July 24th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

The Martha Byrne Interview – General Hospital

marthaMain.jpg

She is one of the most cherished performers ever to grace daytime television screens. After leaving As the World Turns a few years back under tense circumstances, in the role she made famous (Lily Snyder), soap fans have wanted to see more of her. Last month, they were granted their wish. Martha came onto ABC’s General Hospital as the wife of the Port Charles mayor. Now, as the sophisticated, scheming and politically savvy Andrea Floyd, Martha finds her new alter-ego in the middle of an interesting mystery. You see, the mayor’s mistress died suddenly after a bizarre injury and an operation at “GH”!

In this revealing interview, Martha talks about trying on her new “GH” role; missing her cast mates at “ATWT”, being a script writer for “B&B” and the opportunity to write for Susan Flannery (Stephanie), the controversial Daytime Emmy voting process, and her passion for the cause closet to her heart, that of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

She always has great insight, and so many great things to say. So, here’s the one and only Martha Byrne! Cue applause!!!

Listen to the audio:

Play

MICHAEL:

What has it been like, being on General Hospital as the mayor’s wife, Andrea Floyd? From the minute you hit the screen the audiences have been riveted to see more of you!

MARTHA:

I am having a great time. I am still figuring this character out as I go along, which is the fun part of being an actor. I am getting fun scenes to do and everyone at “GH” has been so welcoming and kind to me, and it’s been a pleasure.

andreaFloyd.jpgMICHAEL:

So you are now in an arc of a story involving many characters in Port Charles. Was that the intent, a short stay for you?

MARTHA:

I don’t know how long it’s going to be, and it’s already going to be longer than originally planned. What’s been nice about it is that Jill Farren Phelps (exec prod) and Bob Guza (head writer) allowed the door to be open so I could walk in and talk. They were very aware that my family is on the east coast, but I am just thrilled to be there. I said, “Let’s work it out. As long as you want me… and as long as I am here and happy with what I am doing, and it’s working out for my family, first and foremost… then lets keep it going for awhile.” I guess in the end, it depends on how the story goes and what direction it takes. I am kind of one of those actresses who likes to pick a script up and then see what’s coming that day, as opposed to the long term. T hat is how you live your real life, and for an actor to live in the moment, I think is the best way to approach the material.

MICHAEL:

Set up the story. Mayor Floyd had an affair with Brianna Hughes and she died suddenly, and then enter Andrea…..

andreaPR.jpgMARTHA:

Yes, they were having some steamy shower thing. Apparently Brianna had some sort of injury and was operated on at the hospital and died. So, there is a great mystery surrounding her death. Of course, it does not look good for the Mayor and for Andrea if it gets out in public, because it gets bad press. And for Andrea, she is a woman all about image and politics. That is something real easy to play, because we all understand politicians and how they put out fires and clean up messes before there is a judgment, and before the facts come out. Andrea has been trying to make it all go away.

MICHAEL:

And she knows Mr. Mayor is playing the ladies of PC!

MARTHA:

I had a scene recently where I said, “This is one of your many indiscretions that could tank your career. Good job!”

MICHAEL:

Alexis is now in the middle of this mess and Andrea clearly has an agenda.

MARTHA:

Andrea is a lot more aware than she seems. Andrea is a smart cookie. She is aware of every single move her husband has made. I think she is a scorned woman, and a woman that goes through that, especially in a political situation where her image is going to be smeared in the press, is very guarded and self- protective. She has put this wall up, and no one is going to get through at this point. She has gone through enough. So, to describe her I would say: villainess, angry and bitter… a very bitter woman, but strong because of it. I think that’s the key to her.

andreaSuit.jpgMICHAEL:

Was part of the allure of doing this role on “GH” that it’s such a 180 from playing down-to-earth Lily Snyder from “ATWT”?

MARTHA:

It is. All I knew from Bob Guza going in was that he said, ‘This is going to be a fun part to play.” That’s all I really needed to hear. He then said, “She is the mayor’s wife and she gets involved with the hospital and a scandal.” I said, “I am on board.” Once you hear, “Wife of a politician,” that’s juicy! That is good stuff.

MICHAEL:

The Genera Hospital cast has some heavy hitters in their lineup. Was there ever a “Wow? I am working with…” moment?

MARTHA:

I have such respect for the industry, period. I know the hard work these actors put in every day. Again, crossing paths with Laura Wright (Carly, “GH”) has been amazing. I don’t work with her on the show, but watching her work and being a friend of hers is a thrill. Kimberly McCullough (Robin) I have known forever! We have been in the industry…forever! And to be able to work with her after all these years is great, and Jason Thompson (Patrick) is wonderful. Look, anytime you get to start something new it’s wonderful. These actors on this show are really good. They are really strong, but I came from one of the best casts in daytime on As the World Turns. So, I think I am little spoiled in that regard. I feel like everybody needs to show up. If you are going to survive in this medium, you really have to work hard, and the actors on “GH” work very hard.

vanPaolo.jpgMICHAEL:

I am sending greetings from “ATWT’s” Paolo Seganti (Damian) and Van Hansis (Luke). They love you and miss you!

MARTHA:

It’s so nice to hear that, and you hope you have left some part of your heart behind for the people you worked with, and also left a warm feeling behind. If you are there for a long time, the relationships you have with those people are special and they don’t go away.

MICHAEL:

Lily 2.0, Noelle Beck, said to me, “If I had known what I was walking into when I took the role of Lily, I am not sure I would have taken the part!” I don’t think she fully realized how iconic you were as Lily, and it probably was a tough challenge for her.

MARTHA:

That’s very nice of her to say that. She has really proven herself and made that part her own. That is a huge undertaking. Forget who the actress came before was… let’s just take that out of it. I f you played that part for 20 years, that is something. So, to go in and now play that part is a huge responsibility and undertaking. I give her a lot of credit for doing it. I really do.

