On the July 31st episode of ABC’s General Hospital viewers saw the lifeless body of Dr. Silas Clay with a knife in his back, ushering in a murder mystery with more than a handful of suspects who wanted to keep the guy quiet. However sadly, Silas’ death spelled the end of the line for daytime favorite Michael Easton.
Easton was killed off the 52-year-old soap opera in a role that just never really caught fire, or had the chance to. The actor who is beloved by his fan base, and treasured by his colleagues was definitely caught s bit off guard by the news that he would be leaving the ABC Network. It was a place he has called home for more than 12 years with memorable roles such as Caleb Morley on Port Charles, and One Life to Live’s John McBain.
Speaking of McBain, the character headed to General Hospital following the cancellation of ABC’s One Life to Live. At that time, Prospect Park was able to mount their second attempt at an online version of the series, and a major dispute erupted between the two companies that saw cast members: Easton, Kristen Alderson (Ex-Starr and Kiki), and Roger Howarth (Ex-Todd, now Franco) caught in the crossfire. Ultimately, GH could no longer use the characters of John, Starr or Todd in their stories, and thus for Easton, the character of Dr. Clay was born to keep him on the canvas.
With all the twists, and turns, and upheaval in Easton’s soap life over the last few years, On-Air On-Soaps sat down with Michael following his GHFCW 2015 fan event appearance, where an outpouring of support and love rained down upon on him. Those in attendance tried to let Michael know they are there for him, while he tried to make the reality of the situation, and his exit from GH … OK for them! It was, to say the least, a very touching moment.
In a very candid conversation, Michael opens up about how he found out he was exiting GH, if he would ever entertain the notion of appearing on another soap, how he has coped and dealt with being shown the front door, his thoughts on his soap opera leading ladies, and what this all now means for his real life family … and as they say, ‘when one door closes, another opens.’ Now with all that behind him, and a clean slate for the future, Easton whose latest graphic novel Credence: Lose This Skin is being released, and his short film, Ultraviolent starring best friend and former One Life co-star Trevor St. John (Victor Jr.), which is already receiving awards, is certainly keeping busy. But still, saying goodbye is sometimes the hardest thing in life we have to do. So, here’s what Michael let us know, and wanted you to know … until we can all meet again.
Did you have any clue, and did you see it coming, that your character was going to be killed off of GH after they were starting to give the character a bit of story? It must have been a bit of shock, and a jolt.
MICHAEL: Yes, and I’m always reminded when I started on One Life to Live with Kamar de los Reyes, Dan Gauthier, Trevor St. John, Nathaniel Marston, and David Fumero these guys were all there, and by the end of 8 years all that was left was Bob Woods and I. So, I went through it with all of those guys. You are always prepared for it … at the same time you are not prepared for it at all. They let me know at General Hospital what was going to go down a couple of months beforehand. I was then kind of walking around having to hold this secret for story purposes. I had to carry it around for a couple of months, which was a little tricky. I knew some people knew before me, obviously. I kind of felt that “Dead Man Walking” thing for a while. But, we are big boys and girls. We sign on the dotted line. They lived up to their end of the agreement, and I lived up to mine.
You mentioned to your fans at your event that the last day of shooting at GH was difficult, and you kind of wandered home afterwards. I thought that statement was perfectly said on how someone would feel after something like this. How was it for you at the very end? Did you just say, “Goodbye, guys”?
MICHAEL: We have been saying goodbyes over the last few years, first to One Life to Live and the crew. You become almost closer to the crew than you do the cast because you see them every single day. It was a little numbing for a couple of days. You don’t want to ever say you get used to it, but you handle it.
You had mentioned that if you had known this was the role you were going to end up playing (Dr. Silas Clay) you wouldn’t have wound up going out for that role. This was the part that followed-up your incredibly nuanced performances as John McBain on One Life to Live, and General Hospital. Then to see you as Silas, the writers had to do a quick adjustment and turnaround to figure out what to do with you because of the lawsuit with Prospect Park involving the One Life characters that came to GH. When you were in the middle of that were you thinking to yourself, “What am I going to do to make this new role work?”
MICHAEL: Certainly, when I came back after the Prospect Park situation, I never unpacked the suitcase, if you know what I mean, especially coming back the second time around. Writing on a soap is a tough job. It’s an uphill battle. It’s on me to make that part work. I never quite got a hold on it. That being said, there was not a lot of consistency to it for me, like a consistent story or throughline. It felt like I was just with this girl, and then you let her go and you never see her again, and now you are with this girl. There was a lot of stuff where I was just reacting to things, and it was very hard to drive story being in that position. But I really tried my best, and really fought to try and make it work. However, in the last year I really didn’t work that much, maybe one or two days a week. It’s really hard to turn things around when you are in that position.
