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Wednesday, February 1, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Robert Scorpio strikes at the hearts of "General Hospital" fans again

Knight Ridder Newspapers

While my college pals were swooning over some swaggering Aussie who starred in a movie called "Mad Max," I had my own Down-Under crush going on, and I fed it at 2 o'clock every afternoon in front of the TV. His name was Tristan Rogers, and he played Robert Scorpio, former World Security Bureau agent from Australia, and the reigning hunk of "General Hospital."

In the early 1980s, my heart beat to the rhythms of Scorpio's stormy romance with Holly, the Englishwoman who had been pledged to Luke Spencer, Scorpio's best friend. Luke had been lost in an avalanche so Scorpio married a pregnant Holly to keep her from being deported — oh, never mind. Just know it was a great love triangle with lots of longing and angst. He had other romances, including one with a reporter named Jackie Templeton (played by Demi Moore) and an absurd marriage to Anna, his best friend and ex-wife, with whom — it turns out — he had fathered a daughter named Robin.

Over the years, I'd tape "GH" during the day and watch it after work, but my interest waned as Scorpio's story lines got too stupid. Or maybe I got a life. Eventually he went missing in an explosion at sea, I was sad to hear, leaving behind his cute little girl.

Then two weeks ago, 14 years after Scorpio's demise, I was tickled to see him on the cover of a soap-opera magazine in the grocery checkout line! He's not dead! He's coming back to Port Charles! and — can you believe it? — so is Holly (played by Emma Samms)!

His return is timed to coincide with February sweeps, as is Holly's, although she's coming nearly a month later. He'll have a lot to answer for, and word is that he'll get caught up in the "major health crisis" that has beset Port Charles. First, of course, he has to reconnect with Robin, who is now a doctor and HIV-positive.

I had the chance to speak on the phone with Tristan Rogers, the adorable Aussie who reprises Scorpio with Friday's episode. Impossibly, he is now 59, but just hearing that voice caused my heart to thump so loudly I was afraid he could hear it all the way from his home in Southern California. After our chat, it occurred to me: My friends don't feel this way anymore about that "Mad Max" guy. I guess it's because soap-opera heroes never let you down the way movie stars will.

Here's how our conversation went:

On TV

"General Hospital" weekdays, 2 p.m. KOMO

Q: How exciting you're coming back to "GH." You know you will thrill billions of women everywhere (me, shamelessly gushing).

A: Thank you. It is exciting. (Ever dignified, ignoring the gushing.)

Q: So, if Scorpio died in a boat explosion 14 years ago, how can he return?

A: Nobody saw the explosion.

Q: But doesn't that make explaining his long absence a challenge?

A: It's not a sentimental resolution, and it will be met with mixed feelings. He's had a rather interesting 14 years away that won't sit well with the audience.

Q: Will he be accepted again?

A: He is what he is. A lot of people will like it, but some won't.

Q: How has Scorpio changed?

A: He's older, he's more beaten up. He's still smart-mouthed, but a little more abrasive.

Q: But there was a real sweetness to Scorpio. What's happened to that?

A: It will be submerged for a while. He has to resolve some issues first.

Q: How can a character like this be rewoven into the show?

A: He was kept active in the story line and his shadow looms over the city, but he has to be reintroduced. There's a whole generation or two that doesn't know who he is. But he's unlike any other character they know. The main thing will be to reestablish some relationships, like the one with Luke.

Q: What happens with Scorpio and Holly?

A: I know nothing about Holly coming back. We've just shot nine episodes so far.

Q: The word is that Scorpio will only be back for six weeks. Any chance that could be extended?

A: We'll have to move further into the story and see the reaction. The audience has more control than they realize, and they should use it. If the audience doesn't like something they should make their feelings felt. They can write letters and they can hit that on-off switch on the TV.

Q: So why was Scorpio written out of the show?

A: It was time for me to check out of the "Hospital," and it was my decision. I never looked back.

Q: Then why did you, Tristan, decide to come back and why now?

A: The timing for this was absolutely appropriate. I'd been approached like clockwork over the years but never paid much attention to it. But when it came up this time, just before Christmas, my manager said "They seem to be serious this time." I was ready to do it, and then it moved at the speed of light.

Q: Have you missed Scorpio?

A: I can't say that I truly missed him, but 12 years is a big chunk of your life, so he did occupy a lot of my time.

Q: Was it hard for you to call him up again, and to go back to Port Charles?

A: You'd be surprised how easy it is to slip back into it. At first it took some getting used to the system again, but after the fourth day, I felt like I had him again.

Q: Do they make you feel welcome, and aren't there some old friends in the cast?

A: Oh yeah, there are some old friends there. It's totally comfortable to be back. Of course, with all these young kids on the show, I look like this relic, but I'm trying not to think about that too much.

Q: What have you, Tristan, been doing in the meantime?

A: I've been involved with plenty of things that have nothing to do with show business, like a motor-racing series. I've also been producing music shows, like one coming up soon at the Kodak Theatre with Dionne Warwick.

I'm also working on producing several television projects and Internet projects, like streaming, that kind of thing, which I think is the future of entertainment.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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