In Their Element
By Kristin Gallagher
Soap Opera Digest, March 30, 1999
Long before a gunshot sparked romance for General Hospital’s now estranged lovers, Stefan and Katherine, Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans were making history as Days Of Our Lives supercouple Patch and Kayla. Here, the closely connected actors reminisce about everything from DAYS gone by to why they know how it feels to wear a nurse’s cap.
Digest: Do you recall your first meeting?
Mary Beth Evans: I actually do remember it perfectly. DAYS brought me in to read [for the part of Kayla] with Stephen. He had on his leather jacket, his patch, his scar, his whole look there. And I don’t remember him being out of character the whole time I saw him.
Stephen Nichols: It was when she auditioned for DAYS. And right after she said her last line she turned to me and said, “Well, that was s–t!” [laughs] and walked away. She got the job.
Evans: [laughing]: Or I said, “That sucked”– something like that. But that was like, the second time we met. The very first time we met was in [former DAYS Executive Producer] Al Rabin’s office when Stephen came up in that outfit and we read a scene together.
DIGEST: First impressions?
Evans: I hadn’t really seen the show, so I think I thought, “Oh boy. This is a twist.” [laughs] But we really hit it off from the beginning. We have always been great friends and trusted each other.
Nichols: I thought she was very spunky and energetic and very pretty. I liked her a lot. I got a nice vibe from her.
DIGEST: What was your first scene together on DAYS?
Evans: I was a nurse and he was terrorizing me in my apartment. He was writing graffiti on my walls. Actually, I think he was wearing my nurse’s hat while writing on the walls. He was wacky.
Nichols: I do remember that I was dancing around with her little nurse’s cap on [laughs], but I don’t think we actually met that night. I was hiding in the closet when she came home or something. Then later on, I guess, she found out I was the one who vandalized her apartment. I was a bad boy. But she changed me, baby.
DIGEST: Did you have any idea that Patch and Kayla would become so popular?
Evans: No, I don’t think I even knew it was happening. Working in a [TV] studio is like going to work in somebody’s garage. A lot of the time, you don’t really see people other than the ones you work with, so you don’t see the impact [of your work] on the outside world.
Nichols: It was very unexpected, really. Everybody just did their job and wasn’t really thinking about the other stuff. Those where the days of supercouples.
DIGEST: So you never turned to each other at the height of your DAYS fame and just said, “Wow, check us out”?
Nichols: No, we just lived our lives. Even being in the middle of it at the time, I don’t think we were aware of how popular we were. It’s only in retrospect that we see that Patch and Kayla were the biggest thing on daytime at that time, aside from [GH’s] Luke and Laura.
Evans: It was a lot of work and a lot of lines, and you just got wrapped up in your everyday existence. There certainly was a huge response, but we never discussed it. Isn’t that funny? We even went to Australia together and there was a huge following there. But I have to say, we never said to each other. “Wow, that was amazing.” It was never really discussed. It almost seemed like we were just the people who came to receive [the attention] for someone else; we were sort of the liaisons.
DIGEST: (to Evans) Did you ever keep in touch after Stephen left DAYS in 1990?
Evans: Well, he left about a year before me and I was terribly sad. He’d send me invitations to his kid’s birthday parties and I would call him periodically to see what he was doing. Then, I was doing General Hospital for awhile. I said to him, “I wish you would come here. There’s never been anybody like you to work with.” But he kept saying, “No, no, no.” Then one year, I brought him to the Soap Opera Digest Awards and because he looked so different and nobody had seen him in a long time in the soap world, everyone was clamoring for him. He really did look fabulous. At that point, I think he was trying to decide whether or not he should go to New York or come to General Hospital, and then they brought him here.
DIGEST: (to Nichols) Did Mary Beth’s presence make the idea of joining GH much more appealing to you?
Nichols: It made it very appealing knowing that Mary Beth was there. She was one of the main reasons why I came on show.
DIGEST: Did you both know from the beginning that your characters would be paired romantically?
Evans: I knew they would be eventually, but I knew it would be a while. I mean, it was a real long time before we even looked at each other.
Nichols: I knew that they were eventually pairing us up and I thought that was a good idea.
DIGEST: Did you ever feel any pressure to replicate your previous level of soap supercoupledom?
