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15 March 18th, 2010 Teen Abuse, Mobster In Peril, Young Love & Baby Drama – Chats from the Set of GH!

Courtesy/ABC

This week on General Hospital as fans watch the unraveling of a hot button social issue play out on-air, I got the opportunity to talk with some of the participants of the storyline on my recent set visit to the top rated ABC soap. Fans have already witnessed Kristina (Lexi Ainsworth) beaten to a bloody and swollen pulp by her pseudo- boyfriend, the abusive scum-bag, Kiefer, all the while blaming it on poor Ethan. Not only has this story provided a vehicle for Daytime Emmy winners, Maurice Benard (Sonny) and Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) to show off their acting chops in a glorious way, but it has provided GH with a story arc with many implications and ramifications that resonates to young women and their parents in the soap viewing audience.

Maurice Benard told me that the GH story train just keeps the hits comin’ “This train is rolling really great, and it’s not going to stop. The story that I am really praising is when Kristina gets beat up, (and I have not seen it), but doing it with the actors was unreal. When I saw Lexi Ainsworth (Kristina) with the bruises, it was like the feelings I would have with my own daughter. Sonny takes off on this whole thing and then goes on to remember his own abuse and how his step-father would beat him, and put him in the closet, and he how he would beat his mother, too.”  So how is Lexi doing, holding her own with the big Benard?  “She is fantastic. We were doing a scene, and she was having a problem with it. So I gave her something personal, and so towards the end of the scene, I said, ‘When you get to this line… think about what I said’, and she got to this line and she just broke, completely broke, and I held her.”   Maurice known for letting his work deeply affect him emotionally and physically, once again displayed that same raw emotion, when viewers witnessed the recently aired scenes where Kristina lay in the hospital. “When I walked in and I saw Christina with that make-up and she said Ethan did it… that’s it!  These guys don’t rationalize.  It’s wrong, but they don’t think that way. My little girl looks like she has been hit by Mike Tyson. ‘Who did it? You? Done.’ There is one scene with Alexis where she is beating on me!  Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) hits me and it’s great.” (Laughs)

But dredging up his past abuse and how his on-screen daughter is in a very bad place is not the only thing Sonny Corinthos is dealing with. Throw in a huge courtroom drama for allegedly killing his wife Claudia and shooting his son Dante a cop, into the mix, and it’s really been Maurice’s time to shine once again. “I am playing this story like he is going to prison.  It could go two ways, even if he escapes and breaks out before he goes to prison, he can never come back, and if he goes to prison, he feels he will die of claustrophobia. I do think he deserves what he is getting right now.  If you as a viewer think I deserve it than I am not doing my job.  I have to portray what is happening inside. You know, what he does is wrong, but you know what? This guy is not a bad guy.  I am sure there are a bunch of Sonny “haters” out there, but a lot of people love him, and a lot of people love to hate him.” Maurice then previews a huge courtroom scene! “You wait till Johnny gets on the stand.  Sonny goes off on Johnny. Johnny accuses him of hitting Claudia.  What was great about that day, after those scenes Sonny went to Christina’s, and she accuses me of abusing women. And, I don’t know what I did that day, but I broke down. This is what Johnny did to him. There is a line I added, ‘I never hit Claudia, and I never hit a woman in my life. Thank God, I can say that with conviction.’  Back in the day, there was a point where I have to say, the ABC network was right and I was wrong.  I had a scene with Brenda; I felt that he felt he should hit her. And they said “No”, and so I just grabbed her and threw her. Thank God they said no, because I would not have been able to say these lines in 2010.”

