Interview With Stephen Martines, who formerly played Nikolas Cassadine
in "General Hospital", and Tony in "Guiding Light". He is
currently starring on Lifetimeís ďMonarch CoveĒ
Nadine: Tell me about Monarch
Stephen: A woman named Bianca gets
falsely accused of murdering her father and goes to prison for six
years. She gets out of prison and goes back home to Monarch Cove to go
about her life and start over and obviously thatís when more drama
ensues and it becomes the traditional primetime soap operaósex, love,
Nadine: Tell me about your
Stephen: Parker is the guy that comes
to town and- I wonít necessarily say he destroys peopleís lives anymore
because they kind of found a different direction - but he definitely
stirred up a lot of trouble. He is definitely the, as you would call it,
ship disturber. He is the rich guy from New Jersey. He runs the casino.
He goes back to Monarch Cove in search of the family he never knew he
had. Or shall I say that his father abandoned him.
Nadine: This is the first time
youíre doing nighttime TV?
Stephen: Well, since Pacific Blue,
this is the first nighttime series I have done.
Nadine: Do you prefer nighttime TV
to daytime TV?
Stephen: Its different. I miss
daytime for a lot of reasons.
Nadine: Name one.
Stephen: The stability is one of the
most alluring thing about daytime.
Nadine: Stability. Can you
Stephen: The thing about daytime is
youíre on contract, you get a weekly paycheck... you know what youíre
making per month and you have the ability to make more if they work you
more. Those are the perks to it. And again, youíve got stability for
three or four years if youíre on contract--If you are a vital source to
the show. And the thing about daytime that I really miss is the amount
of work that we do.
Nadine: Really? Daytime seems like
its so grueling.
Stephen: Well, it is grueling, but I
look at it this wayóitís probably one of the best training grounds that
an actor could hope for. Youíre going in, knocking out twenty to
thirty-five to fifty pages a day, and youíre learning the ropes of what
being an actor is all about. Whether youíre repeating yourself day in
day out, thatís a whole different thing. Thatís not really the issue.
But when youíre sitting behind four cameras you learn a lot of technical
things I think actors should learn...just basic things like hitting your
mark...you [also] get to work with a lot of different caliber of talent.
Especially talent such as Tony Geary, and the Genie Francises and
Stephen Nichols, and people who are veterans- the Jackie Zemans- who are
veterans in this industry for twenty thirty years and made a great
living and great career out of it for themselves, and I was fortunate
enough in my run in daytime to be able to work with those types of
people, so I myself had learned quite a bit. With myself, I was always
referred to as "the sponge". I took in as much as I could, as fast as I
could, and in hopes that it would lead me in a different direction, and
who knows whatís gonna happen five or six years from now. This show came
up. I took a little bit of time off and got back to L.A. and this was my
first audition I had. I ended up booking it, and it was a great
experience. Being in Australia, I had a blast. I really enjoyed
beingówhat I really enjoy most about primetime in my short experience is
doing it is location. I love being on location. I think that was the
most intriguing thing about it because it really allows you to kind of
develop your character more. Even though we did utilize some of the
studio space in Australia, we were on location the majority of the time,
and itís neat to see the environment around you because you can kind of
associate it with how your character would be, or how you would be in
real life, so it was much easier than sitting in studio on a built set
and trying to pretend. For instance, just sitting in a bar allows
you to really kind of play that environment and kind of use it in, I
guess you could say, a method sort of way.
Nadine: Give me a concrete example
of how you are able to use the physical environment for your character.
Heís a rich guy from Jersey?
Stephen: Just a small thing. I had a
Porsche. When I came to Monarch Cove, my entrance on the show was off of
a twelve-seater Learjet. It was like really loud. For myself, I could
never get that in a studio. When I walked off that plane, I felt like
that guy. Walking off the plane and hopping into my limo that was
waiting for me, and then I go to the mansion. Instead of pretending
youíre in a mansion in a studio, youíre actually pulling up to it. Itís
real to see. I think for me, it was nice to have that. It was a
different touch from what I was used to, so I think all actors prefer
location shoots. Itís much more fun being out in the open and breathing
the air and seeing the sun, than it is to be under all those lights.
Nadine: Thatís interesting that you
would say that. I can see where you could feel more motivated in a
setting like that, but Iím wondering if itís not a bit like cheating.
