There's never a shortage of drama in General Hospital's Port Charles, but shenanigans have definitely increased since the arrival of smarmy tabloid reporter Grant Smoltz, played by actor David Lautman.
A freelance journalist, Smoltz unexpectedly popped into the offices of the Invader to grill editor-in-chief Alexis Davis (Nancy Lee Grahn) about why she hadn't responded to any of his story pitches. She quickly explained that the paper would no longer be reporting tabloid fodder, such as his pitch of an article about Nina (Cynthia Watros) decimating the marriage of Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Carly (Laura Wright).
Despite Alexis' unwillingness to hire him, Smoltz pressed on to get the scoop on another big story: Cameron (William Lipton) and Joss's (Eden McCoy) sex tape. While attempting to get insider details, Smoltz wound up being told to go to hell by Nina and punched in the face by Michael (Chad Duell)!
With all the juicy tabloid gossip that seems to surround Port Charles, Soap Central knows that the drama won't stop there. Smolz will continue to poke his nose into everyone's business, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he ends up on the receiving end of something much more powerful than a punch. But is there a chance that Smoltz is actually more than just a smarmy journalist? Soap Central caught up with GH newcomer David Lautman to find out!
Soap Central: It's been great fun to watch you on General Hospital as scuzzy tabloid reporter Grant Smoltz. Are you having fun with the role?
David Lautman: Oh, absolutely. Grant Smoltz has been interesting. Generally, I play guys that are more similar to me -- down-to-earth, relatable, fun, everyday guys that are nice -- and anytime I have the opportunity to play outside of that, it's so much fun. You have a license to be rude and evil! In real life, we know we couldn't get away with that without there being consequences, but here, on the General Hospital stage, it's encouraged, like, "Yeah, really dig into it!" So, it's been really exciting.
Soap Central: Have you turned anywhere for inspiration in bringing Smoltz to life?
Lautman: My manager and I, along with another friend of ours, go to the movies every weekend and watch three movies back-to-back, so I'm consuming so much content that I know Grant Smoltz is definitely inspired by something -- I just don't know if I can put my finger on what. I think he's a combination of different types of characters that we've seen -- the archetypal characters where he's a villain but also maybe an understood hero, perhaps? Grant hasn't really had an opportunity yet to have an arc and show that even though he is being painted in this bad light, there's a potential for him to redeem himself by doing some good journalism work and collaborating with other characters on the show to do some good. I think that he's actually got some potential to be a shining light on the show.
Soap Central: There were some scenes where he mentioned that he wants to do reportage worthy of serious publications like the Atlantic or the New Yorker, but people don't seem to trust him because he has such an air of cheap tabloid fodder.
Lautman: Right, and because that's what he's known for, it's hard for people like Alexis Davis to see him as anything but what they know him to be. In our real lives, too, people can get pigeonholed, like, "Oh, yeah, that's the nerd," or, "That's the jock," or, "That's the cool guy." And it's hard to change your perception -- the whole tabloid journalism industry, it's like a cheap trick. It's cheap stories and sensationalizing stories that aren't really that exciting to make them more exciting, and that goes into Kardashian territory, right? Like, why are we obsessed with it? Because the media is making us obsessed with it. They're sensationalizing the stories. So, it's hard for him to be perceived as anything but that because that's how people see him in the industry. But like he says in one of the episodes, Grant literally says, "I can be sensitive and relative, but you never gave me the chance." He is smart, he is intelligent, he's a good writer, and he has the capability of having a different voice in his writing, and I hope he has the opportunity to show that side, because I think people would be impressed by him.
Soap Central: What has your experience been like with the press? Has anyone ever been Smoltz-y with you?
Lautman: You know, I have been really lucky to not have to deal with any kind of smarminess like Smoltz, thank gosh! Because I don't know how I would handle it, like, "Man, you are too much, brother!" [Laughs] So, no, I haven't had to deal with anybody like that yet, and I'm crossing my fingers.
Soap Central: Were you familiar with General Hospital before you landed the audition and the role?
Lautman: I've told this story to Nancy on set, but my first introduction to the soap opera world was back in college. I met this really cute girl in my psychology class, and we started dating, and it got serious. I was over at her place one night, doing homework, and her mom came in, and I remember she went through my girlfriend's purse. She was looking to see if she was light on money or something, and then I saw her put a few hundred-dollar bills into her purse, and I was like, "What is going on here?" When I was a kid growing up, my allowance was like $5! Or maybe $20 for the week, if I was lucky. And she was getting like, what, a two- or three-hundred-dollar allowance?! [Laughs] Anyway, a few weeks later, I was there again, it was late at night, I wanted to go downstairs to the kitchen to get some water, and I accidentally stumbled into a trophy room that was filled with tons of awards, like Daytime Emmys and stuff like that. And that's when I realized, "Oh, these people work in entertainment!" Come to find out, her dad was Edward J. Scott, producer of The Young and the Restless for 30 years and other shows like Days of our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful. And her mom is Melody Thomas Scott, who has played Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless for like 30 or 40 years. So, that was my first introduction to soap operas! I was dating the daughter of soap opera royalty.
