September 27th, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The Michael Sutton Interview – General Hospital

Photo Credit: Jim Warren

Tomorrow is the day many long time viewers of General Hospital have been waiting for since the ABC sudser announced that it was resurrecting for a brief time, the beloved character of Stone Cates played by Emmy nominee Michael Sutton.  In significant scenes, Stone and Robin (Kimberly McCullough) are reunited as a weak Robin fights for her life after falling deep into an old well.  Thanks in part to wacko, Lisa!

On-Air On-Soaps spoke with Michael Sutton on his exciting return that has many already grabbing for the Kleenex before he has even aired.  But when you think about it, they have good reason.  It was back in 1995 that Michael so vividly and movingly played Stone through the stages of HIV, and who eventually succumbs to full-blown AIDS and whose young life is cut short.   His death scene to this day is cited as one of the most powerful for its time.  Sutton himself reveals here how difficult it was during and after those final scenes to shake off the emotions that went with it, and how now life has come full circle.  Sutton not only got a return visit to GH fifteen years later, but he is now on his way to devoting some of his time in Africa to help HIV/AIDS patients with something he hopes can help them survive the crippling disease.

Fans of GH are in for a real treat Tuesday and Wednesday when they get to see one of soaps all-time favorite couples, Robin and Stone together again. As for Sutton, you will fall in love with him all over again, as if you needed a refresher.  Here’s what the thought-provoking and sincere Mr. Sutton had to say about
landing back on the set of the soap, and more.

MICHAEL:

It’s fantastic that you’re coming back for this short visit to General Hospital this week.  Were you surprised you got this call to come back?

Courtesy/ABC

MICHAEL SUTTON:

I was, but it was kind of random.  You know, they kept the character of Stone active for all these fifteen years with all of the World AIDS days on the show, with Maurice Benard (Sonny) still being on the show, and Kimberly, and kind of still intertwining the whole Stone storyline at times.  I would get a call from people telling me, “You were just on with this scene, or that scene.”  Or, they would tell me, “They were talking about you.”  So since they kept Stone active, this return kind of makes sense.  It won’t be a shocker like, “Wow!  It’s fifteen years later.”  But I think most fans of the show know what Robin’s back-story was, and Stone’s relationship with Sonny.

MICHAEL:

Stone has been, and currently has been, a plot point and bone of contention in the relationship between Robin and her husband, Patrick.  In that, Robin is tied so deeply to Stone in her own way.  This week while Robin is trapped in a well fighting for her life… there you are!

MICHAEL SUTTON:

The beauty of what they chose to do is not going to be exactly what the fans expected.  It’s kind of like in a time of challenge, and fear, and turbulence and doubt that Robin is facing, she kind of looks internally.  I think like anything, when you have people that have affected you in your life, you kind of use them as a mask for your own thoughts and feelings, as you know a situation should be.  So, she kind of uses Stone in a way to give her the motivation and the will to live, and to be the mother and wife that she is.  I think it’s a beautiful way in which people affect people’s lives, even if they have passed on, that you always have them inside of you.  I think that is the beauty of the way they chose to write this.  I think it works.  I think in a lot of ways there is the sentimentality of the two characters, and what they missed out on by having their love affair stop short.  But it was also a release in a lot of ways so that Robin can move on.  I think it hit both of the things they needed to do.

MICHAEL:

So when you initially saw the scripts, were you pleased?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I was.  But to be honest with you, I think it’s a good choice, and sets some stuff up for the future, and in a lot of ways it could be where, if it were just that visit, it’s enough.  So, I think it’s a good thing.  I think Kimberly and I connected with the material enough, amazingly enough, even fifteen years later.  It is still very much what we did before, and we were able to tap right back into it.  That was really nice to see, because the storyline really did mean a lot to us at that time.  So going back to it and touching on the same subject with these two characters, we really had that pressure of having it turn out at the same level.  I think when the day ended, both of us looked at each other and we were happy.

MICHAEL:

The death of Stone and the AIDS storyline was so groundbreaking and heartbreaking for it’s time.  It was so well done, and memorable.  As I said to Kimberly in my interview with her, I look everyday at the two of you in a poster on my wall above my computer, that has you and her and the ocean and an open door and it says, “Can’t make too many plans, Robin.  Nothing lasts forever.”  And, it gives the credit to that line to Stone Cates.  Do you remember the poster?  Do you realize looking back now on how important and special it was to people?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

I remember the poster.  In terms of the storyline, I acknowledged how powerful it was, which is what motivated me to really do the work and put in the time and dedication, to get even what we got out of it, and make it accurate.  It was something that scared me enough to say, “I am hoping that I am representing the people that are actually living with this and dying with this, and that I hope is respectable.  I hope that we were able to show the beauty and the process, and accurately portray it.   I think we did that.  And as time went on, I think I was able to be proud of the work that was done, and hopefully, the effect was as positive as I thought it was.  I know that the media and the fans and everybody were supportive of it.  We did the best that we could.  I can say at the end of the day we really went for it, and we gave it the delicacy it deserved.

