Posted by Jeff Pfeiffer
Although he has also found fame as a model, movie actor, and recent performer on Celebrity Circus, Antonio Sabato Jr. may be best remembered and beloved by daytime fans as Jagger Cates, his breakout role on General Hospital in the mid ’90s. Producers of General Hospital: Night Shift, premiering its second season July 22 on SoapNet, realizing Jagger’s enduring popularity, have brought him back as a “legacy” character.
I gave Sabato a call (sorry, ladies, I can’t divulge his cell number) to get his thoughts on the character, returning to the GH universe, what’s up on Night Shift (might Brenda also be returning?), and his fascination with Batman (his voice mail answers with a simple greeting: “You’ve reached the Batcave.”).
What brought you back to the world of “General Hospital”?
Antonio Sabato Jr.: This is a character that all my fans always wanted me to bring back, and I just never had the opportunity. I was always doing movies or TV shows in the last 13 years, and I always wanted to come back if there was a possibility. Mark Teschner, the casting director, called me up and told me Night Shift would love to bring Jagger back, and I said I’d be in. To work with those people again — the crew is still the same — and this is a character that is dear to me. They have never changed the character as far as having someone else play him; they’ve always been really kind to me. I said, “Yeah, I’m in, let’s do it.”
Is the tone on “Night Shift” different from what you remember on “General Hospital”?
I always remember General Hospital as being one of the best written daytime shows ever. They have a great writing staff and producers behind it that care about it. The acting, too — they’ve always had the best people. I knew that coming back was going to be great.
How different is it filming a weekly drama as opposed to a daily one?
Shooting-wise, you’re acting, you’re still doing what you love to do. The format is different; you shoot a lot more scenes, you have to memorize a lot more stuff. It’s constant scene-after-scene, so you have to make it interesting, you have to have some chemistry with your actors to make it different every time. Because you’re constantly doing scene after scene on a daily basis. I always loved that. I always loved going to work, and the more acting I would do, it was like school to me. I would really appreciate the time and the work, because you can only get really good stuff out of it, and become a better actor out of it, if you want to. Otherwise you can just go to work and just learn your lines. But I always took my work very seriously, and I enjoy it, so coming back was great. I felt right at home; it’s like I never left.
What was it like reuniting with Kimberly McCullough [Robin]? How have you both grown as actors since you last worked with her?
Kimberly – it’s amazing. I left the show 13 years ago, and now she’s 30 years old, but I still think she’s a teenager. We play around like that. She’s like, “I’m 30.” I’m like, “You’re not 30 to me, you’re still a teenager to me.” She still looks the same. She’s great, has great enthusiasm and energy about her that’s never changed; in fact, it’s gotten better. So I love being around her, and working with her on the show has been great.
Any hints on your “Night Shift” storyline?
The major storyline right now is Jagger’s bringing his son, Stone, a 5 year old, who has autism, into Port Charles, to give him a chance to find some roots. He wants his son to grow up in a family-oriented environment which Jagger never had growing up. He wants everything Jagger never had [for his son]. And this is the place that gave Jagger a wife, the place that gave Jagger a sort of sense of integrity and base, so he wants his son to grow up in that environment. So he relocates as FBI — he’s a fed — in Port Charles, and he wants to start a new life. In the process, Kimberly’s character Robin finds out about the autism and that becomes a huge challenge in Jagger’s life. Also, I’m sure the love life is going to come in at some point. There’s possibilities of Brenda [Vanessa Marcil] coming back to General Hospital, and that would bring a huge storyline between Jagger and Brenda again. I think Vanessa’s going to come back the beginning of the fall. So there’s all kind of things we can play with. And, so far, so great!
Any chance you’ll also work on “General Hospital”?
I’m sure we’ll know more about it in the upcoming months.
Do people seem to remember you most from “GH,” or your modeling, or your movie career?
It’s a bunch of stuff. The daytime fans are just amazing. They’re fans that never give up, and they grow with those characters year in and year out. So that’s the character that everybody always wants to see again. Jagger, and Brenda, and Karen, that storyline. The amazing thing about all this is I was only on that show for two years. Those two years, [fans] still remember everything about it. They were amazing years for me personally, and for the character. To have only two years and have this fan base, it’s incredible. So this character needed to come back.
What else do you have in the works?
I’m developing a reality show with MTV. We don’t know if it’s going to go on MTV or VH1. Celebrity Circus has two more weeks to go. And Night Shift. That is going to take it all the way down to September when we’re done. There’s a possibility, obviously, to go to General Hospital after that, and do my reality show in the fall.
Personally, you don’t drink or smoke. Do you find that uncommon in Hollywood?
It is. Everybody else kind of has to have a drink once in a while, or drink a lot and do a lot of drugs. I choose to have fun, and do everything else, going out and having a great time, without doing that. It’s a priority for me, and I haven’t touched a drink in years. I don’t call myself an alcoholic in any way, but I just like my lifestyle to be very clean. It makes me happy and keeps me sharp. That’s not going to change. I still hang out with people who drink, and if that’s want they want to do it’s their choice, I just don’t.
How did you become so interested in Batman?
That was just one of the ways that I could learn to speak English, by looking at the comic books. I enjoy the whole storyline behind Batman, the fact that he’s the only human superhero. He uses his brain, he’s a detective superhero. He’s got the coolest toys and gadgets. He’s got a best friend in Alfred, who’s older than him, and took care of him. I relate to that. I have good friends of mine that are older than me, that I go to for help. He’s the ultimate superhero; he’s got the ultimate life. He’s got the two personalities, he’s a wealthy man with a brain and loves to help people, and he’s human. He doesn’t have any superpowers. That makes him really interesting.
Photos © 2008 SoapNet. All Rights Reserved. Credit: Joel Warren