Enough with the sweetness!  Mary Beth Evans is thrilled to be playing not-so-nice on General Hospital

By Kim Margolis

Photos by Jonathan Exley

If you think longtime DAYS OF OUR LIVES fans were shocked when their “sweet Kayla” turned up on GENERAL HOSPITAL as a manipulative con woman names Katherine Crawford, just imagine the adjustment Mary Beth Evans had to make!

After six years as saintly “Sweetness,” the name bestowed on her by her Days husband, Steve Johnson (Stephen Nichols), Evans joined the cast of GH last June, and immediately made a fool of the suddenly vulnerable widowed Scott (Kin Shriner) and went to claw with fellow female conniver Lucy (Lynn Herring).  Katherine also was carrying on a torrid love affair with Damian (Leigh McCloskey), and the viewers saw her in bed, in various states of undress and passion, more frequently than they ever did when she was Kayla.

“I was actually terrified of this character,” says Evans, 32.  “They said she was bad and I didn’t believe it.  Then she said, ‘Let’s count the money and make sure we can trust him (Scott).’ It was like ‘Oh, my God.’  I’m loosening up and relaxing now, and it’s making it easier to do my work.  I hope she stays this way for a while.”

Evans has a two-year contract, so chances are there will be some form of redemption for Katherine, but for now, playing a drastically different character suits her just fine.

A new workplace suits her, as well. Although many Days fans still long for a Steve and Kayla reunion, Evans says that was never a possibility.  “It was never an option to go back, the actress says.  “They weren’t interested.  They were bringing in different people.  If Days had called me I’d have gone back, but this situation is a better place at this time of my life.”

GH supervising producer Shelley Curtis, who had been a producer at Days when Evans worked there, contracted her about the role of Katherine, who was trying to pass herself off as childhood best friend of the recently deceased Dominique Baldwin.  It was clear from the outset that Katherine’s intentions were far from pure.  It was also clear that Evans was just the actress GH was looking for:  She came to the studio, read for the part, and found out, even before she got home, that it was hers.

Although she spent six years on Days as a part of an enormously popular super couple, Evans was nervous about returning to work after a year-long hiatus.  “It might sound really stupid since I was on Days for six years, but when I started there I was 25 and maybe I’ve forgotten how nervous I was,” she says.  “I was nervous for about a month or so, but it’s great.  It’s a nice place to work.”

One of the things she likes the best is General Hospital’s top brass are all women:  Curtis, executive producer Wendy Riche and ABC programming executive Maxine Levinson.  “We all have so many things in common,” she says.  “We all schmooze about kids.  We talk about normal things, your family, your life.”

Her GH schedule is also giving her more time to enjoy that life.  Evans and her husband, plastic surgeon Michael Schwartz, have three children:  Danny, 5; Katie, 3; and Matthew, 10 months.  She worked through her first two pregnancies and was exhausted.  Her Days workday often meant she had to miss breakfast with the family, and was rarely home for dinner.  But on GH she has time to join her children for breakfast and usually gets home at the same time they return from their daily activities.  Evans says Days ran through most scenes four times, while GH generally tapes scenes once.  Since she can spend more time with her family, she says she frets about them less and is better able to concentrate on work.  Some days she only has to be at the studio for three or four hours.  “When you’re at work, you let go and give it your all, and then at home you forget about the job thing,” she says.

Evans says her children have adjusted to it now but they balked when she returned to work.  They liked having their mother at home, especially during her pregnancy with Matthew.  Her husband joked that her only job was to schedule her nap every day.  In between Days and GH, she did a play called All This and Moonlight and en episode of Murder, She Wrote, but mostly was a stay-at-home mom.

Being a full-time mother proved to be too much work, Evans jokes.  She needed to return to acting to have a rest.  “Having three kids in the house was hard work; I had to get a break,” she says.  “I said, ‘I have to get a job, it’s too crazy here.’ ’’

Being away from daytime made her appreciate it more.  Evans says she’d glad she spent time bonding with her children, but her working will also help secure their future.  Although her husband has a good job, the actress says she wants to participate financially in her children’s education.

Although the actress is immersed in molding her new character, she admits Kayla is still a part of her life. “Sometimes people will ask me for an autograph and my five-year-old will say, ‘Yeah, she was Kayla,’ but sometimes when he says it they’re just looking at me because my car lights were left on,” she says.

And Kayla is still popular with fans who watch Days abroad.  Evans and Nichols recently went on  a promotional trip to Australia, where Days is 3 ½ years behind and Kayla and Patch are at the height of their romance.  “We did all the ‘chat shows,’ as they call them and made a couple of appearances together,” she says.  A soap opera magazine there also provided an all-expenses-paid vacation for Evans and her husband at the Great Barrier Reef.

Though Evans has fond memories of her days as Kayla, she hopes her fans will want to see the many sides of Katherine.  “Some fans have said that they’re just happy to see me back on daytime.  I hope fans stick around and see that there is an interesting twist to this character.  She has a good side.  I think they can get used to this.”