have to do it a lot. I remember watching Michelle do that, because Michelle had to spend a lot of months not knowing the truth about her daughter and Valentin's machinations behind Nina's back. Having to play an interesting character who is in the dark is tough, but what's fun about this one is that I think everybody sees [what's coming]. It's like the "click, click, click, click, click" of the roller coaster, and everyone sees the drop coming.

Soap Central: Baby swap storylines are always my favorite soap opera trope. What classic soap situation is your favorite?

Stuart: Oh gosh, I guess I've always liked the love triangles! [Laughs] The baby swap is new to me, and going on Twitter and seeing all the fans talking about it and comparing it to other classic baby swap storylines has been a kick. I've loved both Brook Lynns, to tell you the truth, but Amanda [Setton's] Brook Lynn, I like watching her. And the satisfaction of knowing that Valentin will protect his child, she knows she's done something good there, but also, the humanity of coming to terms with what she's done, I love watching that color infuse her performance, also. So, this one, this baby swap, is obviously one I'm very attached to -- I like all of the characters involved. And I can't wait to see what Nina has to say when Nina comes back to town and sees Valentin with a baby! That'll be fun. [Laughs]

Soap Central: That will be gold! And speaking of gold, I will bring it back to the Emmys -- did you do anything to celebrate your nomination after the announcement was made?

Stuart: Yeah, my mother was in town, and I grilled for everybody. She was having a birthday, so the joke was, we had a cake waiting for her, but as soon as we started setting the table, it was very much, "No, this is my Emmy party! We'll get to you turning 78 later in the meal!" [Laughs]

Soap Central: She's a mom, so I'm sure she's used to the kids overtaking everything! It's what moms endure.

Stuart: Yeah, she was really sweet. She actually was my date for the first Emmys back in the early 90s, when Kristoff St. John's [Neil Winters, The Young and the Restless] name was called. I still have the tuxedo jacket, believe it or not.

Soap Central: Do you?! Will you wear it this year?

Stuart: I thought about it! But I'm still in the dark as to what the ceremony is going to be. I don't know how they're planning on doing this, if we're all going to stand in a sterilized room wearing surgical garb! I'm not really sure what they're going to do with us. There are a lot of ideas floating around.

What do you think about James Patrick Stuart being nominated in the Outstanding Supporting Actor category for this year's Daytime Emmy Awards? Do you think he'll take home the gold? What are your thoughts about GH's baby swap storyline? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.

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