When Maxie Jones (Kirsten Storms) returned home to Port Charles after her eat, pray, love adventure to find herself again, she brought with her self-help guru Levi Dunkleman. From the moment Levi hit the screen, the GH viewing audience took an instant disliking to the character! (It took a millisecond!) But as we have seen, it was all for a purpose. No one is supposed to trust the pontificating of Levi and his outlook on life. In fact, there is something going on with him and this week, as Maxie and Levi’s shotgun wedding nears, the story begins to unravel, especially after Friday’s clues which saw Felicia’s (Kristina Wagner) Aztec jewels come in to play.
On-Air On-Soaps had the opportunity to catch-up with the Australian born Zachary Garred at last weekends GHFCW 2014, (where he also appeared in public for the first time with his new shorter hair cut) to get his thoughts on: all the vitriol coming his ways from fans of the series, how he has intentionally shaped his performance of the character to become the most despised character on the ABC soap opera, his thoughts on working with co-stars Kirsten Storms and on-screen nemesis, Ryan Paevey (Nathan), and to get a tease of what is to come as Levi’s story kicks into high gear! Now, before you throw things at you computer screens … check out our chat with Zachary G.!
To put it mildly, there has been quite the response and reaction to the character of Levi Dunkleman by the GH fans! What do you think about that? And how do you go about playing this despicable character?
ZACHARY: It is a great response and a helluva response, and you play him with conceited conviction, because he believes everything he is saying. When I first got cast, GH executive producer Frank Valentini said to me, “Do not play the cliché hippie angle because that’s already there.” He’s right. If you do that it’s fun, but it really does not have much consequence. But if you play it with that sort of duplicitous angle underneath it becomes really infuriating. People out there know guys like this! And to play somehow who is quite underhanded and duplicitous is something totally different than one might expect to see with a character like this, but it’s a lot of fun.
Literally, the second day you were on the air the fans were screaming: “Who is this arrogant SOB! Get rid of him! Send him back to Australia!” (Laughs)
ZACHARY: I know! (Laughs) When I started acting I think I was like 15 or 16 years old when I had just my first audition. The response you generally want to get is that you just want people to have an opinion on the character, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. If everyone liked the characters … you wouldn’t have some of the greatest movies in history!
Did the powers-that-be tell you once you landed the role that you would be playing such a pompous jerk?
ZACHARY: No, Frank just said don’t play cliché! General Hospital’s head writer Ron Carlivati, and the team that write Levi, really do a good job at giving me material to work with. The fact that Levi is juxtaposed against the gorgeous genetically spectacular Nathan (Ryan Paevey), who is like the All-American hero, works for the character too!
You mean Nathan AKA Ryan, or as he is better known now as #SOB (hash tag Shirt off Boy)? (Laughs) And speaking of shirts off, you’re on-screen entrance on to GH was in nothing except a towel!
ZACHARY: Maxie’s apartment is hash tag “Shirt off Apartment”! (Laughs) It’s a clothing optional space! (Laughs) And my first scene was in a towel and I had just come from doing a play where I was naked on stage, so that was not much of an issue. Actually, having a towel on was a bit of an improvement! I worked with Kirsten Storms (Maxie) and Ryan Paevey on my first day here, and they are both such beautiful people, and very generous actors and they are so welcoming and warm. When you walk on to GH, and on to a set that has been around for 51 years, you are talking about a TV show with lineage … and for somebody like me who had never done a soap before, it was a little daunting!
Wait! Weren’t you on the Australian soap opera, Home and Away?
ZACHARY: I did Home and Away and that is our lineage as well, because some great people went through like Naomi Watts and Chris Hemsworth. Our soaps are so different. The pace you guys shoot out here is incredible, and the following and the fans is phenomenal; and with Home & Away there is a lot of location shooting too. So theirs is a very different kind of set-up. When I said, I hadn’t done a soap before; I meant I had never done a “proper” American style soap opera.
How is Kirsten Storms to work with?
ZACHARY: She is a gem! The thing about Kirsten is: for someone her age she has so much experience in this industry, and as actress so many mediums. I am very lucky to have been paired up with Kirsten and Ryan in story, and Ryan was fairly new to the show when I came on too. So we are so lucky because the fans love of Maxie, and Kirsten is such a beautiful, sweet, funny person. We all get along like a house on fire away from work. We hang out at Kirsten’s place with her and Brandon Barash and their daughter Harper as well. So to have the camaraderie as well off-screen it helps at work.
This coming week on General Hospital, Levi’s story begins to reveal itself as Levi and Maxie’s wedding draws near! There are so many rumors and so much speculation out there about who this guy is connected to, and what he is really doing with Maxie and in Port Charles. What can you tease about what is about to go down?
ZACHARY: There is SO much going on! We had a huge week shooting the other week and it’s going to be exciting besides the physical differences that you witnessed (Zachary referring to his now short hair). It’s going to be a really, really interesting couple of weeks on-air. It gets deeper, and deeper, and deeper, and deeper!
So, Mac Scorpio (John J. York) really despises Levi! He has had him pegged from the beginning. What if turns out that Mac is really Levi’s father? Oh, the irony!
ZACHARY: Oh! If I could wish to be the son of somebody it would be John J. York (Mac) who is wearing a white pink checkerboard sort of golf pants right in front of us! I love him. Actually, that is the kind of guy I would like to have as my dad.
But, could Levi be the illegitimate son of somebody?
ZACHARY: I am the son of somebody … and I can’t say who. (Laughs)
What did you think when GH told you, the name of the character you would be playing was “Levi Dunkleman”? Did you say, “Wait? Are you kidding me? Is that really the name of my part?” (Laughs)
ZACHARY: (Laughs) I loved it, because he sounds like a hopeless bumbling chef: “Oh, Dunkleman you have done it again,” like that kind of a guy. When Ryan Paevey (Nathan) and Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) keep saying it, we always laugh about it. They will go; “Dunkleman ….West!” It’s like a kind of a standoff between these two enemies! If the fans don’t like Levi enough, just wait! Ron Carlivati said, “Let’s stir them up a little bit more.” And I am like “Good mate, keep poking that possum!”
So, who is Levi Dunkleman? Who do you think he is connected to? Do you despise the character of Levi? What do you think about Zachary’s comments on his take on the character? Weigh-in below!