To Have & To Have Not

ABC Soaps In Depth, September 9, 1997

By Debbie Enders

As the daughter of a cook in a wealthy household, Katherine Bell had the will from a very young age to go after what she wanted.  Her portrayer, Mary Beth Evans, isn’t the daughter of a cook, but she, too, knew her destiny from a tender age.  When she was 5 years old, her mother received an astrological reading that foretold her daughter’s bright future.  “I don’t know whether that planted a seed in me or if I was just really meant to be an actress,” she says.

To hear her tell it, she just might have been meant to play Katherine, specifically.  From as far back as she can remember, she was coercing her grade-school teachers into letting her turn her assignments into performances instead.  And while underage, she toiled at a fast food restaurant to earn enough money to take acting classes – and to pay her sister to drive her to said classes.

“I’m The Bad Guy?!”

Despite her having determination and savvy at which Katherine would marvel, Evans wasn’t sure that she was up to the challenge of playing the Port Charles conniver.  Ironically, it was her six-year stint as sweetness personified, Kayla Johnson, on DAYS OF OUR LIVES that convinced GH consulting producer (and former DAYS colleague) Shelley Curtis that the actress was indeed perfect for the tart part.  When told by Curtis about Katherine’s machinations, Evans exclaimed, “I can’t do that!”  But the visionary producer replied, “I think you can.”

Evans rose to the task, though for a while, you would have had a hard time convincing her that she had.  The mother of three, a would-be Martha Stewart who enjoys backing brownies and tending to a garden full of roses and fruit trees, insists that even after she had been a GH regular for a year, “I still didn’t think I was very convincing.”

But as time passed, her confidence grew, and her alter ego began to change.  Katherine remained a strong woman who didn’t take no for an answer, but she went about getting answers of yes in softer ways.  “It was fabulous,” says the actress of the metamorphosis.  “That’s what I always wanted.  I wanted her to have more of a heart.  I felt that before, she may have been one-dimensional in her pursuits.

“The thing I like about this character now is that she’s a more mature woman who’s had some experiences.  She can have heartbreak situations, but she also has a pretty smart edge that won’t allow her to take other people’s B.S.”

It’s The Life In Her Men

Although Katherine has gone through men like they were disposable tissues, her portrayer has enjoyed a long and loving relationship with her husband, Michael, a real-life doctor whom she met when he was a young medical student.  “It was love at first sight, meant to be, total fate,” gushes Evans. “We met and fell madly in love.  I’ve been with him ever since – for 17 years.”

Until recently, Katherine didn’t fare so well.  “She didn’t really have Ned’s love, Scotty’s love, or anybody’s real love,” Evans admits.  “She tricked them into doing things, and it always backfired.  She never really got what she wanted, and that’s not a good way to live.”

The Spoon Island shooting incident rekindled Evans’ professional romance with former DAYS leading man Stephen Nichols (ex-Patch; now GH’s Stefan).  “It’s a kindred spirit thing,” she says of Katherine and Stefan’s bond.  ‘There’s an incredible electrical pull between the two of them, and they have to have each other, but there other things keeping them apart.”

Of the split between Stefan and his wife of convenience, Bobbie, Evans will allow only that she finds it interesting, adding, “The coast is clear [for Katherine and Stefan] – but not too clear.”

Katherine and Stefan’s relationship is about as far-removed from Patch and Kayla’s as is possible, but there is a sense that the new duo will become a supercouple on par with the actors’ former characters.  “Stephen and I connect with each other,” offers Evans.  “We do now, and we did then.  If that’s what makes a great couple, then I would say we’re still with it.”

How Does She Love Him?

Let Mary Beth Evans count the ways

According to Katherine’s portrayer, no one knows co-star Stephen Nichols (Stefan) as well as she does.  Having acted with him for more than seven years (six as Patch and Kayla on DAYS), she can say with certainty, “We love each other and trust each other.  We can look at each other and reach each other’s minds.  If I see a twinkle in his eye, I know what he’s thinking.  We listen to each other, pay attention, and really try to be there for once another.”  On-screen, it seems au naturel.  But, Evans insists, “We work on it.  We practice, try to find nuances [in our scenes] and we’re not afraid or insulted by giving or taking advice from each other.”  Would that Katherine and Stefan’s relationship were half as serene.