There are some people in your life who can read off of a milk carton and give you goosebumps, having to remind yourself to take a breath during it. They are the storytellers. Maurice Benard’s guest this week on his video podcast, State Of Mind, is just such a storyteller. Daytime Emmy Award-winning actor and General Hospital icon Tristan Rogers shared the many roads he’s traveled from the Australian outback to the nightclubs of London, before landing in Los Angeles, only to nab a part on a soap telling one of the genre’s grandest tales of all time…the Luke and Laura love story.
Tristan Rogers: Humble Beginnings
Benard (Sonny) set the atmosphere for the latest episode of SOM, a little different from other shows emphasizing Mental Health issues. “This is going to be a different State Of Mind today. A more storytelling State Of Mind. More fun.”
And fun it was! GH co-star and friend, Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio), shared how it was growing up in Australia. “I had a really good childhood. We were living, at the time, in what was considered then, a pretty lousy area. Nowadays, you couldn’t get an outhouse there for less than three million dollars. Back then? No.
“I was just the worst possible scholar you could imagine, you could write on a wall. I sucked,” he admitted. “But, after I left school I goosed around for about two years, basically pissed my parents off. I teamed up with this bunch of guys I went to school with, who basically said, ‘We’re not doing anything. What do we do?’ I said, ‘Well. Let’s start a rock band.’ One guy said, ‘I can play the guitar’ another said, ‘I can play bass’ and I said, ‘I can play drums.’ That’s how it started. After about two or three years of this, it became apparent that we weren’t going to make any money.
“So, I started supplementing my income by doing commercial work, modeling work, commercial on-camera work,” Rogers relayed. “I was about 21. And I started making really good money at it. We had a big industry then, doing that sort of thing. This went on for a while. The band faded into oblivion. Then I decided one day that I wanted to act. Having no idea what I just said to myself. I didn’t understand what the ramifications were, the commitment you had to make. As far as I was concerned it was a way to make a bit of money.”
After an audition that took place in a hallway in front of a janitor, Rogers landed his first show, The Link. After that, there was no looking back. He ended up trying his luck in England when he met a producer that he had worked with before and landed a new gig on a show called, Paul Temple.
“They said it was the best episode they ever shot. So that was my start in the industry over there. And I realized one thing, ‘Tristan, you can’t just walk through this. You have got to make a commitment to it.'”
A Mystery Man In Port Charles
A decade later, Rogers was called on for a two-day role on General Hospital. He described his first days on the set. “I had no name. I was brought in, expressly, to beat up the hero, Luke [Anthony Geary], and then disappear. A half a day goes by, and I get summoned into Gloria’s [Monty] office. And she said, ‘We really like what you are doing. Would you like to stay?’” [His expression feigned speechlessness] And then he said, ‘Yes.’
“She said, ‘We will figure something out, and talk to your agent.’ About three days later, I get called to come in. They hadn’t written anything. They had nothing for this character. I was told that Gloria wants you in scenes. You don’t have to say anything. You could be reading a magazine, a book, or poking around a corner, looking suspicious.”
The Aussie signed for three years, which didn’t mean a lot in daytime back then when storylines could have a 13-week lifespan, but he became really popular very fast as the mysterious Robert Scorpio. It wasn’t long before Gloria was thinking about expanding the character, even considering him as a possible love interest for Laura [Genie Francis].
Over dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel, she asked his opinion. “What do you think of Robert and Laura as an item?” Two Martinis in, Rogers responded honestly, “Well, I don’t think it is going to work. He is a totally different character. He’s older. He is more sophisticated. You are going to have to change her before it is going to work on changing him and the two of them becoming an item. She looked at me, and it was never mentioned again.”
Elizabeth Taylor And The Wedding That Almost Wasn’t
Rogers shared the tale of how silver screen legend Elizabeth Taylor (Helena) changed the landscape on General Hospital. “There really wouldn’t have been a wedding at all if Elizabeth Taylor hadn’t have called up and said, ‘I am not going to appear on the show at all unless there is a wedding. Unless Luke and Laura get wedded.’
“What actually happened after the wedding was that Genie Francis quit,” revealed Rogers. “She went over to CBS to do a new primetime series [Bare Essence]. Tony started making noises about doing other projects outside of General Hospital, and Gloria had movies of the week lined up on ABC. So, the whole thing was in danger of totally fracturing. Elizabeth Taylor changed all that. She brought it all forward. After the wedding, Laura left. Tony didn’t leave until later.”
Benard wanted to know what it was like working with the Grand Dame. Rogers recalled her first day. “She walked into makeup and said, ‘Hi, everyone. I’m Elizabeth.’ She came around and introduced herself to everyone. And then she said, ‘Where’s Rogers?’ and they told her I was at the booth at the end. So she came in and said, ‘Hi! Do you think we could run lines together?’ and I said, ‘Hell, yeah!’ She was in Gloria’s office. They had cleared Gloria’s office and that was her dressing room. Fish tanks, the whole thing.”
The actor waxed lyrical with special details. “Her eyes were violet. Her favorite flowers were Sterling roses and the entire dressing room was full of Sterling roses. And stacked to the ceiling Dom Perignon Pink Champagne. I had never seen Dom Perignon Champagne before, but back then it was $180 a bottle, and that was 1981. Nowadays, it is $300 a bottle.
“About 20 minutes later, I knocked on the door and walked in. She slams the door shut and said, ‘I know all about you.’ I am going, what the hell does that mean. She goes, ‘You are a notorious ad libber.’ and I said, ‘Well, yeah…’ and she pulls out the script and says, ‘What can we do for some of these lines here? I am not too crazy about this.’ So, we sat down together and rewrote her script, putting in sharper dialogue.”
More Tristan Rogers Details
Every General Hospital fan’s favorite Aussie shared many more tales with Benard. Rogers spun more of his adventures in London that included being a bartender and DJ in underground discos, seeing Elton John and Kiki Dee share the stage during one of his gigs, consulting at a radio station, the moment he chose to get serious about acting, adjusting to fame, more behind the scenes stories on the set of GH, dating Elizabeth Taylor for a short time (yes, you read that correctly), and thoughts on his Daytime Emmy Award-winning performance as Doc in Studio City.
General Hospital (GH) airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest that’s been posted on General Hospital spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
Tristan tells his journey from playing drums in a band, to his first acting role, to becoming a DJ in London all before making the trip to Los Angeles and joining General Hospital. https://t.co/C3Cnzkb6s7 pic.twitter.com/n0tIsncJfE
— Maurice Benard (@MauriceBenard) April 10, 2022