Steve Burton Steve Burton

Stone Cold is outta here! Emmy Award winner and über-fan fave Steve Burton has decided to end his run as heartthrob hit man Jason Morgan on the ABC soap General Hospital, a role he has played since 1991. TV Guide Magazine got the exclusive scoop.

TV Guide Magazine: Word is, this is one of the most amicable soap exits ever — no money battles, storyline complaints, testy negotiations. Where's all the drama, dude?

Burton: I've been through 21 years of ups and downs with GH — regime changes, cast and crew changes, budget cuts, shakeups of one kind or another, and it's been nothing but a huge positive in my life and for my family. I have no complaints, no negative feelings at all. But it's time to go. I'm going to take some time off and do nothing but relax, just enjoy life a little bit with my wife and kids. I've bought a home in Tennessee, way out in the country outside Nashville. [Laughs] Probably too far out in the country! I've been talking about leaving GH and moving there for the last seven years. The timing was never right and then the economy crashed and I couldn't sell my house in California. I went there many years ago when I did the movie The Last Castle and loved it. Tennessee reminded me of growing up in Ohio. The people are nice, it's family oriented and, now that my kids are 6 and almost 9, I want to get them planted. My contract was coming up at GH so we put the house up for sale again and it went in, like, eight weeks. That opened the door for me to leave GH.

TV Guide Magazine: They didn't freak and offer you the world to stay? Jason's departure is going to leave a big hole in a lot of characters' lives — Sam, Sonny, Elizabeth, Carly. This is huge!

Burton: Obviously, they want me to stay and I know the timing's not the best in terms of story, but the timing for me, personally, is perfect. That doesn't mean this is easy. It's so comfortable for me at GH. This show has been my life, my family. I grew up there! I tried to sit down and write a statement to the fans to say how I feel and how much I appreciate them because they have been absolutely amazing and so incredibly loyal. I'm on Twitter a lot and have gotten to know a lot them. I'm going to miss doing the personal appearances and seeing so many of the same people again and again over the years. So I tried to write something and it was really, really tough. I couldn't get through it.

TV Guide Magazine: How will the show handle this? They wouldn't dare recast, would they?

Burton: I really don't know. Right now my last tape date is Sept. 25 but I told them I'm happy to stay for another couple of weeks if it helps wrap things up. So it looks like I will be on air through October, maybe into November.

TV Guide Magazine: Would you be open to a return visit? You could always do the Vanessa Marcil thing.

Burton: I would never say that I am closing the door to GH. But, in addition to my personal reasons for leaving, I do want to see what else is out there for me, as an actor and as a producer.

TV Guide Magazine: There's buzz that you and James Franco and [former GH exec producer] Jill Farren Phelps have teamed on a TV project.

Burton: Yeah, and it's looking great. Jill went off and did that telenovela Hollywood Heights [at Nickelodeon] and James did a day's work there. Suddenly he decides he wants to make one of his own novellas through his production company and we're like, "Huh?" So the three of us collaborated on an idea and came up with a really good one. Jill will EP it, I'll produce and star in it and so will James. We'll be able to get a lot of great cameos and guest stars because of James' connections. It'll be a fun show to do.

TV Guide Magazine: So then it's sold? It's a done deal?

Burton: [Laughs] Uh...actually I'm not supposed to be talking about it.

TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of Jill, she's now over at The Young and the Restless. Would you do a role there?

Burton: Listen, Jill is one of my dearest friends. [Laughs] I'm never going to say never because , as soon as I do, I'll be popping up over there! Here's the thing: As cool as it was to know I had a nice, cushy place to go every day with GH, I think it's going to be just as cool to not have a nice, cushy place to go every day. I like not knowing what's next for a change. I'm jumping off a cliff in a total leap of faith.

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