One of the finest actors on General Hospital is Tyler Christopher (Nikolas), and no more apparent was that simple fact than during his recent star turn in episodes, which featured Nikolas dealing with the unthinkable! His beloved ten-year-old son Spencer (Nicholas Bechtel) was caught in a raging fire at his birthday party at Wyndemere.
As the grief-stricken father gets his son to General Hospital to assess the damage, Nikolas waits for word on his condition as tears flowed, and the unbreakable bond between father and son even in life’s most unsuspecting and horrific moments explored. Tyler’s performance was, to say the least, Emmy-worthy.
But Tyler’s Nikolas has encountered a bit of a character change of late, or maybe it’s just been dormant and hiding underneath all this time, as Helena (Constance Towers) told her grandson. Recently, after being duped again by the woman he loves, and seeing that life hasn’t really given him all that he had hoped by being on the up and up, he is lured by Helena to embrace his inner-Cassadine. But, as Nikolas grapples with that, he has made it clear he won’t hurt his family, and that he draws the line somewhere … but does that include his cousin, Sam (Kelly Monaco)? After getting the truth from Helena on what she knew of Luke’s (Anthony Geary) twisted behavior, and her admitting to controlling her “soldier boy” Jake (Billy Miller), she admits to Nikolas that Jake is really Jason! However, Nikolas is hell-bent on getting hold of ELQ, and he knows that if people were to become aware that Jason was alive, his shares of ELQ could tip the scales in favor of the Quartermaines.
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Tyler to get his thoughts on: his emotional scenes after Spencer is badly burned, how GH incorporated Shriners Hospitals for Children into the storyline, working alongside one of his favorite scene partners, Nicholas Bechtel, if he foresees a new woman on the horizon in Nikolas’ life, and what the future may hold, if any, for Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst) and Nik. And, he weighed-in on what is really going on in the mind of Nikolas Cassadine at this juncture … and much more.
Last week fans of GH saw you turn in one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful performances, when Nikolas worries if his son Spencer (Nicholas Bechtel) will survive the burns and injuries sustained in the fire at Wyndemere on his birthday. The scenes were exquisite, and had the audience bawling their eyes out. When did you find out you were going to have this heavy new storyline beat, and how much time did you have to prepare for the scenes?
TYLER: Our executive producer, Frank Valentini, gave me the heads up that this is what we were doing. However, in terms of the dialog, and how the story is going to unfold specifically, maybe a little less than a week.
What was it like for you having to play the drama of having your on-screen son suddenly becoming badly burned? Was it difficult for you to play the emotion and tackle the story, because you are a father in real life to your own son, Greysun?
TYLER: Now that I have my own son in real life, I was curious to find out how that would affect me differently than it has in the past when I had scenes with Spencer, before I had Greysun. It wasn’t that difficult to tap into, but probably would have been more so, if I hadn’t had a son. You just can’t imagine the thought of someone that close to you and someone of that age going through something like this. It was difficult in that way.
The on-screen relationship you have with Nicholas Bechtel is one of the best on General Hospital. I thought you and Nicholas were sensational together in the scene at GH when Spencer wakes up for the first time and tells his father he loves him. He then asks if Nikolas will be there with him when they move him to Shriners Hospital in Boston. Nikolas replied that of course he will be with him every step of the way. Many, including me, reached for the hankies, yet again!
TYLER: There just aren’t too many kids like Nicholas Bechtel. He is very wise, and very precocious, and at the same time he knows the plot. He understands when he needs to be serious, and he understands and knows when it’s time to not take it as serious. For a kid his age at ten-years-old, he has a good grasp on what it means to be a serious actor. That is pretty rare.
Did you watch your work back during those emotional few days of episodes?
TYLER: No, this kind of stuff, I do not. I wish I had a very concrete specific reason as to why I don’t, but it freaks me out a little bit.
The fan reaction on social media was fantastic when the story played out. Did you follow what was being said on Twitter about you, and the storyline?
TYLER: I did! I was interested to see their reaction to the story point, and they made a big deal out of it, which was great. We brought in the Shriners Hospital to this story. So there was another element to how important it was, not just in terms of how it related to General Hospital, but in the bigger scope of things. We had a representative of Shriners Hospital with us on set at all times making sure we performed all the medical procedures to the letter. We really had to take our time, and make sure we got it the right way.