Nichols: I didn’t have any expectations about any of that. I couldn’t because that kind of preoccupation with everything surrounding the work interferes with what I’m there to do. If I was putting that much pressure on myself, it would be impossible to accomplish anything. I made a concerted effort to keep a clear perspective on those things.
Evans: It seemed like a lifetime ago, so I didn’t compare the two. The characters are so different, we look different, the shows are different. I mean, jeesh, we were both 10 years older, heaven forbid [laughs]. But I remember the first time our characters spoke — when Katherine was in the hospital after Stefan shot her — Stephen and I were both so excited. We were like, “This is so much fun!” So that part was great. I just adore him.
Digest: Would you like to see Stefan and Katherine paired up again at some point?
Nichols: As long as it makes sense, the story is compelling and there’s a reason for Stefan to be interested in Katherine and vice-versa. I would say yes, let’s go for it, because I absolutely love working with Mary Beth. She makes going to work fun and enjoyable, and who wouldn’t want that? So many people go to work and they hate their jobs.
Evans: I would absolutely like to see them paired up again. I love working with Stephen, so I always hope it goes back to that. The story now is fun, but who knows where it all will lead.
DIGEST: Do you socialize outside of work?
Nichols: Not really. We live so far away from each other — that’s the problem. If we lived nearer….Actually, I have a friend who I see maybe once every three or four years, but we’re soul mates. We are so connected to each other and I always will be. We just have that understanding. I have other friends like that and Mary Beth is one of them.
Evans: I have to say no, we don’t really socialize that much. I have three kids and all three of them are in two sports apiece, plus school and homework. So it’s like four hours at General Hospital, and then the rest of every minute of every day is scrambling-around motherhood. Plus, I don’t live [near Stephen].
DIGEST: Which one of you is funnier?
Evans: I think me, by far. I am one of the few people who knows how to get Stephen to laugh. But he makes me laugh too, with his seriousness. He has a really soft side to him, though — a funny side.
Nichols: She is a lot funnier than I am. I’m only funny when I feel like it, but she is funny all the time. She’s hilarious. Believe me, everybody around the set really loves having her there. You know, the makeup room is a good gauge of who’s liked and who isn’t because the hair and makeup people have to be in there all day and watch everyone come in and go out with all their bulls—t. And I have got to say, hands down, that Mary Beth is the absolute favorite.
DIGEST: Do you think your off-screen admiration for each other is why your on-screen chemistry has endured so long?
Evans: I think we just have that connection to each other. We both know how to kind of stop everything around us and just listen to each other. When I have scenes with him now, it’s hard for me not to do that.
Nichols: There is a mutual respect and there’s nothing I couldn’t say to Mary Beth about anything, and vice versa. We can be completely and totally honest. We don’t have to play games or dance around each other’s ego or any of that crap you have to do with other people. With Mary Beth, it’s just so easy.
Evans: I think that’s part of the reason we’ve had the longevity that we’ve had as friends. We don’t get our noses bent out of shape or any of that. But neither one of us are really those ego-type of people. We don’t have that sort of ego. We have a different kind. [laughs[.
By The Lakeside
While Nichols and Evans have been appreciating each other for the last 12 years, so, too, have a group of fans known as The Lakeside Association. Formed in 1987 as a “support group” for the hugely popular then-DAYS actors, Lakeside has also earned a place in Nichols and Evans’s hearts through their charitable endeavors on the actors’ behalf. “It’s an organization of people who have supported me and Stephen over the years,” smiles Evans. “They would always [take up] collections and buy us beautiful gifts or something. But now they take up collections and they give them to my sister’s school, which is so incredible.”
The school, co-founded by Evans’s sister, Debbie, is the Aliso Academy For the Deaf And Hard of Hearing. “It’s a school where hearing children and hearing-impaired children learn right alongside each other in the same classes,” explains Nichols, “which is a fantastic idea.” Continues Evans, “The whole thing kind of stemmed from when my character on DAYS became deaf. I had my sister, who was a private investigator at the time, research an organization within the hearing-impaired community that we could raise money for. Eventually, she ended up co-founding her own school. Lakeside knew all this and started organizing fundraisers for them, too. They’re just really an amazing group of people.”
Patch and Kayla photo by Frank Carroll/NBC-TV
Photos by Jeff Katz.