Steve Burton joined the cast of GENERAL HOSPITAL in 1991 and has played the character of Jason Morgan for most of the past 19 years. He won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1998 for the role. Outside of acting, the sports fan and husband and father of two is busy with various side projects. He recently went on tour with his GH co-stars and their band, Port Chuck. He now has teamed with Derk Cheetwood to bring fans "Soap Dishes the Cookbook" which includes recipes and stories from 35 soap stars. In this exclusive interview with WE LOVE SOAPS TV, Burton reveals the inspiration behind the cookbook, looks back at his career on GENERAL HOSPITAL, and even shares his thoughts on the college football BCS.
"SOAP DISHES THE COOKBOOK"
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Tell me how the idea for this "Soap Dishes the Cookbook" came about?
Steve Burton: Well, Derk cooks a lot, so he had the idea and was saying, “What do you think about this?” He said, “I can’t believe it hasn’t been done. It’s such a great idea. Let’s do it.”
That’s when I started making calls to all the other actors and we got the Desi Geestman Foundation involved. We actually wrote a treatment and were with an agent for about six months and no publisher got it. They didn’t get it. They didn’t say, “Wow. This is a great idea.” It’s weird. They didn’t understand soap fans, quite frankly...that they liked this type of stuff, that we have loyal fans that follow us and they’re hungry for things that have to do with soap operas. We decided to self-publish the book, kind of take that burden on ourselves. We did and it turned out great. It turned out awesome, much better than I expected.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I always think the soaps can make a lot more money in merchandising their own products and a lot of actors have been successful selling things, too, on the side.
Steve Burton: Sure. I try to do that stuff. I don’t try to sell everything but with these appearances and starting new ideas and bringing people and Port Chuck and that stuff, people want to see that stuff and they want products from soaps. I think that’s why this book is a good fit. Hopefully, it will be. It seems to be going really well right now so, we’ll see what happens before the holidays.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: A portion of the proceeds is going to the Desi Geestman Foundation. How did you guys become involved with that charity?
Steve Burton: Well, that charity – Bernie Geestman, actually, is a crew guy on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, and Y&R. He still works at CBS and a lot of these guys knew Desi, the little girl who died. There’s a lot of ways that the soap actors were connected to that family. It seemed like a natural fit.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So many people have been impacted by cancer. My mom just passed away last month. I can’t even imagine a kid suffering like that.
Steve Burton: Yes, I know. You think it’s easier, obviously, for adults to go through it and we kind of understand, but when it’s a kid...when I went to the Desi Geestman thing this weekend, "Evening with the Stars," it was amazing to talk to these families who had these kids who died. Some survived, some died, and to hear the lessons that they learned from these kids while the kids were battling. It’s like these kids teach us.
“It’s okay. This is the way it’s going. It’s fine.” For a 10-year-old to say something like that, it’s just amazing to me.
We figure we could raise awareness. That’s the cool thing, too. Obviously, the money aspects help these families live by their kids when they’re going through it, and take the financial burden off these families while they’re going through this horrible process. You, guys, are helping us raise awareness to Desi Geestman Foundation, which is great. I think it’s a win-win for everybody.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Mission of the Desi Geestman Foundation is to improve the quality of life for children suffering from cancer and their families. The foundation provides environments of support that alleviate emotional and economic trauma.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So 35 soap stars have submitted recipes. But unlike most cookbooks, you have stories that go along with those.
Steve Burton: Yes, I didn’t want to just do a basic [cookbook]. I have high expectations of whatever products [I put] out there. I just don’t want to throw something out there.
That’s why next time we come to New York, you come see Port Chuck. It’s funny because people didn’t expect Port Chuck. They didn’t know what to expect. Because a lot of these venues I do are comedy clubs and they just thought it was going to be Brandon, Brad and Scott and me with a guitar. I said, “No. KISS is rolling into town at 6 a.m."
