On General Hospital, Nina Clay (Michelle Stafford) in a “quickie” maneuver married Valentin Cassadine (James Patrick Stuart)! Was it for love, or was it so she could desperately become the mother to his young daughter, Charlotte (Scarlett Fernandez)? Since Daytime Emmy winner Michelle Stafford came to the ABC daytime drama series, Nina has longed to have a child, by any means possible, following 20 years in a coma! That includes; inducing labor to her then preggers enemy, Ava Jerome (Maura West), delivering her baby, and then kidnapping the child. After Nina finally came to somewhat of her senses, it seemed she had put her harrowing past behind her, but has she really?
Now Nina is willing to back-up her nefarious new husband, and the two are ready to fight by any means possible to keep Charlotte’s bio-mom, Lulu Spencer Falconeri (Emme Rylan), from being granted sole custody of the child. Since her time on GH, viewers have seen the evolution of Nina Clay Cassadine. She became a successful and savvy fashion editor-in-chief of once fledgling Crimson Magazine, and has gone toe to toe with its mob boss owner, Julian Jerome (William deVry). She has shown she is capable of love, and understanding of what is right and what is wrong, and has also done some humane things for those in Port Charles. But which version of Nina will ultimately play-out in the months to come? That is the question only the writers may have the answers to.
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Michelle Stafford at the recent 2017 ABC TCA All-Star Cocktail Reception, where this talented actress shared her thoughts on: working alongside James Patrick Stuart, how she sees the trajectory of her on-screen persona to the audience, if coming over and creating a new role on another soap (after her wildly successful run on Y&R) has been filled with unexpected challenges, and much more. Here’s what the “Real Stafford” had to say about her current adventures on-screen, and ventures off-screen.
How has it been working with James Patrick Stuart (Valentin Cassadine) as your newest leading man on GH?
MICHELLE: James is great! I did not know his work from before. I believe he was on All My Children before I was on Y&R. I cannot even tell you how much I love him. He is a spectacular partner. He is very respectful of me. We laugh and we have fun, because you have to have fun, and he is really good actor. The thing about him is … I don’t notice somebody’s work when I am working with them. I am just doing the scene, but I see the scene back and he is really interesting, I notice him doing stuff in the scenes I didn’t know was there. I think he is super sexy. James is a smart actor. He and I both get it. They (Valentin and Nina) have to be in love, and it has to be deep, or it won’t work. When I have heels on I think James and I are the same height! (Laughs) I am a big woman. I walked into hair and make-up the other day and there was Becky Herbst (Elizabeth), Kelly Monaco (Sam), and Rebecca Budig (Hayden), and I am like, “Hello, little children!” They are itty bitty and good for them! (Laughs)
Do you think Valentin and Nina have legs as a romantic pairing?
MICHELLE: We will see. I think it’s up to the writers, and if it’s a story that the audience wants. I can’t tell you how happy I am that Finola Hughes (Anna) is joining the story with us. The three of us together I feel is magical. Neither Finola, or I are playing “I want to be the one that wins in the scenes.” We don’t have that going on. I know since social media is so prevalent in what we do now, that people get too attached to what the audience thinks, or may think. You have to be willing to be fired and play the story. For an artist, it’s such a mistake to listen to a group of people, because sometimes it’s what they feel that day. They might feel differently three days later.
Nina is so attached to Charlotte; a child that is not hers. Are you at all concerned that Nina will be portrayed as one again “cray cray” this time in marrying Valentin, and with her deep-rooted desire in wanting to be a mom?
MICHELLE: I truly don’t care, as long as it’s good story, and as long as it’s fun. The one thing I did say is that Nina either has to be crazy, or she has to be sane, but you guys can’t one day have her do something and you play the crazy music, and then next week she isn’t. I only say that because as a storyteller your audience gets confused. They may be thinking: “Should I like her, or shouldn’t I like her?” So that is my only concern. I don’t care whatever way it goes, but you can’t waffle.
What did you think of her marrying Valentin on the spur of the moment, which would ultimately be a game-changer as to who has custody of Charlotte … Lulu (Emme Rylan), or Valentin?
MICHELLE: In any story you play you have to be in love with the person. Nina wants a family. The thing that works for me as an actress is she lost her entire life. Wouldn’t you want a family? A baby? She has had her entire life taken away from her. It’s the impetus for everything she does. It’s very simple with her. She got everything taken away, and she is grasping to have love really at the end of the day. It still works for me as an actress.
