'General Hospital': James Patrick Stuart on Why It's Not Over Between Valentin & Nina

General Hospital Cynthia Watros James Patrick Stuart
Q&A
ABC/Todd Wawrychuk

Valentin Cassadine (James Patrick Stuart) recently made a power play on General Hospital by taking control of ELQ, the Quartermaine family business. The move earned Valentin the respect of his rival Jasper “Jax” Jacks (Ingo Rademacher), but that’s not all Valentin might take from the Australian businessman.

As viewers have seen in a recent episode, it’s clearly not over between Valentin and Nina (Cynthia Watros). Sure, he betrayed her trust by lying about Sasha (Sofia Mattsson) was her long-lost daughter, but there are clearly unresolved feelings between the two.

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TV Insider spoke to Stuart about Valentin’s love for Nina, how he helped bring Michael E. Knight (ex-Tad, All My Children) to Port Charles as scene-stealing attorney Martin Gray, how Watros seamlessly assumed the part of Nina from Michelle Stafford (Phyllis, Young and the Restless), and two memorable sitcom roles he played on Seinfeld and Frasier. Read on for the scoop!

On today’s show, Nina’s convinced that she has a lead on finding her child, but Valentin’s the last person she’s in the mood to trust. How does he feel about her today?

James Patrick Stuart: It goes back to the end of last year when everything was stripped away from Valentin. Frank Valentini, our executive producer, said to me when there was a scene where Valentin lost a painting he wanted to give Laura (Genie Francis). Later, it caught on fire. Frank said, ‘Let’s try [your reaction] one last time because this is going to be the last time Valentin is going to be happy for quite a while.’

There was Nina pretending she was only going through with the wedding to stick the knife [in Valentin]. He also saw [his daughter] Charlotte (Scarlett Hernandez) following in her father’s footsteps. He felt he needed to distance himself from her, as a result. It was a kick in the stomach seeing Charlotte going down that path.

I imagine getting a script like that is an actor’s dream.

It is…and it isn’t. You don’t know how you’re going to play something that’s so far out of your comfort zone. I couldn’t imagine a scenario like this [in real-life]. I’d go into denial before I’d let go of my child. I didn’t immediately see how I’d get to that place, but Genie has been a friend of mine for many years [since our days at All My Children where she played Ceara and I played Will]. We found the right moment together. It felt honest and I experienced something new. Can you imagine being that in love with someone that you’re willing to let them go?

Valentin felt he needed to distance himself from his daughter. So, he was ready to reinvent himself. He needed to find a fortune that was his as he is not a Cassadine. ELQ ended up being an obvious takeover choice. He went about it through [negotiating with] Brook Lynn (Briana Lane) and Nelle (Chloe Lanier).

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For a few years, it was believed that Valentin was responsible for Nikolas’ (Marcus Coloma) death. How did you feel about him popping up alive?

I was glad. Initially, I was only supposed to be on the canvas for 10 days. I’ll always be grateful to Michelle Stafford (ex-Nina), who grabbed me and said, ‘You’re mine.’ She needed a lover [as Nina had no love interest]. I didn’t think they were keeping me around so, initially, Valentin killing Nikolas wasn’t that big a deal. But then they realized, ‘Oh, that’s right. He did kill someone.’ I was always hoping that Nikolas would come back for that reason. (Laughs) Then, he threw Ava (Maura West) off a parapet so, he’s still a bit of a bastard.

Cynthia stepped into the role instantly – it was genius recasting.  

When Michelle called me and said, ‘I’m leaving,’ the blood drained from my face. She’s my friend. She was my doubles partner. We got each other. She’s one of a kind. She’s in her own category. When I hung up the phone, I couldn’t imagine the task of recasting that role. A few days later, Frank showed me a photo [of Cynthia] on his phone and said, ‘This is who I’m thinking of.’ I knew when Cynthia won the [Daytime] Emmy for [her role as Annie on Guiding Light] and I knew her from Titus. I thought, ‘What a spectacular idea!’ This is why Frank is running the show. Cynthia is very, very good.

 

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This is gonna be good. @bkheadshots @watros.watros

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Why is Valentin so drawn to Nina?

It goes back to when he first confided in Nina about his loneliness, isolation and physical abnormality. She’s witnessed his speech impediment. And she loved him all the more. He’s never been able to fathom not having her in his life. She’s the love of his life.

