matthew ashford homepage articles

Full page photo of Matt, SOW
Soap Opera Weekly

Welcome Matt



By Janet Di Lauro
Photography: Jonathan Exley
new Dr. Tom Hardy on General Hospital, Matthew Ashford doesn't think his return to daytime is especially monumental. "I never felt that I was so far away to 'come back,'" explains the popular actor, who wasn't written off Days of Our Lives in September 1993. "To me, someone 'coming back' [would have had to be gone] for like five, 10 years. I've still got people writing to me from around the world. So I never exactly felt like I was gone." (Ashford still airs as Days' Jack in many countries.

Despite all the hoopla over the fact that GH specifically sought him out for Tom's three weeks in Port Charles, Ashford, although flattered, seems to be taking the whole thing in stride. "It's always nice to be wanted," he smiles, explaining how executive producer Wendy Riche called him in mid-January. They met at the end of the month, when, according to Ashford, he learned "a lot of fun ideas" the show had in mind for Tom's return to Port Charles. Basically, "the character is up for grabs," he explains. "Tom had been off halfway around the world for two years. He's worked in Somalia, Rwanda... Wendy Riche has spent time touring in Africa. From her experiences she saw it as an opportunity for the character to be pretty much wide open. He's seen a lot and changed. He'll kind of be in a life change.

"That was exciting to me, because Tom's been around a long time," Ashford continues. "Usually, when you go on to play a character who knows everybody in town and has these set relationships, you think, 'What can I do other than plug in?' But the fact that Tom's been through some life-altering experiences -- he's really been away in the wilds, living a very gritty life -- can give him the opportunity to look at this town and these people again from a new perspective, which makes it much more gratifying for me as a new actor coming in to play him." For Ashford, that clinched the deal. "It seemed a good idea, a fun thing to do," he says simply.

The actor's decision to return to daytime didn't meet with opposition from his agent or manager. "They're always very supportive of what I want to do. They never draw a line and say, 'Oh, no! He won't do this.' They take that cue from me," Ashford says. "I won't ever say never: I've watched too many people do that, and the next thing you know they're doing it."

Ashford says the new Tom Hardy isn't a typical soap do. "They way he is dressed, the way we kind of costumed him was in a tank [top] with a shirt thrown over it. He is just very comfortable. I'm sure where he was they didn't wear coats. And who's to say you have to put on a coat to be a doctor?"
Matt #2
Matt #3
Matt #1
Tom's life experience will, no doubt, give the character a more serious demeanor than the one Ashford was used to displaying as Days' Jack. Yet, Ashford insists he's primed for the task. "When I came on to play Jack, he was serious. Then, he kind of turned a corner and became comical." Ashford doesn't necessarily see that happening with Tom, nor does he want it to. " I would prefer to see humor in a daily life be more than just comical. At this point the book is kind of wide open as to what could happen... Wherever the character goes is OK with me."

Perhaps that's a parallel with Ashford's own life, because since leaving Days he's enjoyed exploring many avenues and stretching his talent in a variety of different directions,a tiny bit in a movie, a sci-fi thriller called Species, with Ben Kingsley. I played a guy in a bar about to be picked Matt in Dr. Tom Hardy personaamong them playing the vampire in a production of Dracula and " up by an alien who had adopted the form of this lovely, young woman. But at the last minute another girl falls into my lap, gains my attention and I'm spared." The most fulfilling work he's done in the past year, however, is with Interact Theatre, a company he discovered via former Days co-star Marilyn McIntyre (ex-Jo Johnson). "Marilyn said, 'Come down. Check it out,'" recalls Ashford. "I eventually did, and they just blew me away. [The company is comprised of] a very trained, imaginative group of actors. I knew I only had to gain from being around them."

But most importantly, Ashford has gained a great deal of insight from his Interact Theatre experience. "I've learned to break habits set in my mind. I had gotten so used to getting a script and trying to do instant characterization and make instant choices," he says, referring to the fast pace required at a soap. "At the theater I rehearse, you build a character slowly, take time with it. It's the desirable way to work -- my desirable way to work."

Ashford's opportunity to check out a different way of working wasn't his choice. Days abruptly stopped contract negotiations with him in the summer of 1993, and informed him he was being written off the show. Although it turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise for the actor, it caused a tremendous outcry of protest from his fans. Ashford has been overwhelmed by the adulation, which continues to this day. "I never experienced anything like it before," he admits, adding, "For any amount of support I received or am still receiving, I appreciate it. To me, that kind of [feedback] indicates people appreciated and enjoyed what I did, that i's still to be remembered.

[ home ] [ articles index ]