General Hospital Review

A Study in Character: The Swashbuckler and the Doc-Ex-Bro-In-Law
by Matthew Weaver

It's no secret that Tony Geary has chemistry with just about everyone on General Hospital. The show feels heavier whenever Geary takes a vacation, because it is absent the energy he brings to virtually the entire canvas.

This is a fact pointed out even by Michael Logan, with Geary himself struggling to explain the phenomenon, in an interview that originally appeared on the TV Guide website, and is now available for viewing at Amy's other GH website, The Anthony Geary Webpage. Logan's questions are in italics:

Some actors have chemistry with nobody, some with select people, but you have it with everybody--no exceptions. You turn on every costar. What is it about you?

I don't know. I guess you'd have to ask them.

Well, has this always been such a natural state for you that you don't even think about it?

Chemistry is an odd word. And what makes it I don't really know. I don't go into any scene saying, "OK, there's gotta be chemistry." There is no way to play that. It's either there or it isn't. I really try to look into the other person's head. I play a game where I try very hard to combine, say, John York with Mac Scorpio. The qualities I love about John become the person I call "Bubba" and the qualities about Mac that I can't relate to become the person I call "Scorpio." I always try to find two or three different names for the other characters, because people do that--a guy like Luke has nicknames for everybody. Part of that is so I can clue into a certain part of that person. I just one day started calling John York "Bubba" because he is--he's just a great big Bubba! A lovable sweetheart! And John brings that to Mac, and you can't deny the truth of that. So even when Luke thinks Mac is square or he disagrees with him, whatever, there's still a way to listen to him that embraces him. Even when Luke doesn't like characters, I try to embrace them. Even with a nemesis like Stefan. Tony Geary still likes Steve Nichols, so if I can pull things out of him... [long pause] oh, I don't know... I'm looking for a way to answer your question here.... I purposely try to do something different with every take, to keep it alive for myself. I'm not interested in playing games with other people's heads, I'm not a practical joker. But I do believe in living in the moment. I change words sometimes, or someone will say something I think Luke needs to comment on…

Fine. So Geary has chemistry with just about everyone, right? Luke and Laura. Luke and Jonathan Jackson's Lucky (we haven't seen enough interaction with Jacob Young over the past two years to convince me of anything). Luke and Bobbie. Luke and Stefan. Luke and Helena. Luke and Lucy Coe. Luke and Sonny. Luke and Felicia (I always bought the friendship, but felt the "Fluke romance" was rushed). Luke and Scotty. Luke and Mike. Luke and Alexis. Luke and Liz. Luke and Tiffany Hill. Luke and Tammy Carson. Luke and Robert Scorpio. Bill Eckert and Julia Barrett. Bill and Sly Eckert. Luke and Bill.

These are just some of the celebrated interactions Geary has had with his two GH characters over the years. But, as wonderful as they all are, there's one person in Port Charles who just seems to bring out something in Luke that no one else is capable of, who makes for such scenes with the erstwhile Mr. Spencer that a true GH viewer cannot help but be riveted to the screen. And yet, sadly, this intriguing relationship is very rarely given much attention by anyone.

On the surface, Geary's Luke and Brad Maule's Dr. Tony Jones are two very different people. Luke is a swashbuckler, an adventure/thrill seeker whose life seems perpetually at risk and always in trouble. On the other end of the spectrum, Tony is a security blanket. Dr. Jones is a family man and almost always dependable, with a brief lapse in good behavior back when he went psycho and kidnapped Michael. But even that could be explained away by all the heartache Tony endured, like losing BJ and falsely believing Carly's child was his until she snatched him away, and by Tony's desire to see Michael grow up in a safe environment rather than being surrounded by mobsters. (Once again, a good start by Guza, but lousy follow-through.)

But in preparing for this article, I was struck by the fact that the two characters really are quite similar. On the surface, Luke looks more primed for a friendship with Tony's wayward brother Frisco, but as we look closer it becomes more apparent that the two are really cut from the same cloth. One just seems to attract more trouble than the other.

Both are devoted and loyal family men, both have sharp and quick wits, both have teetered on the edge of insanity and come away from it. Why shouldn't they be friends?

It was only under Bob Guza that the potential for this relationship was realized. Prior to that, Luke and Tony didn't really interact all that much, save for some comedy when Luke and Laura first moved into the Brownstone, complete with Lucky's pet spider, and Luke used all the hot water in Tony's shower. Luke even expressed his surprise that former spitfire Bobbie had married and found happiness with such a secure (read: dull) guy. And there was a conversation between Luke and Tony about Laura's marriage to Stavros, although I don't remember what the context was.

But Guza changed all that. All of a sudden, there was a connection. And it happened on the steps of the Brownstone. Again, I apologize because I don't remember the context of it all, but Luke and Tony got into a fight on the steps (I think in the wake of the revelation that Tony had slept with Carly), and then each tried to cover it up when Bobbie caught them. Bobbie asked Luke if they had fought, and Luke had responded with a quick "no." It was funny, and at the same time there was regret expressed on Luke's part that he had done so.

