June 1st, 2009  |  Leave a comment

The Nancy Lee Grahn Interview – General Hospital

nancyMain.jpg
Superlative, independent, smart and one hell of a good actress are words often used to describe General Hospital’s Nancy Lee Grahn. Playing powerhouse legal eagle, Alexis Davis with all her eccentricities and complexities, is just one of the things Nancy does best. But let’s not forget about her involvement and passion for politics and human rights, and her greatest joy being a single mom to her beautiful daughter, Kate.

After languishing on the back burner in the Port Charles canvas for quite some time, daytime fans are thrilled to have Alexis and Nancy front and center. With the arrival this week of Alexis’s newly SORAS’d daughter Kristina (Yup, Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome strikes again) in the form of actress, Lexi Ainsworth, and a new story arc on the way with the arriving Martha Byrne (Andrea Floyd) it looks like our “Natasha” has got some life in her. Not to mention, Alexis’s continued efforts into digging into the past of Emily’s “twin” Rebecca, and getting to the truth, which seems to be keeping this justice seeker quite busy.

On-Air On-Soaps sat down with the Daytime Emmy Award winning actress to discuss; her sometimes controversial past with the powers-that-be at “GH”, a possible Alexis/Sonny romantic rematch, getting to play a teen-age mom and how it mirrors her real life experience, and her frustration at the Daytime Emmy voting process. We also take a stroll down memory lane and revisit Nancy’s time on the classic soap, “Santa Barbara”. The actress also recounts her recent trip to the White House. Yup, “Ms. G goes to Washington”!

Here’s a fascinating and revealing look with Nancy!

Listen to the audio:

Play

MICHAEL:

What is happening to Alexis? She is spending her time prying into Nikolas’s love life! But she is on to Rebecca!

nikolasAlexis.jpgNANCY :

I hate being a “butinski,” and I have been calling myself “Gladys Kravitz” now for the past two months. I keep walking around the set going, “Abner” because I am such a busy body. Every time they are going to have sex, I tell them when they are going to have sex, (she laughs) I mean the whole thing is ridiculous and it’s not my favorite part of the story. I have to be the nudnik in that one. This is just occasionally what happens, but I do get to show up for work and get paid, so that’s the good news.

MICHAEL:

But now as of today, you have a SORAS’d on-screen daughter in Kristina!

NANCY :

I do. A rapidly aging child. Wasn’t she just six or seven? Now she is my sixteen year old daughter, and she apparently gets into trouble all the time.

MICHAEL:

But when the powers-that-be said, “Nancy we are giving you a SORAS’d daughter.” What was your thought?

NANCY :

My thought was “OK”. And I said to TV Guide, “If they are rapidly aging her. Better her, than me. Then I would get all this practice of having a daughter who thinks I am an idiot, and apparently I am an idiot, because Alexis is oblivious. That’s the new story, that apparently Cristina is a bit of a ‘ho’! She is running around going places she shouldn’t go, but apparently she gets good grades. I, apparently have no idea. I guess that could happen… can’t it?

MICHAEL:

I find it hard Alexis would not know what is going on with her children

NANCY :

Considering how focused she was on her children in the past… yeah, that’s why they are taking a bit of leeway there.

MICHAEL:

Speaking of children, isn’t Alexis’s other child, Molly, being SORAS’d too?

NANCY :

She is being SORAS’d too, and I have not seen her yet.

MICHAEL:

I heard she was going to be eleven now!

NANCY :

Well, what I heard was she was going to be 83 and we were going to age her backward like Benjamin Button! (She laughs)

twogirls.jpgMICHAEL:

What do you think of Lexi Ainsworth, who plays the teenaged Kristina?

NANCY :

She is a sweet heart. Lexi is very petite and has similar hair to the younger Kristina, and not a far cry from Kali Rodrigues (Ex- Kristina). I thought it was pretty good
casting, actually.

MICHAEL:

So this girl is going to be a problem child?

NANCY :

Apparently. She has a daddy and a mommy complex, and it’s all our fault. So that’s good, and it’s like real life.

MICHAEL:

So you’ll be the mother she doesn’t like?

NANCY :

She loves me, but she thinks I am too controlling and that I want her to be too perfect. So she is rebelling.

