The mobsters, cops, doctors, nurses, fashionistas, computer geeks, and more of Port Charles’s finest, gathered together when the actors, whose characters you love to love (or love to hate) from the number one ABC sudser, General Hospital, showed up en masse last weekend to meet and greet and say thank you to their loyal fans at the GH Fan Club Weekend 2010. The gathering put on every year by Fan Club President extraordinaire, Debbie Morris, and her team did not disappoint. And, while the usual suspects like Maurice Benard (Sonny) and Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) were not in attendance at the GH Fan Club Luncheon Q&A, they were at their own individual events. And, Maurice did appear later in the afternoon to sign autographs following the Q&A.
I caught up with several of the stars just before they greeted the throngs at the Saturday Main Event in the Green Room. Our pal Dominic Zamprogna (Dante), who if you have not heard, did a phenomenal job co-hosting the latest episode of the On-Air On-Soaps Podcast with me with his cast mate, Carolyn Hennesy (Diane), dished about Jason and Dante’s new found relationship due to their connection to Franco and Michael. Zamprogna said in reference to Jason,” Dante does not like him, but I think he needs him. It was funny because the day he pushes me up against the garbage, someone went “Oh, Dante was Jason’s bitch,” or something like that. Someone said that to me on a facebook message. I went, “Really? No. No. No”. That is a guy who is really pissed off about something. (Laughs) But Dante is just trying to do damage control. I mean what is he suppose to do? Reach for his gun and threaten him back? I mean, that is not really the big picture at this point. I think you are going to see Jason and Dante have a mutual kind of respect for each other, and I think they do have a healthy respect for each other, because they are both good at what they do. I think it’s going to happen again. But at the same time, he does not trust him as far as he can throw him. They are not ‘hang out buddies’. It resembles to me the guys from the original Lethal Weapon, where Jason is kind of the crazy one, and Dante is kind of the stable one, and as long as they have respect for each other… they don’t have to work with each other.” As we were chatting… in walked Jonathan Jackson (Lucky). So I turned to Dominic to ask him what he thought of JJ. “I love working with Jonathan Jackson,” Dom said. “He is one of the greatest friggin people there ever was, and he is a fantastic actor.”
Having just come off of not winning the Supporting Actor prize at the Daytime Emmys, I asked JJ about his Vegas Emmy experience. “I honestly did not have high expectations, because with that nomination reel I had only been back for three months. I was just excited to be nominated and be there. Of course, you always would love to win and everything, but it wasn’t that much of a disappointment. It was just fun to be there. It was a little weird, though. I am not a huge Vegas fan in general, but my wife, Lisa, and I got to see Phantom of the Opera, which was amazing.” Now what of the reports that Lucky will become more Luke-like? Jonathan says it is in the works. “Yes, I think there is something coming up. I am hoping that is where they go with it. Lucky has been doing a lot of that straight cop stuff. I think if we can show the wild side of him that resembles Luke that will be nice.” Jackson also detailed that he hopes soon that Lucky will find out MIA baby, Aiden, is really his. “I wish I knew all that was coming up for Lucky. I am just curious to know when he will find out Aiden is his child. But I honestly don’t know when that will be.”
Lisa LoCicero’s alter-ego of Olivia, certainly has dabbled with several leading men in Port Charles. So are Olivia and Sonny put on hold indefinitely? “I would say it’s not going to happen between Olivia and Sonny anytime soon. I would say Sonny is going to be pretty busy in the upcoming year, with Sonny and Brenda, etc.” My thoughts exactly Lisa! So where does this leave her? “There are still a lot of good looking men in Port Charles! There is Ingo Rademacher who is very, very handsome. Every woman wants Jax, but it’s not Jax that they want, it’s Ingo. (Laughs) Olivia and Johnny might not be completely over. There might be a little something between Olivia and Steven. I am always railing against the mob, and Scott Reeves’ character is certainly not in the mob. But I mean, aren’t all my men gorgeous? (Laughs) You know in real life I am a smarty chaser. I like funny, nerdy and intellectual.” Well, OK. So intellectual could partially fit the bill for Dr. Steven Webber played by Scott Reeves, and as fans are beginning to see, something is simmering between the good doc and the lady from Bensonhurst! “Yes, it would be an interesting pairing. Some of them take lives and he gives lives. There is something poetic in that. He is not shooting their bodies…. he is pulling bullets out of their chests.” And what of Johnny Zacchara, played by Brandon Barash? “I think if I had to guess, there was a longer detour with Johnny then was initially planned, because the fans responded to that so much that they did not want to wreck it. It was supposed to be a one-night stand that did not go anywhere, but people went for it. So it slowed that whole thing down with Sonny. And then, we were waiting for Dante to come and to find the right Dante, which we did. So certain events had an effect on Olivia’s story.”
So what does Scott Reeves think of a Steven/Olivia romance? “The extent of our working together is when she fell into my arms in the hospital. I don’t know if it was she was falling for me. (Laughs) I was intrigued, because I did not want her to kick my butt, because Olivia is a butt-kicker, but I am excited to work with Lisa. That would open the door to completely another side of life for Steven, the mob side.” Brandon Barash does know that his time with LoCicero could definitely be threatened by Reeves, Dr. Steven! Barash exclaimed, “Lisa has got a new set of pecs and a set of six pack abs to do her laundry on. But ya know, we will see, because on daytime nothing lasts forever. I would like to stay on the show and not lose my job! (Laughs) I don’t think Johnny is done with Olivia!”