That’s pretty much what it was because we had 14 guys on the bus. We had a trailer full of all of our stuff and set up a stage, set up all this equipment. We’re like, “Wow. This is a rock show.” I said, “Yes, that’s what it is. That’s what we’re doing here.”
So, what I wanted to do – I didn’t just want to throw a cookbook together. I wanted to do a kind of a Vanity Fair style meets cookbook where you actually get a glimpse into what does this recipe mean. The interviews are great because it starts with food but it goes into peoples’ lives. I guess it’s an informal interview because food can bring back a lot of emotions. You know growing up, you smell something like, “Oh, that’s like my grandma’s house,” or “Man, that reminds me of my mom or my family or the holidays or whatever it is.” That’s the cool thing, I think, between soaps and food is it’s emotional.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I made a tuna fish sandwich this week and my friends were amazed that I actually mixed two things together. They called it cooking. I’m a novice. Would someone like me be able to make these recipes?
Steve Burton: You’ll be able to make mine for sure. I’m a novice, too. I grew up in the '80s so it was always microwave, microwave, fast food, you know. So, for me, I sit with my wife and she cooks and she’ll watch the Food Channel and I'm like, “There is no way that I’m going to be able to do this ever in my life unless I go to school.”
She was out one day, and it was me and my brother-in-law, and he was like, “What are we eating?” I said, “I don’t know. Let’s figure it out.” We ended up having some fillets in the house and I figured, “Hey, if I can dice up some fillets and season a little bit, some salt and pepper, some lime with some onions and stuff, maybe we can make some steak tacos.” That’s what we did.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So, it sounds like this book will have recipes that will work for the novice and the master chef as well -- a big range.
Steve Burton: Exactly, yes. We had a chef that cooked all the meals so we could photograph them. I got to tell you, Derk was there, and there were a lot of people eating the food, and they said it was absolutely amazing.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What about the variety of food? It’s all types of food?
Steve Burton: Yes, it’s all types of food. I wanted something that meant something to everybody so we have international dishes, American cuisine, dessert, all kinds of stuff.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That was my next question—desserts. When I go to a restaurant, I usually pick the dessert and then, I pick an entree that matches the dessert.
Steve Burton: There’s dessert. I think there are a couple of desserts – whatever anyone wanted to do. You know, being an actor, I knew going into this that I wanted to give the actors full rein of whatever they wanted to do. I know how actors are and I knew it was going to be tough to schedule all these interviews and all these photo shoots and stuff. I wanted it to mean something. That was the thing for me.
It’s like Christian LeBlanc’s stories. There are a lot of great stories in there but his is great because he went down to where he grew up and his dad lost his house. He took pictures on the lot there, went to the graveyard where the history of his family is in New Orleans. He was like, “Steve, I want to go down there.” I said, “Go. I’ll fly the photographer down, hair and make-up. Just go do it.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It sounds like a nice coffee table book.
Steve Burton: It is. That’s what I want. That’s what I envision. At first, I didn’t because it was like, "Do you want the one that’s by the stove and you can turn it, get it wet?" I’m like, "No. I just see this thing, something bigger, something nicer." So, it is like a cookbook, coffee table book. Yes.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You can pre-order now. I think there’s a limited edition. Is there something special about the one you can pre-order?
Steve Burton: Yes, because the collector’s edition is going to be basically the first run of the book. If you pre-order now, you'll get it before the holidays, before Christmas. So, it’ll be a great holiday gift. I don’t know the exact date but if they pre-order now, they will get it before the holidays. After that, I don’t know. I don’t know when the next run will go. This is new business to me.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Right. So is Derk a better cook than you? Can Derk actually cook?
Steve Burton: Derk can cook. Tyler can cook. Surprisingly, all these people can really cook, which is great.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You guys are all on Twitter. We talk a lot about social media and how it has changed the landscape of things. How has that helped you get the word out about this or Port Chuck or anything?
Steve Burton: Yes, obviously, We Love Soaps helped us a ton, but I’ll tell you, we’ve learned. We’ve had to come up with marketing strategy with this. Virally, it’s great. The internet has changed. Twitter has changed. Facebook, all that stuff and the key to it though is putting out new content all the time.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Right.