But she’s with Jax now.

He can accept that Jax is a shiny object, but he can’t accept that he’s a permanent fixture in her life. It’s why he wanted to lay the foundation of a new empire for himself. As soon as he took over ELQ, the first person he wanted to tell as Nina.

Why did Valentin want Nina to think Sasha was her daughter?

That dominoed out of control. He doesn’t have any real mechanism for authenticity. He knew if he could be the hero who showed up with her daughter, he’d win the girl, which he did. That was a great twist [when Nina called Valentin out on his lies]. I was looking forward to Michelle getting to play the payoff as she had laid the foundation, but Cynthia did it so great, too. I could watch that episode over and over again.

You had an indirect role in bringing your AMC pal Michael E. Knight (ex-Tad) on as Martin Gray.

Yes. Michael is the godfather of my youngest son. He is family for me. He and I adore each other and I don’t hang out with a lot of actors. I remember when my first agent said to me, ‘I want you to audition for All My Children.’ I turned on the TV and saw a scene between Michael and Cady [McClain, ex-Dixie]. It was a romantic comedy, and I had to be a part of that show. I was not only cast on it, but I became friends with Michael. He and I were talking and I said, ‘Send a note to Frank.’ Michael shows up at work with all these wonderful ideas.

 

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Michael Knight is my best friend in the world. @welcometolaurasworld gave us the chance to act like the fools we are for a good cause, the Daytimecares webcast on 5/9/20. Link available in my bio. #daytimecares #generalhospitalabc

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So much of your career has been in the voiceover world.

Yes. The voiceover work has been great. My dad [Chad Stuart of rock duo Chad & Jeremy] was dear friends with [the late] Phil Hartman [Saturday Night Live]. I remember being nine-years-old and watching Phil at [the comedy improv group] The Groundlings. I started to watch Phil’s career take off. He made it look so easy. Even as a child, I started to do voices. I did a lot of comedies. The late Stella Adler said that comedy is a total commitment to absurd circumstances. Therefore, I have always maintained that any actor who has been on a soap opera could have a career in comedy. If you can commit the way you have to on daytime, you can commit anywhere.

I’d been doing a lot of voiceovers [after AMC]. Before GH came along, I thought my scripted career was over. I was fine with that. I had a studio at my house [to record voiceovers] and could go to all my kids’ baseball games. Life was good. Then, Frank called and said come join the party. I would have been a fool to stay no. Initially, I was concerned about memorizing all those lines. When I was on AMC, we did one show a day. Now, we do three a day for budgetary reasons. You get to understand the writers’ sensibilities and they get to understand yours.

On Seinfeld, you played Elaine’s (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) boyfriend, Brett, who became deeply wistful upon hearing the Eagles song Desperado.

Originally, it was written that he’d had a seizure [when he’d hear the song], but I guess they realized that wasn’t as funny as it was to just be obsessed with the song. I was studying at The Groundlings around this time. I was in a zone where I could commit. I was on two of the highest rated sitcoms during that time – Seinfeld and then, Frasier. Jerry [Seinfeld] had said to me that my guest spot was going to be really good for me. He wasn’t bragging, but Seinfeld had really good numbers. I felt if I could do a good job, then someone else would see me for their show. I was lucky that the Grub Street guys wanted to see me for [their show] Frasier.

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On Frasier, your character, Guy, a ski instructor, lusted after Niles (David Hyde Pierce) while he longed for Daphne (Jane Leeves).

We didn’t have a live audience for Seinfeld but we did for Frasier. It was electric. The producers on that show had so many Emmys. I got to work with David Hyde Pierce. He showed such a level of selflessness. I’ve seen a lot of damaged people in comedy. What’s that expression? “If my father had hugged me once, I would have become a plumber instead of a comedian.” I could see David trying to come up with ways to make my character funnier. That was kindness. No wonder he has so many Emmys.

Getting back to Valentin and Nina, fans are wondering what’s the deal with the half-necklace and just who is her long-lost child and what role – if any — he’ll play in reuniting them.

Valentin’s apologized from a place of true understanding that he’s hurt her. He’s been the architect of his own adversity. I think he’s willing to take the pain of watching her with someone else as penance. He deserves that, but I don’t think he’ll ever be truly done with Nina. It’s like that [Sting lyric from his song The Book of My Life] – ‘There’s a chapter on love where the ink ‘s never dry.’

(ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)

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