This week, soap audiences saw the return of Bree Williamson to their daytime screens when she brought her delicious new character of Claudette West to General Hospital. Williamson, who wowed One Life to Live fans for over 8 years as Jessica Buchanan and all of her alters, made the decision to return to the world of daytime drama when this seemingly take-no-prisoners character was offered to her.
As GH viewers have witnessed in short order, Claudette is already spinning her web in an effort to her claws back into her ex-husband, Nathan (Ryan Paevey), at the expense of the woman he loves, Maxie Jones (temporarily Molly Burnett/then returning Kirsten Storms).
But Claudette’s past with Nathan is quite complex which is an understatement, and that will provide Bree and GH fans with plenty of story ahead. For Claudette was having an affair with then Father Griffin Munro (Matt Cohen) behind her hubby’s back. But as luck would have it, now Dr. Munro has also relocated to Port Charles.
Ultimately, what will happen when all parties know they are in the same town, and the truth is out that Nathan shot Griffin, while the man of the cloth was in the throes of passion with Claudette? What will become of Maxie’s relationship with Nathan in all of this? On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Bree to get her take on Claudette’s debut on to the scene in Port Charles. Plus, Bree weighed-in on: working with her new leading men, her two Maxie’s, reteaming with executive producer Frank Valentini who steered the ship while she was at One Life, her thoughts now looking back at her time in Llanview almost five years later, and teased some other upcoming projects. Bree’s back! That’s good news for soap fans. Here’s what she shared.
So many daytime fans were most excited to hear you were coming to GH. The series head writers, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman, spoke about you in a recent interview with On-Air On-Soaps, and on the creation and the casting of Claudette. Jean related about you coming aboard: “I have to say we were absolutely thrilled, because both of us, when we started thinking of this character, thought of Bree Williamson!”
BREE: That’s so nice and so sweet. I love to hear that! I know them both, and they both did write for Jessica on One Life to Live.
How did it you find out that GH wanted you for the role?
BREE: I found out through my manager. She informed me that Frank Valentini called, and said, “They thought about you when they wrote this part … and what do you think?” I said, “Yes, I will do it.” It just seemed like the right time, and to be able to go back to work with Frank and these writers, I knew it was going to be good. I thought this will be a lot of fun, and it has really has been.
You are recurring on GH, but you also have some other very exciting projects and other roles coming up, as well.
BREE: I did a pilot called Rebel for BET, and from what I understand the series got picked up. I play a character named Dolores, and that’s a really exciting show, too. John Singleton is executive producer of it, and he directed the pilot. It was amazing to work with him. All the actors in the show are really wonderful. In Rebel, I play Rebecca’s (Danielle Mone Truitt, who is the lead in the show) old friend from school, and I don’t know how much more I can say! (Laughs) I can’t say whether my character is good or bad. It’s complicated, and little bit more nuanced than that. Also, I am going to Ottawa, Canada over the GH hiatus to film another movie, and I got a notice today about that which said, “You can’t reveal anything about this one on social media.” (Laughs)
You are a mother to your five-year-old son Mac. Was this the perfect time for you to entertain going back into the demands of a soap while being a mom? Has it been at all difficult to leave home and come to the studio?
BREE: General Hospital’s schedule is great. I am home for bedtime every night. I don’t mind early mornings. In the morning is when my husband and my son hang out. They do breakfast together and it’s totally cool, and I am home later, and my child is happy. Being on GH works out wonderfully, and is better than other projects I have done, in which I have had to fly, and get on a plane, and had to leave him. There is everything to be said about ‘we are here in L.A’. I don’t have to fly anywhere, and even if there are one or two late days on set, it’s not a big deal. Mac is old enough, and he can handle it. It also gives him time with his dad, which he totally digs. It works very well for me.
What was your first day back on a soap like for you, but now on General Hospital?
BREE: It was very weird. It felt foreign to me, but familiar. I felt nervous, and I felt excited. Nervous in a way that I am not nervous anywhere else, because I know everybody, and yet I don’t know what everybody is thinking about me being there. I had a lot of feelings, but I walked in and everybody was like, “Hi! How are you? So nice to see you!” There were plenty of hugs, too. I went, “Oh, this is nice!”
Did you run into Michael Easton (Finn) and Roger Howarth (Franco), your former castmates from One Life?
BREE: I saw both those dudes! They were great. But I also got to see people I have always wanted to meet, like Michelle Stafford (Nina) who I have always just seen in passing at awards shows. Another is Jane Elliot (Tracy). I just dug her. I know both Rebecca’s; Herbst (Elizabeth) and Budig (Hayden), but I think my first day I talked to Rebecca Budig a lot. I know Emme Rylan (Lulu) and Vinessa Antoine (Jordan). Vinessa and I had worked on the same series Haven. So it was really exciting to see her. I know Finola Hughes (Anna) and she gave me a big hug and said, “Oh, my God! You are going to love everything here!” Then she would say, “This is what you’re going to do, and this is who you are working with.” (Laughs) I loved it. It was like talking to a producer. Finola went on to say, “You are going to love Matt Cohen, and you are going to love Ryan Paevey.” She was really funny and so sweet.
