By Marlena De Lacroix
Every week for months, there have been rumors that Stephen Macht’s tough mob lawyer character, Trevor Lansing, is about to be whacked on General Hospital. So, while there’s still time, I’d like to say that I’m really enjoying Macht’s performances in the role this season. Yes, Macht, the 60ish actor with the pock markets, the slitty, beady brown eyes, and the formidable stack of gray-white hair. I bet he’s never heard the word “hottie” in his life.
But, oh, can this actor talk and talk and talk and talk! Or, more precisely, confront, confront, confront. It’s been Trevor’s job to protect the Zacchara family business, (led by the seldom seen loony bin incarcerated Anthony) and the way he has done it is to have repeated confrontations with Sonny/Jason and just about every mob-connected person in P.C. As a constant combatant, Macht has infused GH with a really great energy. I think his intensity and the intelligence of his work have brought a much needed spark to a cast full of young, pretty but vapid faces. Plus, I suspect he has made the gassy, habitually pretentious middle-aged actors work much harder to find the acting truth in their brainless, illogical Guza scripts.
And that’s what Macht is: 40 years as a continuously working actor and at least as many roles on television series, miniseries and TV movies. He’s worked in every TV genre from prestigious series (Cagney & Lacey), to zillions of genre things (Kung Fu, Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5). A character actor who specializes in villains, he’s played two of the most iconic: Benedict Arnold in the 1984 miniseries George Washington (starring Barry Bostwick) and German championship boxer Max Schmeling, defeated by Joe Louis in the TV movie Ring of Passion (1978).
Macht is far from the first character actor to appear in and really punch up and elevate the quality of daytime soaps. Several come immediately to mind: Larry Haines (the incomparably funny and heartfelt Stu Bergman on Search for Tomorrow). Gerald Anthony, who brought years of excitement and raised stakes as villain Marco Dane and his twin brother Mario to One Life to Live and later briefly to General Hospital. I even remember Rue McClanahan in the 60s creating a real sensation when her deliciously wicked housekeeper Caroline kidnapped the Randolph kids on Another World. McClanahan, Anthony and Haines were always worth turning on the television set for.
That was a long time ago. But, as daytime soaps seem to be so tragically in the autumn of their years, a re-emergence of interesting, watchable, ultra-experienced character actors can perhaps help save them. Most casts beside GH are drowning in a sea of perfect-looking but callow young actors who add nothing to their already flat material.
If these young thesps are lucky, they get to do scenes with the old pros. Watch and learn, kids. The old folks will propel you to a new level of plausible acting.
Look how Brian Kerwin (who also has more than 35 years of TV, movie and theater experience) shores up and improves the performances of the beautiful but yet not very accomplished John Brotherton on One Life to Live. (They play secret father Charlie and son Jarrett.) And David Rasche, another actor with 35 years of TV experience (he was hilarious in the nighttime series Sledge Hammer) is going to pay off big time as Rob Gardner for All My Children.
I’ve followed Rasche’s eclectic TV and New York theater work through the decades since he played Wes Leonard on Ryan’s Hope n 1978 and he is terrific — just the kind of sharp and versatile acting partner you need for pros like Michael Knight, David Canary, Darnell Williams and hopefully Miss Susan Lucci.
David Rasche (center) was Sledge Hammer in 1986
But getting back to Stephen Macht: let me say just one more thing before Trevor is perhaps somehow killed. What’s really interesting about superb character actors is that even thought they can play the same type of roles over and over again, they rarely repeat themselves. They know how to be creative and mix levels of emotions. Though Trevor has been truly vicious (he even has little vulnerability to his own biological son, Ric!), he still has an non-stereotypical inner life, especially for a psychopath. He thinks. At times he sounds more like a Ph.D. or mensch than a thug. Marlena has always treasured intelligence and real thinking in her soap characters, and in soap actors. In the illogical, immoral, upside down world of Bob Guza, I suspect it must be very hard for Macht to keep Trevor believable. Too bad this unusually interesting GH character has to die … very soon.