MICHAEL:

Do you ever think now what it would be like if Stone had lived, and Stone and Robin had gone on with their lives, and if AIDS had not taken him from her?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

That is why I think the fans will love these shows.  That question that you just asked is something that comes up, and if I answer it’s something that will take away from people watching the episode on September 29th, and that is the interesting part.  I think sometimes in life there is a time to be always supportive and love, love, love, all the way through, and sometimes with a little bit of tough love, you can get past a couple of hurdles that otherwise the other sweet version would not be able to do.  I think in a lot of ways the question that you just asked gets explored.

MICHAEL:

Did you get a chance to see your former on-screen brother, Maurice Benard, (Sonny) while you were back at GH this time?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

No, I didn’t.  Maurice is now working short weeks.  I worked on a Thursday, and I think he worked on that Monday through Wednesday that week.  

MICHAEL:

That relationship was so amazing on-air!  It still resonates with so many people.

MICHAEL SUTTON:

Maurice and I had a very special bond that was great.  He really took me in under his wing.  I had just started acting, and I was going to film school.  General Hospital was one of the first two auditions I went on as an actor.  The next thing I knew I was on the soundstage.  Maurice shows up a week later, having worked as a veteran actor in New York for ten or fifteen years, already.  And Maurice really helped me; not only with my craft, but also as a support I needed as a friend and everything else through that time.  It’s something we always will share. Then to go do those emotional scenes, I think it really took that bond that we established with each other, so we could do that kind of work at that level.  As you can see, Maurice has continued to carry on year after year doing that same deep, deep, deep work.  He is one of the best actors I have ever seen in any medium.

MICHAEL:

Have you watched the famous Stone death scenes again?  It gets played back a lot in retrospective packages for AIDS causes in the media, and occasionally on GH.  When you see it now, what reaction do you have to it?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

Every time I see it I get that knot in my stomach and my eyes start to well up at that moment in time. You know, I have done independent films that you work on for a month.  If it’s a feature film for a big studio, maybe it’s a shoot for 60 to 90 days, and that is with a big, big budget.  The amount of work we did on General Hospital in a nine-month storyline is as much as three major motion pictures worth of material, back to back, to back.  So, when that death scene happened, I was literally leaving that character. You can’t not.  I could not separate it.  Also, I didn’t have the tools as an actor to not do it the way that I did.  I needed to kind of envelop all of it.  So in doing so, I was right there in the moment. Some of the scenes that we did on those last couple of days… I remember saying at the time, “I don’t know how this is going to affect me, but it’s going to take a couple of years to get out of my system.”  And it did, it really did.  It was well worth it, but the transformation to get into it and get out of it was deep.

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

MICHAEL:

You left acting and went into promoting clubs and venues.  Are you still doing that?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

I was promoting venues when I was at General Hospital and it became this huge career.  I had a couple of clubs and restaurants that I opened.  And, now I have a bar/lounge called Guys and Dolls in West Hollywood, but I sold off all of the restaurants.  As soon as I took on investor’s money about five years ago, I decided to stop acting, because I thought it was my fiduciary responsibility to protect their investment and do well by them. Since then, I started this fund for real estate development and technology, and other companies that we are actually rolling out now.  And in doing so, an interesting thing came from it.  I will tell you a little bit about it. This business partner of mine and friend is from Ghana in Africa.  And in Africa, in most of the countries, one of every five people is infected with HIV.  He had been funding a doctor, and he came up with…. I can’t call it a cure…because that would not be responsible of me, but it has proven to reverse Stage Three AIDS, and it has helped with HIV and cancer.  We recently bottled 80,000 bottles, and it’s from the company that I am involved with.   I am going to be the spokesperson actually, in bringing it to Africa.  We are taking it to Ghana, Togo, South Africa, and Nigeria to start.  This chemical cocktail so far in all the clinical tests, has done amazingly well.  So we are hoping that it is effective there.  But with the AIDS Storyline on General Hospital and my background, and this new business venture and friendship I have with this gentlemen who financed the doctor, I am going to go down to Africa, and shoot a  documentary. We actually hope this cures people, like it has shown in the studies so far to date.  So, in a weird way, when I got the phone call to come back and do the storyline now on GH, it was like the power of the universe was already in effect, and it was perfect timing.  It was something that I just had recommitted to explore in trying to help the disease.  Then I get a call from GH and it was just… you talk about fate and things bigger than us…  I think this is just too much of a coincidence.  So, I am going to play this through, and hopefully we will get as good of results as we could.

MICHAEL:

God willing!  I am hoping so.  It’s interesting how you detailed your new venture, because my next question was going to be, did you go on to do more things for raising awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS research, after you left GH?  You had become so identifiable and so associated with it, back in the mid-90’s, for your role on the show.

