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Goodbye, Steve Burton

The End of an Era

By

Goodbye, Steve Burton

Sonny (Maurice Benard) and Jason (Steve Burton)

Patrick Wymore/American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

“Jason’s coming back. That’s how the story ends.” -- Sam McCall Morgan

Maybe. Story-wise, it might be necessary. Everyone says this isn’t a good time for Jason to leave. When exactly would be a good time?

Steve Burton as Jason has left General Hospital before, but a long time ago, and usually just for a few months. His longest hiatus was thirteen months, from April 2001 to May 2002. During that time, he appeared in a miniseries, Taken, and a film starring Robert Redford, The Last Castle.

That was ten years ago. The character is more integrated into the show now, and somehow, there was always the feeling that Jason and Steve Burton would be back.

If Jason returns, he won’t be played by Steve Burton. That’s a problem.

What to say about losing Steve Burton.

A Soap Veteran

Steve Burton started in his role on General Hospital in 1991 at the age of 21. When he left, he was 42 with a family and heading for a new life in Tennessee. Tennessee’s gain. Our loss.

Let’s talk for a minute about the role of Jason. Over the years, it grew in importance, to the point where now, it is crucial. Actors are cast in roles; sometimes they work out, sometimes they don't. A one-day job can lead to fifteen years, and a five-year job can end in two days. It depends on what direction the writers want to take with the character, what the actor does with the role, and whether or not the audience accepts the actor and/or the character.

Jason started out as was one of the cute teens, part of the GH younger set that consisted of Brenda, Robin, Stone, A.J., Jagger, etc. Brenda, Robin, Stone, A.J., and Jagger are gone (at least for now). Jason remained.

Over the years, Jason had a connection on the show to his stepmother, Monica, to his nephew Michael, whom he adored, his brother A.J., and to his sister Emily, as well as others mentioned here. He had many loves: Robin, Brenda, Keisha Ward, Courtney, Sam, Carly, Elizabeth, Karen Wexler....it's a long list. Probably his biggest romance -- in this case a bromance -- was with Sonny Corinthos, the man who helped him find an identity after his memory was wiped out from an accident caused by his brother A.J.

A Turning Point for Jason

The accident resulted in brain damage and meant that Jason was unable to become a doctor as he planned. When talking with his dad Alan about HIV, Alan was overwhelmed by what Jason could have become - a brilliant physician.

Being a hit man is a long way from being a doctor. Jason supposedly became a man without feeling, but in fact, no one could feel like Jason. No one felt the sting of being damaged goods like he did, and this gave him a connection to Maxie, who had a heart transplant. She understood.

If Jason seemed to have a blunted affect, underneath he smoldered, and that's what audiences related to.

There aren't a lot of young actors who could be so cool on the outside and so warm on the inside -- not to mention funny -- with Brenda, with Spinelli, and with Carly. "Carly, you're at a point in this where things start to go terribly wrong," he said of one of her schemes. He and Brenda had a love/hate relationship, mostly hate, sparring as they did while stranded after an airplane crash and during their marriage, and when Jason had to have contact with her because of Sonny.

It was all crazy soap opera stuff but somehow, with Burton as Jason, it worked. It’s amazing, some of the lines that have to come of these actors’ mouths, some of the situations the characters are put into – one often wonders how they get through the scenes without laughing. How? They believe what they're saying so the fans will believe and accept the situations. The GH actors have never let us down, whether dealing with aliens, world freezing, or plagues.

Steve Burton and the Fans

That’s in the studio. Some actors say, I've done my job. I don't owe anyone anything else. Soap actors feel differently. I think they all appreciate their fans. If anyone would be bombarded by fans, it’s Steve Burton. He would have kept his fan base without doing the General Hospital Fan Club weekend, without traveling with the Port Chuck band, without making personal appearances. Somehow, though, he's made himself available over the years for all of those events.

The Port Chuck band does a huge show where they talk and sing, so meeting the fans was no small deal, not only from an energy point of view, but from a saving voice point of view. Burton, Brandon Barash, Scott Reeves, and Bradford Anderson nodded, smiled, whispered, signed, and posed before the show, never letting the fans down.

Steve Burton took his commitment a step further. He never disappointed the fans, but he also never let himself down. The hot hunk stopped taking his shirt off and doing heavy love scenes out of respect for his family and his values. (During one story arc, a Russian woman removed some of her clothes off and tried to seduce Jason. A fan on one of the message boards wrote: "How many times has this happened to Jason?" Lots!)

The Real Steve Burton

For those of you who think Burton wasn’t acting, the actor is nothing like the strong, silent, often unemotional Jason. Fans and colleagues will tell you he’s a friendly and fun guy.

If I were a producer, I would have done anything to keep Burton on the show. And perhaps the powers that be did try everything, and he refused. I’m sure they wanted to keep that anchor there. Because that’s what Steve/Jason has always been, an anchor -- the actor, the character who has kept the show straddling its different worlds by placing Jason in all of them.

Steve Burton, we hope this move gives you the time you want with your family and that you enjoy nothing but enormous success In your future endeavors. You deserve it. We’re going to miss those blue eyes (the first thing you notice upon meeting him) and Jason’s black T-shirt. What will we do without him?

I don't know. I only know I'm not looking forward to it.

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