What's So Mysterious About Michael Tylo?

March 1, 1983
by Judith Donato
Soap Opera Digest

He appears on the screen like a modern-day Heathcliff. Dark and brooding as he leans against the wooden mantelpiece - flanked by the huge ivory elephant tusks, perhaps a trophy from a past adventure. His eyes are large and expressive, but always show a trace of pain that may never heal. Mysterious Quint McCord on the Emmy-award winning "Guiding Light" is a character with a wealth of Gothic reserve and just a touch of old world charm. As portrayed by Michael Tylo, Quinton has been molded into a unique type of soap opera hero. He is a romantic figure who often puts work before pleasure and the woman he loves.

I was anxious to meet Michael, eager to seek out similarities between fiction and reality. We planned to talk over lunch at The Saloon, a popular gathering place for writers and actors on New York's Upper West Side. At precisely the agreed hour, Michael walked down Broadway and entered the restaurant. I watched him from the table as he carried himself with his back as straight as can be, looking as impressive as Quint himself. Michael surveyed the room with his large blue eyes and his chiseled features caused more than one female head to turn his way. No, he did not wear an ascot.

I soon discovered that Michael and his alter ego had only one basic thing in common: each has led an extraordinarily busy life, striving to reach his goals. In many ways Michael is as formal and proper as his character, yet in other ways he surprised me with a few facts about his past.

Michael Tylo is the product of a Mid-western upbringing. His family hails from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, where his father runs a successful plumbing contracting business. Michael, the eldest of six children, was given a strict, parochial education, spending his high school years at an all-boy prep school. It was there that he first tasted the thrill of acting, and it all came about because of a fairy tale. "I went to Salesian Catholic in Detroit," Michael began. "I was on the football team and had to do an extra-curricular activity in the spring. I ran track but they wanted us to do something in the arts. The head of the drama department, Father Shubert, had me read children's literature. I read Rapunzel and he suggested I do different voices for each character. I liked it. After that I went out for plays. Then I got hurt playing football and went into theater instead. Rather than going back out for football the next year, I stuck with theater."

Michael confesses that he was a full-fledged high school greaser. He has his share of streetfights, as a scar from a knife-wound proves. "I used to wear my hair in a duck tail," he said with a smile.

A young woman made him change his image. She wasn't about to bring Michael home in his leather jacket and slicked-back hair. Slowly but surely he replaced his wardrobe with button-down shirts and chino pants. "I began to put more emphasis on the theater and most of my peers who worked in it were not greasers. The girl I was dating was 'preppy' as well. In other words, I began to hang out with a different crows and started to adapt to their way of living."

Michael soon had another surprise in store for his family. Right after graduation, the once tough Mr. Tylo almost became Father Tylo, because he decided to enter the seminary. "I entered right after high school because Father Shubert and another priest, Father Tom Palko, were heroes of mine and I tried to emulate them. They both told me I shouldn't do it because they didn't think I had a calling." His "heroes" proved to be right, for Michael's stay in the seminary was brief. Soon after he left, he entered college.

Like almost everything else in his young life, Michael's college career had some unusual twists. It was eventually to last ten years. "When I went to college," Michael mused, "I changed my mind about the theater and wanted something secure, so I went into pre-law, pre-med, journalism and then found out that theater people didn't rise quite as early as everybody else and they had a different lifestyle which impressed me." Tylo let out a small laugh. "I started off at the university of Detroit, then went to Wayne State, back to the University of Detroit and finally finished off at Wayne State. I always left on the dean's list but I was just bored and didn't know what I wanted to do."

In between, Michael lived in Ireland. "That was a confused time," he recalled. "I was living in Ireland for about seven months during the invasion of Cambodia. I was working with Tyrone Guthrie then, and he was the one who persuded me to pursue the commercial side, rather than the academic side of theater. But after a while I became homesick. I had many questions to settle within myself and I knew the place to do it was home, in my own environment. It wasn't until I was twenty-five or twenty-six that I decided that this (acting) was what I was going to do.

That ten-year period was an often confusing time for Michael. At one point he even thought about joining his father in the family business. "I was always under a self-imposed pressure because my father was a self-made individual," Tylo notes. "I always thought he wanted me to do into his business and I tried - I really tried, but he sat me down and said, 'Look, I don't want you to do this because I do it.' My parents have always been very good that way."

After graduation, Michael began looking for work in the theater. He remembers his first professional acting job fondly. "It was 'The Misanthrope' and Cyril Ritchard directed it. I played a fop and it was great fun because this character was the king of all fops, as far as that kind of role goes." After that, Michael continued to work in regional theater until he moved to New York about four years ago.

One month before the move, he took another important step in his life. Michael married Deborah Eckols, a fellow grad student at Wayne State. "I met Deborah in graduate school in the MFA program at Wayne State. She was in theater as well. She played 'Rosalind' and I played 'Orlando' in 'As You Like It' and it just kind of carried us over into real life," Michael explained, recalling his first impression of Deborah. "Deborah was intelligent, pretty, she had a great sense of humor and she was a hell of an actress. In the beginning we would talk about sports and theater, and I think she thought I was boring. But after we worked together the relationship grew into one of respect and love. Also, I think Deborah liked my persistence," he said with a grin.