Are people still coming up to you with the hopes that you would one day return to a reboot of One Life to Live?
MICHAEL: Someone told me that ABC was working with Prospect Park on a primetime show. I don’t think that solves any of the daytime soap issues, but they are obviously making other deals together. Someone had told me optimistically at the fan event, “Does this mean anything?” I honestly feel, and I have been pretty good at this, that I usually know if I am walking out of a building if I will ever walk in there again. And, I don’t think I will walk in there again. I wish it was some sort of hoax, or something that we were playing, and this is all sort of a gimmick. It really isn’t. It’s very serious. I just got the sense when I walked out of there… that was that.
Where do you see the next chapter of your journey going? You mentioned at your event that you, and your wife and kids, may take some time to figure out what that is, and where that will be. This seems to be the moment in time to figure out what you want to do with you life, and your career. You are such a fantastic writer, and I assume with your writing you would continue doing that. I was so excited to see you win an award for your short film Ultraviolent starring Trevor St. John. Do you feel ready to move forward with what lies ahead for you after finishing up your run on GH?
MICHAEL: When you get over a bit of the hurt, I walked out of it feeling blessed it happened. Then very quickly I felt inspired, and I felt liberated, and I felt like going out there and doing something again. I became very aware that I never wanted to be frightened by life, and I did not ever want to be playing it safe. So in a way, being let-go from GH was a wake up call to all of those things. It’s just circumstances, and it’s not the vision I had for myself. Hanging on to the part and coming in one day a week was not the vision I had for myself … and for my career. If that is the way that it was going to be, better that it ends this way, as I didn’t want it to drag on like that any longer, anyway. I have a good vision in mind, and I just have to go to find a way to make it become a reality. Within that vision is my children. The other day I built sandcastles in the beach with them. It was one of the happiest days I had in a long, long time.
Ultraviolent starring Trevor St. John, and directed and written by you, is something that so many of your fans are anticipating seeing. What was that like working with Trevor in this film that was so dark that even the character kills himself in it?
MICHAEL: Trevor St. John is on another level in this film. It’s what all the people are used to seeing with Todd Manning, but to the tenth degree! It’s such a beautifully nuanced performance that he does. It was just Trevor and I in a room with one camera guy, and one sound guy. We did something really beautiful. We rehearsed it, and it’s really something terrific.
Do you think if Days of our Lives called you up to reprise your first soap role as Tanner Scofield, that you would consider the notion of going there, or to another soap opera if they pitched you a great story where you could be a main focus on the show? Or, do you think your daytime soap career is over? You have kind of done soaps all over the place, especially on the ABC brand. However, you have such huge popularity with the fans that you would think some other network, or series would tap into this. Is that even something you would even entertain?
MICHAEL: I think I might have one more in me. It would have to be the right thing, and you can’t be cavalier when you have two young ones at home. But at the same time, I want to do something that I love. I want to be passionate about it again. I want to have a storyline that is driven by passion, and I think that is something I had very much on Port Charles and on One Life to Live for a long time. There were some real ups and downs certainly there, but there were some really great moments where there was some beautiful storytelling. That’s what it’s all about. It’s really about the storytelling, but as attractive as it might be for some powers-that-be to say let’s bring this audience over to someplace else … it seems very gaudy to do that.
You mean, it feels a bit like prostitution?
MICHAEL: Yeah, a bit. It would be nice to do another soap for a beautiful reason, because there is this great part that is right for you, and it is that part you would want to go in for. Then you would get to work with these certain actors that you admire and trust, and you get to work in an environment that is right for you. And of course, then you would think about if that will ever happen again. I honestly really don’t know what genre that will come from, but it will work itself out.
You have some of the most incredible fans, and fan bases that have supported you, and cared about you. What have they meant to you during this difficult time? It’s so interesting that while they were trying to ease your pain, I think with your appearance and discussions with them, you are helping them deal with the loss.
MICHAEL: Well, I wish I could buy them all a drink, which I tried to do at the fan event by having a proper wake for the character! (Laughs) I’m honestly humbled, and I mean this for their outpouring of support. I am pretty thick-skinned, and I have been doing this a long time. Very little stings me. And I admit, this stung me a little bit, and it’s been the fan’s kindness, and their generosity, and their outpouring that’s really made me feel like I was doing something semi-worthwhile. It’s made me feel much better about what happened. They have actually eased my pain a bit. I’m actually kind of trying to ease their pain, which is so interesting. But they are very genuine, and I hope they realize that I am very genuine. I hope they realize we have a very genuine relationship. It’s a very honest relationship when you hear us talk. I think it’s one of the most unique relationships of any group of people. I almost feel weird calling them “fans” because they are honestly more like “friends”. Most of these people know about my family, and I know about their family. It’s a very loyal and beautiful group. They mean a lot to me.
