Written by Lisa Bacus
Spend a few minutes with GH’s Mary Beth Evans and you’ll see why people around her can’t help but love life
It was a typical Quartermaine slugfest. Snide accusations were being tossed about the stage more profusely than rose petals on Princess Di’s wedding day, but the only thing Mary Beth Evans, who plays GH’s then-reigning bitch-queen Katherine Bell, remembers about the argument was her inability to participate in it.
It was her first big confrontation scene with Alan Quartermaine, played by GH veteran Stuart Damon. Evans was supposed to tell him off royally. Or so she planned.
“It was the first time I had to tell Alan to ‘Shut up,’ but the words just wouldn’t come out of my mouth,” she says with a laugh. “I just wasn’t raised like that. I’m not raising my own children to be like that. It isn’t in me to tell another human being to shut up.”
Evans admits that, once she put aside her delicate sensibilities, she actually enjoyed rolling in the mud with the rest of the Qs. “It became quite freeing for me,” she confesses. “In a lot of ways Katherine has shown me I can stand up for myself.” And Katherine has shown the rest of the world that this effervescent blonde actress has a depth and a maturity far beyond that of her first daytime role, good girl Kayla Brady on DAYS. Kayla’s on-screen love, Patch (Stephen Nichols, now Stefan on GH), called Kayla “Sweetness” to match her loving personality.
Unlike the pure-of-heart Kayla, Katherine is a real woman, with real strengths and real insecurities, attributes the actress says she relishes playing. She’s grown from being one-dimensional and evil to this complex woman,” Evans says. “She’s a person who really speaks her mind and stands up to people. That aspect of the character wasn’t like me at all. I learned a lot from her in a way. I learned it’s okay to stand up to people, whereas before, I was intimidated. She allowed me to get bolder in my own life.” But it took Evans a little time to warm up to Katherine’s style. When the character first hit Port Charles, she tried to connive her way into Scotty Baldwin’s heart and wallet in order to get her hands on the millions left to him by her dead half sister, Dominique. “I had a tough time relating to Katherine then,” Evans says. “The bitchiness was fun, but she had no real depth.”
While a romance with Police Commissioner Mac Scorpio, and a relationship with Mac’s niece Robin had softened some of Katherine’s sharp edges, Evans says it wasn’t until Stefan Cassadine insinuated his way into Port Charles that the real Katherine came into view. “She’s more complex now, and she’s really grown from being constantly bitchy to a real woman with all these different sides,” Evans says. “I like playing heartfelt stories. I think I’m better at that, so I’m thankful for the story with Stefan because it gives me a chance to bring the more sensitive, feeling part of Katherine to the character.”
If Katherine has matured under the guidance of GH’s award-winning writers, so has the actress who portrays her. Now a mother of three, Evans says she’s more settled in her acting and in the way she feels about life. “I’m more comfortable in my skin,” she explains. “I’m calmer. Everything doesn’t get to me the way it used to and I realize I have been blessed every day. That’s what comes with age; I’m more peaceful.”
Her family is a source of endless joy, says the actress, who calls husband Michael and children, Danny, 9, Katie, 7, and Matt, 4, the most important part of her life. “When you have three kids, you might as well have a million,” says Evans. “It’s wild, but you have to enjoy them. The boys are messy and loud, but it’s constant fun and constant love.
“Going to work is fun, and I like doing it, but I would give it up for my kids in a minute if I had to. My husband and I both come from broken homes, which made us stronger in the end but it also made us more determined to have a solid family and a solid relationship. I always tell my husband that if I can give my children a love of life, I’ll feel I have done something.”
If her infectious laughter is an indicator, Evans will have little trouble passing on a love of life. She obviously loves life and loves to laugh. She laughs when she describes her predicament while Katherine has been confined to a hospital bed. “You have body parts falling asleep and you have to make sure you don’t move your legs,” says Evans, who confesses to having giggle-fits after being restrained.
Evans’ GH co-stars says she always has a kind word or funny remark. “She is one of the sweetest, funniest people I’ve worked with,” says John J. York (Mac), who played her on-screen love interest for nearly two years. “I miss working with her. She always makes it absolutely fun.”
Former daytime husband Wally Kurth (Ned) agrees. “I miss Mary Beth’s laughter,” he says. “She always has something funny to say, or is ready to cheer you up. I even miss when she’d break me up right before we’d have to tape a scene and the director would give us a stern look.”
