Meet General Hospital's newest breakout star.
Nicholas Chavez, who plays spoiled rich kid Spencer Cassadine on the ABC soap opera, won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Performer in a Drama Series in June less than a year after joining the General Hospital cast.
"Twelve months before I received that award, I was selling cars down in Florida so it was a paradigm shift of epic proportions," he tells PEOPLE. "It was very, very surreal to stand up on that stage and be recognized for the thing that I'm more passionate about than anything else in life."
He adds, "It was a real dream come true, and I'm incredibly thankful — and still now, months later, in disbelief quite frankly."
Chavez, 23, shares that winning the prize for his first professional acting role was "completely unexpected" but he did prepare a speech just in case.
"Whenever I have to be on stage as myself, I can get a bit nervous so it's helpful for me to have something to fall back on so I'm not just rambling," he shares. "So in that sense, I did prepare something. The only thing I expected was it was going to be a fun night with my coworkers."
From how he got started in acting to his career aspirations, learn more about the General Hospital star below.
He knew he wanted to be an actor in high school — but was hesitant to pursue it
The Colorado native recalls getting the acting bug while playing Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird in high school after another student called out sick.
"I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life when I was in high school," he tells PEOPLE. "So when the faculty all came and saw the production, I had multiple people pull me aside and say, 'You should consider doing this as a profession,' which sounded really, really crazy to me because that wasn't generally something you did for work in Denver."
He adds that working in the entertainment industry was a "pretty foreign concept" to him at the time.
He was cast on General Hospital 24 hours after his screen test
Chavez recalls the quick audition process for landing the part of spoiled rich kid Spencer Cassadine on the soap opera.
When the actor arrived for the screen test, he looked around the room and saw "pretty stiff competition."
"But, ultimately I just sorta reconciled that ultimately all I can do is be the artist that I am and bring to it what I bring to it," he explains.
He found that he got the part only one day later, telling PEOPLE it "was probably the coolest moment of my life so far." He adds, "I bought a return ticket but they called me 24 hours after the audition and they said, 'Hey, don't fly back home. We need you to film here next Wednesday. Congratulations.'"
He is grateful the support of his General Hospital costars
Chavez took over the part of Spencer from actor Nicolas Bechtel, so fans weren't immediately thrilled with the recasting decision.
"Some of the fans didn't like me at first because I'm a recast. There was an actor who played my character before me," he says. "You know I was a bit green at first. I think people were seeing that. So online, people would be like, 'I like the old actor who played Spencer better.' I've seen him work and he's a great actor. Very, very charismatic."
"Some of the comments were sorta getting to me," he admits. "[My costars] were like, 'Dude, just give it some time, give it some time let them get used to you,' you know, 'Don't think too hard about it.'"
Chavez is grateful to the cast for welcoming him into "the General Hospital family with open arms" and says fans' comments online "are great now. Now, it's like fun to go online. It's like rave reviews every time."
For more about Nicholas Chavez pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
He predicts his character can find a better path
Chavez admits that landing in prison was "a new low for Spencer."
"I think that if I had to make a prediction about what will happen, it will be seeing Spencer pull himself up by sheer force and volition," he shares of his character's future. "Seeing Spencer pull himself up for the lowest point he's ever been in his life to becoming self-realized and exactly who is destined to become even if it doesn't please everyone else in his life.
He has some big career goals
Chavez says General Hospital has been a "a really, really phenomenal training ground."
"You get a lot of experiences doing soaps as an actor, but I would love to stay in TV," he says. "I would love to do film."
He adds that he would like to join the cast of an "HBO-style drama." His dream shows include Euphoria and Succession.
He's an adventurer seeker
One look at Chavez's Instagram and it's clear that he is always for an adventure.
For his next big adventure, he hopes to visit Vietnam and Thailand.
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General Hospital — which will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2023 — airs weekdays at 2 p.m. ET on ABC.