By Damon Romine
Mary Beth Evans is a recognizable face. For six years she played the popular heroine Kayla Brady Johnson on DAYS OF OUR LIVES. After a year’s absence to pursue other acting opportunities—and give birth to her third child, Matthew Joseph—there was a great deal of speculation that the actress might return to DAYS. In an exclusive interview this past June, Mary Beth told SOU that not only was she ready to go back to work, but that she was interested in a return to daytime. She hinted, though, that she would entertain offers from soaps other than DAYS. “It might be more fun to just go to GENERAL HOSPITAL where it would be new stories and a new character,” she told us then. “Everyone knows that I was pregnant, so I don’t really think that people realize that I’m back out there and ready yet.”
Just days after that issue went into circulation, GH came a calling. To keep the memory of Dominique alone and fresh, the soap created the character of mysterious Katherine Crawford, and Evans was asked to read for the part. Now to someone as experienced and respected as Mary Beth, being asked to read for a soap role may seem like a slap in the face. But she followed her instincts and auditioned for the ABC brass. “I don’t think the people from the network really know about people from other soaps,” she realizes. “I thought it was odd that I had to read because they have six years of tape on me—a whole library from DAYS. But I’m glad I did it because it went well,” she laughs. “If it didn’t go well, I would have been sorry. But it went really well and it gave me a chance to show them what I had, which I don’t think they necessarily knew.”
Of course, she got the part and her flexible schedule at GH allows her plenty of time for motherhood. Now that she’s back in front of the cameras, albeit at a different network and show, she says that the experience “is really the same….but different. Well it all looks the same. And they say, ‘Five, fours, three, two, one’ like before. And it’s three cameras. It’s just the little things that are different.”
Part of the sameness comes from the fact that Mary Beth is surrounded by people she’s worked with before. The actress’ good friend, Shelley Curtis, used to be at DAYS and is now supervising producer at GH. GH’s new musical director Marty Davich held the same position at DAYS and is like family to Mary Beth. She’s worked with co-stars Wally Kurth (Ned, ex-Justin, DAYS) and Jon Lindstrom (Ryan) at previous jobs. In fact, Lindstrom played Brady, her leading man on their first soap experience, RITUALS, back in 1985. “My first day, Jon came in and gave me the rundown of what everything was and took me around to show me where everything is,” she says. “He’s very sweet.”
On RITUALS, Mary Beth also starred with her new leading man, Kin Shriner (Scotty). She played a young woman who was having his surrogate child, even though she was a virgin and suffered from a brain tumor. Despite this heavy soap drama, the character still had the energy for ice cream and roller skating. In a recent scene on GH, Shriner ad-libbed a line to Mary Beth about roller skating and ice cream in homage to their past. She says that she couldn’t help but bust out laughing.
Even with people like Shriner helping to make things easier at her new job, Mary Beth reports that she still suffered from stage fright her first couple of weeks back at work. “I was totally nervous,” she admits. “I had three lines my first day and I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I felt like I had a washrag in my throat the first two weeks, but it’s getting better.”
“I wasn’t nervous at DAYS at all because I had been there for so long. But this is a brand new character they’re developing and I’m developing, so everyday they’re kind of changing things and adding things. So it’s just more……stressful,” she says for the lack of a better word. “And the first few days it took me hours and hours to learn my lines, but now I’m back up to picking them up rather quickly. I think you just get out of practice. I just had to read over it a million times and felt ever so rusty. It’s a funny thing about memorization, I think it’s like a muscle in your brain that you work, because now I’m able to do it again.”
Shortly after her arrival, Mary Beth was already lunching with GH luminaries: Sharon Wyatt (Tiffany), Jackie Zeman (Bobbie) and Lynn Herrin (Lucy). “It was so nice because they were like such normal gals,” she says. “They’ve all been there such a long time and they’ve kept their sense of humor and I get the sense that everyone likes it there. I think it’s because the show makes an effort to let people out to do other things and an effort to keep people happy.”
Mary Beth credits the producing staff with making things so pleasant at GH. “Of course I love Shelley, and (executive producer) Wendy Riche is so incredibly nice. She’s always hugging people and telling you that you’re doing great—real motherly, but fun,” she enthuses. “I think it’s nice working for a couple of women, too. I worked for Shelley before but there was always a man a little higher up. So this is really fun. I really feel like part of the club with them.”
One thing the GH producers are doing now to keep things running smoothly is to involve the actors in future storyline, something unusual in daytime. “When I first started, they had a big meeting with Kim, Lynn and myself about what the story was, where it was going, and what’s happening,” she reveals. “And I’ve never been privy to anything like that before. At DAYS they would never tell you anything, like I was going to go on a talk show and blab it all. But (GH) told us everything and we asked questions. I mean, why shouldn’t we know? It can only help us.”
Armed with pivotal plot information, Mary Beth is more cautious than she’s ever had to be when discussing a character. We already know that Katherine Crawford is a woman from Dominique’s past, who is increasingly becoming a part of Scotty and Lucy’s lives. “She’s nice, but she has an agenda, which I can’t disclose at this time,” Mary Beth hints. “I know more than I normally do, so I’m really not going to say anything about the character. You probably don’t want to know anything anyway.”
Guess we’ll just have to wait and see, but with a two-year GH contract, it appears that Mary Beth and Katherine will be calling Port Charles home for quite some time.
Photo by J. Greg Henry