General Hospital’s Stephen Macht: Can Character Actors Save Soaps?

Stephen Macht

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 castMacht 2 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 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.Brian Kerwin

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.David Rasche

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.

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David Rasche (center) was Sledge Hammer in 1986

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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.

Comments

  1. Coggie says:

    You know why I like Macht? Because I don’t see Stephen Macht, the person or the actor. I see the character. That’s a character actor, someone you say, Hmm, I recognize the face, but I can’t place the name, but in context, you go back to the feeling, the truth of an untruth–the vehicle of fiction–which comes alive. I also get the sense that behind the intelligence is a strength and a depth of the character, he fights for the character, he doesn’t allow anyone to just tap him down–i.e., Claudia’s stupid attempts at supremacy–you gotta work for it.

  2. SAMANTHA says:

    You’re ABSOLUTELY right about STEPHEN MACHT!! He’s an incredible actor and lends so much grit and substance to the soap – when he’s in a scene, it almost seems like the genre is more night-time t.v. than daytime. And, I think he’s great looking. He’s in the vein of Robert DeNiro, Tommy Lee Jones – all those men who are REAL MEN!!! They have the breadth of character, age, living sophistication and yes, great sex appeal. He’s one of those hunks that any woman would want to be attached to. He’s no pretty boy – but a real, solid guy and that man/actor projects that time and again as Trevor Lansing. Personally, I can’t keep my eyes off him and only watch the show because of him. Glad you’re such a fan too!

  3. bakedghoti says:

    I liked the article Marlena. Soaps need to stop hiring the “pretties” (OLTL’s Brotherton was a bullseye of an example) and start investing in actors that can bring something more to the table than good hair and a toned bod.

    In the SON message board, we touched on this very topic in one of the threads. I do think that character actors are the way to go for soaps. It’s too bad that soaps, along with many other mediums, put a premium on looks over talent. Hence the label of a “character actor”.

    I would include the actor that played Bailey on B&B in your list. I think his name is Paul Williams. He was once beng groomed to replace Sheila as B&B’s resident villain. However, the show decided to go down the ridiculous path of crystal hypnotism and Taylor’s idiotic retrogression into a teenager. Those plots obviously bombed, and I think the show had to offer Bailey as its sacrificial lamb to wrap them up.

    However, Bailey was one of the most exciting new characters to grace B&B in a long time. A show called Bold & Beautiful obviously revels in physical beauty, camp, glamour, fashion and escapism. It was already very interesting to have a character with a more diminutive stature to contrast all the physical “perfection” on the show. The fact that Bailey did not adhere to the mold of what is beautiful on the show (and in media in general) already presented unexplored dramatic opportunities. Bailey’s hatred towards the Adonis-like Ridge laid the groundwork for a rivalry rooted in resentment. And Bailey’s devotion to Pierce was fascinating to watch.

    The show may not have outright stated it, and a viewer can make his/her interpretation, but Bailey’s devotion to Pierce was IMO sexually motivated. The actor played him ambiguously and open to interpretation. But I think Bailey was a homosexual with unrequited feelings for Pierce. And if he couldn’t have him, then he would give Pierce the woman he wanted. When Pierce banished Bailey from his life (and the show), Bailey pleaded with him and cried. It even looked like Bailey would confess his love to Pierce then. Bailey was a different kind of villain. He wasn’t violent like Sheila, but he was more manipulative and cunning since he operated in the shadows. And the actor played him in such a way that he wasn’t completely evil. He was a multifaceted character. The show truly did not tap into his potential.

  4. Giada says:

    I will be very sad to see him gone. I completely agree with you. Macht is an actor I was hoping to watch for a long time, because he shows brains along with emotional acting skills – his scenes with Ric, for instance, are un-miss-able. He is quite sexy: he is good-looking, but I think that his being sexy comes essentially from his grey matter. I believe that mature men can be even sexier than younger ones, because they have lived more and they generally have more awareness, they have experience, they are at the same time stronger and more fragile. There is richness in that. I think soaps should capitalize on the beauty of not being green anymore and show that you are not young forever, but in aging you lose as much as you gain. And BTW, I used to think that way even when I was a teen.

  5. Sina says:

    I think the main reason why TIIC are or might kill of Trevor (I heard it’s Michael who bites the dust) is because he’s upstaging Claudia. When Claudia tries to act all big and bad, Trevor has a way of making her look like an idiot. And that is no way Guza will have Sarah Brown getting out acted now that he’s back from the strike.

    I still believe he should stick around and give Luke a run for him money with Tracy.

  6. katiya says:

    Amen to Stephen Macht’s Trevor. Hes one of the rare reasons to watch this craptastic show. I watch him just to hear him speak. Same with Sebastian Roche’s Jerry but the writers can’t be bothered to give him decent dialogue to work with. I could retcon Jerry easily and give him masterful dialogue at that :)

    I’m pretty young but I would so take Trevor or Jerry as a potential partner/date over say Sonny/Jason/Logan just to be entertained all night. Hell all my life rather than some one note flunkies. It must be why I haven’t found a suitable male partner in life because I get bored by the blah fellas.

    Enough of the pretty boy crap actors its killing soaps. Well besides the writing of course…

    Marlena says: What does “retcon” mean? And Marlena’s least favorite word has to be “craptastic.” Darling, if you stop using that kind of craptastic language you’re more likely to find the intelligent, interesting man you seek.

  7. I’m wondering if you can help save Days of Our Lives from NBC canceling it as it is the only soap on NBC and NBC is thinking of dumping the soap. I’m 43, almost a year older then the show. My mom will swear before I became fully deaf when it was time I would run to the tv and turn it on and after all these years I’m stilled glued to it. Please help save it, I beg of you,

    Geri Parrish
    Michigan

  8. Marilyn Henry says:

    Watching actors such as Stephen Macht and Brian Kerwin is pure pleasure and one of the joys of soaps. That was so true of Tony Geary as well, until Guza rewrote his character and made him a lay-about moocher and drunk, only good for two-scene cheap comic relief. I cry for my lost Luke.

