This month marks 30 years since Wally Kurth stepped into the shoes of General Hospital's Ned Ashton Quartermaine, and the actor is celebrating his three-decade anniversary by sharing fond memories of the beloved people that have made his time in Port Charles special.
From former GH executive producer Gloria Monty to actress Jane Elliot (Tracy Quartermaine), the latter of whom helped him land the role that had previously been played by Kurt McKinney (ex-Matt Reardon, Guiding Light; ex-Ellis, As the World Turns), the actor is thankful for each and every person who's been a part of his GH history, which has included on-again, off-again stints since September 9, 1991.
As told to Soap Opera Digest, Kurth remembers that Monty was in his corner from the very beginning. "I came in with a hunger and a point of view and all my charm intact, and Ned had to have that," he recalls. "I think she saw that in me, and she was immediately very encouraging and kind to me. I think she liked me!"
But it was with Elliot's help that he landed the role of Ned. "She and [casting director] Mark Teschner helped me get the part -- well, I'll give myself a little credit, because I was ready to play a role that I could bring more fun to. Justin was just so damn serious and I felt, in my opinion, overwrought. I went in with a hunger to make this role my own and Jane was there, right outside Gloria's door at the audition, and I immediately relaxed. She said, 'Wally, whatever you do, do not tell her that we worked together on Days of our Lives [where Kurth plays Justin Kiriakis and Elliot played Anjelica Deveraux]. Gloria likes discovering actors.' Jane and I were dear friends and we've remained friends all these years. She was a mentor. She was someone who knew more than I did and I was wise enough to trust her and just watch and listen."
One of Kurth's first big storylines as Ned was working opposite Anthony Geary (ex-Luke Spencer/Bill Eckert), which he admits was quite intimidating.
"When I first came on, Tony played Bill, and I remember battling with him for ELQ, and it was a little daunting because, you know, the legend!" Kurth recalls. "He couldn't have been nicer. When I came back [in 2012], we picked up right where we left off. I think he respected me; I obviously respected him. We liked working together and running lines. I went out with him a couple of times and always had a really good time, and I regret that I didn't fraternize with Mr. Geary more than I did."
Kurth shares that he carried on the welcome that Geary gave to him as a newbie with Vanessa Marcil (ex-Brenda Barrett) when she was a GH newbie.
"Her very first scene was with me. I felt protective of her, which Ned was with Brenda, as well," the actor says. "Vanessa was pretty self-aware of her talent and her charm and her beauty and she just knew how to do her thing in front of a camera. It wasn't long before I realized, 'She doesn't need my help! She's doing just fine on her own!'"
Speaking of help, Kurth was in desperate need of it in 1996, when Nancy Lee Grahn took on the role of Alexis Davis. And she was just the person to give it to him.
"At the time [Ned and Alexis were paired], I was depressed; Claire [Labine, ex-head writer] had left, Francesca [James, ex-supervising producer] had left, Rena [Sofer, ex-Lois Cerullo; also, Kurth's real-life ex-wife] had just left. They were the triumvirate behind the best years of my acting life. I felt like, 'What do I do now?'" he recalls. "Nancy was a lifeline. She really brought me back to life and in a way, brought Ned back to life. She helped me move beyond the Ned/Lois legacy and start a new one."
For more from Kurth on the people who have made his time at GH special, check out SOD's full anniversary interview with the actor here.
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