Over the last several weeks, Nikolas has taken what some call a “dark turn”, but some viewers are hoping there might be redemption for him in the near future. What do you think of the character turn? After all, right now he is holding vital information of the true identify of “Jake” aka Jason (Billy Miller).
TYLER: Everyone wants to label what is happening as the “dark side” of the character, and I don’t really see it that way. I think of him more as a shrewd businessman, and more of a risk-taker that’s naïve, and more brash. I don’t see Nikolas as dark at all.To me, that has connotations of a person that has no mercy, and that is devoid of any ethics. I just see him as becoming a more wise character. In recent years, he has always just thrown himself into a loving relationship only to be burned in the end, or he is seemingly the last to know of whatever ruse is going on around him, which I think made him out to be kind of a fool. I have always thought that Nikolas is a smarter character, and I have always fought for him to become what I think he is becoming. But, I think “dark” is the wrong adjective to describe where he is going.
In the scenes between you and Nicholas Bechtel when this tragedy struck, it really showed that special bond between Spencer and Nikolas against the world. Nikolas views it that way, wouldn’t you say?
TYLER: That is exactly what it is! If you are going to use the character and say the character is “dark”, and I will just use that term for now in that direction, then you have got to have contrast, otherwise you are just a bad dude. I don’t believe anyone is like that, and that is why the character of Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) became so popular. Sonny is doing all of these bad things, but he has this layer to him that was kind, loving and understanding, and merciful, and that has been the cornerstone to his character. I have sort of taken different pieces from that and tried to implement them into this new and improved Nikolas. I just think a more rounded character is more interesting to the audience.
Helena (Constance Towers) was carted away for now, but what does Nikolas truly feel for this insidious woman, who has hurt so many people he loves?
TYLER: I think that Helena is like his reserve fuel tank. If Nikolas needs something that requires her cunningness, wit, and resources, then and only then will he use her. I don’t think that Nikolas has respect for her power, but make no mistake … they are not friends, and they are not co-workers. Helena is simply a tool for him to use at his disposal.
What was it like working with Constance Towers in the recent scene where Nikolas held a knife at his grandmother’s throat?
TYLER: It’s very difficult to play scenes with her where I have to use the knife to her throat. Again, I have always said this about Constance: she is one of the most elegant, kind people you will ever come across, and I am not the only one who feels that way about her. The way that she carries herself is something to be emulated by any women in this business.
This week, viewers saw Nikolas almost confess to Sam (Kelly Monaco) that Jason is alive during a heart-to-heart conversation that ensued when Sam came to visit him at Shriners Hospital.
TYLER: Well, he ended up saying absolutely nothing! It’s one of those classic soap moments were some unfortunate intervention screws up the admission. And where we are at now in the story, Nikolas is fully committed to this ELQ takeover, and he is all in. I am still trying to workout his motivation behind it, but I think we will figure out what that is. It can’t be about money, and it’s not to get back at anybody in the Quartermaine family, unless it was AJ, but as we know he is out of the picture. Maybe power is the reason … we shall see.
So, is Nikolas truly, deep down, racked with guilt over withholding this information from Sam?
TYLER: He really is racked with guilt over that, because family comes first to him, but I think he is trying to figure out what to do as he goes along with the information, and how he is going to deal with it when he does have to reveal the truth. I think Nikolas knows the secret about Jason will come out, whether it comes from him, or not.
Do you see a new woman entering Nikolas’ love life in the near future?
TYLER: I don’t know how long you can go on a soap without having some sort of love interest, or something going on. I think whatever scope of what that relationship is, and whoever it might be, will be completely different than what we are used to seeing in him being involved with. I am just guessing and speculating, but I think it will be more lustful than we are used to seeing with Nikolas. I don’t think it’s going to be this sort of fluffy relationship he had with Emily, by any stretch of the imagination. I just don’t think you are going to see any of that from Nikolas anymore.
I recently interviewed Alicia Leigh Willis (Ex-Courtney, GH), and she told me how much she enjoyed working with you. With Spencer in the condition he is now, and the talk about his mother in the recent past, it would seem now is the time for some kind of appearance by the character, even though she is technically dead.
TYLER: I have been lobbying for her return for a while. She is a difficult one to have comeback, because of the manner she died. I always thought if there’s one character you would want around and who has ties to so many characters on the show, you could see why you almost need her around. I just felt that it was not a good choice to kill that character. We have always made this an important story point of who is going to be the Cassadine heir since I started on the show 20 years ago, and who is going to be the heir when Nikolas passes on, and then Spencer is born, and that’s a story point moving forward to this day. Courtney is Spencer’s mother, and she died giving birth without ever having been a part of his life. And then there is all this stuff with Helena about her trying to control him, because he is now the heir. So, I just felt it was a misstep.
