Alicia Leigh Willis Talks Joining The Bay, Being The Bio-Mom To GH’s Spencer Cassadine, Tyler Christopher & Her Recent DAYS Role!
What happens when a seemingly grounded Avery Garrett (Alicia Leigh Willis) comes to Bay City with her younger brother Daniel Garrett (Eric Nelsen) for Marly’s (Martha Madison) secret wedding to Manny and both end up staying for her funeral instead? Plenty, as fans of the hit web series The Bay recently witnessed in its latest chapter! And it looks like more is ahead for the character of Avery, which gives long time soap opera fans the chance to see the talents of Alicia Leigh Willis again! The Bay’s creator Gregori Martin says of Alicia’s work: “She can act opposite anyone and the chemistry is just there! She’s perfect!”
Willis known for her roles on Another World as Alli Fowler, a recent guest star turn on Days of our Lives, and her most prominent role that of the late Courtney Matthews on ABC’s General Hospital, the mother of little Spencer Cassadine (Nicholas Bechtel), has been quite the busy bee in 2014 going into 2015, with a multitude of projects including a leading role in an upcoming movie made for television on Lifetime, following some time off to raise her young daughter.
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Alicia to get her thoughts on: joining The Bay, if she has seen little Nicholas Bechtel performance as Spencer on GH, her thoughts on working with her former GH love-interest Tyler Christopher (Nikolas), if she would ever consider returning to the series … should they resurrect Courtney … and so much more! Here’s the hardworking and delightful, Alicia Leigh Willis!
So you joined The Bay! And, you came on to the series at a very important time in the story!
ALICIA: Yes. I play Avery, and I come on with my brother Daniel played by Eric Nelsen. We grew up in Bay City as kids and we moved away, and we were close with my cousins and my aunt played by Mary Beth Evans (Sara). We came on to the scene during a tumultuous time. Avery comes to her support Marley, who we were more like sisters instead of cousins. She comes home to be with her, and we walk into this tornado of things going on, and ultimately Marley’s death! There will be a big story to come, but mainly it’s building this relationship with Sara, and it’s interesting because the audience hasn’t seen this character before. I know where Avery is coming from inside, and how I want to play it. I think there will be a lot of twists and turns. Avery is like the problem-fixer.
When I was watching how you and Eric Nelsen first came on to the canvas in your first episodes of The Bay, I was not sure if you were conniving or just mischievous, but I was intrigued!
ALICIA: Daniel is definitely mischievous, and I think Avery is the straight-laced one and the fix-it person. Working with Eric Nelsen is so great. I was really impressed with his work, and he was very off-the-cuff and very natural. Mary Beth Evans is the coolest, most down to earth person I have worked with in a long time. I loved her.
How did they get you to be a part of the latest casting additions to The Bay?
ALICIA: I just got off of a project, and Gregori Martin (Creator, The Bay) had called me. I had literally started getting back to work after taking a break to raise my daughter. He was telling me who else was in the cast, and I realized I knew about 70% of the them from being on the soaps over the years. I just thought it would be almost like a reunion. Taylor Stanley, and Sandra Ferguson, and I were all on Another World together. It was an opportunity to reconnect with these women, and have some fun. I was excited to do jump in.
But … Avery is truly a good girl?
ALICIA: We think she is a good girl, but you never know. Good girls can take a turn! (Laughs)
Recently on General Hospital, your former character Courtney had been mentioned, because you are the bio-mom of little Spencer Cassadine (Nicholas Bechtel)! Was it your decision to leave GH … or did they decide to kill-off the character?
ALICIA: It was my decision to leave. I had my four year contract, and it came up for renewal, and I decided not to renew. I made a deal with myself when I signed the four year contract that it was only going to be four years. I really wanted to keep exploring other opportunities in film and primetime. I just wanted to try everything. It was so hard though to leave. I loved my GH family and my character. I had such a wonderful time playing that role. I did work a lot at the beginning after I left, and then I took a break to be with my daughter. There are times in between that I miss being on GH, and then there are other times when it’s nice to be able to play around and do other roles.
