In a message on his official Facebook page, Michael Easton (John McBain) informed fans planning a birthday surprise that they'd have to hold off on the cake delivery. Easton won't be around at General Hospital.
"I heard a rumor of some lovely people who were going to stop by the studio for a certain riff raff's birthday. Some others who wanted to deliver a cake. Even more wonderful folks who wanted to send cards and treats and I want you to know I am incredibly humbled by these gestures but unfortunately I will not be around to enjoy them," Easton wrote. "I've been informed, that due to some ongoing legal this and that, I cannot be at General Hospital after February 8th, and since I know many of you go to great trouble to do something special, I just don't want to see anybody's efforts go to waste (especially the lovely person who always sneaks in the fine Irish Whiskey)."
The "this and that" that Easton refers to has to do with who owns the rights to the John McBain character -- as well as the two other One Life to Live transplants, Kristen Alderson (Starr Manning and Roger Howarth (Todd Manning).
When ABC licensed the rights to All My Children and One Life to Live to Prospect Park in 2011, ownership of all of the shows' characters transferred from ABC to Prospect Park. As it became clear that Prospect Park was not going to be able to relaunch the two soaps as planned, the company reached a deal to allow ABC to license several of the characters back to ABC for use on General Hospital.
Now that Prospect Park is ready to relaunch AMC and OLTL on the Internet, the company is reportedly demanding that John, Starr, and Todd, be handed over for use on One Live to Live. It is unclear exactly what will happen, since Easton, Kristen Alderson, and Roger Howarth are under contract to ABC, but Prospect Park now owns the rights to their characters.
Several scenarios could play out, according to sources. The three performers in question could return briefly to One Life to Live to help the series launch before returning to General Hospital. Alderson, Easton, and Howarth could remain at ABC, but all three would have to be shifted into different roles. Prospect Park could reclaim the three OLTL characters and recast them, if none of the actors were available or willing to return. Prospect Park could reconsider and allow some or all of the characters to remain on General Hospital.
Presumably, ABC and Prospect Park both understand the value that the actors and the characters bring to each other's properties, and working together to come up with a mutually beneficial arrangement would be in everyone's best interest.
"Honestly not sure what the future holds but I think it's going to take some time and some very bright people to resolve it," Easton added. "Thank you again for all your kindness and support..."
Easton made his first General Hospital appearance as John on March 13, 2012. He created the role of John McBain on One Life to Live on October 1, 2003.
For the time being, there is at least one bright side in all of this. Easton has asked fans who might have otherwise sent gifts to the General Hospital studio to consider making a donation to the American Cancer Society.