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THE LITTLE ENGINEER WHO COULD

When PC's David Gail decided to change his life and be an actor, he just kept telling himself, 'I think I can, I think I can...'

By Travis Kinsey

Photography by John Paschal

Many folks spend years trapped in jobs they're not happy with. David Gail (Joe Scanlon, Port Charles) easily could have become one of them. With two stints in relatively bland 9-to-5 jobs, Gail was fast on his way to becoming a cog in the corporate machine. However, thanks to a self-awareness that propelled him forward, he's now doing what he wants.

When the time first came to think about a career, Gail, who was born and raised in Tampa, Fla., enrolled in engineering school at the University of South Florida. He ultimately discovered that engineering wasn't the thing for him, nor was what followed. "I spent a couple of years battling engineering, running uphill," he says. "It was interesting, but time-consuming. Then I made some changes and ended up in business for a few years. I was a marketing manager for a worldwide company that had an office in Tampa. And then I decided I wanted to try acting as a real career. I was 23."

Just like that? "I had been doing some auditions off and on up to that point," he says. "In the summers, when I was not going to school, I'd go to Miami and have fun, basically. Try to get a little [acting] gig and get some money and hang out on the beach. I decided that business was not where I wanted to go. Even though I respected it, I wanted to get creative and find out what I was about."

Gail's go-get-'em attitude led him to just "grab a local newspaper and look in the classifieds. I found me the lead role. I was on stage for two hours every night, and that was the first thing I did."

It was most definitely a trial by fire. "The first night, my family was there. I was onstage with the lead actress, and I had paragraphs upon paragraphs of stuff. It was amazing, but I skipped two pages. I just went into this whole other thing. It was such an incredibly paralyzing feeling. The only thing that really saved me was that you could break the fourth wall; you could talk to the audience. So I just turned to the audience, and we got back on track. That was my opening night."

From there, Gail continued to immerse himself in theatre. "I did some regional theater - about four plays - helped build some sets, worked with an artistic director from England who was living in Clearwater running a theater group. She was the first one who really took the time to give me some private voice training. We did A Streetcar Named Desire, Moonstar and some others. I would help her husband build sets, and she would give me voice lessons."

Gail shunned the corporate world in favor of a career as an actor because he realized that "there was a runaway side to my personality that was getting out of control. There wasn't enough at that job to hold me in line. It wasn't focused enough for me. It wasn't enough of my signature on the work. I need a strong motivation to stay in line. I had a job with this company, and it was fun and I had some money, but I could do whatever I wanted. I needed something that didn't allow me to do that. And with acting, my ass is on the line."

The "out-of-control" period in Gail's life wasn't steeped in anything illegal, mind you. "In the middle of the night I'd be with my friend, and we'd say, 'Let's go surfing on the other coast,' and we'd load up the surf boards and go across the state of Florida at 3 in the morning. It was a trip. It's all relative. If you have very regimented, orthodox people standing there saying you're wild, you're probably in a good place. There were a lot of things about that that I loved. I had this excitement about life."

As for what really spurred him to get his career in gear: "I remember I went to a little movie theater, and I was watching a movie where they were talking about pipe dreams, and I remember thinking: That's exactly what I"m going to do. I'm going to waste my whole life just sitting here dreaming about being an actor. It scared the hell out of me that I would actually do that to my life.

"I was afraid of stagnating in Tampa," Gail adds. "I was restless. I wanted to get on with it. I wanted to experience some things. I was doing theater, I was doing the fundamentals, but I don't think it really captured me until a few productions down the line. I was making it hard on myself at first, but once you get through some stuff, you can go after what's really exciting to you. And within a month, I was outta there."

And on to Los Angeles. "I didn't know anybody here. I met people here that I knew from when I would take the little excursions to Miami. I had a close friend in Tampa who had some friends I didn't know. They had a house that they were moving out of and getting another one, and I said, 'Well, why don't they just get a four-bedroom instead of a three-bedroom?' and they said OK, so I drove out. And I rented this house and we all became friends.

Gail's first job after arriving in California was a guest-starring role on Growing Pains. Since then, he has amassed a steady string of credits. His two most prominent roles prior to joining PC earlier this year - a job he enthusiastically says is getting "better and better" - were several episodes as Stuart Carlson on Beverly Hills, 90210 and the role of Dean Collins on Savannah, a part he played for that show's entire brief run. Gail also co-starred in the TV-movie Two Came Back, and had roles on two other short-lived series, Robin's Hoods and The Round Table.

Gail's mother was a great source of inspiration for him. "My mother's amazing. She was in a Catholic orphanage at 16, ran away, came to Florida and met my dad. She was working as a waitress, had us, and then ended up going back to school at 46. Before that, she was in the Army. My mother raised us on her own. (Gail has one sister; their parents divorced when eh was 5). She was not passionate about working at a welding supply company with a bunch of sweaty men, but she had to do it, and I respect her for that. She got strength from that."

And from acting, Gail has gained new perspective, both about acting itself and about life in general. "I got to a place at 23 where I made a decision for myself - not for my schooling or my parents or my society - about a dream I had. That was probably the most freeing thing I've done in my entire life, because that meant I was afraid that I could be hung out there in the world that didn't have a salary, pension plans and IRAs. It was like, 'It's great that you've got that, but I'm going to Miami, I'm going to go kick it in the bungalow on the beach and do an HBO spot." And I was OK with that. I remember thinking: I can't believe you're giving yourself this freedom. That was my greatest victory, to get to that place."