I agree! It would have been nice for Spencer’s mother to be on the scene right now, although her name was one of the characters on the ballot during GH Fan February voting, so maybe some kind of appearance is imminent when the Nurses Ball comes around.
TYLER: Yeah, and again that’s unfortunate that she isn’t there for this. For awhile there was Nikolas visiting Emily’s grave, and look what I have done to Lucky and Elizabeth, and for a long time he failed to mention Courtney, who he was about to marry, and is the mother of his only child. I went to Frank Valentini, I think in the last year or so, and said, “Could we mention Courtney’s name every now and then?” A lot of people on our show didn’t know who Spencer’s mother was.
You received a Pre-Nomination in the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category for this year’s Daytime Emmys. The blue-ribbon round of voting is currently underway. What episode/scenes did you submit?
TYLER: I did not have a ton to choose from, but what I did have to choose from I felt solid about. I chose the show that followed Britt and Nikolas’ engagement party that went south. It’s difficult when you can only choose one episode. There is always a scene in there that is sort of obscure and a bit abstracted. And, you say to yourself, “I could do without that in there,” but you can’t omit certain scenes from specific shows.
Kelly Thiebaud (Ex-Britt) was great scene partner for you throughout her run, and she was also excellent in the fallout from the engagement party scenes.
TYLER: She was, and she chose those scenes as well for her reel. I felt she was very worthy, and it’s a shame that she did not get a Pre-Nom, as well.
Did Nikolas truly know all along what was going on with Luke Spencer (Tony Geary), while everyone was questioning … who is Fluke? His reaction made me question if he was in on it somehow all the time.
TYLER: No, not until Helena revealed that to him; I mean why would he? That is such a random, far-reaching thing. However, when he did find out about what was going on with Luke, he didn’t look too surprised!
Are there a few scenes, or moments with Nicholas Bechtel as Spencer, that are your favorites, or that you had the most fun with?
TYLER: I particularly like when it’s teaching, father to his son – whether that is disciplining him or teaching him life lessons. I don’t think you see that much on soaps, in particular the father and son relationships, where there is an element of “I know more than you. Please let me guide you and let me show you, and teach you.” You have to have the right actor to do that, and Nicholas is the perfect one for that, because he listens and he reacts to what you are saying, and how you are saying it with the inflections you put on it, and the tone of your voice, as well as all of your actions. It’s very difficult to find a ten-year-old actor that can do all of that.
Do you see Spencer’s recovery wrapping soon? It would be nice to see the emotional beats of the story play out and on-going, and Nikolas struggling with, and trying to help his son.
TYLER: No, I don’t see it wrapping up soon at all. Spencer is staple character on the show. The kid’s road to recovery, and the implications of what a life long scar will be explored. That’s what we are playing right now that he thinks he is a monster, and he thinks it was done on purpose. He feels ugly, and all of those things that a kid would feel in this situation.
Finally, do you think there is hope for Nikolas and Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst) to finally get together, since they are continually for the most part… torn apart? Or, would you say that ship has sailed for good?
TYLER: It has to be there. Those two characters have such a rich history, and again that is one of those things that often gets lost in daytime. Actors go away, and they don’t come back. Becky and I have been fortunate enough to stay around each other for almost two decades now. Of course, I left a couple of times, but the characters have always found their way back. For longtime fans, and even new fans, that’s important, because fans like to reflect. They like to say things like: “Remember when?” That’s what keeps them watching us. When you constantly have characters circulating in and out, it’s difficult to stay interested, and I understand why. So, to have them both Nikolas and Elizabeth linger around each other forever, if possible, is important.
Watch the clips of scenes below from last week’s General Hospital when Spencer is taken to GH with a distraught Nikolas below. Then let us know, what did you think of Tyler’s performances? Do you think Nikolas will continue to hold the secret that would be life-changing for Sam, that “Jake is Jason? What do you think of Tyler’s comments on what kind of woman and relationship would be potentially next for Nikolas? Are you rooting for Elizabeth and Nikolas to get back together? What do you think of Tyler’s thoughts on working with Nicholas Bechtel? Would you like to see Courtney back on the canvas somehow? Comment below!