MICHAEL SUTTON:

Ironically enough, when I was acting I knew I needed to portray it correctly, and to have the delicacy to do that.  But, I did not want to be the poster boy for AIDS foundations and things like that, because in a way, I did not want to be pigeonholed, and wanted my work to stand on its own.  And, not necessarily go on and fight for a cause, and not be able to be separated from the two for an acting career. It was selfishly just for the career.  But deep down, anything that I could do to help I was always available for.  So when this came up years later, I could not jump in quick enough and go back and help out with something that I portrayed and learned so much about, and that came to mean so much to me.  Again, I felt blessed back then to have that opportunity as an actor, and I actually feel more blessed right now to be actually able to help people, not only with the strength in the emotions of playing the character, but actually giving them something to help them physically.  I think if all works out, I could not ask for more than to be able to help people with this disease, in two different capacities.

MICHAEL:

My last question; in working with Kimberly McCullough again after fifteen years, how was it to go back and perform in scenes with her, and spend time with her?

MICHAEL SUTTON:

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kimberly is the consummate professional, and always prepared, and I think that is great.  I think that is important to have with the amount of material the soaps give their actors day in and day out.  In that sense, I am always looking forward to working with her or Maurice, for that matter.  You have such a short time to explore what you want to do in the scenes, that if you don’t know the material, then it makes it almost impossible. Luckily, we both came in prepared.  We kind of talked a little about what we wanted to do, but it really did not find its shape till we did the rehearsals.  And, the way GH works; it’s a block and date.  We would rehearse and then shoot that scene. And then you could move on, rehearse the next scene, and then shoot that one. We found out right away what we wanted to do with the material. The director was in agreement with the choices that we made.  And of course, one of the choices you have to make is; if you are potentially a spirit and no longer on this planet, and you are in a blissful peaceful place (that we hope most people are when they are deceased) are you removed emotionally?  Are you just there for support and guidance?  We did not choose to do that, and we looked at this as part of Robin’s image of Stone.  She needed that emotional support and that pull-off of him.  So it obviously was a more dramatic choice, too. We kind of played it where Stone and Robin were as passionately connected as they were fifteen years ago, and we intentionally chose to play the scenes out that way.  I was so happy to work with
Kimberly.  It was enjoyable.  I left the day and I had a big smile on my face.

  1. denise says:

    Great interview, you always ask the best questions and get the actors to open up with their answers. I look forward to following your work.

    Regards,

    Denise McMann

    Reply

    kara anderson replied

    good question I don’t have any answer right now

    Reply

  2. Doe says:

    What a wonderful interview, Michael. How lucky to get Michael Sutton, and what a great story to bring him back. I can’t get over how he has matured and how handsome and intelligent he is with all his business accomplishments,etc. I haven’t seen the episode yet, but i’m very excited about it. Whoever decided to do this story ,whether it be the producer or writers, is genius. We have all been touched by this relationship in the past. Kimberly, is one of my all time favorites starting when she was a very talented little girl. I love the question you asked about if Stone had lived would he and Robin have been together. Great questions and revealing Michael Sutton to be an exceptional man. I liked this interview very much…..

    Reply

    kara anderson replied

    interessting information

    Reply

  3. Darcy says:

    My goodness gracious, what a wonderful human being Michael is I lived in Africa and saw how this disease took its toll while I was there;

    and didn’t get to see the Stone / Robin storyline until years later and they still remain truly moving. That storyline is discussed to this day on the forums (even before his return).

    I am so looking forward to them today..visually he and Kim are magnificent..Their blue black hair contrasting against the well’s walls caught my eye immediately and I got teary eyed (they did too) just seeing the photo then watching the clip….Oh, oh and when he kissed her hand,

    ~le sigh~

    What an interview Micheal. I kept reading buzz about his successful business ventures and the H-Wood hotterthanthis.. night club and I thought WoW.

    But after reading this I realize how level headed, smart this man truly is and deserving of his successes to turn around and use his time, money and influence to help those less fortunate and in need speaks volumes. Its a lesson some of these rich young adults can read a page from maybe it would keep them out of jail.

    I too hope this is a cure for AIDS. Imagine that! I got teary eyed just reading that; it seems he always has that effect on me.

    ….bless you Michael and good luck. I hope he keeps you posted on how things are going…so you can let us know…..can’t wait to see the documentary!

    PS. oops almost forgot: all this wonderfulness and he’s gorgeous too
    …errr…..you know us soap fans we can’t possibly ignore he still has the “IT” factor….LoL

    Reply

    kara anderson replied

    long story ever

    Reply

  4. Mary says:

    Michael Sutton ROCKS. I just love him. What an incredible actor, and even more, what a wonderful human being. I’ve waited fifteen years to see Stone Cates/MS on GH again. I had already given up hope…and then the announcement came, the anticipation, and finally, the episodes. And Michael delivered. Great actor, gorgeous man. Hope to see more of him onscreen.

    Reply

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