Before joining the “General Hospital” cast as the new Nina Reeves, Cynthia Watros got some valuable insight into the character from someone who knows Nina well: her predecessor, Michelle Stafford.
“She reached out to me and said; ‘If you ever want to call or text ...’” recounts Watros. “I said, ‘Let’s have lunch.’ So we met one afternoon and spent like three hours just talking about (everything) ... I just was in awe of her generosity."
The conversation wasn’t heavy on backstory, “because there’s a lot,” stresses Watros. “I was like, ‘So how long was she in a coma?’ (It was mainly) stuff I couldn’t necessarily research on my own. I also talked to the editor on the show, which was amazingly helpful.”
Watros’ return to daytime came about in “not very dramatic” fashion. “Just a phone call. ‘Would you be interested?’” she says, noting that the genre, and “Guiding Light,” in particular, "will always be in my heart, because I had such a good time doing Annie." (She won the 1998 Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for her portrayal of the role, which she played from 1994-98). "And I was on 'The Young and the Restless' and 'Another World' for half a second. So it’s always been in my life, in my world,” she says.
It didn't take her long to accept the offer to play Nina, in large part because “the timing was perfect,” says Watros. “My last show was in Atlanta. My daughters were in high school. It was hard to go back and forth; for them, for me, for my life as a mom. So I kind of put my acting (on hold). I said, ‘I’m going to throw it all down until they graduate high school.’ They graduated the second of June. I started the third. It just made sense.”
Watros admits she was “less nervous, more excited to get it going” again, and that she feels “like a 20-year-old back at soaps.” Then, she thinks back to her debut on “Guiding Light.” “I remember my first day. I remember Kim Zimmer ...” she reflects. “She was on the show for a long time. I was new, and I was yelling my lines. And she was like, ‘Excuse me. Can you tell this actress not to act so early in the morning?’ I had to tone it down.”
As for her new gig as Nina, Watros anticipates the character will go through some changes, “because I’m playing her now,” she says. “So it’s going to be different, and that’s challenging. It’s the first time I’ve ever taken over a role that someone else has played. I don’t want to totally go off (course, where it’s) 'Wow! Nina is totally different.' But, of course, I want to make it my own.
“I’m an actor who likes to use all the tools. I like it all,” Watros continues. “I like the funny, the not-so- funny, the playful and the kind of crazy, like Nina.”
Watros anticipates there will be room for all of it playing Nina; particularly now that she’s caught between Ingo Rademacher’s heroic Jax and James Patrick Stuart's duplicitous Valentin.
“Nina definitely finds Jax charming and attractive and intelligent,” says Watros, while also understanding her character's pull toward Valentin. “(James) is just phenomenal. I really like watching him. I love his character. He’s sort of this bad guy, but it seems like the women really dig him.”
A NOTE TO READERS: Sadly, I have made the decision to retire from column writing. It has been a great run, and I want to thank the newspapers and the readers who have supported this column over the years since its inception in 1977. Keep watching! -- Nancy M. Reichardt.