Guza left for a while and then the connection was lost. Then Guza returned and it was picked up again. A lot of press has gone to the fact that Guza "gets" Luke, or at least the Luke that Anthony Geary wants. But I think he also got Tony Jones, because a lot happened to Tony on his watch. The first time around, Tony became less than perfect by cheating with his wife with his wife's daughter, and the second time around Tony became even more unhinged. But Guza also realized that there is something shared between the characters of Luke and Tony, and did a little about it.

After the revelation that Carly was Bobbie's daughter, and that Luke had known about it, Luke and Tony met in the park, and Tony angrily asked why Luke had not informed him about Carly's parentage. Luke responded that it wouldn't have mattered; Tony was going to sleep with Carly no matter who her mother was. Another scuffle (the first of many scuffles for the newly transformed Dr. Jones) ensued, with Luke again expressing regret. He--and Guza--remembered the first, almost a throwaway scene compared to many.

But then nothing else happened, until earlier this year when Lucas fell ill and into the clutches of Helena, forcing Tony to help her revive Stavros. (Now, that earlier conversation about Laura's marriage looks like foreshadowing.) Luke knew that something big was happening, that Tony knew what was going on and that Lucas was the key to his involvement.

Never has the connection between the two characters been more apparent than in their scenes aboard Helena's yacht, with Luke desperately trying to figure out what Helena was up to and Tony, fearing Madame Cassadine's retribution, desperately trying to help and at the same time not give anything away. If Jill Farren Phelps and Megan McTavish do nothing else, they will have given us Monday, July 16, 2001 (from Tracey's Transcripts):

Luke: All right, let's come at this from another angle. I'll tell you what I know. Helena has been making some very suspicious shopping expeditions. She's been buying building materials and concrete and biotechnical lab equipment. And it's all headed for General Hospital, only the catch is none of it ever shows up at a ward or at a lab.

Tony: Well, I don't handle deliveries, so you're going to have to talk to the manager of the loading dock.

Luke: You lie!

Tony: I tell the truth.

Luke: All right, let's go on. One of those shipments does show up, but it mysteriously disappears right around a certain freight elevator, an elevator that Helena was seen lurking around. What did she have to do with its disappearance?

Tony: I don't know. You tell me.

Luke: And then, of course, there's Lucas' illness, courtesy of queen of the damned.

Tony: We have been through all of this, Luke.

Luke: The kid's at death's door, his vital signs are going down, he's comatose, and then suddenly his father shows up with an antidote. Where did you get it, Tony?

Tony: The serum worked.

Luke: I know how Helena operates. She uses people's worst fears against them. Is that what happened here? Did she ransom your son's life and then try to make a deal with you? What does she want, Tony?

Tony: From me? Nothing.

Luke: Lucas' illness was just the beginning. I got a real strong feeling there's a whole bunch of germs, viruses, some kind of bacterial army out there, maybe right under our noses, and you know more about it than you want to know! So you and I are just going to stay right here until I know what you know.

Later in the episode.

Tony: What are you doing on Helena's yacht in the middle of the night, anyway?

Luke: Meeting you. She's abandoned ship. Didn't you know that? She's hanging from another rafter these days.

Tony: I don't make it a habit of keeping track of Helena. In fact, the truth is I would like to completely avoid her.

Luke: Then why did you rush over here like an overeager lap dog the minute she called?

Tony: You called. Because I thought it was hospital business.

Luke: All right, let's talk hospital business. What's up with those mysterious shipments that just disappear into nowhere? And what about this freight elevator? What -- what is that about? At midnight does it suddenly -- does it suddenly open up and you go down into the bowels of hell? Give me a clue!

Tony: I don't have one for you.

Luke: And what about the unidentified virus that puts a kid at death's door until his father shows up with a miracle cure? Where did you get it, Tony?

Tony: We've been through that.

Luke: Where did you get it?

Tony: Johns Hopkins, remember?

Luke: Yeah, I remember. I called Johns Hopkins. There was no antiviral sent to General Hospital. Don't, Tony. Don't close down on me. We're on the same side.

Tony: I know that.

Luke: Why are you protecting Helena? Did she threaten your life?

Tony: You think this is about me? You think it's about me and my sorry life? Do you not realize that I would sacrifice my life at a second to save Lucas, or Bobbie, or Laura, or Lucky, or Lulu, or you, for that matter?

Luke: This is about the children, isn't it? That's how she got you to do whatever it is that you did --

Tony: Just leave it alone!

Luke: Leave what alone?

Tony: Nothing! Nothing!

Luke: All right. I'll leave it alone. I'll just keep stumbling around in the dark. I know that Helena would kill your son just for the joy of it, just because she got up on the wrong side of the coffin. But what I don't understand is the miracle cure. See, that throws a whole wrench in the deal. I figure there was a quid pro quo. She wanted you to do something you didn't want to do, so she ransomed Lucas' life. What the hell is going on here? Tony, what kind of sickness, what kind of horror, is she about to unleash?