Evans attributes her perpetually sunny disposition to genetics. “My husband and I have discussed this many times, and I just think I was born this way,” she insists. “I’m a very upbeat person. I don’t carry around a lot of baggage. I’m almost never depressed and even if I do have a reason to be, I find a way to deal with it. I’m always on an even keel. I think people appreciate that at work.”
Evans grew up in Southeren California, the youngest of four children. She says she always knew she wanted to act. She even admits to fudging her age when applying for a job at Taco Bell to get her sister’s cooperation to drive her to acting class. “I’d go to work and then give my sister the money to drive me to acting lessons,” she confesses.
After graduating high school, Evans spent five months traveling in Europe. When she returned, she decided to pursue her dream. “I was about 19 and I thought, ‘Well, if I’m going to do this I’d better get moving,’ ” says Evans, who joined the Actor’s Conservatory in Los Angeles and shortly thereafter aced her first audition with the company’s professional theater company. The role marked the start of her career, and it had an impact on her personal life as well.
Through another actress at the theater, Evans was introduced to Michael Schwartz, than a medical student from Chicago who was visiting for a few days. “It was love at first sight,” she recalls. “It was fate that he was there for the weekend and that we were introduced.”
Within four months, Evans tossed aside her fledgling acting career to join him in Chicago. “There was just no question,” she says. “He was so different. He was a gentleman; he opened doors, he bought me dinner. And I guess, to him, I was the ultimate California girl, hanging out at the beach, always happy. It was meant to be. We’ve been together 15 years and it’s still fabulous.” The two moved back to California a year-and-a-half later. Evans did episodic television for nearly five years before she was cast as the youngest Brady daughter on DAYS. And, when Kayla Brady won the heart of a reformed ne’er-do-well named Steve “Patch” Johnson, Evans won the hearts of millions of fans who tuned in daily to see the girl-next-door gently guide the sensitive ruffian into becoming an upstanding guy.
“It’s hard for me to remember what the characters were like,” says Evans. “They were so simple. She was good and he was bad but she brought the best out in him. I consider Stephen (Nichols, ex-Patch) one of my dearest friends. He’s a very loving person. And I missed working with him in the years after we left DAYS. Last year we were at an awards who together and I just thought to myself, ‘God wouldn’t it be said if I never worked with him again?”
The daytime gods must have been listening. Nichols was soon hired at GH under a veil of secrecy. Later it was revealed he was to play the enigmatic Stefan Cassadine, the brother of Luke Spencer’s nemesis, Stavros, and the former lover of Luke’s wife, Laura. As soon as the announcement was made, tongues began wagging. Would GH attempt to strike gold by putting the two of them together again? “I think they (the writers) almost had no choice, but they handled it wonderfully,” says Evans. “It took nice months for the story to get to this point, which was a smart move. Stefan and Katherine had never even laid eyes on each other until the moment Stefan pulled the trigger.”
Neither Nichols nor Evans wants to re-create the past, but the pairing feels right. “Naturally, we’ve grown as people and as actors,” says Evans. “We totally trust each other. I haven’t found that chemistry with anyone since. We walk into the scene and we look at each other and I can just see the twinkle in his eye. We know what we mean to each other as friends – and it comes across when we work together. We create magic.” —-Lisa Backus
Did You Know….
- Mary Beth Evans was born in Pasadena, California, on March 7, 1961.
- When Evans was 5, an astrologer told her mother that Mary Beth would be an actress.
- Evans made her soap debut as Dakota Lane on Rituals back in 1985.
- She’d love to have a regular segment on a TV talk show, “Where I’m either cooking or making things,” she says.
- Evans says that meeting her husband, Dr. Michael Schwartz, was the luckiest thing that ever happened to her.
- Once asked what she remembered most about her years on the soaps, Evans responded: “The dopey hairdos!”
- She was a spokesperson for Slim Fast in 1991.
- Evans believes: “I was always loved as a child. I’ve always been a loving person.”
- Her philosophy on child rearing: “I teach my kids to be positive. I say, “Look at this day! Is this the most beautiful day you have ever seen? I teach my children to appreciate each moment. That’s the most important thing I can give them.”
- She sees a similarity between soap operas and life: You have to work to keep them interesting. “For instance, once you get married on TV, it’s the kiss of death. You become boring until you break up. In real life, you also have to work at making marriage interesting.”
- Gone With the Wind is Evans’ favorite movie.
- Her favorite DAYS scene: “When Kayla was deaf, and Steve (Patch) and I were dancing on the roof with the street noise behind us.”
Photos by Jonathan Exley