I am so sorry Bree that you have to work in a storyline with two unattractive men such as … Matt Cohen and Ryan Paevey. (Laughs) When you first found out you were working with them, did you look them up online, or did you know them?
BREE: I didn’t know them. Here’s the deal: All soap dudes are good-looking, but you know what’s nice? They are both really nice guys! Look, it’s always really nice to hang out with a very attractive guy, but they are both so nice, and that’s the good news. They are super cool to be around.
What were your first impressions of Ryan, and Matt?
BREE: Ryan is like this gentleman with the deep voice going, “Hi. I’m Ryan. I’m very serious, but then I also do funny stuff!” He is a dude. Then, when I first met Matt Cohen, I knew who he was. But, then I went, “Oh, you’re Ryan.” And Ryan Paevey goes. “I’m Ryan!” I go, “Oh my, God. I’m so confused. What your name? Because there is a Ryan and a Bryan …” (Laughs) So, I totally screwed up Matt’s name thinking, “Oh, my God! This guy hates me now!” But, when we recently worked together for the first time, he is the nicest guy ever, and so hilarious. Matt is great to work, and is very enthusiastic. He has a wife and a kid, and I really, really like him. He is happy to be at GH, and he is always there to run lines with you, and he thinks, “Let’s just go and make some good TV.” I am thinking, “Yay for me! (Laughs) That’s great.”
This week we saw your first scenes where CJ (a.k.a. Claudette) interviews with Maxie (temporarily Molly Burnett) for the graphic designer position they are looking to fill at Crimson. Claudette certainly was shrewed on how she pulled this off, knowing full well who Maxie was!
BREE: Yes, she was. My first scenes were with Molly Burnett, and I just have to say a few words about Molly. We all know that soap fans are very enthusiastic, and most of the time that is the nicest thing in the world. But on social media, I was doing a sweeping “be nice to her”, because she is kick-ass. She did a wonderful and amazing job filling in for Kirsten. She was a total hero. So, if you care at all about GH, you should be applauding Molly. And if you care about Kirsten it was amazing, because Molly kept the character going for her while she was away, and did a great job. In no way shape, or form was Molly like, “I want her job.”
Now that Kirsten Storms (Maxie) is back in the role she made famous, how has it been working with this talented fan favorite?
BREE: I just got to work with Kirsten for the first time now that she is back, and I love her! I so adore her. We are going to have so much fun together. Kirsten is really, really great. She is a great human being, and I like her a lot. Kirsten is a mom like me. She just wants to do good work, and have a fun time doing it.
Soap fans have strong opinions on their particular show, storylines, or the actors, or the characters. What can you say about being back in this side of fandom?
BREE: It took me stepping away from daytime for a second to see how the soap fans follow you everywhere you go, and are also so enthusiastic about other jobs you do, and are still enthusiastic about you, and are very loyal. I have really appreciated their loyalty and awesomeness, but I get it When I am watching a show, and there is something happening that I am totally not digging, I would be like, “Oh, man this is b*s.” I was just trying to say to the fans; it may not be exactly how we want it, but it’s an amazing alterative, and the actress playing the part right now deserves our patience, and our respect. Honestly, I don’t know if I could have done what Molly did.
On social media, and on this website, so many fans were over the moon that you were returning to daytime, having loved your work on One Life to Live.
BREE: You never know how the reaction will be. You think, “Is anyone going to care? Are they going to want me to come back? Are they going to see me in this role?” But it was really nice, because the fans were really warm. It’s thus far been a very positive experience.
What is Claudette all about? What’s her deal? What is motivating her?
BREE: Listen, (laughs), Claudette is such a story-spinner that it’s amazing. What is the truth? I love it! What Claudette do you want? (Laughs) Her story that she tells Nathan is that its been hard for her in New York, and that she has been unemployed for awhile, and she has had to expand her job search to other places, and she found this great magazine in Port Charles. So, she threw her hat into the graphic designer position Crimson was hiring for, and she got the job! She had no idea that Nathan’s fiancée was there. Now, I believe her motivations are: she is coming back to Port Charles, and checking up on her ex-husband, and to see if she can get him back, or at least still get his attention. That happens, and he has a fiancée, and that hits a nerve with her and makes her a little jealous. She is thinking, “How dare you move on without me?” But at a point he really loved her. Nathan loved her a lot. He loved her enough to shoot a man over her. I think Claudette enjoys attention, and she wants his attention back.