Luke: You don't really believe that she's going to keep any bargains she made with you, do you, Tony? Just because she looked you in the eye and made a promise -- you don't think she's going to keep it?

Tony: I'm not that naive, all right?

Luke: Good. Because she'd kill in a heartbeat. She doesn't care about you or Lucas. She doesn't care about your conscience. Whatever it is that she's forced you to do, she's going to use it anytime she pleases.

Tony: So if I break my word, are you going to reassure me that she's not going to kill immediately out of retaliation?

Luke: No.

Tony: Then I can't tell you, can I?

Luke: Well, at least give me something to go on! Give a -- am I in the right direction? Tony, if she -- if she does whatever she's going to do, she'll kill everybody in her line of fire! And she'll start with every one of the Spencers. You know that!

Tony: You're headed in the right direction. Keep looking.

Luke: Where? Where? The freight elevator -- it was -- it was a dead end.

Tony: No, it wasn't.

Later…

Tony: Like I said, keep looking.

Luke: Where? Which way?

Tony: You figure it out.

Luke: Ok! Ok, just tell me this. What Helena's got brewing -- is it global in scope, like Mikkos, or does she just want to deep-six our family?

Tony: I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you right now.

Luke: Believe it, Tony!

Tony: I'm not you! I don't go after adventure at the drop of a hat. I'm just a guy. I want to keep my family safe.

Luke: That's all I'm trying to do.

Tony: But I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to fight this kind of evil.

Luke: I do.

Tony: Then you go for it.

Luke: Tony, wait. Just give me something to go on. Please. I can't keep fumbling through this maze!

Tony: Did you just say maze?

Luke: Yeah.

Tony: Luke, you're so smart. You've gotten all this way on your own. So you think about what we said tonight and what was left unsaid, and you may be a lot closer than you think.

God, I love this exchange. Maule and Geary were excellent, and I liked Tony's line about Luke being so smart and telling him to figure it out based on what was said and unsaid. His line about not being Luke illustrates their differences perfectly. But the one that really broke my heart bears repeating.

Tony: You think this is about me? You think it's about me and my sorry life? Do you not realize that I would sacrifice my life at a second to save Lucas, or Bobbie, or Laura, or Lucky, or Lulu, or you, for that matter?

I think it's the "or you, for that matter," that really kills me. Why is the soap so stupid as to not realize the gold mine they could have in this friendship? Right from there, with the more recent exception of Tony figuring out Helena had gotten to a confused Luke, we've been given bupkiss. (Or have we? Tony and Luke did sit next to each other for Thanksgiving at the Brownstone.)

If you really think about it, Tony should have been the one to comfort and befriend Luke in the aftermath of Lucky's "death" over Felicia. And he sure as hell would have made a better best friend for Luke than the out-of-left-field return of Roy Dilucca. Think how clever historically and creatively such a story would have been: Tony and Luke joined in the pain over the loss of their children. Tony along as a partner in crime in the adventures of Hiram and Orphey Goodlove, a third musketeer. He was the man called upon to investigate the skulls in the Quartermaine crypt; why not invite him along for the entire thing? When Faison kidnapped Felicia, why wasn't it Tony who came riding to the rescue? (He knows who Faison is, certainly; Cesar had to duck and cover when he was lurking at the hospital and Tony came by.) Or when Luke had to flee the country, how much more intriguing and meaningful would it have been for Tony to break him out of prison or have to go find him?

Roy is doing what Tony is more than capable of doing; Dr. Jones has gone on adventures before. Remember him going with Felicia, armed with a scalpel, to tell Frisco she was pregnant with Georgie? And the dance the stripper gave him? Or think even farther back, when Tony, pretending to be blind, tried to help his back-from-the-dead brother nail Domino? (Off-topic thought: Was anyone else seriously ticked when GH failed to snap up Joseph Mascolo when he left Days of Our Lives as Stefano DiMera? Domino could have returned, or Mascolo could have played a new character--I personally love the idea of Mascolo as Ptolemy, GH's never before seen, kooky coroner, a character ripe out of Picket Fences. But then, I'm weird. And GH's loss is The Bold and The Beautiful's [Mascolo plays Massimo Morone] gain.)

On the surface, Tony and Luke are like peanut butter and kumquats, but in the right hands and under clever storytelling, they could be PB & J. All someone needs to do is notice them.

Daytime's continued lack of recognition of Maule (not to mention GH's recently moving John J. York [Mac Scorpio] off contract) is a prime example of the industry's sore need to look at how it treats its veterans.

I'll leave you with the address to Brad Maule's website. Again, you can't really right click any of the pictures, but it's nice to see somebody recognize Maule as a gem of an actor. (You gotta love his quotes!) And Maule answers my question about the scene with Luke on the yacht in the question of the month (scroll down the front page).

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