The role of Shawn Butler was originated by actor Sean Blakemore on January 21, 2011. He initially portrayed Shawn on a recurring basis, but was upgraded to contract status on April 6, 2011. Although Blakemore exited the series on May 27, 2015, he later returned for one episode on November 19, 2015 and again on April 4, 2016. Blakemore returned to the series full-time on April 21, 2021.
The role of Alexis Davis was originated by Nancy Lee Grahn on September 26, 1996. From November 2001 to March 2002, the role was temporarily recast with Susan Diol while Grahn took some time off when her father passed away.
In January 2012, as Shawn is preparing to leave Port Charles, he is forced to take in Tommy Ashford’s trouble teenage son, T.J. Ashford who has run away from home and Shawn decides to take him in. Carly then hires Shawn to manage Kelly's Diner. Shawn convinces Alexis Davis, Molly’s mother to let Molly tutor T.J. who needs help with his school work.
In Summer 2012, Shawn started to develop feelings for Alexis but he fears he would lose the opportunity to tell her when he finds out she was injected with a substance that caused her to get a dangerously high fever. He prayed for Alexis to be okay and when he found out she was going to recover, he asked her out on a date. Alexis agreed to go out with Shawn but the date had to be delayed because Jerry Jacks returned to town and poisoned the town’s water supply, and everyone except for Josslyn and Alexis were infected. This was due to Jerry injecting a substance in both Alexis and Josslyn so they wouldn’t be infected by the toxin. Jerry did this because Josslyn is his niece and Alexis is the love of his life. Jerry goes to Alexis' home and rings the doorbell. Shawn answers the door, sees Jerry, and they have a confrontation. Shawn puts up a valiant effort but he's too weak to give Jerry much of a fight.
Alexis sees the door open and goes outside. She sees Jerry and he takes her hostage. Shawn regains consciousness and realizes Jerry took Alexis and he goes off to find her. Shawn runs into Sonny and they go find Alexis. They get on a speed boat and find where Jerry took her. They soon find Alexis tied up and Shawn brings her back home to safety. After the fiasco Jerry is presumed dead due to the explosion on the docks. The antidote to the toxin was given out which cures a lot of people and makes everyone feel better. Once everything settled down Shawn and Alexis were able to start their relationship.
In late 2012, Shawn becomes Sonny's friend and associate after Jason Morgan is presumed dead. Cesar Faison was masquerading as Duke Lavery, shot Jason in the back, and kicked him into the harbor. When Alexis overhears Shawn and Sonny talking at Kelly's, she wonders if Shawn is starting to work for Sonny. She tells Shawn she really cares about him. She doesn't want anything to happen to him because of Sonny's business as she would be devastated. Shawn returns the sentiments. He and Alexis end up having sex in Shawn's room and they become lovers.
In March 2013, Alexis is seen helping take care of Shawn as he makes a full recovery after being shot in the shoulder.
In May 2013, Alexis catches Shawn in a lie about his whereabouts and suspects he could have shot Olivia. A few days later Shawn is forced to confront his relationship with Alexis when she puts the pieces together about his involvement in Sonny's business. She tells him she knows he shot Olivia but he tells her he didn't because the bullet he shot was still in a wall at the hotel. That means the bullet that was shot into Olivia didn't come from his gun. Alexis tells Shawn it doesn't matter because he still intended on killing someone and that she doesn't want to be apart of that life. They then get into an argument about Shawn working for Sonny and then Shawn calls Alexis a hypocrite as she's Sonny's lawyer and has a child with Sonny. She then comes back saying that's completely different than killing someone at any given moment. They continue to argue until Alexis issues an ultimatum.
She tells Shawn to quit working for Sonny or their relationship is over. Shawn then tells Alexis he doesn't like warnings but he loves her and doesn't want to lose her. Shawn then heads to Sonny's house intent on quitting. He stops at the last minute realizing he likes working for Sonny, likes how he thinks, and the power that comes with it. He then heads back to Alexis' house and tells her he didn't quit. She asks why and Shawn says he just couldn't let it go and that it gave him something he didn't know he needed until he almost threw it away. Alexis tells Shawn she can't be with him anymore and they break up on the 4th of July.
On April 30, 2021, Shawn runs into Alexis in the prison library. He tells her he had to build up goodwill to work in the library. They talk about TJ and Molly's domestic partnership. Shawn tells Alexis he runs a group for inmates with PTSD. Alexis says that she had some trouble but someone did a favor to protect her from Cyrus.
On May 13, Alexis convinces Shawn to fight for his release. Nikolas, who just bought Pentonville, is in the room with them. Sonny is thought to be dead so Shawn doesn't need to protect him anymore. Shawn wants to find out who really had Hayden shot.
On June 8, it was revealed that Shawn's parole was denied, which didn't make sense to Alexis. When talking to Shawn, Alexis realized that they were both sentenced to prison by Judge Naomi Carson. It was later revealed that Nikolas had arranged to make sure that Shawn didn't make parole in order to keep his involvement in Hayden's shooting a buried secret.
On June 23, Alexis and Shawn did some research on Judge Carson and found out that she has a history of giving harsher sentences to black people than those who are white. A guard came up and told Shawn that his library privileges have been revoked before ordering him back to his cell. The guard also put Alexis in solitary confinement for days.
On July 8, Shawn "accidentally" ran into Alexis while a guard was looking the other way since he was doing Shawn a favor. Alexis suffered from a panic attack because of her being in solitary for days and Shawn did his best to calm her down. When the guard was going to send Alexis back to solitary, she began freaking out again but Shawn tried to keep her calm and told her to remember the breathing exercises he taught her. When the guard went to take her back, she freaked out and fell on her wrist. Shawn informed the guard that Alexis has osteoporosis but the guard didn't seem to care. Shawn stood up for Alexis and when the guard ordered him to stand down, Shawn said "Make me." The guard went to whack him, but Jordan and a few cops showed up and ordered the guard to stand down. Jordan checked on Alexis, who told her that she can't go back to solitary. Jordan gently told her that she won't and that she'll take her to the hospital to get her wrist checked out before she informed the guard that she's there to take Shawn and Alexis into protective custody. Shawn and Alexis were taken out of Pentonville land were moved to protective custody at the PCPD after Jordan, Molly, T.J. and attorney Martin Grey exposed Judge Carson as a biased judge.
On July 20, Shawn's sentence was commuted to being time served so he finally regained his freedom. Alexis on the other hand was informed that although she's not going free, she's not going back to Pentonville either. Instead she's being sent to a minimum security prison called Spring Ridge.