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I wasn't watching very often when he was on. I started back because I heard good things about the show again and I wanted to tune back in (which I did, although unfortunately by the time I did Karen Harris was gone and the telenovela stuff was on the way). I saw a little of him. I thought he was OK, although I preferred Michael Dietz. I never understood why they recast. Edgy doesn't automatically = better. Then there was the last Joe recast, who was OK, but somehow became Latino?

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From the July 15, 1997 SOD. Primedia. Early "bonus" feature on PC. This also has a trivia section I'll type up and put the answers in spoilers, and an interview with Mitch Longley I'll type up.

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Edited by CarlD2

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1. Who gave Lucy a duck and who did she name the duck after?

2. Why didn't Scott remember his own wedding to Dominique?

3. Who was Karen's chief rival for Jagger's affections?

4. What is Alan Quartermaine's connection to the Wexlers?

5. Who did Mike once take a bullet for?

6. Which Baldwin delivered A.J. Quartermaine?

Answers:

1. Lucy's duck was a present from Kevin for Valentine's Day. She named it Sigmund, in honor of a rather famous psychoanalyst. 2. Neither Scott nor Dominique remembered their own wedding because they were drunk when they got married. But the twosome later renewed their vows at a touching second ceremony with family and friends present. 3. At Port Charles High, both Karen and Brenda vied for Jagger's affection. Things got so heated that Brenda sneaked a camera into the girls' locker room and photographed Karen in the shower, then slipped copies of the snapshot into all the boys' lockers. 4. Dr. Alan Quartermaine almost had an affair with Karen's mother, Rhonda, and later accidentally killed her boyfriend Ray, who had sexually abused Karen as a little girl. 5. Mike took a bullet for his estranged son, Sonny Corinthos. 6. Dr. Gail Baldwin delivered A.J. Quartermaine by candlelight at the Q mansion during a snowstorm. If that wasn't enough stress, she also had to step between Lesley and Monica, after Monica blurted out during the delivery that she thought Lesley's hubby, Rick, was the baby's father.

Welcome, Matt

There's no denying that Mitch Longley is a good actor, but the wheelchair he uses on PORT CHARLES is not a prop. Longley, who you may remember as Byron Pierce from ANOTHER WORLD (1992-1993), was paralyzed in a real-life car accident.

Digest: Tell us about Matt Harmon.

Mitch: Matt Harmon is a 27-year old paraplegic who was involved in a skiing accident. He decided to become a doctor after his experience with a spinal cord injury. Matt, like so many other people with spinal cord injuries, is already beyond the misconceptions in society [that paraplegics are helpless], and has gotten on with his life.

Digest: Will his attitude serve as an example to others?

Mitch: Ultimately, he is going to be an example for his peers, his patients and his superiors, as he is fully capable of performing his responsibility - with a genuine understanding of what it's like to be on the patient's side, which I think is rather nice.

Digest: What was Matt's first test?

Mitch: A drunk patient doesn't want "this cripple" working on him, but Matt wears him down and talks to him very naturally, making him understand that Matt is the doctor. He says, "I'm going to take that glass out of your forehead, so let's get on with it."

Digest: So Matt's a role model?

Mitch: Matt's a very positive role model. There are some wonderful examples of disabled individuals in our culture who have so much to offer. The only thing different about us is how we get from one side o the room to the other.

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I HATED David Gail as Joe

Ditto. Horrible and unnecesary recast. I loved him on Savannah but he was so wrong for Joe and I hated how much of an ass they made the character

I wasn't watching very often when he was on. I started back because I heard good things about the show again and I wanted to tune back in (which I did, although unfortunately by the time I did Karen Harris was gone and the telenovela stuff was on the way). I saw a little of him. I thought he was OK, although I preferred Michael Dietz. I never understood why they recast. Edgy doesn't automatically = better. Then there was the last Joe recast, who was OK, but somehow became Latino?

Alex Mendoza. The Scanlons were a traditional Irish Catholic family. That pretty much helped define them. Their herritage was a big part of them and they go and cast a latino in the role. Its not like he could have pulled it off either bc he did look hispanic. Total miscast but by that point I really didnt care much about Joe anymore Edited by Cheap21

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I'm jumping in here to say that I LOVE Port Charles! I actually only watched it from around 2001 to the end, but I thought it was fantastic. I loved the supernatural elements and Livvie was by far my favorite character. Seeing Kelly Monaco as the pathetic Sam on GH just makes me sad when I look back at what a dynamic character she had on PC. I wish they had brought her to GH as Livvie and somehow explained away the Caleb-wedding stuff. Could you imagine Livvie vs. Carly or Sonny?! Perfection!

Perhaps the biggest disapointment of the series was the finale. I'm still upset over the cliffhanger ending.

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Saw Kiko Ellsworth tonight on Femme Fatales, playing a homicide detective. It was a good-sized role. I guess soft core can apparently employ talented actors that daytime doesn't deem worthy.

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Saw Kiko Ellsworth tonight on Femme Fatales, playing a homicide detective. It was a good-sized role. I guess soft core can apparently employ talented actors that daytime doesn't deem worthy.

i hear that on episode pays quite well...

Does soapnet still air PC reruns?

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Saw Kiko Ellsworth tonight on Femme Fatales, playing a homicide detective. It was a good-sized role. I guess soft core can apparently employ talented actors that daytime doesn't deem worthy.

Did he do a sex scene?

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