Usually, when actors talk about their best training ground, or the ideal
training ground, they talk about theater, and there you have to really
stretch yourself and pull up from deep within to create a character and
to react to what the setting is supposed to be.
Stephen: I agree with that one hundred
percent, but I also look at it his way; itís like being in a band
onstage. You have to feed off of an audience, and if the audience is
involved, and youíve captured the audience, then itís a lot easier to
maintain that focus. Itís a lot easier to stay in that moment. Having
been onstage and done a lot of performing with a band, thatís my thing;
thatís what I thrive off of. That audience in front of me. I think the
toughest thing for actors is theater-- it is a maximum training ground.
And it allows you to really kind of be melodramatic because it works.
You have to be big; you have to be over the top. The thing about film
and television is that youíre not allowed to be really over the top,
especially in primetime. Because you are very confined within a space on
camera. A lot of your technique has to change in terms of being more
internal, more with the eyes, very simple movements and keeping things
subtle, as opposed to theater where you tend to broaden that horizon a
bit and can let yourself g,o and you can be very animated. For myself, I
have never really done much theater. I admire the actors that do theater
because I think itís the most amazing form of art, and I think that they
are definitely actors among actors. I think, too, that fear in anything
you do should drive you, and for me, the fear of being onstage really
drove me and would drive me to do stuff like that. I also think that
every actor has his or her own way. Every actor feels different in
different environments. Itís six of one and half dozen of the other.
Nadine: So the location is sort of
compensation for lack of an audience? There is just a different
Stephen: Youíre feeding off of the
other talented actors. But for me, personally, what drove me the most
was it was my first time in a very long time doing a series that was
completely on location. And first of all, I was very driven by the fact
that I had gotten into primetime. That was what I was driving toward;
thatís where I wanted to be, and ultimately taking those stepping stones
that you have to take in this career, in this industry. So, for me,
thatís what really drove me the most. I canít really say that location
made me an actor because thatís not the case.
Nadine: Thatís not what I meant at
all (laugh). I get where youíre going. Who did you learn the most from
at GH? And give me one specific lesson that they taught you.
Stephen: Well, Iíll say this: that
thereís three people in this period in my career so far that have taught
me a great deal whether it was a simple comment or whether it was just
working with them or not. First and foremost, obviously, Tony
Geary. I think Tony Geary, probably in this industry, in the daytime
world, he is the elite. He is such a professional. He is such a
brilliant talent that when you do work with him, itís not only that you
have to come prepared, but he allows you that freedom to experience what
it is to be kind of spontaneous and to be in the moment and let that
moment kind of take you. The thing that I learned the most from Tony was
listening. When youíre an actor, and you have that eye contact, and you
listen, things just click and it makes sense. And that was when I first
realized thatóprobably in my fourth or fifth month on GH, when I was
new, and I was green, and I was still learning the industry, and still
learning how to be an actor. When I got that chance to really work with
Tony Geary, and have Tony really put it straight to me, it really
allowed me to trust my instincts. That was really the lesson I learned
from himóto trust my instincts. The second person I would have to say
would be Linda Dano. Linda Dano would always say, "Stephen, if you stay
true to who you are, youíre gonna make it big".
Nadine: Thatís awesomeÖ
Stephen: Yeah, sheís an angel. The
third person I would have to say is the first person I ever worked with
on a movie set, and thatís Charles Durning. I did a movie called
ďJusticeĒ, which is now called ďBacklashĒ. When I worked with Charles,
he would kind of pull me aside on set and say, "I wanna tell you
something. I know youíre new, but youíve got a lot of talent, and if you
stay true to yourself, and you trust your instincts, youíre gonna do
just fine". Three people whoíve had very reputable careers and done well
for themselves. Just to hear a simple word of advice, or anything that
would be a lesson learned from those kind of people, is something that
you should take with you every day throughout your career. But I admire
Tony a lot for what Iíve learned from him because predominantly a lot of
my work was on that show.
Nadine: You used the phrase ďmake
it bigĒ Whatís your definition of making it big? Be totally honest.