Courtesy/ABC

A moment that many fans of GH were in shock and awe over was the recent payoff when Sonny confronts Dominic (Dante) and shoots him in cold blood, never realizing that it is his own flesh… and blood!  Maurice told me working with Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) has been nothing short of extraordinary. “All I can say about Dominic is, if he were a woman this is the greatest chemistry ever! (Laughs) But the way he looks and is, I love it. He is a great, great find, because he is so real. When I watch him, you just believe it.  Here is the bottom line on all this storyline wise:  When that is done (shooting Dante), first of all, it’s wrong.  But the thing is this, like my wife Paula said, ‘Sonny had always been a vigilante, and he kills bad people.’ That put me in perspective. This is the only time Sonny crossed the line, but to him it was a “rat”, and he did not know.  This is the first time they have done something where he is crossing the line.  The acting all the way around, it’s fantastic. You need to keep pushing this envelope with the viewers.  With the way the medium is going you have to do great story after great story, because that is what keep the fans going, but if you go great story, and then it sucks, it’s difficult!”

With the Daytime Emmy Pre-Nominations just announced, and Benard receiving a nod with Tony Geary (Luke) from his peers for the Outstanding Lead Actor category, I asked him which episode is he going to submit? Maurice has had his triumphs and disappointments with the Emmy process, previously.  “I said to my wife, ‘You look for the episode,’ because it’s all good.  I use to take this stuff so seriously. So she did look for me and I agreed with her. We went with the moment Sonny exposes Claudia and that show.”   As a soap journo, I concurred with Benard that his performance was one of the most powerful performances of the past soap season.  After all, it made the On-Air On-Soaps Top Ten Best Soap Moments of 2009!

Nancy Lee Grahn, known to be a bit controversial and outspoken on GH storylines and most especially her own, feels that this time, this story arc gives Alexis a whole other side to playing a mother to a teen. “That is about a family, and something that happens in real life to a family, and that given the components of her parents, it’s a very likely thing to happen to her. Without explaining the history of the characters which you already know, there is a line of abuse on both sides, and add to that a line of not taking care of yourself.  I thought, give me something emotionally grounded and I’m happy… I like to act.”  Nancy, always an advocate on important political issues and human rights says, if she were asked to speak on teenage abuse and how it affects the parents and the child, she would jump at the chance now. “I would certainly offer my services to draw attention to it, absolutely. I would have done this before this storyline.  However, this storyline had made me aware of how prevalent this is. No matter how good a mother you think you are the signs in a child that age are all confusing anyway. Now with teenagers… because of the media, and because of this shift and perception in what sexuality is, and how violence enters into it, and the words that are used, and how men and women talk to each other now, seems to be acceptable and normal. Not only do we now need to talk about safe sex… we need to talk about violence, abuse, sexual abuse, all of these things within that need to be in a conversation. It can’t just be about, ‘This is what sex is, and you need to do this, and you need a condom.’  We need to get into it. We need to start talking. Personally, I am scared. I don’t get it and its mind boggling.”  Nancy says her on-screen daughter, Lexi Ainsworth is going to make all soap viewers grab for many boxes of Kleenex! “Oh yes. She will make you cry. Lexi is very connected to this storyline and she is doing a good job.”

Courtesy/ABC

The girl at the center of it all, GH newbie Lexi Ainsworth, (The SORAS’d Kristina) tells me she knows that there are so many intricacies to teen abuse, from feeling like you deserve the abuse, to having the abuse being the only way to hold on to your boyfriend, to getting attention and feeling alive, all very conflicting.  “It is confusing for Kristina and for me as Lexi.  It’s a combination of things. She does blame herself when Kiefer does hit her, and it’s almost like she wants things to change, and she wants things to be better between Kiefer and her. So she is like, maybe next time I won’t do this and then he won’t hit me. So she is trying to fix this guy and does not realize that she can’t. Definitely the attention thing plays into it. Kristina’s mom has not been the best role model or her dad.”  Lexi hopes that the whole story will garner attention, so teens take notice! “I hope other teenage girls will learn from what has happened to Kristina, and to learn it’s not OK for a guy to hit you and that you should not put up with it!”  Well said!

