Phoenix article about Stephen Nichols

Life After Soaps

Stephen Nichols: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes

On Soaps, Stephen Nichols (ex-Skyler Gates, Santa Barbara; ex-Steve Johnson, Days of Our Lives) played a Zen psychologist and a one-eyed rebel, respectively. But in Triad Film’s new release, Phoenix, he portrays a new character with more of an edge — a mechanical edge, in fact.

“I am a soldier who is commissioned by Billy Drago’s character, Kilgore, to go down to a mining complex and take care of a group of unruly androids,” Nichols says of his character, Tyler McClain. After several twists and turns, Troy “realizes that he is an android as well. He was Kilgore’s prized creation. It’s a real action-oriented film.”

Nichols was apprehensive about working in the action-adventure genre. “It’s the first time I’ve played an action hero, and I thought, ‘Oh boy, I have to be the big hero and stand up and fight.’ I was a little intimidated by the idea at first because I generally don’t see myself that way. So it was a real challenge for me, and I really enjoyed it.”

In addition to Phoenix, the actor appears in two other upcoming films. In Heaven’s Tears Nichols plays a soldier in 1939 Czechoslovakia who falls in love with a Jewish woman. “It will probably go straight to video,” he notes. “There’s not a lot of violence, but there is, quite frankly, a lot of sex. I was probably naked 40 percent of the time in that movie. I had to be in great shape for that one!” In Paramount Pictures’ Cover Me, Nichols plays a killer. “It’s a suspense story.”

On the small screen, the actor recently had a stint on Empty Nest. “I played Laverne’s (Park Overall) boyfriend, Matt. We were childhood friends back in Hickory, Ark.,” says Nichols, slipping into the Southern accent he used for the role. “I came to visit and we realized that we love each other.” He returns for the show’s finale April 29, when the characters marry.

Having gotten a taste of sitcom life, Nichols wouldn’t mind something more permanent in the future. “I’ve been going out on a lot of pilot auditions for sitcoms this season. In the past, they wouldn’t even see me. They wouldn’t think of me in that light. So I had to prove myself in that arena, and now people are calling all over the place.”

Of course, the actor is still open to the idea of daytime, particularly Days. “When I look back on my days on soaps, it was more like real work for me, in terms of having some control over what I was doing and being able to really create a character,” he relates. “Of course, you don’t know that when you leave, and when you look back and say, ‘That wasn’t such a bad experience.’ The chemistry of everyone involved was so magical, I don’t think that could be repeated. But with good writing, and good story, I think we could do another whirl.”

When not busy acting Nichols is teaching drama. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, especially with children,” says the father of three. “The best actors in the world are children; they’re natural actors.”

– Laura A. Siggia