Stephen: As actors, we all have that
pipe dream. That dream of being the next Tom Cruise, or the next Johnny
Depp. When I got into this business, I used to always joke around that I
was gonna be the next Tom Cruise. First and foremost, heís the most
untouchable movie star of our generation. Heís the biggest thing there
is. Ultimately, I think for me, what would be making it big-- just
having longevity and being able to do what I love to do for an extended
amount of time, and make a great living at it, and be happy. For me, Iím
thrilled with that level of success. If you really want to take the next
step, for me my pipe dream is to be that guy-- to be the next big movie
star. Do I think Iím capable of doing it? I think so, absolutely. I
think Iím talented enough, I think I have the drive. But in this
business, you need a shot and that doesnít lie in our hands. Itís kind
of eerie to think that our careers are based on somebody eloeís opinion.
But who knows?
Nadine: Well, you do sound driven
enough to do it. Tell me about those first few days on GH. You were a
recast for Tyler Christopher--pretty big shoes to fill-- and given the
track record in daytime for recasts, tell me what was the predominant
feeling that you were having and what were you telling yourself in order
to deal with it.
Stephen: First of all, in the past,
there have been a few articles where [my opinions about Tyler] were
misconstrued. I have never had anything bad to say about Tyler. I think
Tyler is and always has done a phenomenal job. When I walked into that
character, I was petrified. The only thing I knew was that my mom
watched that show since I was two years old, so for me, that was scary
in itself. Here I am walking on the show, and Iím looking at Tony Geary
and Genie Francis, and Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans. And not only
on my first day did I work with those people, but I had to do four
shows. And the four shows consisted of about one hundred pages of
dialogue, and I had never done anything like that in my life! On top of
that, I had two love scenes with Mary Beth Evans, so I was a little
nervous. I think that every few minutes, I was turning to the camera and
saying, "Whatís my line?" I was all over the place, and to be
absolutely honest with you, I was all over the place on that show for a
good four or five months. I felt like I wasnít really focused, but I
felt I was doing okay. But my work wasnít really what I was capable of.
When I hit that six month mark, I felt very comfortable in what I was
doing. I just really started to kind of put the ego aside and let the
head shrink up a little bit because I was twenty-three, I was a kid.
Nadine: What sustained you? What
kept you from falling apart? What were you telling yourself?
Stephen: I donít know. Wendy Riche was
very supportive of me, and she always kind of stood by me. Herself and
Mark Teschneróthey always trusted that I could always do better and that
I was going to be okay, and that really allowed me to push myself. I
started to watch the show, and I could see where I needed to change and
where I needed to commit more. I think it all happened once I got a love
interest on the show and Gia started doing really well on the show. The
writing was there; the support was there. They loved the characters;
they loved the couple. I donít think they expected our couple to take
off as well as we did.
Nadine: I loved you guys!
Stephen: Thank you. We had a good
Nadine: Is there any particular
scene that you remember from your time there that stands outówhere you
said ďWow, I did a really good job on this", or "I really like the way
this scene was written". Anything that stands out?
Stephen: I had a really really good
time playing that evil Nikolas when he drugged Elizabeth and did it all
for Gia. On the yacht, when he was telling her what it was all for. Why
he did what he did. I think that whole week of that show was probably my
favorite time there being on the show in four years. I had a really good
time during that storyline, and it was nice to kind of branch out and do
something a little bit different from what the characters normally did.
I would have to say that whole week was pretty moving for me.
Nadine: What do you do in your free
Stephen: In my free time I used to
play a lot of golf, but I havenít played in a long time. I guess Iím
pretty much a homebody. Itís been really weird coming back [from
Australia]. Coming back to your life after having being gone for so
Nadine: So you guys have wrapped
filming for Monarch Cove?
Stephen: Yes. We finished about eight
weeks ago. I got back here about six and a half weeks ago. For me, itís
just been about really relaxing and getting ready for pilot season, and
I have already tested for a couple of pilots. Unfortunately, they didnít
pan out, but itís been fairly busy since Iíve gotten back. Iím kind of
gearing up and ready to hit the pavement again. But in my free time, to
be honest, I really donít do all that much. Iím pretty much a homebody.
I try to stay away from the Hollywood scene. Iíve done it. Iím older
now, and itís not really for me- the partying. Iím not a big partier.
Nadine: So what do you do at home?
Do you watch TV, do you read?
Stephen: I play a little guitar, I
Nadine: Youíre a musician. Whoís
your favorite musician, whatís your favorite song?