Dominic Zamprogna and Julie Berman, GH’s hottest young couple of Dante and Lulu and I also conversed.  Berman said she is in love with loving her on-screen romance! “I think it’s so refreshing and different from the other love stories that I have played.  I really like that they are taking their time and really indulging themselves in the smaller moments, and writing these things where we get to play “rock band” and “glow in the dark” condoms, and different real details of a relationship. I love that.”   But of course, when things are good in soapland a couple will need some good drama! “I am sure the waters haven’t gotten stirred yet, but soon you have to see a difference of opinion, and that these two will have to have conflict and overcome.”   So, since the two young stars both worked with Maurice, I had to find out the best and worst part of working with the soap superstar. “A lot of times before the scene when he is ready to perform, Maurice gets everyone around him pumped up,” Julie says. “He elevates everything to a more intense level and it’s just his style and it’s very interesting, where I feel like we are going into a boxing match.  It’s cool and you are pumped.   As far as the worst part, I have not worked with him enough to be able to comment.”   Next, Dominic chimed in! “Best part of working with Maurice is a lot of what Julie said, but from day one when you are in a scene with him, you feel like you are after one ultimate goal scene-wise. Now your characters may not be after the same thing, but with him there is that undeniable intensity. Worst thing is, sometimes I cannot help but laugh, because Maurice makes me laugh and especially when it’s a serious thing. I think he has a hard time keeping a straight face. Then they will be counting down and so I will look at his shoulder, so I won’t laugh. (Laughs)

At the end of my set visit, I got to talk to two of my favorite people on the series, the uber-talented Jonathan Jackson (Lucky) and the very sweet, Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth).  I have never gotten the opportunity to interview them together, since Jonathan has been gone for so many years. But this rare opportunity gave me the chance to ask JJ all about those knock em’ sock em’ scenes where he literally took the halo off the tarnished Elizabeth Webber.  As I said to JJ, it was those scenes that will surely win him an Emmy in 2011.  “That was a really intense show, and doing the scenes they were just hard to describe. Becky was amazing and present and available. It’s such a weird thing when you go that far and you start yelling things like that at people you love. I was in my dressing room before the scenes, and it’s less about a process of me trying to do something than me trying to get out of the way, and let what is real happen in the moment and with that stuff.  I know it was God working with us. We said a prayer before the scenes. And we said, ‘We are in this together and let us try to portray this for what it really is,’ and what it is… brokenness, and that is really a devastating thing when you love somebody, and to have that wounding and betrayal, it’s terrible. I am sure many can relate to what we have been through on-air.  It was tragic.”  Becky concurred on the big moments, “Jonathan actually seemed like one more step and he was going to take my head off. Honestly, it was not so hard to be present when he was yelling at me like he did.”

Now with all the baby daddy drama, in the end, after all the DNA switches, and Helena’s machinations, who does Becky want the father to be?  “Of course, Elizabeth would love it to be Lucky’s and I personally would love it to be Lucky’s, because I think it’s about time.”  Jonathan piped up and said, “I think if he is not the father of the third one that would probably draw the line.” I would think so Lucky! Please don’t be a daddy to three other men’s kids!   So with any soap comes many detours for star-crossed lovers. But at this point, are Lucky and Liz that?  Becky told me, “You got to break-up to get back together.  We have to have drama in our lives to fight to get back together…that is soaps.” Jonathan feels it’s going to be a battle to overcome the tremendous obstacles of the couple, but there is hope. “To be honest with you, I do think that is possible. But it would have to take time, and be an incredible sort of process of forgiveness and newness, and that would be a redemption and rebirth. I love to play that because it is something we all go through in life and they are very human emotions, whether its reconciliation or forgiveness. Those are powerful things to walk through. To see them having to play conflict that is not coming from exterior forces, but coming from between them, I think is someway more challenging to portray that in a very real powerful way.  It’s going to be two people who have been torn apart trying to find a way to love each other and not loving each other the way they used to, but truly having to fall in love again.” Rebecca added, “Would it ever be back to normal and back to ten years ago? Probably not, and we don’t want that anyway.  It is about the journey and I would love to see it go there.”

