Tyler Christopher, 'General Hospital' star, was candid about mental health, addiction challenges in final years

The "General Hospital" actor struggled with alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 01: Actor Tyler Christopher poses in the press room with his Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel on May 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
Tyler Christopher, who died this week, was a beloved daytime TV actor, appearing on General Hospital for two decades and winning a Daytime Emmy in 2016. In recent years, he became a mental health advocate, sharing his battle with alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)
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It wasn't that long ago that Tyler Christopher, who died this week at age 50, was onstage accepting the Lead Actor award at the Daytime Emmys.

It was 2016 and after playing Nikolas Cassadine for 20 years on the soap opera General Hospital, he won the award. The actor, beloved by the soap community, humbly said he wasn't going to make his acceptance speech about himself but "about the people who got me here in the beginning." He thanked daytime titans Stephen Nichols (Stefan Cassadine), his mentor, Tony Geary (Luke Spencer) and Genie Frances (Laura Spencer), among others, for accepting him on the show when he joined with no previous acting credits and guiding him to award-worthy performances.

While Christopher was nominated for another Daytime Emmy three years later, after leaving GH for Days of Our Lives where he played Stefan DiMera, the 2016 Emmy win was the pinnacle of his career. By the end of 2019, he had been let go from both GH and Days as his alcoholism coupled with bipolar disorder had derailed his life.

His 2022 "State of Mind" interview with his GH co-star Maurice Benard — who announced Christopher's death on Oct. 31, attributing it to a cardiac event in his San Diego apartment — laid bare his struggles in a powerful interview.

Christopher said his alcohol addiction started at age 9. During his early years on GH, he was a functioning addict — though one plagued with self-doubt, as distorted self-image is commonly experienced by individuals with bipolar, berating himself for his performances despite receiving a total of five Emmy nominations through the years. It all imploded in the late 2010s. His addiction led to him being axed from GH (in 2016) and Days (2019). Also in 2019, his second marriage, to ESPN reporter Brienne Pedigo, with whom he shared two children, ended. He was arrested for public intoxication. He flatlined three times, twice from alcohol poisoning and once from withdrawal. While going through withdrawal, he experienced delirium tremens, leading to fall during which he hit his head on a bathtub edge and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He underwent a craniotomy, with doctors drilling into his scull in four places to drain the blood. It saved his life, but he woke up with no memory. He couldn't walk, eat or use the bathroom. He was placed in a medical guardianship under his sister's care, or face being a ward of the state. Christopher, who had manic episodes, experienced homelessness after that, living on L.A.'s Skid Row for a period. He revealed he was working on a book about his addiction and mental health challenges.

"No one is to blame for anything that has happened to me," he told Benard.

Christopher was sober and getting mental health treatment when that interview took place and things seemed headed in the right direction. A social media post, on his November 2022 birthday, acknowledged that people didn't think he was going to "make it to 50," but he vowed: "The best is yet to come." He continued trying to restart his career. He used his voice to advocate for mental health care. In May, he was arrested again for public intoxication. Soon after, he sued his sister, alleging guardianship abuse.

Despite the sobriety setback, he was looking ahead. In his final interview, which ran in September, Christopher said he was "waiting for the next project. I'm not on daytime anymore, so I don't work every day. I am in a new chapter in my life." At a fan event the same month, he said he was "six weeks sober." He was also focused on making "serious changes" to become a better father, Greysun, 14, and Boheme, 8, whom he was only allowed to see three days a month.

Benard announced Christopher's death on Oct. 31. He called him a "truly talented individual that lit up the screen in every scene he performed and relished bringing joy to his loyal fans through his acting. Tyler was a sweet soul and wonderful friend to all of those who knew him."

He praised him for being "an advocate for better mental health and substance use treatment" and openly speaking "about his struggles with bipolar depression and alcohol."

Looking back at his career and loves

Christopher, initially known by Tyler Baker, made his GH debut in 1996. His character was part of two of the show's best-known families, the Cassadines and Spencers. He was part of a popular love triangle with Jonathan Jackson's Lucky and Rebecca Herbst's Elizabeth.

GENERAL HOSPITAL - Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth), Jonathan Jackson (Lucky) and Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) in a scene that airs the week of June 14, 2010 on Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Daytime's
Tyler Christoher, Rebecca Herbst and Jonathan Jackson were part of a popular storyline for years and appeared on countless soap magazine covers. (Greg Zabilski/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

He won a Soap Opera Digest award for Best Newcomer in 1997.

His first Daytime Emmy nomination, for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series, came in 1998.

He fell in love with his GH costar Vanessa Marcil and they were briefly engaged before splitting in 1999. They remained friends, with Marcil visiting him after his brain injury. She has posted numerous tributes since his death.

Vanessa Marcil And Tyler Christopher during 15th Annual Soap Opera Digest Awards at Universal Ampitheater in Universal City, California, United States. (Photo by Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
Vanessa Marcil And Tyler Christopher at the 1999 Soap Opera Digest Awards. (Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Also in 1999, he departed GH to pursue prime-time opportunities. He appeared on a Charmed opposite Alyssa Milano, who remembered him as a "great actor and "sweet, sweet soul" on Instagram. He also appeared on Felicity, Crossing Jordan, The Twilight Zone, Angel, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Into the West.

Christopher dated fellow soap star Longoria and they were married in 2002, but they divorced in 2004 after she shot to stardom in Desperate Housewives.

405514 27: ''The Young and the Restless'' actress Eva Longoria and husband Tyler Christopher arrive on May 17, 2002 for the 29th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at Madison Square Gardens'' Theater in New York City. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)
Eva Longoria and Tyler Christopher at the 2002 Daytime Emmy Awards. (Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)

Christopher returned to GH in 2003.

In 2004, he started dating another co-star Natalia Livingston and they were together until 2006.

NEW YORK - JUNE 6:  Actors Natalia Livingston and Tyler Christopher attend the premiere of
Natalia Livingston and Tyler Christopher attend the 2005 premiere of Into the West. (Peter Kramer/Getty Images)

He received two more Daytime Emmy nominations in 2005 and 2006.

He married second wife Pedigo in 2008. Their children were born in 2009 and 2015.

arrives at the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel on May 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Tyler Christopher and his second wife, Brienne Pedigo, at the 2016 Annual Daytime Emmy Awards. (Getty Images)

In 2011, he was cast in ABC Family's The Lying Game — and the new role led to him being let go from GH.

Two years later, he returned to GH — and The Lying Game was canceled soon after.

Christopher won his Daytime Emmy in 2016. However, he was let go by the show soon after, which he later said was due to his addiction. His last appearance on the show, after two decades, was in June 2016 and his role was recast.

In 2017, he was hired by Days to play Stefan DiMera — another big role.

DAYS OF OUR LIVES -- Season: 53 -- Pictured: Tyler Christopher as Stefan DiMera -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)
Tyler Christopher joined the cast of Days of Our Lives in 2017. (Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

He was nominated for a Daytime Emmy in 2019, but was let go by the show the same year due to his addiction. "It was devastating for a myriad of reasons," he told Benard of the back-to-back firings. "One, the thing that I love the most was taken away. Two, I threw it away. Nobody took it away from me... When I looked in the mirror, there was only one person to point the finger at."

Since 2022, when he went public with his addiction, mental health struggles and traumatic brain injury, he appeared six movies, three of them TV movies, including Murder, Anyone? and Ice Storm.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment Referral Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357).