Deborah and Michael married after being separated by work, and realizing they missed each other "terribly". With that kind of start the relationship blossomed and together he and his bride came to the Big Apple seeking work on Broadway. Success, however, came slowly for Michael. "I threw myself into trying to find a job," Michael said. "After seventy-five commercial auditions, I finally got one."

Michael returned to regional theater until September of 1981, when he landed the role of Mr. McCord. "As it was explained to me, QUinton was a kind of mystery man, almost like 'Indiana Jones.' But when we started doing it with Douglas Marland writing and Bobby Anton designing the costumes, they made him more and more Gothic so now he's a Gothic adventurer," Tylo smiled.

Playing Quinton has enabled Michael to co-star with the incomparable Lisa Brown, who plays the ever-daydreaming Nola. The audience has been delighted by Nola's endless fantasies about Quinton and their life together. When the screen goes cloudy and Nola gets that faraway look in her eye, you know it's only a matter of time before they're transformed into celluloid figures from Hollywood's Golden Age. Michael enjoys the flights of fancy as much as the viewers. In many ways the writer's scenes of movie nostalgia have made Michael's dreams come true. His face lit up like a child's when he explained, "I've always wanted to do film. My heroes in film were Errol Flynn and Tyrone Power when I was a kid watching the old movies, and I've always wanted to do swashbuckling epics. The fantasies have been very successful and they've been a lot of fun."

Michael gives much of the credit to multi-talented Lisa Brown for bringing their onscreen relationship to life. Her effervescence and bubbly charm, playing against his cool demeanor, has made them one of the most popular duos in daytime. "We are two diversified personalities with two completely different acting techniques," explained Tylo. "We also have a great deal of respect for one another in so far as our own approaches to the characters. Lisa is a very open and giving actress and also very intelligent. She has her own ideas and she's very easy to talk to. We don't socialize all that much outside of work. She has her own world and I have mine, but when we come together at the studio, it's a spontaneous, sparking-type thing."

Although he loves working on the show, Michael has had a long love affair with the theater and his current work with "Guiding Light" hasn't given him the opportunity to do as much stage work as he'd like. In typical fashion, he and a few of his friends decided to do something about it. "Chris Rich (Sandy Cory, "Another World"), Jerry ver Dorn (Ross Marler, "Guiding Light") and I took over a theater in New Jersey. It's the old Robert Ludlum Playhouse at the Bergen Mall in Paramus."

Although their lives are hectic, the Tylos keep their home life running very smoothly by "being supportive of each other's careers," Michael explained. "It's tough when one of us is working and the other isn't, but marriage is not just your careers; it's a constant adjustment and discovery and you have to be friends. I think we hit on all of those. I try to take Deborah on personal appearances with me, and if I'm going to be out of town for anything specifically, I try to bring her along or have her come out later. When she was working in regional theater and I wasn't, she'd do the same thing. But there are no do's and don'ts, or any rules and regulations. It's an ongoing process." Michael insists success hasn't changed their lifestyle. "We still live in the same apartment," he grinned. "We're not fast lane -type people."

Michael softened at the possible thought of a bunch of Tylos running around the household in the future. His devotion to children spills over into his other interests. A hockey enthusiast, he is involved with the Rod Gilbert Foundation, which sends underprivileged kids to hockey camp. "In the summer it gets them out of the city," he told me. "And now we're trying to develop an arts program because they can only play hockey three hours a day. We're trying to develop the program so they can have some art appreciation, like showing them movies, discussing plays and teaching them about public speaking because at one time in their lives they're going to be called to communicate with more than one individual at a time and it's a very important skill to master."

Michael's life seems full right now and he is charting his future very carefully. "As far as TV and films, I'd like to produce, direct and act in remakes of swashbuckling epics, especially for television." I mention I could see him doing "The Scarlet Pimpernel," taking on the role made famous by Leslie Howard. "I'd love to have done that," he admitted, "but you're not going to see American actors doing things like that. For some reason or another, Anthony Andrews ("Brideshead Revisited," "The Scarlet Pimpernel") has got the career that I should have in this country!" Michael laughed at the physical at the physical similarity between he and his British counterpart. "I think Anthony is marvelous at what he does but there are a lot of fine actors in soaps who are not utilized in primetime and the parts will go to someone like Anthony."

The image of Michael Tylo playing any number of mythical heroes is easy to conjure up (especially those who saw "Guiding Light's" latest fantasy, in which he played King Arthur and Sir Lancelot) but his daytime fans wouldn't trade any one of them for his daily portrayal of Quinton McCord. They say that everyone must choose his own path and Michael has certainly traveled one with many bends and twists, but his combination of determination, persistence and talent has led him right to the top. Today he is among the elite circle of daytime's leading men whose popularity and acting skills are drawing audiences to their shows in record numbers.

Michael Tylo seems to have found everything he has worked so hard and long for. He has gained success in his professional life and at the same time maintained a happy life at home. I don't think even Errol Flynn could ask for anything more."

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