Rookie Of The Year (1996)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Star: TYLER BAKER
Role: Nikolas Cassadine, GENERAL HOSPITAL
Birthdate: November 11, 1972
Home Turf: Delaware, Ohio
Education: Ohio Wesleyan University (two years)
GH Debut: July 15, 1996
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR GH Newcomer Tyler Baker joined the Cassadynasty with a bang -- and broke co-star Steve Burton's nose! But hey, that's what friends are for...
DIGEST ONLINE: You recently turned 24. How did you celebrate your birthday?
BAKER: I didn't really do much of anything. I was working on GENERAL HOSPITAL that day. Basically, my friends had a kind of surprise birthday party for me at a nice restaurant. All my friends showed up there, some who I haven't seen for a while. It was kind of low-keyed, but a very very nice birthday. I'm kind of over birthdays, anyway. I'm just realizing now that I'm getting older. That's all it really means to me anymore.
DIGEST ONLINE: Tell us a little bit about your audition for GH.
BAKER: I auditioned in April of this year with Mark Teschner, who's head of casting over there, and didn't hear anything for quite a while. They were trying all different kinds of ways [to go with Nikolas], different age groups, different looks. It wasn't till really the middle of June that I went back and read again for Executive Producer Wendy Riche and for the rest of the producers. Then I went back one more time, did a different scene, one that was a little bit more difficult, and then, like not even a week later, I screen tested with about four or five other people, and two days later I got the part. It was kind of a long, drawn out process. I started taping the last week of June.
DIGEST ONLINE: Did you screen test with Stephen Nichols [Stefan]?
DIGEST ONLINE: What is like working with him?
BAKER: He's very, very particular, but he's good, and we work incredibly well together. We have a very good on-screen chemistry, I think. He plays my uncle, but it's very much like a father/son relationship. Stefan basically raised me, so he's the only father I know.
DIGEST ONLINE: How did you feel when you found out you were nominated for a Digest Award as Outstanding Newcomer?
BAKER: I was really, really surprised, because I hadn't been on that long and the people that I'm up against are a little bit more established. Thorsten Kaye [Patrick, OLTL] has been on for over a year. So I took it as a real honor, and still do. I'm really happy and I'm excited about going to the Awards in February. I found out just before I did the Digest feature interview with Robin Echt [1/14/97 issue]. She brought the [nomination ballot] article to me before we did the interview, and that's when I found out.
DIGEST ONLINE: Let's get down and dirty. Can we ask some personal questions -- like what are your best and worst traits?
BAKER: My best trait would be my sincerity towards others, and probably my worst trait is the same thing. Sometimes I get a little too bit too personable and kind of get taken advantage of.
DIGEST ONLINE: Do you have a favorite food?
BAKER: I love Italian food. Anything with garlic in it is okay with me.
DIGEST ONLINE: What foods do you hate?
BAKER: Sushi. It's one of those things that you either love or hate it, and I hate it! Otherwise, I'm not real picky. That's probably the only food I really hate.
DIGEST ONLINE: Which actors do you admire?
BAKER: There are so many actors I admire. Let's see... I like Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Val Kilmer, Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage. People who are very real, and really show a different side of themselves. Actresses I like are Glenn Close, Demi Moore -- I don't like a lot of the roles that she chooses, but she's very in touch with her emotional side, which is a good trait to have. I also like Barbra Streisand, I could just go on forever.
DIGEST ONLINE: How would you describe Delaware, Ohio, the town where you grew up?
BAKER: Small. It's very small, midwestern, conservative, kind of like a country little town. It's one of those places, if you blink, you'll miss it.
DIGEST ONLINE: In your high school yearbook, they would have described you as the kid who ---? BAKER: In my high school yearbook, I was voted most likely to never be married, and most likely to marry more than once. If you can imagine that.
DIGEST ONLINE: So, your classmates viewed you either as a future monk or somebody who'd fool around like crazy?
BAKER: Well, I won both categories; so I accepted both opinions. :)
DIGEST ONLINE: Which prediction do you think will prove to be more accurate -- or don't you want to go there?
BAKER: Neither one. I hope to be married only once. That kind of puts them all down.
DIGEST ONLINE: Getting back to GENERAL HOSPITAL, it must have been fun doing those t'ai chi scenes with Stephen Nichols. Are you a student of t'ai chi in real life?
BAKER: No. We learned it just for that specific reason. Neither of us knew how to do that before, but Wendy Riche set us up with a t'ai chi master and we went and learned. We spent like a week, a crash course, about six hours long, to learn all the moves.
DIGEST ONLINE: Did the crash course get you interested in t'ai chi at all?
BAKER: It did, but it's something that takes a lot of time and a lot of practice to master. And time is one thing I really don't have right now. But it's interesting, and I have fun doing it on screen.
DIGEST ONLINE: Who do you hang out with on the set?
BAKER: I hang out with Steve Burton [Jason] a lot.