MICHAEL:

Of the men on “GH”, who would you like to see Alexis romantically linked with? What about an Alexis/Sonny redux?

NANCY :

I don’t think there is anyone on the canvas right now for Alexis. I thought the most interesting time I had as an actor was working with Maurice Benard (Sonny). That was the most believable story for me, and it was how relationships really are. They are not perfect. They are complicated, and in life, sometimes one likes one more than the other. I don’t think Alexis was as ever connected to anyone as she was to Sonny. I think she gets him completely. They are not the love of each other lives romantically, but there is this bond that I would like to see explored more. I mean, they are not right for each other, but the depth of their relationship, I think is what is interesting. That was the most realistic relationship, but that was also the only time they explored a relationship with Alexis.

MICHAEL:

I remember rooting for Sonny and Alexis!

alexisSonny.jpgNANCY :

I have to say it was really popular. It was a ratings getter, if I recall. It’s because, we are both equally matched as actors being competent to work together. It was interesting. There was nobody dummied up or dummied down, and for a lot of reasons, it looked like this kind of relationship could happen and I liked the complexity of it.

MICHAEL:

Wouldn’t Sonny be more in your orbit now that Kristina is going to be causing all sorts of trouble?

NANCY :

Truthfully, and I am saying this respectfully, and this is not a dig at anybody or anything, and so, I want to be clear about that. The pairing was not something our head writer, Bob Guza liked. He did not like these two characters together in that way, Writers get to have a passion for something, or not. Not everybody likes the same thing, and he did not see it that way, and he is the head writer and it is his vision. He gets to decide what he likes and what he doesn’t. So, by all means, for me saying that I “liked it” and he “didn’t” doesn’t make him wrong or bad. It’s neither of those two things, and that’s what happens with writers. I know for a fact on Grey’s Anatomy some actors did not like some things that were written for them, but they liked others things that were written for them. The actor does not get to decide that.

MICHAEL:

You said in an interview with Michael Logan of TV Guide, “I so wouldn’t do that now. I no longer have any interest in that. (Laughs) They’ve beaten me down. I’m tamed.” That was in reference to taking issue with the writers or producers in regards to your character. Is that true?

NANCY :

That’s not to say, I can’t suggest something to Bob, as he is very open. He has an open door, and I can go in their anytime and talk to him He has made the clear to me. But I can go in there, and say what I would love, or ask for some help, but I don’t get a vote in what’s ultimately done. I don’t get a vote in that at all. Even, Eric Close from “Without a Trace”, who is a friend, does not get to decide, and he was on a hit primetime show. Many times, he did not like what he was doing, and other times, he did. Bob Guza just isn’t a head writer, he is also a producer. He does get to decide, and he has given me other things that I did like.

nancyPearls.jpgMICHAEL:

What story of Alexis’s did you like?

NANCY :

I thought the cancer story was good. I would have liked to see the second half of that. I don’t know why we did not see that. Maybe the audience was getting bummed out by it. There could be things I don’t know, or maybe it got too sad and they got tired of doing it. I did like the first half. I thought the way they wrote Alexis handling this situation was believable.

MICHAEL:

Coming up, Alexis puts the screws to Mayor Floyd (John Bolger)…what do you think about this upcoming material you get to play?

NANCY :

I like to see her being an activist and caring about things. I like working with John and I am excited about having Martha Byrne (Andrea) on our show. She is a doll! I love her, and I am very happy to see her. I also have some interesting things with Kristina, when I find her in bar, and I get all huffy! I am a mother fishing her daughter out of a bar who is underage. It gives me practice! I probably will be doing that with my daughter at some point. I remember when I stole a car at 16 or 17 before I had my license, and she does that too, so it’s just bringing back memories.

MICHAEL:

Switching to one of my favorite soap subjects, Santa Barbara… what are your memories of being on the show and playing Julia Capwell?