And that man Nathan shot, and who she was cheating with was Griffin … who Claudette clearly has a past with, as well.
BREE: She has no idea that Griffin is in Port Charles. Griffin was always something she could really never have, because he was a priest, and someone who would always reject her, and something she could never really do anything about. It wasn’t like a woman she could get rid of. It was more of an unmovable obstacle, which is probably why she liked Griffin so much.
How do you view why Nathan and Claudette were having problems in their relationship in the first place, which in turn caused her to cheat on him with then “Father” Munro?
BREE: The problem in their relationship is it started off as a green card marriage. She wants things her way, but she genuinely fell in love with Nathan and wanted to make it work. She was trying to figure out the marriage, but at the time he was really wrapped up in his career. He was not coming home, and he was not hanging out with her and being with her. She was lonely, and felt much neglected, and not like a newlywed, and not loved and not important. Those are very valid feelings and complaints about a marriage. She went to Griffin for guidance, and they ended up having a really strong connection, because he understood in her in a way, at the time, and maybe in general, that Nathan didn’t at all. Griffin was giving her attention, empathy, and understanding in a way that Nathan wasn’t and probably never had. They had an affair, and Nathan caught them.
Do you see Claudette as “Miss Evil Bitch”? (Laughs)
BREE: I know everybody thinks Claudette is evil, but she genuinely thinks she is going back to make things right with her first husband. She is trying to say she is sorry about the affair, and trying to push Maxie out of the way and not give her a second thought.
Is there vulnerability to Claudette, or is she just conniving?
BREE: Oh, no! I don’t think you can play a character as just conniving, because I don’t think human beings exist that way. I think Claudette is smart enough to know when she is being manipulative, and what she is doing, but her intentions are not pure evil in any way. She just wants what she wants. She doesn’t know Maxie, and she doesn’t care. She is thinking, “Sorry. Nathan was mine first. We ended horribly, and we have some unfinished business. He went on to you, and he probably shouldn’t have, because we still have unfinished business. I’m sorry. We had a real marriage. It ended badly, and I need to talk to him about it, and get closure and figure it out, because he once was my husband!”
What was it like working with Frank Valentini again after several years, and being on the set with him, since he is known for always being on the floor with his actors and the crew?
BREE: It was great. I trust Frank. I love him. Like I said, this is the perfect way that I would want to come back to daytime, and to work with Frank. It’s important to say, because Frank cares about the show a lot. He spends a lot of time on the floor, and then in the edit to make sure the episodes are the best they can be going out on air.
You and I talked in November of 2011 when One Life to Live was wrapping its run. When you reflect back on that time now, and have had some distance from it, how do you view it? Was it a gratifying experience for you? They gave you incredible material to work with when you got to play Jessica’s alters, since she suffered from DID (Dissociative identity disorder).
BREE: One Life was such a great time. You work other jobs, but it’s so rare you get a part where you get to play so much, and there is so much to dig into. It was really a special moment in time.
Have you stayed in touch with your former on-screen mom, Erika Slezak (Viki, OLTL)?
BREE: I have, not how I would have liked to. I fully think with most, or all, of the people on One Life to Live, if anybody needed a couch, a place to stay, or needs to make an emergency phone call to someone, because of the kind of connection we all had and have as a group, we would be there for each other. We would be like, “Hey Melissa (Archer)! What’s up?” Look, it’s all love that we all have for one another.
Have you felt any pressure to make sure Claudette is a lot different than Jessica?
BREE: Not at all. I’m a different person, and I’m a different actor now. It’s the same genre, and that’s the only thing that’s similar. People might feel something about me not being Jessica, but I think they saw me as Tess, Bess, and Wes, and so it’s totally going to be fine. I have faith in the soap opera fans that they will be OK with this character on GH, not being Jessica.
You are also good friends with the General Hospital’s beloved Kimberly McCullough (Robin). Did she give you any tips before you started on the show? Have you ever watched some of Kimberly’s past work on GH?
BREE: Besides the drive from the beach to the studio, Kimberly just told me: “Finola is great, and Kirsten is great, and you are going to have a great time. I did catch some of Kimberly as Robin on GH, and I thought she was wonderful.
In closing, what should fans watch for as Claudette continues to ingratiate herself into the town of Port Charles?
BREE: She comes to Port Charles to get what she wants in everyway; and not let anyone stand in her way. Claudette is a strong woman.
So, what were your first impressions of Bree Williamson and the character of Claudette West in her debut week on GH? What do you think will happen in the story with Nathan and Griffin? What did you think of Bree’s sentiments about all of her new GH co-stars? Reflecting back on her time on OLTL? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!