As I left Port Charles, I bumped into GH executive producer, Jill Farren Phelps. I told her that the show is rocking right now and that it has been giving the viewers several intrinsic stories at one time that keep it interesting and vital, something we have not seen in a long time from the venerable soap.   Come back next week for the video interviews with the above mentioned stars.    Gotta leave the Hospital… for now!

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  1. Dee says:

    Jonathan and Becky, we (LnL2 fans) would love to see it go there as well!!! You have NO idea. We’re pulling for Lucky and Elizabeth to get through this. No more external forces. We want to see Lucky and Elizabeth work through the internal issues between them. We’re looking forward to watching them fall in love again because, to us, they are just as Michael Fairman described them…star-crossed lovers, the very definition of soulmates. We want to see them overcome this latest obstacle and come out stronger and better than ever, as individuals and as a couple!

    Reply

    Christian replied

    Loved all of the interviews. Jonathan and Becky as Lucky and Elizabeth are two of my all time favorite soap characters on GH. I have loved Elizabeth since she came on, and Becky has steadily been a fantastic character to watch. Having Jonathan back has been a real treat. I have followed his career since he left, and am a huge fan of his band Enation. Having him back as like having the other half of the permanent lock back; complete. Cheesy enough to hope for the church wedding where they said their permanent lock vows! I do not wish to negate Greg or Jacob’s portrayals of Lucky, but I have to admit that JJ was always Lucky to me. I can not picture anyone else playing Lucky if Jonathan were to leave again. Same thing goes for Rebecca Herbst as Elizabeth, she is Elizabeth, period. IMO-they had one of the most powerful, most beautiful love stories ever on General Hospital, especially in the 90′s. It is not my want to see them go back to ten years ago either b/c they were kids. I could not imagine JJ and RH not doing LL2 now with JJ back. Soap writers may not believe in ever after anymore, or supercouples, but I do. JJ and RH have what it takes, I hope they write them a fantastic, amazing chapter for their lovestory. Jonathan was phenom in that scene, but Becky was more than present, she was devastated and I remember watching how she continuingly covered herself the entire scene, whether or not that was unconscience or purposeful it showed her shame, it was a fantastic scene. I have high hopes for a “classic” Cassadine/Spencer war with the beautiful damsel Elizabeth caught in between…hoping for something crazy towards Becky’s maternity leave..can you imagine JJ Lucky frantic and desperate to find his girl…

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  2. Cakelover20 says:

    Loved the article. I am very interested in the teen abuse storyline.
    I enjoy watching Nancy and Maurice act and this story is very good.
    I agree that no man should ever lay a hand on a woman.
    I guess my concern is when did it become okay for a woman to attack a man?
    The scenes that followed the initial abuse reveal with Sam going to Ethan and attacking him from behind has taken away from the impact of this story. I think GH should play it both ways. Men should not hit women for any reason and vice versa!!!!

    My only other concern is that this show is highlighting an abuse storyline and then trying to sell a LL2 reunion. When to me, the LL2 relationship has been abusive for years.

    Reply

    Faye replied

    TRUE! LIKE MANY OTHERS ON GH FB: I am officially done with GH, until these current s/l’s are over! Though, I will remain a MB/Sexis fan and check in here (awesome site)! That will give me more time to dedicate to my soap blog re: the issue of diversity or lack of in soaps! My husband who is in advertising writes an award winning blog. He recognized these patterns as status quo and predicted where the writng for MB in particular was headed months ago.

    Sorry if some may disagree, however I feel that at this point MB, NLG or L.A would not have this problem with the writers & TPTB if it weren’t still an issue! Abc has an awful track record appropriately addressing diversity and women, particularly as it pertains to leading male actors. The addition of women of color who are paired with white males is no where near groundbreaking & to an extent an insult when the same writers refuse to write positively for male actors. I will continue to write & call. However, I’ll forward those emails and opinions to opposing networks and GH’s advertisers because they have extended their reach by favoring journalists who tout their point of view. This s/l was intended to bolster Ethan, Jason & Johnny (only the white male characters). Even Krissy, the victim was thrown under the bus in an effort to acheive this. Many soap writers are inadvertently admitting to the later in their articles. Yet the writers for GH pretty much ran a PSA, that Kristina’s own father’s (not a white male) history is not an issue because “It’s not about him…”

    Thank you Mr. Fairman for remaining an independent source on all things soaps! You do a fantastic job and your efforts are greatly appreciated!