Stephen: Thatís something that can be
argued with a lot of people because I am a big Bon Jovi fan. My music is
very derivative of what Bon Jovi has done, and I am a rocker at heart,
so when I write, I write in a wayóI wonít say itís depressing, but itís
very mellow in the sense of what I feel and what goes on in my head, and
the scattered thoughts that I do have. A lot of it is derivative of the
pain you have in your childhood. That sort of thing. So for me, one of
my favorite songs, I always sing it in karaoke. Itís one of my favorite
songs ever, itís ďWanted Dead or AliveĒ by Bon Jovi. I think itís a
favorite for a lot of people, but for me I donít know, why I love it so
much, but when Iím on stage and I get the chance to sing it, I go into
my own little zone, and Iím in my world, and I just thoroughly enjoy
Nadine: Yeah. That song, there is
just so much of an opportunity to be dramatic and channel all these
different feelings. We are just about done. Do you have any favorite TV
Stephen: Monarch Cove, come on.
Nadine: Besides that one!
Stephen: I love ďHouseĒ. Iíve gotten
into ďHouseĒ a little bit.
Nadine: So you enjoy that complex
type of character?
Stephen: Yeah. Itís really weird
since we havenít gotten a chance to see a lot of shows since weíve been
gone. When we got back, there was ďStudio 60 on Sunset BoulevardĒ that
was airing, and then a couple of other new shows that were airing that
we knew nothing about.
Nadine: Well, you were literally on
the other side of the world!
Stephen: Yeah. It was very
Americanized there, but they didnít have a lot of good television, I
must say. But coming back, it was kind of neat to see a couple of shows
that I hadnít seen yet. I started watching ďHouseĒ, and Iíve been a huge
fan of that show. I think the work among the actors is phenomenal and
the writing is brilliant. Itís just a great show.
Nadine: Actually, how long have you
been playing guitar, or did you just start? Do you write songs as well,
or do you just play guitar?
Stephen: I do write all my stuff, but
I picked up a guitar about my second year on GH, and Iím like, "Oh, I
play guitar" (laughs) I canít play a thing. I didnít know what I was
doing then. Itís just been in the past couple of years that I really
kind of started to spend a little more time on it. Iím okay. I know a
lot of chords. In music, you only need three or four chords, and you can
write 250,000 songs. Like many country artists, they use four chords and
they write everything. But for me, I kind of strum, and use it as a
leverage for me to write down some lyrics here and there, and utilize it
for that source, and once I get a band back together, I will get some
guys that are much better guitar players than me.
Nadine: When you write, do you do
it systematically, or is it just in every day life something will hit
you and you write some lines down and flesh them out later?
Stephen: Yeah, pretty much itís very
sporadic. I mean, it can be at any time. I know one song I recorded
about a year and a half ago, called, ďThrough The NightĒ, that stemmed
from a nightmare I had while I was living in NYC on Guiding Light. I
woke up at three in the morning, and I said, you know what, I got this
idea for this song, so I just wrote the lyrics almost poetically, and I
brought it into my producer, and I had a whole vision of this song of
where I wanted it to go, and what I wanted it to sound like. We put it
together in forty-five minutes and had it recorded and mastered within a
day, and the song is amazing. I think if it hit the radio, it would do
Nadine: Are you trying to get it on
Stephen: I would love to, but that
part of the industry is just so, not only sketchy itís justóI donít want
to play the game too much. I would love to shop it, I would love to
re-record it, I would love to be in the studio, but if it happens,
great, if it doesnítÖ The greatest thing about what we do is you can
write, direct, star, sing, act, dance-- itís all open to you if youíre
persistent enough, and truth be told, if you have the connections to do
it. For me, I donít want to be one of those artists who, looking Latin,
and being half-Latin, I donít want to be the pop singer who is up on
stage dancing and singing. Thatís just not me. I want to be the front
man of a rock band, and when a label is ready for me to do that, then
Iím for it. When I was shopping before, and working with other
producers, it was like they all wanted me to be a pop singer, and it
just wasnít me, and I donít feel like I should change who I am, or what
I like as a singer, to fit that mold. And I know what itís for. I know
itís marketing, and advertising, and where they can make the most money.
It makes perfect sense to me, but Iím waiting for that time- and I think
itís close- to where the old rock phase comes back. I think it will
happen. I would love to see eighties rock come back. Growing up in the
eighties was the most fun. I had a good time with the music... so if it
happens thatís great. So if you know anybody out there who can help me
with a record deal, Iím all for it.
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