Steve Burton: You constantly have to be talking about it. You can’t be like, “Oh, I’m just going to talk about it this week and then, wait till next week.” It’s like every day. It’s an every day job when you’re trying to get something virally grassroots, get the ball rolling and see if it snowballs into something.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We’ve learned that. There have been months where 10% of our traffic came from Twitter.
Steve Burton: Yes. If you’re always blogging, if you’re always doing the stuff you’re doing, putting up new videos, man-on-the-street stuff, virally that spreads the fastest.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So, great cause, 35 soap stars, good food. It seems like you have a winner here.
Steve Burton: Well, we’ll see if it catches on. We got a lot of promotion for Port Chuck. We promoted the heck out of that thing. I made it a mission to get on everyday and post and do that. We still had people when we left, “Oh man, I didn’t know you were there. I just saw it.” So, that’s the clue of having to constantly get the word out, constantly, constantly, constantly. Just keep at it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Pre-order "Soap Dishes the Cookbook" here. Check out soapdishesthecookbook.com for exclusive videos, previews and more.
OHIO STATE, THE BCS, AND A LOVE OF SPORTS
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I love sports and soaps. I’m a Michigan fan so I'd love to talk about that, but…
Steve Burton: [Huge fan Michigan's hated rival Ohio State] You’re dead. How are you a Michigan fan?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I’m very contrary. I grew up in Tennessee and everybody there wore orange [and were University of Tennessee fans]. They were just fanatical about it. Most of the rebels would like Alabama, but I was such a rebel, I decided to root for a northern team,” and I loved Jim Harbaugh and Anthony Carter, so I chose Michigan. It pissed everybody off and so, of course, I just grew up hating Ohio State for the random reason that I picked Michigan as the team I like.
Steve Burton: Whatever.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It hasn't been our way of late [in football]. Although this year, I think they have a Heisman Trophy winner [in quarterback Denard Robinson].
Steve Burton: [Skeptical] We’ll see.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: But you guys are number one in the polls right now.
Steve Burton: I know. It’s crazy, man.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: But they’re saying when the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) comes out, Boise State and Oregon are going to be the top two teams.
Steve Burton: I don’t think so.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This interview was conducted late last week. Both Michigan and Ohio State lost over the weekend!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you have any opinion of the lack of playoff system in college football or do you like the way it is?
Steve Burton: Here’s what I do like. I’ll tell you this about the Big Ten next year. They’re going to have a Big Ten championship game. The BCS is what it's going to be and I don’t think it's going to change. Maybe they'll do an "and one" or whatever. But for me, being a Big Ten guy, I always wanted to see a championship game. I always thought that was just kind of weird that they never did that. I’m excited about that. It’s crazy. The BCS is just crazy. Alabama lost. Now, they’re number eight, or wherever they’re going to be when the BCS comes out. Do we really think that Boise State’s better than Alabama?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I don’t know. I'd sort of like Boise State and TCU to be in the finals just to tick everyone off because I want a playoff system.
Steve Burton: Yes, but it’s just – I don’t know.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I’m telling you in the end, Boise State will get screwed somehow. I know.
Steve Burton: Well, because nobody believes that they’re better than Alabama and Alabama’s eighth. That’s crazy talk. That’s why they need to figure out something out. The thing I do like about it, though, is usually if you lose once, you’re out. That’s why college football is great. You might have a chance to get back in the top five, but you lose once, you’re done. It’s one and done – which I love because every week means something. It’s not like basketball where you can coach the men, “Oh, we’re in the playoffs and this and that,” or baseball. It’s crazy.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I lost interest in the NBA over the years because even the playoffs seem meaningless. You can lose three games by 40 points and still win a [best of seven] series. To me, that just doesn’t make you the best team.
Steve Burton: I agree 100% with you on that.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Everybody thought the Lakers were going to win and we had to watch three months of playoffs and the Lakers did win.
