Hell’s Bell

by Roberta Caploe

Mary Beth Evans took a big chance by accepting the role of wily Katherine Bell on GENERAL HOSPITAL.  After all, she reigned as sweet Kayla Brady on DAYS OF OUR LIVES from 1986-92, and playing a bitch wasn’t really in her repertoire.  But she has taken to the part of the no-good money-grubber like a blackmailer to money, and fan reaction has been shocking.  “I remember Shannon Tweed [ex-Savannah, DAYS] told me once that people threw tomatoes at her in the grocery store,“ Evans recalls with a grimace. “I thought, ‘Oh God, I don’t want that.’  But it’s a nice twist for me.”

Since joining GH, Evans’s character has been on quite the roller coaster.  She seems to genuinely love Damian, yet had no problem marrying Ned and blackmailing his whole family.  Of course, that  little escapade blew up in her face.  “She’s been taken down and will have to fight her way back up,” Evans remarks.  “But I don’t think she’s done.”

Along the way, Evans has gotten to work with three very different actors—Leigh J. McCloskey (Damian), Kin Shriner (ex-Scotty) and Wallace Kurth (Ned).  “Kin is so irreverent,” laughs Evans.  “You had to go by the seat of your pants a bit more.  Wally and I were old friends [from DAYS, where Kurth played Justin], so we really felt like brother and sister.  Leigh is fun, too, but it’s probably more serious with us.”

Evans is about as far from the serious Katherine as she could possibly be.  Four months after a casual fix-up with one Michael Schwartz, she moved from Los Angeles to Chicago to live with him.  Evan’s hunch about Schwartz paid off.  They wed, had three kids (Danny, 7, Katie, 4 and Matthew, 2) and he is now a successful plastic surgeon.  “I believe you are master of your own destiny,” states Evans.  “I didn’t come from that background.  My parents divorced when I was 7.  We were always moving…..I think I was always looking for stability.”

Although her unstable childhood no doubt took a toll on Evans and her three older siblings, she waves away any suggestion of lingering effects. “My dad lives in Washington state.  We see him a couple of times a year.  It’s been that way my whole life.  It’s fine,” she insists.  Something about Evans, whose conversation is liberally sprinkled with wisecracks and asides, makes you believe her.

Evans describes herself modestly as a person without great foresight.  Yet recognizing your lifemate when you’re 19 means you must have something on the ball.  “Michael is a combination of what I need and what I want,” the actress says thoughtfully.  “I’m whimsical and impulsive, and he’s not.  We lived together for five years before we got married, and it was smart because we get along so fabulously now.  We argue about money and disciplining our kids, but not about each other.”

Evans and Schwartz even overcame the fact that he’s Jewish and she is not.  Neither converted, so the couple celebrates both sets of holidays.  Evans chortles while relating a story about the bris (a Jewish ritual circumcision) for her second son, Matthew.  “A girl told Danny that we were going to cut off his little brother’s penis,” Evans says, rolling her eyes.  “So when the ceremony started he got hysterical.  He was so flipped out.”

Evan’s is actually a little flipped out that she and her husband have “so many kids.”  She conceded candidly, “I left DAYS thinking I’d get going on my career.  A month later, I was pregnant [despite being] on the Pill.”  Her coping strategies?  “With three kids, my capacity for so much craziness goes in and out.  I get to where I just tune it out.  And I have trouble being that distracted, because I’m already generally distracted.  So we kiss our kids constantly and tell them you love them to pieces, and we try to be very strict and consistent.”

Evans is careful to nurture the Schwartz marriage as well: Mom and Dad make sure to carve out time for each other.  “We usually go out twice a week,” Evans confides conspiratorially.  “And I really like taking a couple hours on Saturday morning and going to brunch.  You need a break or you’ll go crazy.”

For Mary Beth Evans, working on a soap and specifically on GENERAL HOSPITAL, suits her needs.  “People who are on soaps for a long time get to thinking they should be doing other things.  But you have to make something of what’s there.  I think people who have made soaps a career choice, like Susan Lucci [Erica, ALL MY CHILDREN] and Erika Slezak [Vicki, ONE LIFE TO LIVE] are great,” Evans praises.  “I don’t care if it’s daytime, nighttime, movies or Taco Bell.  I just want to work.”

it could have been katherine and patch!

Fans still ask what Stephen Nichols (ex-Patch, DAYS OF OUR LIVES) is up to.  Well, his former soap wife, Mary Beth Evans, has an update—and an interesting story.  “We talk all the time,” she reveals, “And his family came to my house.”

“I wish that he could come here [to GH] so we could work together again,” she says wistfully.  According to Evans, Nichols did have an opportunity to join GH when he was offered the role of Damian Smith.  He turned it down, she says, because at the time, “He had a lot of irons in the fire.”  (A GH source says it was more of a money issue.)  “When I saw him at [the show] 50 YEARS OF SOAPS, I felt a twinge of sadness,” she admits.  “But who knows?  We may work together again someday.”

just the facts

birthday: March 7

siblings: Rick, a car dealer; Debbie, a private investigator; Carrie, an escrow officer

wettest hobby: Scuba diving

her plastic surgeon husband tells her: Grow old gracefully

what’s in a name?  Evans almost named her third child after Charles Shaughnessy (ex-Shane, DAYS, now on THE NANNY).  “But Charlie Schwartz didn’t sound so great, so I went back to Matthew.” 

Photo page 46-47, 49  by Jonathan Exley/Gamma Liason, photo of MBE, Leigh McCloskey and Wally Kurth (p 49) by Jon MccKee.