You know him best as Dillon Quartermaine on General Hospital, but Robert Palmer Watkins is taking on a whole new kind of role. He’s starring in the crime thriller film, Last Three Days, where he’ll get to show off a new side of himself.
I recently spoke with Watkins about saying goodbye to his on-screen mother on General Hospital, his hopes for Kiki and Dillon, and his role on the new film. He also opened up about a personal struggle he’s worked hard to overcome.
Now that Jane Elliot (Tracy Quartermaine) is no longer on the show, Dillon is one of the few main Quartermaines left on General Hospital. Watkins described saying goodbye to his on-screen mother as bittersweet.
“She was the first person that I got to work with. She played my mom, so she obviously had a big influence in my life as an actor and [for my character]. A lot of my scenes were with her, so she was really influential to me and to my career. Having her leave was definitely kind of a shocker, but at the same time, she’s been on the show for so long, and she’s had such an amazing career as an actress. She’s ready to retire, and she’s ready to start the next chapter of her life. So it was kind of funny, because her character Tracy was very similar to what Jane the actress wanted to do. Tracy the character was ready to move on from Port Charles and go find her own path, and Jane the actress was ready to do the same thing,” Watkins noted.
“It was bittersweet. Everybody was sad to see her go, but we were really, really happy that the person, Jane Elliot, was getting to go off and live life. You know? I mean, good for her. Acting and this entertainment industry, as you know, can be very draining,” he said.
“For her to have the career that she had, I think she was ready. It was time for her to go do something else. She turned 70 years old, and she was just ready to go live life, and probably drink a piña colada. I’m very, very happy for her.”
Of course, one thing a lot of fans have been interested in is the relationship between Dillon and Kiki, and Watkins said he hopes those two characters get to be happy together for a while.
“I’m really excited that people are liking it, because I love Hayley Erin. Working with her is like a dream come true, because she’s just so fun, and we have such great chemistry on and off set. We’re just really good friends, and we click right away. We’re both kind of bubbly, and goofy, and positive people,” Watkins said.
“I think the fans were excited about that, because they saw the chemistry there. They saw the spark, and they saw that it was kind of a sweet, innocent love. And on a soap opera, that’s hard to come by because so many other relationships between the characters are so tainted and so dramatic, and so filled with cheating and stealing and hurting and backstabbing. So to have this young, fresh couple that doesn’t have all of this baggage and drama behind them — with each other anyways — is really something nice and just kind of a breath of fresh air for the viewers. Now it is a soap, so give it a few months, and I’m sure there will be some drama.”
“I hope they keep us together, but obviously we can’t stay happy too long, because then there’s no story. So, something will happen soon I’m sure. But yeah, I’m really, really glad the fans are responding to it. I think there’s definitely potential for a super couple, so hopefully it just continues to grow, and maybe one day she’ll be a Quartermaine. You never know,” he added.
“I get my scripts a week in advance, so I’m not that much farther ahead than the viewers as far as what I know that’s going on.”
If he could give Dillon one piece of advice, Watkins said it would be “to get more involved with ELQ the family business to help fund some of your creative endeavors, or somehow link those two together.”
“I think it would be smart if him and Ned got more involved with ELQ. Don’t look at it as ELQ’s going to take over your life, but look at it as, ELQ could further your artistic endeavors as well,” Watkins continued. “Own your right to the family business and know that it can further what your passions are.”
Watkins also shared one of the funniest things that’s ever happened on the set of General Hospital — and the reason some of the makeup artists have given him the nickname, “Cheeto.”
“One of the first scenes that I had to be shirtless in, this was a while back, I was worried that I was going to be really pale because I hadn’t been out in the sun a lot that month or whatever, and I’m pretty fair-skinned. I didn’t know that they put body makeup on you whenever you’re shirtless, so they were gonna make me tanner anyway. But I didn’t know that, so I went and got a spray tan. The day I showed up to set they put body makeup on top of my spray tan […] and I just looked like a Cheeto. I literally was orange!” Watkins laughed.
“The producer came on set and he said, ‘Can we make him less… Cheeto?!’ I was so embarrassed, but it was hilarious. So all the makeup people ran on set, and started painting me white again. It was just a funny situation. So now my nickname from some of the makeup artists is ‘Cheeto.'”
Watkins has been keeping busy not only with General Hospital but with a new film as well. He’s been cast as the lead in the thriller, Last Three Days.
“I play the lead. I’m a cop in the movie. I get to do my own stunts, and shoot guns, and do hand to hand combat. It’s just a really different type of role for me,” Watkins explained.
“I love the character of Dillon on General Hospital. He’s a good guy, and he’s artistic, and kinda funny and quirky, but it’s really cool to tap into this other side of my personality, which I also think is part of who I am. Just a little more serious and a little more aggressive, I guess you could say. So I’m really excited to use some of my physical strengths as well. I’m really into working out and fitness and stuff, and this is a pretty physically demanding role,” he said.
Watkins was immediately interested in being a part of the film, and from the sounds of it, it’s something fans are definitely going to want to see.
“I started reading this script, and I couldn’t lay it down. It’s really well-written. It’s really exciting [and] entertaining. It’s got everything you would want a fun action movie to have, but there’s also romance. It’s about the choices that you make in everyday life that lead to your end result, and if you could go back and change some of your choices, what would happen differently? It’s kind of got a little bit of a Memento/ Butterfly Effect feel to it, but it’s really cool the way it’s done. I think it’s different than anything you’ve seen, but it does have some of those elements.”
“It was a page turner when I read the script, and seeing what they’re doing visually with it and with the cast that they’ve chosen, and the director, and everybody on board is really passionate about it. They’re not doing it for money, or for the fame of it. They’re doing it because they really want to tell a good story,” Watkins continued.
He also wants to encourage anyone who’s excited to see the film to help by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign, which ends Monday, July 31st. “This is really for the art. This is really what this project is about. It’s for the art, not for anything else. So please, please support it.”
In addition to talking with me about his acting, Watkins took some time to open up about a personal struggle he’s been working to overcome.
“I’ve touched on this before with different things, but I don’t know if I’ve ever really gone into detail about it. I suffered really severely with anxiety growing up, and OCD as well,” he admitted. “They kind of went hand in hand, so that’s something that I’ve kind of struggled with my whole life, and had to learn how to cope with.”
“I’m actually working on a book deal right now that I’m hoping goes through. I don’t know if it will or not. I’m working on it with my manager. It’s about how to live a life in a way that gets you past your anxiety or your fears to get what you want. So daily practices on how to overcome that stuff. You know, whether it’s fitness, exercise, waking up and meditating, journaling, yoga, spirituality, family, finding your passions — all the little things that I try to incorporate into my daily life so that I don’t let my anxieties and my OCD cripple what I want. I’m still a work in progress, but that was definitely something that I had to overcome,” Watkins said.
“I think a lot of people see me now, and they’re like, ‘Oh wow, you’re doing so great and you’re so confident.’ And you know, I don’t think a lot of people realize that I’ve had a lot of struggles myself, and who I am today has not been an easy road always. I’ve got issues just like everybody else does,” he continued.
“So many people do, and they don’t want to talk about it, especially guys. You know, guys don’t want to open up about that stuff because they feel weak, or they feel like they’re too prideful. But it’s something I feel like is really important, and I hope to one day have a big enough platform where I can really make a difference.”
“The arts kind of saved me, in a way. They really changed my life,” he added. “I would love to give back and help other people find their passions, whatever that might be.”
Be sure to catch Robert Palmer Watkins on General Hospital, airing weekdays at 2/1c on ABC.
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