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Tuesday, July 6, 2004

By Deborah Gertz Husar

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

PITTSFIELD, Ill. —
Gregg and Sandi Carnes have never watched "General Hospital," but that's about to change.

They will tune in this week as their son, Ryan, debuts on the ABC soap opera.

Ryan Carnes, 22, takes over the recurring role of Lucas Jones, the illegally adopted son of Bobbie and Tony, beginning Thursday. It's his first television role after appearances in the independent films "Anderson's Cross" and "Eating Out."

"He could do 20-25 episodes," said Carl Scott, one of the principals of Simmons & Scott Entertainment, the Burbank, Calif.-based company that manages Carnes. "Soap (characters) come and go. We'll see what happens."

Carnes likes what he has seen so far of television, and he has adapted to the medium's routine of clothes and makeup, waiting for a call to the set, blocking the scene, a rehearsal and shooting the scene.

"My character doesn't have a big story line yet. I just had one or two scenes every day," he said. "Four of the five days, I was there and gone in two hours."

Just being there is something for Carnes, who focused on academics and athletics instead of drama at Pittsfield High School.

An interest in drama "was always there. I was always performing for Mom and Dad. I had a stage set up in the house," Carnes said, but acting as a career seemed "something not in any way accessible to me."

At Duke University, Carnes majored in public policy, but taking a theater class the first semester of his sophomore year put him on the path to a theater minor.

Friends convinced him to try out for a Duke production, and winning parts in three of the eight vignettes convinced him to do more acting.

With that decision made, a scouting event that summer in Chicago introduced Carnes to Jon Simmons, the other principal in the management company and a graduate of Hannibal- LaGrange College. Simmons saw potential in Carnes and suggested a move to Los Angeles.

"He told me you can come in two years when you graduate and people might still be interested in you, but in Hollywood, youth is the biggest thing you can have on your side," Carnes said.

"When it came down to it, it really wasn't that hard of a choice for me. After two years of school, I'd been considering transferring," he said. "I had to take this chance. I didn't want to be in a law office when I'm 40 never having tried something like this."

Acting classes in Los Angeles helped hone his skills. "I came out here just about as green as it comes," Carnes said.

The hard work "is starting to pay off for him," Scott said. "He's a very talented actor. He's very committed, very confident."

Carnes spends time reading scripts, "critically" watching movies to learn more skills and, to support himself, working in catering and as a personal fitness trainer, which gives him a flexible schedule to accommodate daytime auditions.

"You walk in the door and every time you don't necessarily hear no, but you don't hear yes," he said.

The news was good from a mid-May audition with "General Hospital."

It's a three-step process for the soap, starting with reading for the casting director, then meeting with the producers and a session with the writers. Carnes cut short a part business/part pleasure trip to Hawaii with his mom to make the third audition on June 2.

He had a flat tire on the way. A call to his management office yielded a ride to the audition.

"I locked the car, put the flashers on and left it on the side of the freeway. Doing that in L.A. is a little different than doing that back here in West-Central Illinois," Carnes said. "Thank God my mom was there. I called her (to get) a tow truck. I was able to put it out of my mind. I knew she was taking care of it."

After the audition, and back waiting at his car alongside the freeway, Carnes received the call that he had gotten the part. His first day on the set was June 16. He worked five days, had about two weeks off and heads back to the set on Wednesday.

Working in television is much different than film.

"With film there's one camera. With soap operas, there's four. You always have to know where the camera is," Carnes said. "Another difference is it moves really quickly. Most of the time, they're shooting an entire episode, sometimes two, in one single day."

More a fan of "The Young and the Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful," thanks to his mom, Carnes has watched "GH" on occasion when friends landed roles on the soap. "It's a good show, one of the more realistic soaps," he said.

Carnes still hopes to hear about another part, a recast on a pilot. Eventually, he would like a career in film, but "if I worked in television the rest of my life, I would be just as happy and fulfilled."

His success to date has been a thrill for the entire family, including his grandparents Don and Betty Carnes and George Spellman. "There's a Web site up that has got pictures on it — ryancarnes.net," Gregg Carnes said. "It was exciting when we found that."