MICHAEL:

Have you tuned in recently to see what’s shakin’ in Oakdale?

MARTHA:

I have not. When Paolo came back on, I popped in to see it on air; or I check to see if Maura West (Carly, “ATWT”) is still on, or on maternity leave…to see if she is gone yet! (She laughs) But she had her baby now and is doing so well.

MICHAEL:

Is it painful to watch? Is that why you don’t check in to see your old cast mates?

jonMartha.jpgMARTHA:

Not painful. I just don’t feel a part of it anymore. There is so much going on there that has nothing to do with me. My friendships are my friendships, but sadly, I don’t have the connection in a way. I do check in from time to time. I speak to Michael Park (Jack) all the time, and Kelly (Emily) and John (Holden) Hensley and Paolo, and the make-up and hair department of “ATWT”. Those people are my friends. I miss that, those daily social aspects of seeing your friends. It’s like leaving to go to college. You have those relationships you leave behind. But strangely enough, they become stronger, because there is a certain appreciation for the value of those friendships when you are not there on a daily basis. Like college, you have to really keep in touch with people to maintain those friendships. I am a very social animal and it’s important to keep those relationships to me.

MICHAEL:

You recently wrote for “B&B”! How did you get the gig with Brad Bell (exec prod and head writer, “B&B”)?

MARTHA:

I sent him a pilot I had written because I have great respect for him. He emailed me back and said, “Would you mind doing a spec script for ‘B&B’?” That totally shocked me! I did not expect that at all. I wrote a spec and he liked it. He gave me a trial deal for three months and I wrote four episodes. Brad asked me to stay on at certain times of the year when there are an extra amounts of scripts needed before hiatus. He asked me, “Would you stay on during those occasions?” I said, “Absolutely.” I am not currently writing on the show, but when needed, I am ready because I really enjoyed it.

bradBell.jpgMICHAEL:

So, you were writing dialog? A scriptwriter, if you will.

MARTHA:

Yes. I had one show where I had to write a lot of fun stuff for Owen, Bridget and Jackie, and the actors did such a great job with it. They really played all the moments. Sometimes you read the bold print in the scene, which is the directions, such as: “Jackie lights a candle and puts on sexy music” That stuff can be changed, but I am just so happy that I gave something to the actors to play that they liked, or they would have cut it. That’s what we actors do… we cut stuff we don’t like all the time. I always trust the actor, because they know their part better than anybody. So I let them do their thing. When I was watching the episode, I was kind of holding my breath. Then I got to write an episode for Susan Flannery (Stephanie, “B&B”) and she drove the whole show. It was absolutely thrilling to write for her.

MICHAEL:

I would be a nervous wreck!

MARTHA:

But that is OK, that’s fine. I get it, and I get it from an actor’s perspective. I hope to write more. I definitely learned the skill set for writing soaps. This is something I always wanted to do. The pace of “B&B” is so fast, that within four days you have to write your script and turn it in. You get a breakdown; you type it, step away from it and come back to it, because you have to deliver it within a certain time frame. There is a great amount of pressure, which I enjoy. I am one of those people who thrive on that.

marthaMartha.jpgMICHAEL:

What did you think of the Daytime Emmy process this year? Many were upset!

MARTHA:

I am really separated from it because I have been out of the loop. I will tell you that I thought it worked when an actor could only vote for two people from their show, but they had to vote for five total. That gave you a responsibility to know people’s work and I did know other people’s work. I was aware of their work. I felt it was my responsibility, that if I am going to be voting for these people, that I need to tune in to see what they are doing. I think that worked the best. If you didn’t know their work, you should not be voting, as far as I am concerned. Listen, we are all trying to do our best in the soap world and keep it going. All actors in this genre deserve a pat on the back. Look, I know what Maura West does. I know her work. She deserves to be in the running every year. I know what kind of commitment she has. Someone like Michael Park should be up for an award, and Jon Hensley. There are people who I have worked with where I go, “Wow, I know what these guys do on a daily basis!” Every year there are people that are left out. Sometimes you have a good year and get lots of nominations; and then you have a year you did nothing and did not think you had the material.

MICHAEL:

Do you know how beloved you are?

MARTHA:

I have to say, I am so humbled by the support I get from the fans. They don’t know you personally; they just know your work. 99% of the fans watch your work, and what that tells me is you are doing something that is coming through that TV screen that people can identify with and relate to; or you’re bringing some human quality to it, that they sense. The fans are smart and they know when you are feeling something genuine and when you are not. I just love them!

marthaSeated.jpgMICHAEL:

Your work with St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital has been inspiring. Please tell me how it all came about.

MARTHA:

I am on the professional advisory board for St. Jude’s Hospital, and have been a part of the hospital since I was eleven years old. My mother always gave a portion of my earnings to St. Jude’s when I was a child actor. When I came back to “ATWT” in 1993, I made a vow that every year I would do an event and raise as much awareness and money I could for the hospital. Here you are in a situation where people watch you. You have a huge fan base in daytime. I thought, “Gosh, there have got to be people out there who want to come and meet actors.” It’s an incredible institution. If you can’t pay for your treatment you don’t have to, even if you don’t have insurance, you don’t have to pay. Whole families are put up. T he Target House is this great place where families can go and be a family and not think of bills or flights, and they can just take care of their children. Especially in this world today with the state of health insurance, it’s unbelievable what they do. When your child is ill, the last thing you want to deal with is someone calling you and harassing you to pay a bill. Marlo Thomas is an incredible woman who continued her father’s legacy with this hospital, and I am thrilled to be a part of it in any way.

Leave a comment