    Reply

  3. Elena says:

    I loved the interviews and I do agree that Maurice is rocking this story as is Nancy and Lexi and I can’t wait to see what happens to their characters when the truth is finally revealed and I hope that my Sonny doesn’t do jail time because I love Sonny and Maurice is the best that daytime has to offer.

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  4. Christina says:

    Loved the article, but can’t wait for the video interviews!

    I completely agree with Cakelover20 about everything.

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  5. Doe says:

    Wonderful Gh article, Michael. Love to hear from the actors with their feelings and how they go to those dark places to get their story told. GH is getting better now with the abuse story and delivering a powerful message to parents and their children about behavior, good and bad.Can’t wait to see how Kiefer gets exposed for the times he beat up Kristina. Hope it doesn’t take too long, because Ethan is hanging in the wind. Maurice is in his element right now delivering powerful performances every time out. I think all of us fans are totally involved in all the stories being told right now and that’s good!

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  6. Katie says:

    Michael, you do have a way with the actors which makes for great interviews! I think the GH actors have their work cut out for them because to me, the writing doesn’t quite measure up to the acting ability on this show. Maurice and Dominic do have great chemistry. Maurice is such a great actor. Dominic has been one of the best new additions on GH. Julie Marie never disappoints. Lexi has been fantastic in her storyline, and Nancy excels all the time. The teen abuse storyline is very timely. I agree with Nancy about society’s acceptance of certain behavior/language having to do with how prevalent teen violence and violence in general is today. I’ve thought the Lucky and Elizabeth relationship has been pretty abusive since 2000, even before the cheating from both of them began. I’m so fond of Jonathan Jackson, but I’ve not been a fan of the couple since he left the show in 1999. He and Rebecca Herbst are amazing in their scenes together and have beautiful chemistry. However, over the years, the Lucky and Elizabeth relationship has been written as two people continually going back to each other for the wrong reasons. I left a verbally abusive marriage and have never regretted it. I think Elizabeth should have broken up with Lucky for good back in 2000, but I don’t write the show. I can relate to someone trying to make a relationship work even when deep down you know the other person who is abusive is the one who has to change. I also think no one should hit a person, male or female. I hope that this Kristina storyline focuses more on her getting over feelings that she should try to protect her abuser and that she somehow “deserves” to be abused by her boyfriend. I also am disappointed Kristina lied about Ethan, but she obviously was upset that Ethan was not interested in her romantically so she lashed out in her own way. Hopefully, Kristina will regret her lie and can apologize and repair that damage.

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  7. Ava says:

    Liz and Lucky. JJ & BH. That is the ONLY Liz and Lucky who have ever mattered, or were believable. These two people love each other more than their own lives. They were destroyed with the horrible recasts after the fire.

    JJ is back, the chemistry is as strong now as it was in ’99. PLEASE Guza, give us back this beautiful, soulful, last remaining super couple from a bygone era. We’ve waited long enough. You finally have a couple worth writing for again.

    Your ratings cannot withstand much more. Give your audience the beautiful, timeless love that is Liz and Lucky.

    Reply

    Leigh replied

    Thinking about what Elizabeth said to Helena about how she’s the devil their destroyed their lives years ago…their love has never been the same since Lucky came back. Remember Lucky slept with Sarah years ago….it has been one thing after another, but completely agree, JJ and BH are incredible together, they are LL2, if possible their chemistry has grown. Call it a permanent connection or “lock” btwn actors, but it’s there…you can’t pay for their chemistry, you either have it or you don’t, and they have it in spades.