So is this marriage to Valentin a sham? It appears to the audience quite often that Nina’s life goal is to have a kid she can raise and call her own.
MICHELLE: She wants a family, and I think if she is playing she just wants the kid that is a bit transparent and thin, always playing her obsessed with kids. I think she just desires love so much.
Nina is beginning to look like the villainess, especially around Charlotte’s bio-mom Lulu, while inserting herself into the little girl’s life. Do you see Nina as being the bad one here?
MICHELLE: I don’t know, but Lulu is not being very nice. But Nina is supporting her husband. I think that is very real to her, and Lulu hasn’t even raised this girl. I like that in the beginning they were all cool with joint custody, but Lulu wants full custody. She is fighting the fight, because she is thinking: “Why are you doing this, Lulu? You had joint custody with Valentin, now you want everything. So, screw you! You want everything, and you insult me, so screw you!” (Laughs) It’s kind of a knee-jerk reaction that people do have in real life.
Has this been a challenge for you as an actress, with the different GH head writers interpretation of the character of Nina?
MICHELLE: It’s a challenge. To be honest, I think I am underestimated going on a show and creating a new character. It wasn’t tough on Y&R when I started there, but it was 1995. It was a very different time. It was Bill Bell (Co-creator, Y&R) writing the character, and this is no disrespect to Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman (GH head writers), but it was a different. Bill was writing the show and the network was not involved, and it was 100% his vision for a character. My acting and writing relationship with Bill Bell was magical. I was too young to know that doesn’t always happen in Hollywood. Here we are in 2017, and it’s just very different. So that being said, there have been obstacles, but at the same time I was willing to have them. I have enjoyed the obstacles and have been creating something new. It’s very fun, but I believe you have to embrace it, but I will be honest. Having the GH head writer change, that was a bit jarring, because it was so different. They really wanted to change up the character, but then you also have to be true to who you were, because otherwise it makes no sense. The audience is smart. They are like: “Hey, you are trying to get us to like her!” And as an audience member, I would not like that, either.
Several months back, GH played the harrowing history between Ava (Maura West) and Nina, when Nina was meeting with a young pregnant girl in the park, and Ava came upon her and shouted to the hills that Nina is a baby-snatcher, and more! What did you think of this scene, where they finally reminded viewers of the heinous act perpetrated on Ava by Nina; inducing her labor and then stealing her newborn baby girl, Avery?
MICHELLE: The thing is Nina was deeply disturbed, and that’s true. She was put in a coma, and basically killed for 20 years of her life by her mom. I think that would be disturbing. . But now she is growing up. I would actually like, and I don’t know where the story is going, but for Nina to say to Lulu, “I want you to have this child.”
What’s the latest with your skin care line, Skin Nation? You are fast becoming quite the entrepreneur!
MICHELLE: We were just chosen by Wellness Magazine as a company to watch for in 2017. This has been quite an undertaking, and we have new people on the team. My message for Skin Nation is bigger than the actual product. The message is to educate people about organics and natural products on their skin, and toxins that are in everything, and about taking care of your body. When I got emails from women of color saying. “Can I use it too?” And Asian women, I would say back, “Why couldn’t you? It’s about bringing women together, and taking care of themselves. And when we become really solvent, I would like to get involved with women’s charities. So I really like this, and it’s really fun.
And as for your very fun and popular vodcast Single Mom A Go Go, I sometimes see comments that people would prefer you not swear on your show. How do you feel about that feedback? What is the outlook for the show, overall?
MICHELLE: I am going to do some changes there, too. This year, I am not going to swear. You’re either in the mom advertiser bracket, or you’re not. So I have to pick a side. I think I might make this show eventually an audio podcast. The episode that I recently posted with Vinessa Antoine (Jordan, GH) was actually the way the show should be. I have Greg Vaughan (Eric, DAYS), and Finola Hughes (Anna, GH) on new episodes of Single Mom A Go Go, and I am going to announce I am not going to swear anymore!
So, what are your thoughts on the character of Nina Clay Cassadine? Do you think Valentin and Nina’s relationship will flourish, or combust? Will the crazy Nina of the past emerge? Do you want the character to continue to be more balanced? What are your thoughts on Michelle’s outside projects: Skin Nation and Single Mom A Go Go? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!