Many moons ago, I posted about Sonny and discussed the way I approach writing his character. Despite loathing him much of the time on screen for the last decade, I used to genuinely love and adore Sonny, so I had to kind of figure out how to bridge the two. I had always intended to come back do these posts for other characters (Carly, Jason, Elizabeth, Patrick, Robin) so that basically I’d have it for the big six characters I wrote about the most.
With the recast of Jason back in 2014, I put it on the back burner to see where we’d go. With Steve coming back and the discussions on Facebook and Twitter about the possibility that Billy Miller would no longer be playing Jason but the twin, I decided the time was good for this.
So Jason Morgan was one of the my first soap crushes. I thought Jonathan Jackson’s Lucky was adorable, but Jason back in the late 90s was sex on a stick, so if you came of age in that period (I was born in 1984), you loved Jason. There really wasn’t much he could do wrong.
What I think the show attempted to do with the recast was interesting but not really well explored (shocking, I know.) I wrote a bit about it in Safe to Love You. Why was Billy’s Jason so different? The lack of memories? Why does Billy’s version continue to be different? And why do people accept him as Jason Morgan when he is so clearly not the version we all watched for the first fifteen years or so?
It comes down to why Jason Morgan is who he is and why it makes complete sense that given the way the story with Billy was constructed that his take on the character should be different.
Jason Morgan used to be Jason Quartermaine. This is a fact that people know like they know their middle names. But what I think people genuinely don’t remember or don’t really know is that Jason Morgan didn’t have to be way he is. He’s a social construct.
If you poll most of the people who enjoy Billy’s Jason, you’ll likely find that the majority of them are probably younger and didn’t watch very much in the late 90s when Steve’s Jason was taking shape. For them, when they talk about how one-note Jason was getting and the Borg, they’re not entirely wrong. Because if you don’t remember the accident and those first four years, you simply won’t get it and he might seem boring. Jason can be a flat character when the writing doesn’t serve him. Steve was mostly able to transcend it, but I’m sure that’s partially why he left. Because Jason’s stories were one-note and there wasn’t any more character growth.
Jason Quartermaine was the perfect son and his loss fractured the Quartermaine beyond repair. It has never recovered. When Jason woke up, not only did he not remember being Jason Quartermaine, he had no concept of human nature. His frontal lobe had been damaged and basically he was reset to zero.
And everyone treated him like he was damaged — Tony Jones did so even before the Carly and Michael debacle. Everyone looked at him like he was something less than human, something much less that the person he’d been. So Jason became angry. And when the anger wasn’t really constructive, he learned to stop giving a damn. He walked away from the Quartermaines and took up with Sonny because Sonny didn’t expect him to be anyone else.
So when I say that Jason Morgan as a personality is a social construct, I mean that his character developed in response to the pressures of that time. He got his anger under control (though it’s still there) and became reserved. He was also relatively honest and open once you gave him a reason to be. He didn’t care about many people, but once he did, that was it. He’d die for you. Particularly if you treated him like a person.
That’s where the loyalty to Carly and Sonny comes from. They looked to him as someone who could fix problems, not a damaged nobody lucky to dress himself in the morning. That’s why he never went back to Robin after she returned in 2005. For him, there was no point. She would never see him as a full person on his own. She wanted him on her terms.
There’s also the complication of the Michael storyline here — I’m pretty sure he talked himself into being love with in Carly back then. It was always about Michael with that relationship and once it was clear he’d never be back in Michael’s life as a father, Jason did walk away from Carly and she happily moved on to Sonny without looking back.
His relationships with Elizabeth, Courtney, and Sam can be explained in this way. Courtney was a rebound at a time when he was trying to figure out what exactly Elizabeth wanted from him. Courtney was simple and basic — she didn’t ask him to be anyone else. When she did, he walked. Sam always saw him as his own person — the times when they’ve had issues is when she doesn’t respect that separation. But like or hate them, the Jason and Sam relationship has lasted for so long because Sam has always been willing to accept him the way he is and what he’s willing to give her.
I say this as a Jason/Elizabeth fan girl. Because Elizabeth has expected him to be more than what he gives her, and Jason isn’t always okay with that. In 2002, she walked because he didn’t respect her part in the Alcazar business. In 2008, she wanted to be an equal part in his life. And he didn’t want that.
Why he doesn’t want that for Elizabeth and it doesn’t seem to bother him with Sam is something I’ve tried to work out in my head, but I’m not there yet. Because I don’t want it to be boiled down he loved Elizabeth too much. I think it’s probably more that he’s never really gotten past that first outright rejection back in 2001, the Zander nonsense in 2002 and then the Jake paternity fiasco. He’s never, I think, trusted her again. She was one of the few people he’d ever really opened up to about Michael, Robin, and Sonny and she definitely damaged that relationship in 2001 and 2002. Even if he understands it (and I always thought he did), I think part of him just never got past it.
In fact, that’s one of the major problems in the Liason story — they never ever dealt with any of the reasons they went wrong in the first place. When they reunited in 2006, the issues of 2001-03 were brushed over, but they’re the foundation of what went wrong and why I’m not sure they can ever be together. Not without the show really doing some soul searching.
That sounds a lot more defeated than I feel about them as a couple, but remember — this is an exploration of who Jason is today, not how he felt in 2003, 2006, or 2008. So much time has passed and he’s walked away from her. How can you reconcile that as a writer? That’s usually the hardest part about character motivation. You can do anything in a soap opera, but it should come from character.
On the Recast
When Billy Miller’s Jason woke up, he was warm, charming, funny. And I adored his Jake Doe. I loved the idea that this is who Jason is at his core. It’s the soft side that we don’t get to see because so much of his shell is rock hard. Without the pressure of the Quartermaines, without the attitude of being damaged, Jason becomes who he was naturally — Jason Quartermaine. That’s who Elizabeth fell in love with, but it’s not the Jason that Sonny, Sam, or Carly ever really appreciated it. It explains why there was no sense of connection.
And even though ostensibly, he got his memories back for the most part, I’m glad he didn’t try to emulate Steve. Because the time as Jake Doe is also part of Jason now (if he indeed remains Jason) and that needs to matter. All those people crying about this not being Jason — well, it is Jason. It’s Jason Quartermaine with Jason Morgan’s memories, and I think that’s an interesting way to approach it.
Of course, the odds are that Billy is gonna be Drew and Steve gets to go back to Jason, but until that holds true, this is how I think about the character.
Bible: Jason Morgan
So what is the core of how I approach Jason, regardless of time period?
Jason Morgan woke up in 1996 after an accident damaged his frontal lobe and erased his memories. He has mostly learned to accommodate for the brain damage. He is intensely loyal to people he loves, almost to the point of self-destruction. He still thinks he has to prove to the world he isn’t damaged and fights every day to prove his own worth. His greatest strength is his loyalty, but it is also his weakness because it is difficult for him to cut ties and walk away. He unconsciously seeks out people who give him chances to prove himself and does have a hero complex. It’s not for glory, it’s about self-worth.
Before 2012, he had two children: Jake (Elizabeth) and Danny (Sam). He also had a miscarriage with Courtney and buried Sam’s unnamed daughter. He helped raise Carly’s children: Michael, Morgan, and Joss. Family also includes a deceased set of siblings (Emily and AJ), deceased father (Alan), and adopted mother, Monica. Close family friends: Sonny, Carly, Bobbie, Spinelli.