Have you seen your “on-screen” son Nicholas Bechtel in action on GH? He’s an incredible talent!
ALICIA: I haven’t seen him on camera, but someone sent me a photo of him on Twitter. I talked to Tyler Christopher (Nikolas, GH) recently as well. Nicolas Bechtel is adorable, and someone was saying he was quite the scene stealer and really good! It’s so nice to see this still playing out on air.
Spencer has wanted a mother very badly. He even went so far to scheme with schemer Britt (Kelly Thiebaud), whom he wanted as his mother, in order to keep her in his and Nikolas’ (Tyler Christopher) life. For those who may not recall, how did you get killed-off as Courtney?
ALICIA: They killed me with the “Monkey Flu”. There was this epidemic in Port Charles. I think it may have had something to do with Helena Cassadine (Constance Towers). I honestly don’t remember. (Laughs) I remember Courtney died in childbirth … I think! (Laughs)
What if they resurrected the character of Courtney as they do so many characters on GH! (Laughs) Would you entertain the thought of going back?
ALICIA: Yes, of course! I would love to go back. GH was such an amazing part of my life. I miss a lot of the people. If the opportunity came up, I think it would be great.
What I think they should do is: have “visions” or the “ghost” of Courtney meeting her son Spencer, and giving him some “motherly” advice! What do you think?
ALICIA: Yeah, why not?
How was working with Tyler Christopher as your romantic love interest when you look back at your time on GH?
ALICIA: I loved working with Tyler. I think what was so great is that we had such great chemistry on-screen, because we had such chemistry off-screen. We would have each other in hysterics right before we taped a scene, and we had each other laughing on the floor. We even had the crew cracking up with us! We could barely get through a scene without goofing off! (Laughs) I can not say enough good things about Tyler. He has been such a good friend and a sweetheart.
You have done several guest star turns recently,including some time on Days of our Lives!
ALICIA: Since I came back, I did a run on Days of our Lives, and I did a lead in a TV movie Dangerous Company. In the movie, I played a woman with the early onset of dementia. It was a really great challenging role. I was also submitted for a Daytime Emmy in the Guest Star category for my work on DAYS. . In my role, my character, had been contacted because my ex-husband Liam (Mark Collier) had been stalking one of their friends. And, so I came into town saying, “Yeah, stay away from him. He’s dangerous.” I helped them take him down. That was my first project back after having my daughter Simone, then I did the TV movie, and then The Bay, and that was my year in 2014.
You are a relatively new mom! How is balancing raising a child and your acting career?
ALICIA: It’s really hard! You deal with this inner struggle of, “I just want to be home with my baby,” and then you are home with your baby, and then you also think, “I miss working so much.” So, then you have this constant inner battle. I am a creative person, and I need a creative outlet, or else I go nuts! But at the same time, I am so madly in love with my daughter. It’s hard to be away from her. My daughter will be three in February and I see the actress in her already, and it’s scaring me! (Laughs) I am single mom and my ex and I are still friends, so that works. I never anticipated being a single mom. I thought it would be a team deal, but we were better off as friends, and we are lucky that way … to stay in each others lives. He is a very good dad to Simone. We are still a family.
You have always been fortunate in that you always seem to work a lot!
ALICIA: I have been really lucky, and it’s been kind of cool. I have been fortunate that I have worked a lot, and also that I have been able to stay under the radar, and have a normal life. I feel like I got to have the best of both worlds, and I am grateful for that. This business has ups and downs … and sometimes you are waiting for the phone to ring!
You got your start on Another World. What were your thoughts on the passing of Daytime Emmy winner Charles Keating (Carl Hutchins)? Did you work with him?
ALICIA: I did not know Charles Keating died! I knew him briefly. He was on the show when I was there, and we only worked together a couple of times. He was quite a character!
Were you close to the incomparable Linda Dano (Felicia Gallant) during your time on AW?
ALICIA: I was close with Linda Dano! I have to say; of all the women I have met in this crazy business … I have the utmost respect for Linda. What a class act! I was so young when I was on Another World, and she always gave me the best advice about being in this business. I really looked up to her a lot.
© Michael Fairman – January 6, 2015