Exclusive: Michael Easton Talks Comic-Con, Credence and General Hospital
He's the man of many names and professions — cop John McBain, vampire Caleb Morley, priest Michael Morley, rock star-serial killer Stephen Clay and now genius doctor Silas Clay — and Michael Easton is leading two lives in the real world, too. In addition to his much buzzed-about gig on ABC's General Hospital, he's a highly successful author of graphic novels, including the Soul Stealer trilogy and The Green Woman, and he's headed to San Diego this week to introduce his newest one, Credence, to the Comic-Con crowd. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Easton about his upcoming meet-and-greet and, of course, that controversial war between Prospect Park and ABC that still has viewers buzzing.
TV Guide Magazine: Are there fans of your graphic novels who have no clue you're also a hot soap star?
Easton: People often express surprise, probably because I don't put my daytime credits in my writing bio. Some people only know me as Duncan on VR.5 and have never seen me in anything else, as if my career stopped with that show in 1995! I have Mutant X fans who don't know me from anything else and people who know me just from Total Recall 2070. It's weird, but kind of fun, too. There are even a couple of Two fans still out there. They'll come by to see me at Comic-Con with copies of the show bootlegged from Hong Kong, something I don't even own. A lot of my old work isn't available here on DVD. Maybe it's a blessing. [Laughs] Maybe they're trying to tell me something!
TV Guide Magazine: How can your groupies find you at Comic-Con?
Easton: I'll be at the Blackwatch Comics booth 1804, Thursday, Friday and Saturday [July 18-20]. We're in the publisher's section this year. [Laughs] They finally accepted us! We're right in there with the big guys — Dark Horse, Marvel, DC Comics. We can see their booths without putting on binoculars, so it's pretty cool.
TV Guide Magazine: Give us the scoop on Credence.
Easton: It's about a guy who's trying to hold together his family while he spirals deep into depravity — the catch being that he's also a cop, the most decorated cop in New York City. It's very loosely based on a few guys I met when I went on some ride-alongs in New York while doing research for One Life to Live. He's also a guy who is having a lot of trouble relating to everyday life, the changing times, the pop culture, the sense of entitlement so many people feel, the younger generation, the widespread stupidity. He understands criminals better than he understands what's going on in society. I had so much fun writing this guy. He's a throwback to the old-style cops — a Harry Callahan-Frank Bullit type of guy.
TV Guide Magazine: Let's talk GH. Due to the brouhaha with Prospect Park, you lost your role as McBain and were off the show for many weeks. Now you're back as this new character, Silas. How does it feel to suddenly play a doctor after so many years as a cop?
Easton: It wasn't my first choice, that's for sure. Cops and doctors are probably the two most thankless jobs a character can have on a soap. You usually wind up with the most egg on your face. It was a bit of a surprise — but then this has all been a surprise, right? I've been thunderstruck since the whole thing came down. I don't think anybody's completely comfortable with what's happened. Hands were forced.
TV Guide Magazine: A lot of fans are unhappy, feeling there's a Franco-Kiki-Silas overkill and that GH is off-balance. What do you say to that?
Easton: Everyone is doing the best they can with the cards they've been dealt. The three of us were ripped out of our comfort zone and our characters and all their relationships were suddenly out the window. It's been a little scary. Hopefully the audience understands that this situation is unprecedented and really tough. The fans are so aware of the circumstances that went on behind the scenes, so I would hope they'll give us a pass and let us have the opportunity to play this out. I'm really encouraged by what's coming up. Some real fire will come out of the storytelling.
TV Guide Magazine: Was it maybe a mistake to have you, Roger Howarth and Kristen Alderson all return at once rather than spreading it out a bit?
Easton: Again, it was tough, maybe even impossible to do this any better. I think there was a feeling of, "Let's just do this all at once and take the hit and, hopefully, time will heal everything." If the storytelling ends up being good and engaging, then all will be forgiven. If it ends up going nowhere, then obviously it was the wrong choice. We need to give Ron Carlivati and his writing team a chance to tell their stories. They've mapped out something really strong here, something that can't be judged just three or four weeks into it.
TV Guide Magazine: It's funny that so many fans have had trouble accepting the three of you as new characters, yet GH is packed with characters who've come back from the dead.
Easton: That's our soap world! [Laughs] When I went from playing a vampire on Port Charles over to OLTL they told me, "We don't do vampires here." And within two months they had, like, eight people back from the dead, plus angels. It was crazy.
TV Guide Magazine: How were you emotionally when things started getting ugly between Prospect Park and ABC?
Easton: It was strange suddenly being out of work for 12 weeks. During that time I chose not to say much — mostly because I didn't know a lot — but we had actors Twittering about my situation with Prospect Park when they didn't know anything about it. Stories were flying that just weren't true. When the three of us left GH there was total uncertainty about when we were coming back or even if we were coming back. There was a story going around that I was refusing to go back and play McBain on OLTL. At the time, I chose not to address it but it just wasn't true. I have a funny feeling I know where that rumor started.
TV Guide Magazine: So you were willing to go back to OLTL for a bit like Howarth did?
Easton: There's a fairly lengthy paper trial documenting my discussions about how we could make it work. I have a family now and I've never spent a night away from them, so trying to figure out how to make it work with us living in L.A. and OLTL shooting in Connecticut wasn't easy but we did seem to be working toward something. Prospect Park and ABC seemed like they wanted to work together but we just couldn't come to an arrangement. And then, suddenly, things built into a tempest between the parties and there was a lot of confusion and uncertainty, so I tried to stay away from it and focus on my writing and my family. In the end, I don't know that the situation worked out all that well for anybody. I think maybe people thought I knew more than I did. We were never privy to any of the discussions about what was going on behind the scenes. We were pawns in a much bigger story. I cleaned out my dressing room at GH on my last day as McBain. There were no plans for the future, no guarantees of anything. Without a job, I started watching a lot of Sesame Street. I spent all day with my daughter, teaching her to swim, taking her on outings, so on that level it was great.
TV Guide Magazine: Are you surprised ABC wound up the villain in this scenario? People seem to forget that the three OLTL characters only went to GH after Prospect Park declared their proposed reboot dead in 2011.
Easton: Completely. Those of us who had commitments to [continue with Prospect Park] were released from those commitments and heard nothing else from them. After you go awhile not making any money, you end up choosing what's right for your family and, for me, that was moving to GH. The whole thing was awkward and I don't think anybody handled it very well, but it is what it is. It feels really terrible to be in the middle because the people on OLTL are my friends. I would love to have worked with them again. It was really hard to have it go down that way. And to not be able to support them and go along on their ride to the Internet made me kind of sad. But I do think people are being too hard on ABC. They kept OLTL going for over 40 years. Yes, having it cancelled was a really bad thing but the network's four-decade commitment shouldn't be forgotten. You can't dismiss it. But that's just my take.
TV Guide Magazine: Do you miss playing McBain?
Easton: A lot. He's a tricky character. It took a while for even me to like him. I didn't care for him much, at first, but I came to appreciate that it was his job to be grounded and enhance the many other extreme, extraordinary characters who were spinning around him. It's almost like McBain was the straight man to Todd, to Victor, to David Vickers. I really liked fulfilling that purpose. It wasn't the flashiest role, but I really liked investing in the character. So, yeah, I really miss him. And I'm really, really sorry that he just sort of...went away. I hated it to end that way. I wish McBain had gotten what he deserved — a chance to go out in a blaze of glory.
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