Soap Central: How funny is that?! Are you still in touch with that former girlfriend?
Lautman: Unfortunately, I'm not. But she was the sweetest girl. Her and her two sisters, Alex and Jenn, they were all such a sweet family. I really enjoyed meeting the family and spending time with the family, and obviously her, too. So, to bring it a little bit closer to GH, when I found out that I got cast on General Hospital, I called up my buddy Dan White, who people might remember as Elijah Crowe. He was figuratively the thorn in Sonny Corinthos' side. Dan White and I go back to college theater, and we really hit it off. He is a fantastic actor... and when I got cast on General Hospital, I called him and said, "What do I need to know?" And he was really cool, because he told me it was either I was going to fit into the machine or not, so to do my best to fit in. And what he meant by that, which he explained to me later, is that they have so much material that they have to pump out on a daily basis that you don't get to do five, six, or seven takes like on primetime shows. Soaps do their best to do one take, so, he said to approach it like it's live theater, be prepared and know your stuff, little tidbits like that.
Soap Central: It's such a shame that you and Dan barely missed each other on the show!
Lautman: I know! Dan is such a great guy. His character, Elijah Crowe, is in jail right now, and how cool would it be if Smoltz maybe somehow helped him get out of jail and they got to collaborate together? I don't know -- I'll think of some kind of pitch, because I want Dan to come back!
Soap Central: Well, it is a soap opera, and you just never know what's going to happen!
Lautman: Right? I mean, who knew that Harmony [Inga Cadranel] was going to wake up from that accident? The car accident was brutal. A little fun thing about that, the time I felt the most like Grant Smoltz outside of the character, just like on set, standing around, was when Frank Valentini came over to me just before we were about to shoot the scene where I walked into Nina Reeves's apartment, where I'm pretty much begging her to give me her side of the story... Right before we shot that, Frank Valentini came over, and I've got to say, Frank is one of the coolest, like effortlessly cool dudes. He's the most mysterious, suave executive producer I've ever worked with. I like that dude a lot. And it was really cool that he trusted me with the inside scoop about Harmony way before it happened. There's about a one-month gap between filming and the show airing, and it was more than a month before, so I felt honored that he trusted me, that he trusted the smarmy Grant Smoltz with his inside scoop, and guess what? I did not leak it! [Laughs]
Soap Central: Has anything about starring on a soap opera surprised you?
Lautman: Sometimes when you work on other shows, the regulars can be standoffish or whatnot, and it can feel cliquey, almost like a high school; General Hospital is the complete opposite. Everybody has been so welcoming and warm, and it's surprising! When you hear "soap opera star," you can have some kind of ideas of what that might be like, and the truth is, they're just the most down-to-earth people you've ever met.
Soap Central: What has it been like working with Nancy Lee Grahn?
Lautman: What was really cool about Nancy was she was the type who really wanted to run the scenes. In between the technical rehearsal for blocking and actually shooting it, we would just speed through the lines, and that was really helpful. But on a personal level, Nancy is potentially part of the reason why I've been sticking around. We had a really interesting chemistry and dynamic, and she told me from day one, "We have to have you back." When my manager sent me the audition for Grant, it was actually supposed to be a one-day role, and then, obviously, they expanded on it, and hopefully it continues going on for a while. We'll see. But Nancy expressed to me that she genuinely likes the dynamic that we have, of me almost being her sidekick, so to speak. And she had some interesting ideas about it -- she doesn't want Grant to be a supervillain; she realizes that he does have the power to do good, because she sees that in me as a human, and that can obviously come out in Smoltz. So, she really enjoys the relationship that we have as far as the characters being able to bounce off each other. I can't say enough good stuff about Nancy. She's been so sweet and welcoming.
Soap Central: How about Cynthia Watros? What's it like working with her?
