Tristan Rogers has been playing the role of Robert Scorpio on General Hospital since 1981, a time period that many fans call the soap opera’s heyday. During that time, crews built elaborate indoor sets depicting exotic outdoor locations, and studios also spent money on outdoor locations. Rogers recalled one such shoot from more than 40 years ago.
Tristan Rogers Recalls Cassadine Island
Soap opera veteran Rogers regaled fans with tales from days gone by at a recent Zoom Event hosted by Coastal Entertainment. The Daytime Emmy award-winning actor recalled one of GH’s most iconic storylines – the hunt for the Ice Princess on Cassadine Island and the behind-the-scenes hijinks that went into shooting it.
“I mean, there’s a lot going on with the island storyline,” he admitted. “The island itself only stuck around for about 10 days, and they built it over one weekend. It was a separate studio from Gower [Sunset Gower Studios], not the one we finished up in, but one next door to that, and they built the whole thing out of concrete.”
Of course, as often happens in life, things didn’t quite go as planned. “What they didn’t figure was that there were five tons of concrete floor, and it wasn’t built to support that. And all of a sudden, it started to sink.” The crew had to think fast to find a solution to stay on schedule. “So they had to stop work, pull all the concrete out, reinforce the underpart, and then pour it all back on again. The fact that they got this done in 48 hours was absolutely amazing because we were due to start work on it on Monday. So they get it all done. And this was the most amazing set.”
Word spread about the details put into the design. “Every designer in L.A. at the time came around to see this set because it had a working fountain, it had a waterfall, it had caves, it had tunnels, and it had animals. We had a monkey floating around, and we had cockatoos and all that sort of sh*t.”
The story found Robert Scorpio, Luke (Tony Geary), and Laura (Genie Francis) landing on Cassadine Island trying to find the Ice Princess and stumbling onto Mikkos Cassadine’s (John Colicos) plan to use his weather machine to freeze parts of the world as a weapon against world leaders. “When we started working on it, we were doing our stuff there, right? And so we’ve landed on the island,” he said.
The scene required supplies for their exploration of the island. “We get out there, and I’ve got this backpack on which has got everything in it from toothpicks to a grand piano. I mean, just the most amazing thing, we just keep on pulling the stuff out of this backpack.
“What would happen is that we, the three of us [Rogers, Geary, and Francis] would be doing lines, and we’d be sitting on a mat or something,” he explained. “And so the first place you’d stash a script is really where they’re not going to see it. That was under the mat. All of a sudden, everybody comes on, and they pull the mat off and, oh, there’s all these scripts,” he said with a laugh.
General Hospital Production vs. Nature
Of course, the outdoor shots of the scene were just as elaborate. “I remember that we had a lot of people on the boat. We had about 20 or 30 actors on the boat. And when they left port, they were in a John Wayne boat. It was an old army ship that had been converted into a luxury boat. It really was great.”
But location shoots can be tricky and not so much fun. Rogers shared that the boat scenes were not to everybody’s liking. “When we left port, nobody had counted on the fact that there was an eight-foot sea running out there. So the boat’s going like this [rocking side to side]. There are all these people spewing overboard.
“We get out there, and there’s supposed to be this big cocktail party on the back of the boat,” Rogers continued. “Everybody’s laughing over the back of the boat, including the crew, myself, and Geary. We’ve been kind of walking like that for about 24 hours, so it didn’t even affect us. We’re just out there having a good time.” Rogers divulged what happened next. “We got roped into being in the crew. You know, I was holding a light, and he was doing something. You can’t imagine what it was like.”
Executive producer and location director Gloria Monty was also along for the ride. “I don’t get seasick. I’m outside, and the boat is like going up and down, and everybody’s inside for whatever reason. I look around, and there’s this person who’s come outside who’s grabbing hold of the rail and slowly crawling up the boat towards me. Who in the hell is out here, as stupid as I am to be out here? Turns out it was Gloria.
“She’s going, ‘Hey, I said, come here,'” Rogers remembered. “And I said, ‘What are you doing out here? This is crazy.’ She said, ‘I don’t want to be in there. It’s all kind of smelly. These people just are all so negative.’ And I laughed my ass off at that. That was so funny.
“And finally, Gloria is sitting inside, and they’d hired a helicopter,” the actor said. “Suddenly, this helicopter is flying overhead, and someone comes in and says, ‘Gloria, the helicopter’s here,’ and she goes, ‘What are they filming?'” The actor laughed aloud at the fond memory.
The best part of location shooting is the happy accidents when one thing or person can save the day. In the case of the famed 1981 shoot, it was a cameraman. Rogers detailed the big save. “There’s this one cameraman, he’s at the back of the boat filming seagulls. These seagulls are coming in and going out, and that turned out to be the savior of the entire scene. This guy shooting seagulls at the back of the boat, man. It was so funny you had to be there. Nobody planned that part of it.”
Tristan Rogers: Revelling In The Magic
But that wasn’t the end of his total recall. He remembered one more thing that was possibly his favorite part of the memory. “There was another thing. The boat had a jacuzzi on it,” he revealed. “So I decided I’m going to have a jacuzzi. I go in there, turn the water on, bang, the water’s hot and it’s nice. It’s a nice and large jacuzzi. Everything’s great. I get in the thing, and the next minute there’s all this hammering on the door.
“I said, ‘No, you can’t come in. I got it first,'” Rogers detailed. “Bang, hammering continues. Finally, someone kicks the door in. I said, ‘What are you doing in here?’ They said, ‘Well, this thing hasn’t been used for a while. All the pipes downstairs have ruptured, and the boats filling up with water.’ There are little things like that that just made the whole day.
“I mean, we’ve just, we were having such a good time on that set,” the actor fondly recalled. “You’ve no idea what it was like. It was magic.”