DIGEST ONLINE: When you guys went golfing a few months ago, we heard that somebody's nose got out of joint....
BAKER: Yeah, he kind of walked in the line of my back swing and I like clubbed him over the nose and broke his nose. That was a day to remember definitely.
DIGEST ONLINE: So you're off golfing with Steve Burton, and you come back to GH, and you have to go into Wendy and say, "I'm sorry, but I broke my co-star's nose."
BAKER: [laughs] Actually, I didn't have to say anything -- that was the good thing, because it was already common knowledge. It had to be made known right away, so Steve called one of the producers and explained what had happened, so right then and there everybody knew. But I heard about it for a while. Yeah, [the cast and crew] were just giving me a little bit of crap, poking fun at it a little bit, but that's all right. Steve was already banged up from a storyline on the show, so it kind of fit in okay; but there was still like a mark there, so they covered it up [by writing in] some sort of bar scuffle or something.
DIGEST ONLINE: Now you guys still go golfing?
BAKER: Oh, of course. We still go.
DIGEST ONLINE: Who else do you hang with on the set?
BAKER: I hang out with my acting coach a lot, John Homa. He's the onset acting coach. We're really good friends.
DIGEST ONLINE: Was the adjustment to doing a daily hour show difficult? After all, this is your first soap.
BAKER: Doing this how is a lot of work. It's block and tape. You don't get a whole lot of shots at it, so you have to really know what you're doing before you go up there. There's no room for a whole lot of error, because you're shooting a one hour show a day. It's not like primetime where they shoot a half hour show in a week, and they get shots from every angle, and they can do scenes over.
DIGEST ONLINE: It seemed like you never had a first day. You very natural as Nikolas right from the start....
BAKER: I just had kind of a sink or swim attitude about the whole thing. Fortunately, I was able to use that attitude the first day to go in and kind of push away the nerves. I was nervous getting to that point [i.e., auditioning] but once I was there, then I was relaxed. I was fortunate that I felt that way. So many people don't.
DIGEST ONLINE: Before landing on GH, you made an independent film called "Common Bonds." What was your character like?
BAKER: The film was about the relationships between kids and elderly people. I actually saw a screening of it about two weeks ago, and it was difficult to follow. I didn't have like a pivotal part or anything in it. It was my first time on screen. The plot was really difficult for me to understand; but the whole point of the film was that it was put together by kids who are still like freshmen in high school. It was put together by all kids, and the whole point was that young people could do something like that. My character was just a rebel teenager who always got everyone in trouble, but he never got in trouble himself. That was basically the gist of his whole attitude
DIGEST ONLINE: On GH, who do you go to for advice?
BAKER: I talk to Vanessa Marcil [Brenda] quite a bit, and Maurice Benard [Sonny], Steve Burton and Stephen Nichols. If I need advice, those are the only people I'll ask. They've all been new before, they've been through it, so if I have a problem with something concerning the business, I'll go and ask them.
DIGEST ONLINE: How are you going to cope? -- Vanessa says she's leaving the show.
BAKER: Well, she's definitely ready for other things. She'll be sorely missed around the set. She's an incredible actress, but she's got other offers on the table that she's ready for, so more power to her.
DIGEST ONLINE: Isn't it time Nikolas had a serious, age-appropriate love interest?
BAKER: No, not yet. I don't know what they've decided to do. They haven't informed me of anything. They like to keep things secret around here, for whatever reason. But I'm sure he'll have a love interest eventually. I can't stay celibate forever on the show.
DIGEST ONLINE: Is there much talk around the set about the GENERAL HOSPITAL spinoff?
BAKER: Well, Friday [11/22] was the first day I heard about it. But people have been talking about it ever since. They said that they were canceling THE CITY and making a GENERAL HOSPITAL spinoff. They haven't said much about whether they were going to use our characters or they were going to hire an entirely new cast. They said it was going to be a part of GENERAL HOSPITAL, in terms of the theme, and that was basically it. They were just letting us know.
DIGEST ONLINE: The Cassadines could be a show in themselves at this point?
BAKER: I agree. We could go so many different ways with our storyline.
DIGEST ONLINE: How have you liked working with Genie Francis [Laura]
BAKER: She's amazing. She's probably the most popular daytime actress ever, in my mind, and for me to be able to work with her like I do and be in the type of storyline that I am with her is a blessing. I credit a lot of the [good] work that I do to her. It's not necessarily the advice that she gives me, but the way that she plays her character allows me to be a lot better. I have a lot of thanks for her.
DIGEST ONLINE:Have you gone to see her husband's movie yet? [fyi: Jonathan Frakes directed "Star Trek: First Contact".]
BAKER: No, I haven't. I know it's out now. I hear he did a really great job on it, and I am certainly gonna go check it out.
DIGEST ONLINE: Have you made any New Year's resolutions?
BAKER: No. I don't have any yet. I make my New Year's resolutions about 11:59 pm on December 31. That way I can just think about them all the way up to the last minute.
Soap Opera Digest -- December 1996