Steve Burton: Exactly and that’s why it means nothing.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you like pro football?
Steve Burton: Yes, I do. I like NFL. Yes, I do. I like the wild card. I like that they did that. I grew up in Ohio so I love football, no matter what it is.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I’m a huge Atlanta Falcons fan. I pay $400.00 for NFL Supercast. I can watch all the games on my computer because I can’t have a satellite dish in my apartment building. They really get you on the Direct TV. It’s a fortune.
Steve Burton: They used to get me bad because I would have to get Dish and DirecTV for College Game Plan and NFL Ticket. So this is the first year DirecTV has both.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So I was a big fan yours on OUT OF THIS WORLD. You had great hair and the show had a great theme song [laughs]. But then you joined GH in 1991 and have been there for most of the rest of the past twenty years. What would you say is the biggest difference in production from 1991 till now?
Steve Burton: Well, I will tell you we were moving about a year ago when I found the script to my garage from 1993 and I looked at the script. I’m like, “Wow! I can’t believe how much it has changed.” You go through the changes as a viewer so they don’t seem as hectic because you are transitioning and you are adapting to it. But when I first started the show we would do 22 items a day and now we do 50. So there is your difference.
And it is so tough for these new actors to come in. You know like Vanessa [Marcil Giovinazzo], for example. She was there in 2002.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: She came back and won an Emmy!
Steve Burton: Yes, she came back but now – and here is a girl who obviously is good and she can work hard - she came back and goes, “This is crazy!” She came back to GH and then she did her series [LAS VEGAS], which obviously is a whole different pace, and then comes back and now we are doing 50 items a day. Of course, the whole show is about her right now so she is doing 20 items a day. It is crazy.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Actually, the first couple of weeks she was back I wasn’t liking the storyline, but then when Jason went to Rome, I started loving it. To me that was so funny.
Steve Burton: Yes, it was great. We had fun. She said, “I want to get out of this hotel room.” I said, “You are going to miss this hotel room because they are going to write you like they write me and they put you in every set with everybody.” And yesterday she said, “Ah, I miss Rome. Can’t we just go back and do our eight scenes and we are done?”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I just love the way you played it. Jason was frustrated, but somewhat amused. You just played a combination of emotions as she was ranting and going crazy like she always does.
Steve Burton: Yes, I think we picked up right where we left off and it is going to be what it is with Brenda and Jason. We try to balance the complete bickering and the frustration with...one moment. Can we just find one little moment that we might like each other for a second and then go back to being at each other's throats?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That is a perfect way to describe it. You are a big entrepreneur. You always do these other things and now you are in the band and the cookbook. I mean is that something that you always had in your mind as an actor, to diversify, because you are one of the stars of the show and doing very well in acting. A lot of actors are struggling and they wait tables and do different things but you are doing all these stuff plus you have a starring role.
Steve Burton: I have been blessed to be on the show for over 20 years. We know how hard that is. But I have always known there had to be a Plan B and a Plan C because especially now we are at...I don’t want to say we are at the end. I am not going to be the doomsday guy but I see the climate of soaps and the times are changing now - everyone is getting their budget cut, all that stuff. I know that there is going to be a day where this could be the last year so I have always thought about that. I have always tried to be smart with my money.
It was Sean Kanan who is the guy who kind of got me in the right path with all this stuff, believe it or not. We are cousins by marriage. We found that out actually when we were on the show together playing brothers which is odd. He is the guy who said, “Hey, just start reading from these books about finance and stocks and this and that.” He is the guy who kind of got me on the right path with that stuff. I have always been entrepreneurial I guess you could say. A lot of things that I have done have failed miserably. Some things I have done have been successful so I just keep plugging away and see what happens.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Is there a misconception about you out there that fans might have? Like people think you are just like Jason?
