By Kristin Gallagher

As sunny as the state of California in which she resides, Mary Beth Evans is about as far away from her “General Hospital” character, Katherine, as any actor can be. Unlike her unlucky-in-love alter ego, Evans  has been blissfully wed to plastic surgeon Michael Schwartz for the past 13 years and has three great  kids–Danny, 11, Katie, 8 ½,  and Matthew, 5 ½,  to show for it. Here, she shares her secrets to maintaining a thriving career and an idyllic home life–and why you’ll never hear her tell anyone to shut up (unless she’s told to).  

Just the facts:

Birthday:  March 7  Sweet Talk:  “I like sugar too much. I try not to eat it anymore…but that is so hard.” White Christmas: “We’re taking our kids skiing for the week after Christmas. Skiing is a big thing for us.” DAYS Gone By: “I swear, I get recognized more as Kayla  [Evans’s former character on DAYS OF OUR LIVES] than I do for Katherine. I think, ‘How can you remember that?’ It was such a long time ago, I can’t even remember that!” Short Cut: “I had wanted to cut my hair. It’s cute, and I love it at work, but we have to put so much junk in it. The other day,  my husband said to me, ‘I remember when your hair used to feel like real hair [laughs].’ ”

Digest: Are you enjoying the chance to play this Nikolas/Katherine romance?

Mary Beth Evans: For me, personally, it was hard to commit to the storyline at first because it is the furthest thing in my mind to be in a situation like that. But then I really stepped back and thought, “This isn’t about me. This is about a person who is in a completely different situation than I am in.” Now I think the course it has taken is very interesting, and I think it’s a great story. Plus, after seeing a few of the scenes with Tyler
[Christopher, Nikolas] and me, I think it looks great….it looks right.

Digest: Were you all apprehensive about the difference in the characters’ ages?

Evans: Well, I am glad they made sure Nikolas had a big birthday party [laughs].

Digest: To make sure everyone knew he was above the age of consent…

Evans: Right. I just wanted to be true to these characters and not look lecherous or anything. I’ve tried to play the conflict and getting involved with Nikolas was a difficult thing for Katherine, but that their connecting hearts just overwhelmed her. If it was Lucky, then there would be a real problem because he really is so young. But Nikolas is a much older soul, and he’s just this incredibly sweet guy who loves her for who she is. She desperately needed that and has needed it.

Digest: Has your husband caught any of your recent steamy scenes?

Evans (laughing):  No, but people tell him stuff.  He’s a doctor, and some of the nurses will say to him, “Jeez, did you see your wife?” He doesn’t need to watch it. He doesn’t need to be tortured like that. I mean, what you hear is one thing, but what you see is totally different. My kids don’t ever watch the show, either. They don’t need to see their mother kissing Nikolas. Personally, I don’t ever discuss my job with them. They all think I work in a bank or something. [laughs].

Digest: Let’s go back to the genesis of this storyline–Katherine’s “death.” Were you concerned that GH might opt to kill Katherine off for good?

Evans: Well, first they told me Katherine would be gone for 10 days…then it was a month…then it was five weeks. That’s when I said, “I have to come back in someone’s fantasy or something.” I was really chomping at the bit and wanted to get back to work. But no, I didn’t think they were going to fire me or anything. I just had a lot of fun while I was away. I spent a lot of time with my kids, which was great, but I really love working.

Digest: Do you ever find your career interfering with your busy home life?

Evans:  No,  because I think it’s all about compartmentalizing. Usually,  I work anywhere from two to four days a week, for about three to four hours a day. I have a very competent nanny, my husband works right in town and my best friend lives a mile from me, so we carpool, and we’re very involved in what goes on with the kids.  It’s a lot of scrambling,  but it’s great.

Digest: Did your upbringing influence the way you’re raising your kids?

Evans: My parents were very strict with us, but they were never yellers. My mom was very affectionate with her kids and would always let you see that. One of the things I remember is we never said hate, we never said shut up. My husband and I don’t say shut up, and we don’t let our kids say it, either. I remember a few years ago [on GH] when Katherine had to tell Monica  to shut up. I went to Francesca James,  who was the producer at the time, and said, “Can’t  I just say, ‘Be quiet’ [laughs]? ” And she said, “No! You have to say shut up.”  But, I do make a big issue with my kids that they have to respect each other. They also know that they are incredibly loved. My husband will kiss them so much they’ll push him away [laughs]. Actually, one nanny we had used to call us the pretzel family, because we’ll sit on the couch and everybody’s legs will be intertwined, and they’ll have their arms around each other. That’s just sort of how we do everything. We spend a lot of time with our kids, but we don’t worship them.

Digest: Meaning?

Evans: My husband and I still go out on our Friday night dates–always. I think you really have to pay attention to your marriage because if you stay together, your children will be much happier. It’s very dangerous to get caught up in this mom and pop relationship and lose sight of why you guys love each other and why you find each other sexy and fun. A couple times a year, we’ll go away to a hotel or something for a weekend, too.

Digest: Do you see a day where you might want to chuck acting altogether?

Evans: No, I love working too much. So, for me, that’s never a question. Plus, I think I’m setting a good example for my children, especially my daughter, who I hope will be a career woman, or at least be self-sufficient and make choices because she wants to, not because she has to. I have a great work ethic; I’ve never called in sick in my entire life.

Digest: Never?

Evans (laughing): No. I think so much of it is attitude. I wake up happy and I go forward happy. I mean, I might have a bad day now and then, but when I drive my kids to school in the morning, I say to them, “Would you look at what a great day it is?” It’s all about making your life what you want. So as long as the stories are fun and I’m having a good time with it, I want to keep working. I’ll be like that “Where’s the beef?” granny or something. I always joke that’ll be me.

Kissing Cousins:

Though Evans loves the hilarious lines she gets to recite during Katherine’s more fractious moments in the Quartermaine mansion, the actress does admit to feeling guilty about railing against one member of the household. “Those scenes are so much fun,” enthuses Evans, “but the one thing that’s difficult is they always write me as being snippy to Reginald.”  Why is that problem, you might ask? ”[Stephen T. Kay, Reginald’s portrayer] is my husband’s first cousin,” she smiles. “Their mothers are sisters. I always feel so bad yelling at him or being nasty.” Laughs Evans, “Actually, we always joke about what would happen if out characters became lovers on the show. Wouldn’t that rock the family?”

Photos:   p. 47 by Robert Ferrone/Shooting Star, Katherine/Nikolas p. 48 by Cathy Blaivas/ABC-TV,  MBE with children p. 49 by Jim Warren