NANCY :

I have a great memory of it. I was bitching and moaning the whole time I was doing it, but the characters were templates of Shakespearean characters. The difference with Santa Barbara; and its funny, Bob Guza and I had this conversation a few weeks ago… he asked me, “What do you like doing the most?” And I said, “Simple, simple relationship stories, because that is what I feel I do best.” You see, nothing happened with the Sonny/Alexis story other than they were discovering one another and getting involved. She was a justice seeker, and he was a law breaker and that was the story. Simple. So Santa Barbara was all relationship. I really felt with the relationship between Julia and Mason that I had literally gone through a seven year relationship in a marriage, and I had experienced all the sides of it. I was a main character on Santa Barbara in the core family, and on General Hospital I am a main character, but I am not in a core family. I think relationships are more realized in a core family. So that kind of happens on every soap.

nancyTrees.jpgMICHAEL:

If someone never saw “GH”, how would you explain Alexis Davis to somebody?

NANCY :

Well, apparently there is a lot I don’t know about her, myself. (She laughs) Everyday I am surprised. I will tell you how Bob describes her. She is all the things that I play, but I have a shadow side, but I have a big shadow side. I am seeing myself as this normal woman, but I am not. I grew up in a nut house, where bad people did bad things to each other all the time. It’s like Marilyn in the Munster house; you are not going to come out unscathed from that.

MICHAEL:

And I love how they keep interjecting that “Natasha’s” (Alexis’s real name) mother’s throat was slit?

NANCY :

That happens everyday. So that is what I mean. She walks around like she is a normal person, but she is not. She has a pretty dramatic background, and that is why she makes a lot of bad decisions.

MICHAEL:

Isn’t Alexis an “order” freak?

NANCY :

I think she is. I think because there was so much chaos around her life, and she completely raised herself. Her mother died young, and the other people in her life were crazy. She was smart enough to recognize that, and get out. She has had an extremely good education. But, she is emotionally screwed up! I think that would manifest in her relationships. I think she is a control freak and when you grow up in chaos and have to raise yourself, she needed her life to be in order. That is why she pursued law, because there is an answer and law for everything.

MICHAEL:

Are the legalese and courtroom scenes hard for you to do?

NANCY :

It depends if I am menopausal that day, because then I can’t remember anything. (She laughs) It depends on what it is. They don’t ever get to technical. People make fun of me because I can learn my lines by walking up the stairs. I can look at my lines once or twice and kind of know them. No, I can not say too often it bothers me. It would bother me a lot more if I were playing a doctor. I must have been a lawyer in a past life, as I have played nothing but lawyers and I seem to understand the jargon. If I had to start talking about bones, and diseases, they would boot me!

constanceTowers.jpgMICHAEL:

I love your scenes with Constance Towers (Helena) when they happen. Are there more coming down the pike?

NANCY :

You have seen almost everything I have taped with her, and obviously she is one of my favorite people. I love seeing her, as she is just one of the great human beings on the planet. I would love to see her all the time.

MICHAEL:

Something is going to happen to Alexis in some upcoming episodes when she gets caught doing something. What’s up?

NANCY :

She has an error of a judgment that could cost her… her career. It is one of the things I like. I get caught with my hand in a cookie jar doing something I should not have done. It doesn’t make her bad. It’s perfectly understandable and human. Alexis has a life that happens off camera that no one knows about, so basically anything can happen. I do a lot of my living off-camera! (She laughs)

MICHAEL:

You have a major new project outside of “GH” that looks to be coming together. Tell us about it!

NANCY :

We just taped last Saturday, and this is exciting. It’s a project called, Back Talk with Mo Gaffney and Matt Walsh (who worked with Amy Poehler in the Upright Citizens Brigade). How lucky am I to have gotten into this? And everyone knows the Upright Citizens Brigade is like Second City. Everyone knows Mo from AB FAB and Tony Geary (Luke, “GH”) is one of her biggest fans. Along with Kathy Najimy, she had her own show, and her own talk show. So that is what I decided to do instead of what Alexis is doing in the evening. So we will see. It’s scripted/unscripted. I am so excited about this.

MICHAEL:

Nancy, lets turn to your political life. You were recently in Washington?

townHall.jpgNANCY :

Politically, I had testified in the judiciary committee for this AB 16 bill, to help protect children in family court. We are still a far cry from what would be appropriate, but I went to Washington and had an interesting experience. I sat in Nancy Pelosi’s desk, had her private VIP tour, went to the West Wing, and saw that President Obama keeps a football in the Oval Office on a chair. I met with people to potentially do something with the Woman’s Caucus. I am fascinated by this stuff. But, recently it was sad today in California, because the court did not overturn the ban on Proposition 8, and so you are not allowed to get married here anymore if you are gay. I don’t get that… never will. I think that’s insane. Remember in 1921 the constitution said woman couldn’t vote, so this is one of the things that need to be changed, also.