Steve Burton: All the time. I think it really throws these people off when I go on the road. Nobody knew what to expect with Port Chuck. People were like, “What is this?” Like my wife, “Is this a garage band? What is going on here?” And then we get up there and it is a huge concert. People expect me to have no personality and not to talk at all anyway. So then they see all four guys, and Brandon [Barash] and me, whose characters hate each other on the show, and Brad [Spinelli] is there and we are singing together in a rock ‘n roll band. It was a strange thing I think for people.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Favorite storyline of all-time?
Steve Burton: Of all time? It is tough to say of all-time but it is always the ones that probably have the most emotion. It has got to be leaving for Paris the first time with Robin. Those were a good couple of years on the show with Stone and Robin and Sonny and the whole thing, and Brenda. That was just a good three years of the show there. Sam’s baby was a good story. A lot came out of that story. There was Monica’s breast cancer. Remember she had that?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Yes, we've talked to Wendy Riche and Claire Labine and it was just a special time on the show, the mid-'90s especially.
Steve Burton: Yes, it was a great time. Any time you can tell a good story, that's all it is about. Let's just get some good stories and good relationships. That is what people care about watching. I think with Brenda and Jason people are like, “Oh, this is kind of an interesting dynamic.” Like with Carly and Jason, it's not your typical relationship.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Laura Wright has been great. I mean when you are an actress and Sarah Brown has played the role and Tamara Braun, it is hard to come in. I don’t think she gets the respect she deserves because lately she has been like hell on wheels. I watched her on GUIDING LIGHT and think she is doing the best work she ever did.
Steve Burton: She is amazing. She is amazing. Every one of those girls brought something different to Carly.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: There was a scene where she burst into Sam’s and was saying, “I can’t believe Jason went to Rome. His life is not about Brenda. It is all about me.” It was so funny.
Steve Burton: I know. It is great. It is a great dynamic because we know Carly is Carly and she always will be and she will never change. She is always going to do something crazy and Jason will be there to pick up the pieces. It is a crazy relationship and that is why I think it works so well. And she is awesome. Laura is awesome. She is great to work with.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: And she has wine that goes with your cookbook.
Steve Burton: Exactly. And that is in the cookbook.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If you could go back to 1991 when you started on GH and give yourself a piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
Steve Burton: Probably the advice I give these young guys today. Well, forget the hair part. My hair was out of control. I have had the craziest hairstyles there are in daytime I think. I would say, don’t get lazy. You can't take the job for granted. I have seen a lot of people do that. To me, one of the reasons I think I have survived this long was that I have always worked hard at my job and I have never gotten lazy. With these young kids today, you can see that in someone like Chad Duell. This kid is a hardworking guy who is playing Michael now. It is amazing to watch this kid come in and have to take over someone’s role. That guy is working all day long.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: The Jason-Michael relationship is one of my favorite things on the whole show.
Steve Burton: Chad's got that innate quality that you feel bad for the guy and you could tell that he is a little tortured. It was tough for him to come in and take over that role. Maurice worked with me when I first got on the show after I got on the show for a year and he really took me under his wing. That is what I have been trying to do with Chad. He is on his own now. I helped him there for about three or four months and the kid is good. I just wanted him to be relaxed and keep working hard and keep pushing it.
Sometimes you can get on the show for a year and think, “Hey, I can just chill out. I will know my lines. It is fine.” You can get that attitude. That is just human nature. But you've got to work hard. But I don’t know what advice I would have given myself because things happened for a reason and I am there still for 20 years.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Because you made such an impact on OUT OF THIS WORLD, they snapped you up?
Steve Burton: [Laughs] Yes, I am sure that is exactly it, Roger. They were like, “You were amazing on that show.” Are you kidding me? That acting was so bad.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: So I really appreciate the time today. [Taking one last opportunity to trash talk] I will be in touch on Michigan-Ohio state weekend.
Steve Burton: Yes, buddy. Give me a call.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Denard Robinson. That is my final word.
Steve Burton: That is not happening.
Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps and is currently an associate producer on THE BAY and executive producer on the upcoming indie short May Mercy Lie.