    Reply

  8. Tina says:

    I’m so glad to see the teen abuse storyline but not impressed at all with showing a man being abused by a woman (Sam and Ethan). That is sending such a wrong message. Abuse is abuse, no matter who’s fists and feet are delivering it.

    Reply

  9. Bussey says:

    I think the Kristina storyline has spiraled completely out of control. Granted the acting is phenomenal but somehow the heart of the matter is lost and apparently on the viewers as well. Kristina having a temper tantrum because Ethan is not interested in her romantically and pointing the finger to him is appalling–period!!!…That alone makes it hard to feel sorry for her because you see a spoiled kid instead of a kid who’s gotten the crap beat out of her by a loser of a boyfriend. It takes away the pity factor–sorry but it does. Then to have Sam of all people attack Ethan is downright ridiculous so I won’t bother to comment further on her impact.

    Lucky and Liz’s relationship is dysfunctional at best. We watched Liz be physically repulsed by Lucky while she was sleeping with Nik and now we’re to believe that she’s madly (Shadybrook maddening at that) in love with him? Give me a break!!…I haven’t seen love between these two literally since their teen years…I see Liz being totally dependent on a loser of a man who is verbally abusive to her…Let’s see TIIC take on that storyline. I know it would never happen considering the obvious biased writing toward JJ since his return…but one can hope…I hope that TPTB blow LL2 apart but this time FOR GOOD!!!

    Reply

    Michelle replied

    Bussey I 100% agree with you. I feel horrible, but I find it difficult to feel bad for Kristina. TPTB have taken a storyline that is compelling and important to tell and made a mockery of it for “soaps” sake. So instead of feeling sympathy for Kristina, I feel terrible for Ethan. And having Sam attack Ethan is awful. I cannot wait for the truth to come out so that smug look on Sam’s face will go away.
    One question…..NO ONE thinks to question the boyfriend? Didn’t Ethan stop Kiefer from man-handling Kristina on more than one occassion? Kristina has a history of lying, shouldn’t someone do some detective work…..Lucky maybe?
    IOh and one more thing….could the character of Claire be any worse? The writing for her is horrendous. Really…a DA can just show up in a defendant’s house and question/harass him? Does GH have a legal consultant???

    Reply

  10. Tonya says:

    I think they missed the mark on all of the stories, but the actors have been outstanding. The LL2/Nik story has made me sad b/c there has been zero therapy other than the one scene with nik and Lucky which was unrealistic IMO. I adore Becky, and when she eyed that rocking chair when she first got to SB-chillling. I was looking foward to Elizabeth mentally “checking out” for a bit and Helena further messing with her mental stability, but all we’ve gotten is sad scene repeat scenes with Nik/Lucky. The best scenes in SB were when she first got there w/ Nik/Jason/Lucky and then Patrick. The Helena/Lucky scene was awesome as well, but we haven’t gotten much other than that. She is a pregnant woman who was suicidal, she was on the roof of a hospital sitting on the ledge for crying out loud! Where is the therapy?!

    The Kristina story has totally been lost to me b/c they could have really used this opportunity to educate the audience, having Kristina outright blame an innocent man who time and time again defended her against Keifer is ridiculous. Why hasn’t Ethan thought of Keifer yet? Keifer is supposed to be from an abusive home, as ugly as the scene would be, why not an abusive scene with Keifer and his parents so we get a glimpse of the monstrosities he’s had to live with? Now I’m reading rumors that Keifer gets killed?! I would have whether seen keifer come clean on his own accord and want help b/c of being terrified of what he was capable of doing, that would have been so much more powerful, not to mention the guy playing Keifer is awesome, it could have made for a return story later. totally bummed, but again, all actors are doing an amazing job, so much talent.

    Reply

  11. Adriana says:

    LL2 always and forever!!!!!!!!!! I don’t understand how people cna sya that they’re abusive because they are absolute magic together! I hated Liz with Jason and I think deep down Liz, Jason, Lucky, the Port Charles residents, and the viewers all know that Liz’s heart will always belong with Lucky.

    Reply

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