Let’s talk a bit about your two most notable leading ladies: Kelly Monaco (Sam, GH) and Melissa Archer (Natalie, OLTL). What is your takeaway during your daytime career having built this incredible and enduring on-screen chemistry with them that struck a nerve with the viewing public?
MICHAEL: As far as Kelly goes it’s right there. It’s Kelly Monaco! You just look in those eyes. I never locked eyes with someone that I have worked with quite like I have with her. Kelly is just easy to get lost with. I think when you can do that some very natural things happen with actors. I trust everything that she does, and hopefully, she would trust what I do. Melissa Archer is different in the sense that we are very different, and you talk about opposites attracting? We come from two very different worlds, and two very different techniques, but there was just something so passionate about her. Melissa is funny, and she is all of these beautiful qualities, and it made for a great partnership. Honestly, I am the luckiest guy. Everyone of my on-screen partners has made me look better. I have said this before, as in life a good actress, and a good woman will make you better, and that is: my wife makes me a better person, but these actresses I have worked with in every case made me a better actor, and made for a better story because of them.
Michelle Stafford, who played Silas’ crazy wife, Nina Clay, told me that you were “extraordinary”, “one of the classiest guys”, and “so smart.” What was working with Michelle like on General Hospital, where the two of you had to create this back-story?
MICHAEL: In the back of your mind, because of the weird relationship between Silas and Nina that always puts up a bit of a barrier. I was always fond of working with Michelle. She is obviously an amazing talent. Michelle has a generous heart, and she is a kind person. Her work is incredible. The circumstances that we were sort of thrown into from the get-go were difficult, but she was terrific. No one gets more out of scenes than she does. Michelle and Maura West (Ava) have an amazing technique were there might not be that much there. and yet they are able to make so much out of them. It’s a skill I wish I understood, or I was better at. I didn’t watch Michelle’s work on Y&R, but I was well-aware of her, “the dynamo”, and she didn’t fail to disappoint. She had all of that in her and she was great to work with. And of course, Thorsten Kaye (Ridge, B&B) warned me about her! (Laughs)
It has seemed like GH was playing with pairing Silas with Ava for a minute, especially after he saved her from dying of cancer in such an unorthodox method – kidnapping her baby girl, Avery and using her bone marrow. Did you think that was going to be a start of story, not the end of one?
MICHAEL: Yeah, it seemed a bit weird for Silas to save her life, and then get killed-off. I imagine from her point, she could have just killed him off. That also seems strange for some reason, because you can just be in conflict with someone. I really enjoyed working with Maura, too. Maura brings so much to every scene, and she is so interesting to work with. I think in the scenes where we had some material to play there were some interesting moments in there. I just would have liked more of them.
Very simply, I ask, “How do we heal you? What can we do for you?”
MICHAEL: That is sweet, Michael. It was lovely closure, and I am glad my fan event wasn’t six months from now, because I would have had a hard time coming back. I still have some tears, and make-up on my shoulder where people cried. I fought back tears a couple of times. Again, I probably shouldn’t have had that much Irish whiskey before coming to the event! (Laughs) I hate to admit that. (Laughs) In many, many ways GH is already in the rear view mirror. I have something of a lengthy resume, which includes a lot of shows that have been cancelled. I have had to say a lot of goodbyes to people, professionally.
As GH viewers are currently watching the murder mystery whodunit of, “Who Killed Silas?”, how many days did you actually have to lay there with a knife in your back?
MICHAEL: Oh! Quite a few days! Quite a few people had to put a knife in my back, (laughs) so they could do flashbacks of all the suspects. I am sure at some point they will decide who did it, or someone will imagine they did. You will see it. It will be like a “Slasher’ flick! (Laughs)
Were you able to talk to Trevor St. John as a sounding board after you were let-go by GH? I know how close the two of you are.
MICHAEL: Oh yeah! Trevor had great advice for me, and I had another friend who had a very nice bit of advice for me, which was, “They played their hand and it was big hand they played. You’re still in the game, now you have to go play your hand.” Honestly that is what it is. I will always look back at this time so fondly, and all of the people that I met. Many of these people are still in my life, in particular those from the earlier ABC times in terms of Trevor, Kamar, and Bob Woods, who are such a part of my life now. When I started I was a single guy, and now I have a wife and two kids. I have almost grown through this during the dozen or more years with ABC. I look back on all of this so fondly. I am so glad it happened. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss: “Don’t be upset that it ended. Be grateful that it happened at all.” I really look at it that way. I think when I walk away from today I will probably put it away for a while. I will miss people a lot, but I will be OK with it.
What did you think of Michael’s thoughts on his exit from General Hospital? Where would you like to see Michael turn up next… another soap? What do you think about the unique relationship that Michael discussed that he has with his fans? Who was your favorite leading lady for the fan favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.