Now and Then: Stephen Nichols
Has Left the Building
by Matthew Weaver
Nichols Joining GH."
I still remember the day in early 1996 that I was shopping at a Target store
in Spokane and spied the headline on the latest issue of Soap Opera Weekly.
"Stephen Nichols Joining General Hospital."
I'd never seen Nichols in his quintessential soap part, Steven Earl "Patch"
Johnson on Days of Our Lives. And I'd only caught a minute or two of his
performance as Skylar Gates (or Skyler Gates, depending on what magazine you read;
although I like the name "Skylar" better) on Santa Barbara.
But I was still excited. This was big news. Stephen Nichols joining GH!
Patch was coming to Port Charles! Skylar was hitting town! The soap opera guy
(Brock Storm) from The Nanny was going to shake things up.
My excitement was mirrored by the industry, as gossip intensified over who
Nichols would play. I don't think there can be anything more mysterious and intriguing
than the announcement of "character name unavailable at press time."
It leaves all doors wide open, but usually soap operas end the secrecy early and
reveal that Michael Sabatino is in fact playing Anthony Armando on The Bold
and the Beautiful, Marcy Walker is Tangie Hill on Guiding Light, Roscoe
Born is Jim (Myers) Thomasen on All My Children. In most of those cases,
the characters played by big-name actors turn out to be as successful and memorable
as Anthony, Tangie and Jim. (In other words, not.)
GH didn't do that. Instead, it kept Nichols's role a secret for months,
fostering all sorts of speculation as to his character and storyline. One thing
was pretty certain from the get-go, or so it seemed; Nichols would be reunited
with Mary Beth Evans (Katherine), who was Kayla to his Steve on DAYS--together,
they formed a supercouple that rivaled Luke and Laura. GH had missed the
chance to re-pair them three years earlier, when Nichols turned down the chance
to play Damian Smith.
character he would play was more of a mystery. The likeliest scenario seemed to
be Nichols playing Jerry Jacks, roguish brother of new Aussie hunk Jax. Other
names bandied about included Jeff Webber, especially after reading Head Writer
Bob Guza's comments in Soap Opera Weekly that "the Stephen Nichols
character very clearly relates to the show's history," and considering that
ex-Patch brother Matthew Ashford was playing Jeff's brother Tom Hardy; a recast
Robert Scorpio (perish the thought, although Nichols and Tristan Rogers have some
similarities) and who knows who else.
The mystery remained even after Nichols first appeared on screen as a hand,
although it narrowed the speculation some. That ring looked suspiciously like
Cassadine would wear. And that phone chat with "Lasha,"
where she said he was dead? Could this be Stavros revived?
In the end, no. But it didn't matter. In Stefan Cassadine we were well pleased
for the first few months, as I was reminded by recent "Remembering Stefan"
posts on SoapZone's GH message board. That meeting with Laura on the docks
of Wyndemere, consoling a tear-stricken Bobbie on the steps of the Brownstone
and then delivering news of Mercy Hospital's threat to struggling GH to
Alan, Monica and Luke; the scene in the broom closet with Bobbie where he revealed
that Stavros had died in this room
the possibilities for Stefan Cassadine
were endless, especially in that he, and not his evil older brother, was Nikolas's
father. It was the best introduction in GH history. The best.
GH had set the stage for years of conflict. Stefan was the father of
Laura's long lost son, he was married to Luke's sister Bobbie, he had rescued
the hospital, he had a cousin named Alexis, he was involved in something shady
called "Timoria," and there was the small matter of the rumored return
of Denise Alexander as Lesley Webber to consider as well.
So what went wrong? How did such a great and viable character veer off into
a writingless mess?
In my opinion, Stefan Cassadine's downfall was his shooting of and subsequent
falling for Katherine Bell. This storyline held promise in the reunion of Nichols
and Evans, but it lost something in the delivery. GH rushed through a Stefan-Bobbie
divorce, and then pushed the DAYS refugee angle hard. So hard, it was destined
to fail. Stefan and Katherine were not as interesting as Stefan had been on his
own, or in the storylines listed above.
Part of this was probably Bob Guza's departure to Sunset Beach and Richard
Culliton taking over the head writing reins. The swap in writers left Stefan hurting,
and it looked like things might pick up when Guza returned in 1997, but the damage
had already been done. Never again would Stefan be written so well so consistently,
although there would be brief reminders of those days (Helena's return, Stefan
and Helena on the yacht before she "killed" him) that only made this
poorly written gargoyle before us even more painful.
So is it any wonder Nichols has decided to leave for greener pastures? I suspect
that the idea of Stefan, and the character's potential, kept him around longer
than he would have been had he known that Stefan would be in the state he is now:
backburnered, a struggling hero rather than the love struck villain he arrived
as, heartbroken and alone. Once Stavros died again (the storyline could have delved
so much into the Cassadine psyche--blame the writing; Stavros never even called
Laura "Lasha"), there was no reason to stay. The Cassadine/Spencer feud
is over (although I liked the scenes with Luke and Stefan drinking together on
the docks), and, from what I understand, Stefan will simply leave town, perhaps
on some Cassadine business.
Already, the soap opera industry is buzzing with speculation over where Nichols
will turn up next. New York theater? A return to Days of Our Lives? (Perish
the thought.) As the World Turns, where Mary Beth Evans now plays Sierra
Montgomery? (My vote, and either let Nichols keep his "S" name and play
Scott Eldridge, or else recast him as Kirk Anderson, so Evans and Nichols can
still be S&K.) Passions, as a warlock for Tabitha? (I want so bad for
Tabitha to find love with a warlock.)
And what of GH? It started off incredible, but due to poor storytelling
and writing, that star seems to have fizzled out for the time being. Stefan Cassadine
didn't die the day they tried to make him Patch, but he did suffer a major life
However, it's something that can quite easily be fixed. Stefan could find himself
in Bensonhurst, and transfixed by a beguiling and endangered brunette with a Nanny-ish
accent, super-length fingernails and an ex-husband in Ned Ashton to boot. A Stefan/Lois/Ned/Alexis
romantic quadrangle could have at least three beloved veterans on the front burner
in a smart, history-laden plot (four, if Rena Sofer would return as Lois) and
it would get Alexis away from the Mobster that Ate Port Charles.
Or else it can eventually be revealed that Stefan has teamed up with a certain
longhaired Dane with a penchant for cigars to wreak vengeance upon Helena, and
obtain the Ice Princess in the process. And if you can't get that dastardly Dane,
why not let him run into Marco Dane and let the comedic hijinks ensue? Stefan
and Marco, GH's newest superhero comedy buddy team
What do you know? There's potential in him still
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