Not so fast! One Life to Live 's John McBain — the broody cop played by Michael Easton — is preparing to leave Llanview in dismay this week because Natalie, the woman he loves, is about to marry Brody (Mark Lawson). But something big will stop him. Actually, it's something rather small. On November 15, McBain will learn he's the father of Natalie's little boy, Liam. TV Guide Magazine spoke with the reclusive Easton about this epic life change for his character and what it's like to be a first-time dad in real life.
TV Guide Magazine: John has been in the dark about Liam's true parentage for a year or more — that's a decade in soap time!
Michael Easton: And it feels like it! This has gone on probably too long. They've gotten as much mileage as possible out of a situation that has basically been nothing more than a misunderstanding.
TV Guide Magazine: That could have been avoided if someone had run another DNA test on the kid.
Easton: [Laughs] Which you can get at any Duane Reade or Thrifty! Yeah, it's been a little difficult to play this because John, being a cop, is the kind of guy who'd haul everyone's ass down to the station and say, "Okay, let's do the test."
TV Guide Magazine: How does he feel when the truth about Liam is revealed?
Easton: For a story that got dragged out, it's resolved pretty quickly. I had nightmares of people on rooftops, and guns flashing and searchlights and rain, with Brody becoming a desperate, crazed lunatic when the truth came out. We've done that on our show before. A lot. Instead, they resolve it really nicely between the characters, I think.
TV Guide Magazine: So John's not even a little bit pissed about the time he's missed with his son?Easton: He has a second or two of denial but then he really embraces fatherhood. It's almost like he's had some sort of spiritual guidance here. He's always had an affinity for Liam and I think he was hoping for this all along. Not that it's going to be easy. He doesn't know what to do when there's a problem, or what to grab. He hasn't read the books. Basically, I'm doing Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom.
TV Guide Magazine: Will this lead to a John-Natalie reunion?
Easton: They've contrived some circumstances that once again keep him and Natalie at arm's length, and in the middle is Liam. I don't think two people who've been through all this would let that happen. They'd be spending an enormous amount of time together, but the story is what it is.
TV Guide Magazine: For a soap opera heartthrob, it's sure taken John a long time to procreate. You've been on the show eight years!
Easton: [Laughs] Yeah, but don't forget, it took him six years to say, "I love you!" And I don't think anyone on a soap can claim that record. I'm throwing down the gauntlet. Can anybody top that one?
TV Guide Magazine: You became a dad last April with the birth of your daughter, Lilah Bell. How has that changed your life?
Easton: The world doesn't revolve around me anymore. Now it's all about this little baby. I come home after a rough day, I see her and she smiles and nothing but that matters. I know that sounds really cliché but it's the truth. I can be a pretty hard ol' boy. I've had a lot of losses in my life, and roughed my way through a few things, and she has really warmed my heart. I look at things a lot differently now. I'm really fortunate this came when it did because I don't know that I would have handled parenthood as well at 20 or 25. I'm in a really good place for it right now and doing the very best I can. It's been a strange year. My dad died of cancer last January, then three months later I was a dad — a full circle of life. I miss him very much. He knew my wife, Ginevra, was pregnant and wanted to be part of it all. But I do believe he watches what's going on. I miss him very much but in a strange way, I almost feel his presence more now since he's gone. I hear his voice. I think about him a lot in memories and emotions.
TV Guide Magazine: You kept Ginevra's pregnancy a secret until the baby was born. We all know you're one of the most private actors around. Still, that couldn't have been easy.
Easton: At OLTL only Bob Woods and Trevor St. John knew. Then, the first week in April, Ginevra said, "You need to tell [exec producer] Frank Valentini." We are all on our own in New York. We have no family here, no one helping us out. She said, "What happens if I go into labor and you're at work? You have to tell them something!" So that's how Frank knew. To tell the truth, I was a little superstitious after what's been going on with the babies on our show. And I took a little flack for not telling people. [Laughs] I learned something. If you keep your castmates out of the loop, you pretty much assure yourself of not getting gifts!
TV Guide Magazine: What's going on with your other life as a graphic novelist?
Easton: I've spent the last half-year rewriting my Soul Stealer trilogy. Christopher Shy has redone the art and it's now expanded by 100 pages into a hardbound coffee table book called Soul Stealer: The Collector's Edition (blackwatchcomics.com). It's out in a limited edition of 1,000. It's six and a half pounds! [Laughs] It's massive! It's like an assault! Chris' art is so phenomenal, it was criminal not to do the books this big to begin with. And I finally got the story exactly where I wanted it. I'm very proud of it. I'm also working on a new graphic novel called Credence with the artist Steven Perkins, who does terrific work in black and white. I might serialize this one. It's Californication meets The Bad Lieutenant and it's about what you need to do to be effective as an undercover law enforcer. It's a very dark, difficult world to operate in — not at all the way it's depicted on television. [Laughs] My main character would think John McBain's a bit of a stiff. It's my dream to develop it as a TV series for FX or Spike or Showtime. This may be the kick in the pants I needed. I watch Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and think, "I want to create that kind of television!"
TV Guide Magazine: Which is why I was stunned to see you were among the first to sign with Prospect Park to continue with OLTL on the Internet. What's up with that?
Easton: [Laughs] I surprised myself! No one asked for my blood on the dotted line or anything like that. They basically said, "If you're unhappy after a period of time, take off." Obviously, they haven't yet made their deal with the union but if this is to continue I want to be a part of it. We were all so down when the network cancelled us but this new team came in with really positive energy and enthusiasm. They feel what we do is good and worth saving. Not only that but they feel they can improve the show. There are so many jobs at stake. You'd have to be a bit of a Scrooge to not to jump in and support that. Prospect Park has been getting a lot of pessimism and maybe even some grief, from the establishment at the unions and they needed some of us to chip in and support this thing. If it helps move things forward, I was happy to step up. They're not out of the woods yet, but they're bright, amazing guys. It's going to be difficult for them. Where soaps are concerned, there is a tradition of storytelling to respect, yet it's time to break the chains and be more adventurous. You gotta look at this as an opportunity, even if it ends up being the same old thing. We'll see.
TV Guide Magazine: Did being a dad affect your decision to stick with OLTL? Are you less inclined to take career chances now?
Easton: I hope that never enters into my decision-making. You want to provide for your family, of course, but you also want them to come along on the journey with you. I haven't achieved all I want to with my life, so I need to continue to push myself. Ginevra is ready to go along no matter what we do. We're willing to downsize, if necessary. We're very fortunate and we don't need a lot. We're living in 900 square feet. The baby's in the room with us. We share in each other's lives a little more than the average family, and I like that. So, no, I am not looking to play it safe. Stability can be a good thing but it can also lead to apathy. I don't want to set that example for my children. I want them to believe in their dreams and to go after them. You do that by example.
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