    GH hasn’t known what to do with such riches for a long time now. I remember a few scenes Gerry Anthony did with Geary—talk about acting gold. And not long after, Gerry was let go. And A Martinez. Any writer who couldn’t write good stuff for A Martinez needs to go into another line of work! Or Lane Davies. Good grief, they have let some goodies get away.

    Currently they have John Bolger playing the mayor and he gets one scene a month maybe. They seem to have no idea Bolger is hot or that he is one of the better actors around. Loved his courtship of Rae on OLTL.

    They get these sterling talents and nothing develops. They wind up nding in the back of scenes with no dialog while the newbies act out scenes up front. They did that so often with Lane I began to think he was an under-five. They they make some excuse that ‘they didn’t have that spark’ or whatever and let them go. It is SO frustrating.

    Thanks, Marlena, for standing up for the real actors. And they need people in their corner. I swear I could have reformed Jerry Jax in a month or two and made fans love him, but Guza just doesn’t seem to have the knack of turning his own poison into lip-smackin’ smoothies. He begins by ruining a character when they arrive, and then they must be sacrificed for “not working out as hoped.”

    Of course, Trevor’s course was set BEFORE he arrived, as Ric’s insensitive dad. We were prepared. But I will miss him, his snake-smile, his soft-spoken, uncharming charm. He makes a scene mesmerizing and Sonny look like the cheap, uncouth hood he really is.

    So glad we can talk soaps again!

  9. Stephen Macht is a very good actor. His scenes are believable as the character of “Trevor” He puts his heart and soul into this character and whoever he is acting with on the scene also brings them up a notch or two. Just look at the interactions with Ric, Sonny, Claudia, etc. It is a joy to watch these scenes. GH picked a winner when they hired “Macht”. Guza from when he came back from the strike the storylines are getting boring. Just look at the actor’s faces when they have to deliver their lines, they have to make it believable but you can just see it in their eyes their heart and soul really isn’t it. Whey can’t the TPTB ask the actor how the storyline should go?
    We are the fans and I’m sure most fans would want a better storyine.

    Ric has really shown his acting chops and is really believable with Trevor. Why you cast Ric on the back burner is a waste. He can out act anyone he has a scene with. His eyes say it all when he is saying his lines with the actor who is in the scene with him. Sonny should be getting better lines, his face says it all, you have written him in a corner. Not to change the subject but the Nick and Nadine looks like a pairing will be made of these two, I for one don’t think this is a good idea. You can see it in Nick’s eyes he doesn’t want any involvement with her. Lulu is getting on my last nerves. Why should she have so much screen time and storyline. Maxie is starting to show real acting chops and her scenes are believable. She doesn’t try as hard and it nice to see her in any scene who is acting opposite her. You also should include the older actors’ in the storylines. Anthony Geary is also a great actor. His storyline has really shrunk, no wonder he looks bored most of the time. I like it when he adlibs. He keeps the fans wanting more and more. Maybe this comments should be shown to the TPTB, Frons & Guza by the fans. I hear the GH rating is really slipping. There are days that I might miss, I have the attitude who cares, so does my daughter and granddaughter. I wish you would really listen to the fans. Make GH enjoyable to watch again. This is the only soap I watch.

  10. Fabobug says:

    Hi Marlena!

    Reading this column I’m reminded of some of the characters that didn’t fit the mold.

    I don’t know if most fans remember, but Steve on DAYS was intended to only bit a short-term villain in the summer of 1985. He was a complete misfit with one eye, something DAYS had not shown before. He was so popular they kept him on.

    I also recall the dearly departed Wally on AW. He wasn’t always the best actor, but he brought light and fun to every scene he was in.

    Let’s also not forget the FABULOUS Kathy Brier. She turned a five day comic relief stint on OLTL into a 5+ year leading lady career.

    Of course if we’re talkin’ GH, I guess we have to acknowledge how that Spinelli guy wasn’t supposed to be a regular cast member. He seemed to catch on with some fans because he’s still around. But honestly I can’t stand to think too much about GH these days.

  11. timepass says:

    I don’t agree with you on Trevor as played by Stephen Macht.

    For me he is like a lot of newbies, he is an unnecessary character that add nothing to GH for me, and does nothing for the stories!

    Yes he has talent, but it is lost on a stupid soap like GH!

    I count the day until he goes, how many ways can he screw his son, without making me sick, every single time! I don’t need a vile character like him, we have plenty on GH!

    And I probably will go shortly too, after decades of watching GH, it continue to spew asinine storyline I care nothing about, mainly : the mob.

    It is done to death by Guza who is creatively bankrupt and has only one trick in his bag!

  12. Joyce says:

    Trevor Lansing is the bomb. He brings so much to the show. Not only is he sexy looking, but he is a great actor. Keep up the good work Trevor. One sexy older man.

  13. Melanie says:

    Great piece Marlena and I couldn’t agree more! I will miss SM so much on GH. No matter how…uhm, shall we say, less than stellar the writing was, SM was always a joy to watch. Trevor was a jerk, but from what I understand SM is a real class act.

    And I absolutely adore Brian Kerwin. One thing that stinks about my Tarty-induced break from OLTL, is not being able to watch him as Charlie. It’s not a flashy role, but in the hands of BK, the character has had quite an impact on me. But there’s a part of me that will always see him as the amusing but dim young stud muffin in Murphy’s Romance, lol

    Marlena says: Thanks dear.

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