Lautman: Cynthia is also really sweet. There was actually a moment when she swats a phone out of my hand, because my phone was in her face in the scene, and she accidentally hit my glasses, and afterward, she was so apologetic about it, like, "Oh, my gosh, I'm so sorry for that!" And I was like, "No, don't worry! I am so good. Don't worry about it." And that also extends to Johnny Wactor, as well, who plays Brando Corbin. We had a scene where he gets in my face and he pretty much threatens to kill me if I mess with his wife, and before we did that scene, I told him, "Hey man, like really come at me. Just really go for it." And so, Johnny did -- he came in full throttle, so much so that Michael Corinthos, played by Chad Duell, he was supposed to stop him, but I think it happened so quick and with such ferocity, that I think Chad was a little bit late on that, and what ended up happening was I fell on the floor -- and it wasn't a scripted fall!
Soap Central: Oh, yikes! What happened?
Lautman: We continued the scene, and I used that energy, like, "Oh, wow, I got knocked on my butt on the floor," and we continued, but there was also this energy of, "Oh, is he all right? Is he okay?" And even though I leaned into it, they ended up yelling cut, and the reason why is because people were worried -- production, producers, everybody -- they were worried that I may have gotten hurt! Of course, I was not -- I took Judo for a while, and the first three months was just learning how to fall, so if there's one thing I know how to do in Judo, it's fall! [Laughs] So, I was okay, I was fine, but everybody came up to me to make sure I was okay, and I felt so safe and so taken care of. But nobody more than Johnny Wactor. He was so apologetic about it, and I was like, "Bro, I'm so good. And I actually want to thank you, because that was so fun!" As an actor, you don't always have the opportunity to do scenes that are visceral, exciting, and really get your blood pumping. Sometimes when you're doing bit type of roles, you can get into just being an information dump type of thing, where it's like your role is to get this exposition out so we can get back to the main characters. So, anytime there's an opportunity for real stuff to happen, where your blood is pumping, that's just fun. So, I had a blast, and Johnny checked on me many times. Anytime we see each other now, he's like, "Hey, you're good, right?" [Laughs]
Soap Central: There could be a lot more to Smoltz, as you said, if he was given an opportunity to show an arc. If GH asked you to be a bigger part of the show, would you be keen?
Lautman: That's a great question, but it's almost a loaded question. The short answer is that I would love to, absolutely. The long answer is that I'm really blessed to be working pretty continuously right now in the commercial space... and also on other TV shows and movies. So, yeah, if it doesn't conflict with other projects, then I would love to. Part of what makes me excited about acting is being able to jump into all kinds of different roles. I recently shot an episode of the Amazon Prime show Hunters that stars Al Pacino, and I got to play a Jew in hiding during the Holocaust... and it was like, "Wow, what a sharp turn from Grant Smoltz, a smarmy journalist in Port Charles who's up to shenanigans and trying to make a name for himself, to now being a Jew in the Holocaust, trying to survive and find a way out of the Nazi empire." That's what excites me most about acting, being able to do lots of different types of roles, so that's the only downside I can see about having a contract soap role; having to give that up is a decision not to consider lightly.
Soap Central: Is there a funny, "out there" soap staple storyline that you'd love to play while you're on GH? Like being buried alive or having an evil twin, those types of things?
Lautman: You know what I think would be crazy? If somehow I end up doing a story on one of the main characters and I'm really exposing this guy or something, and come to find out, I'm actually related to them. That would be fun! And now I have this conflict of interest about the story: Do I go ahead with it and hurt my own family? But maybe this is something that would give me some clout, and we all know that's what Grant wants -- he wants some clout in the industry, so, to see that inner struggle, what he would decide, that would be super fun to play.
Soap Central: Is there anyone currently on the canvas that you'd like to see Smoltz connect with on that level?
Lautman: Well, talking about being connected with other characters, somebody reached out to me on Twitter and said that Smoltz has to watch out now because Grant has been coming after all these characters that are connected to Sonny Corinthos. This Twitter user tagged me, and they also tagged Maurice Benard, and Maurice retweeted it, so, now Smoltz and David Lautman are shaking in their boots, because now I'm really on his radar! [Laughs]
Soap Central: Is there anything else that you'd like to add before I let you go?
Lautman: On the Internet and in person, everybody has a lot of fun with this Smoltz name. And even on the show, it almost seems like the other characters are having fun when they say Smoltz's name. I can't confirm this, but I can just tell you that Bill Ludel, who is a GH director, told me where the name came from: the whole name was supposed to be a joke, and the joke is Grant Smoltz is supposed to be this amazing pitcher -- he's got all of these stories to pitch to the magazines and to the tabloids -- so, they thought, "Why don't we name him after a famous pitcher?" So, the name comes from John Smoltz, the famous baseball pitcher. I don't know if that's actually true or not, but it's what I heard from Bill!
What do you think about Soap Central's interview with David Lautman? What are your impressions of Grant Smoltz? Would you like to see the writers explore the character more deeply? If so, what would you like to see for his future? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.