MICHAEL:

Why are you so politically involved?

NANCY :

Because it’s our government to be had! There are a bunch of lawyers who are heads of the judiciary committees in all these states, and your assembly man is a real important guy. He will be making all these decisions with his friends and co-workers, if we don’t get involved. They don’t make the laws, we do. It’s accessible and it’s more interesting than who is on TMZ! We are all so celebrity aware, but the real soap opera is in politics!

MICHAEL:

How do you think Obama is doing?

NANCY :

I think he is doing well. I think he is facing some challenges now, because he made some decisions, and the follow-through was not the way it could be. He has done a lot already. I would like to see him take a better position on gay marriage. I see why this can’t be a priority now for him, as there are very serious things happening right now all over the world.

MICHAEL:

nancyHeather.jpgWould you ever go into politics?

NANCY :

No. First of all, when I watch the assembly, what I would do is lobby. I would find important things. I would be good at going after politicians and making them listen. I could see doing something like that for something I cared about a lot. There are plenty of things to feel passionate about. But, if no one will step up to the plate, nothing will ever happen. Going back on why I would not be a politician, you have boring minutia stuff to do. It’s like being a tax lawyer. It’s stuff that is not exciting to me. So being a politician is not as fun as fighting with them.

MICHAEL:

Alexis’s lung cancer storyline was close to your heart, and you continue to raise awareness and charitable efforts for it.

NANCY :

My father died of emphysema, and I have a dear friend, Doreen Schmidt who had lung cancer. Because I had lung cancer on “GH”, A Breath Away from the Cure sought me out and they are dear friends. They do good work. City of Hope is also a great organization and I do a tour visit for them every year.

nancyPearls.jpgMICHAEL:

How did you tackle playing someone with a life-threatening illness, such as lung cancer?

NANCY :

I can never really do justice to the feelings someone has who is going through it. I made some calls to get some general information. You can just go with, “Here’s the imaginary circumstance and how would you feel in it.” I don’t think it’s too hard for anyone to imagine that. It’s not pleasant to imagine that, but that’s my job.

MICHAEL:

You were not happy with the voting process for this year’s Daytime Emmys. Will you attend?

NANCY :

I will have nothing to do with Emmys this year, because I did not even know there was a vote. A bunch of people on our show did not vote. I was not told. I was not given a ballot. Apparently, you were not allowed to vote unless you agree to be a judge, and I pay dues to the academy, and I expect a vote. I am one of those persons, where if I am due a vote, I want it. There are so many places in time where my vote doesn’t matter, so when I do get a vote, I damn well want it. I wish everyone well. I don’t even know if I was on the ballot, because when they asked me if I had anything to submit… I think I did not have anything. That part of it doesn’t interest me at all; it was the principle of it… me having paid dues and not being given a vote. Apparently, and this was told to some people and not others, because it was disorganized…you had to agree to judge to cast a vote. I don’t make deals with my vote. I understand they need judges, but they have to find a better way to get judges. But I don’t want to be a spoil sport for the people that were nominated. It was a beautiful thing, and it was a great moment for me when I got one. I don’t want to suck the air out of it for someone who is having a good time with it. But for me, personally, I will not be involved.

nancyKate2009.jpgMICHAEL:

Finally your pride and joy…how is motherhood, with raising your eleven year old daughter, Kate?

NANCY :

It’s so much more challenging now. Now, it’s all of my childhood traumas coming back to haunt me, so that I can feel her pain. You don’t feel it once, you feel it twice now when you have a daughter. I feel the way any mother feels about her kid. She is my heart and joy and there is nothing that I can’t imagine that would be better than this. She is a peach. On Mother’s Day, the present she found for me was a song that I loved by India Arie. She learned it and it took her two or three weeks on her guitar, and she sang it to me. It doesn’t get better than that, it really doesn’t.

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