The actress who has blown us all away with scene after scene in 2010 has to be Laura Wright as Carly. I chatted with Laura about Carly’s recent storylines, starting with the unforgettable scene where she says goodbye to her son, Michael, shortly before they whisk him away to Pentonville. “That was a little difficult. It’s so funny, because if I am not emotionally invested then I cannot expect the fans to be. So unfortunately for myself, sometimes I really go there. It’s a sickness and I feed off that kind of material. It just keeps me going and going and going, and it’s a weird emotional letdown afterwards. Afterwards, I am not Carly. It’s scary that I can justify everything Carly does. Sometimes I think, “Is there much of a separation between the two of us?” And if indeed, her on-screen son Michael (Chad Duell) was raped in prison, what does Wright think of the story beat? “As characters, we are just not talking about it, and I think its better not talking about it. For me as an actress, it gives me great motivation for hating Lulu and Dante. In Carly’s mind, Michael would not have been put in prison if it were not for them. She clearly blames them, which I love. Dominic and Julie are so amazing to play with, and it’s fun to play.”
As many know, ABC Daytime President, Brian Frons, handpicked Laura to be the successor to the role of Carly, but was Laura confident from the beginning she could play the complexities of this woman? “I don’t think I knew how well I would get her and understand her. At the beginning, I knew right away that I could have so much fun with this character. I would have never thought that at any other point in my career. I would never have been able to feel confident to play this role if it were not for the fact it was the right time in my career. I really credit that to the experience of the other actors I have gotten the opportunity to work with over 20 years, and I have had some great ones!”
With Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo set to mix it up with the old gang at GH when she returns as Brenda on August 11th, that definitely signals some catfights ahead for Carly. Wright responded, “I can’t imagine anything worse for Carly then Brenda coming back. I mean it’s hilarious, isn’t it? Every guy that is important to Carly is connected to Brenda! I would think that would be Carly’s worse nightmare.” And what of the online rumors that perhaps GH head writer, Bob Guza, has created a little bambino or bamina of Sonny’s that Brenda never told him about? “What can Carly do if that happens? Nothing. I am pretty sure she will work and maneuver, and twist things in her own direction. I cannot imagine Carly would not end up on top, or really mess up some people’s lives. And what is fun right now with her is, that it is fun to watch Carly being bad and kind of like when she is in a place that she doesn’t care, except for the people she needs to care about, and I just find that fun.”
Carly’s love life is certainly been a mess of late. However, Laura feels that Jax is still the ideal man for Carly! “She wants to be with Jax, of course. But, he did really lie to her with a situation about her children. He put Michael in a really bad position. I am sure Jax did not realize it was going to happen, and that was really hard for her. It’s a soap opera, and if you have us happy all the time we are boring. So you have to find things, and then it’s a struggle, and they both have egos, and so we have to have those scenes where she questions everything and he questions everything. But when they see each other it’s just this kind of longing, but it’s good soap opera. In my heart as Laura, I believe Jax is the best thing for Carly. But Carly doesn’t always handle things that are good for her very well. Carly is comfortable in a place of uncomfortableness, because that is what she has known for her whole life. To put Carly in a place where things make sense, and it’s healthy, and life is good, that is uncomfortable for her. But, she can scrape and fight in the world of craziness, but if everything is going smooth then to her something has got to be wrong. That is not normal to her.” At the end of our conversation I had to give more kudos to Laura and tell her she better start keeping record of all those amazing performances come Emmy time. A nomination in 2010 must be surely in order. Ever gracious, Wright commented, “With that I say, “Thank you”, but there are a lot of good actors out there who don’t get recognized, but I will take it as compliment.”
For Lexi Ainsworth, Kristina’s emotional turmoil just never stops. And that’s good according to Lexi, who details how Kristina felt after last week’s hospital shooting of evil Warren Bauer, Kiefer’s dad! “She is traumatized, but I love all the stuff I am getting to do. I may never get another opportunity to do all this intense stuff that I am doing. It’s a lot of fun, and a challenge…but I like a challenge. I think it was nice how the father Warren, came back, and Kristina had to face her fears through him. I think that may have even been bigger than Kiefer, because Warren is where all the abuse started. That was nice to play and Kristina was empowered by that. I actually liked the shooting scenes that just aired where I was hysterical and screaming. I think it was some of my best work.” Speaking of crying, I told Lexi that once soap writers see you can handle waterworks they keep writing it and writing it. So prepare! “Yeah, I have seen that, and especially the first time I cried, they went, “Oh, my gosh. She can cry.” So they started writing all this stuff where I am crying, but it’s good.” On another note, why can’t Kristina give her dad Sonny a break and try to reconcile with him? Ainsworth likes the conflict. “There is a struggle between them both which is good. She wants to love her dad, but he does all these horrible things. So it’s hard for her to love him, but on the inside she wants that, but on the outside, she has to protect herself because she has been hurt so much. I am sure there is a struggle for Sonny, too.” Now that Kristina is concentrating on school, will actor Daniel Cummings be the new on-screen love interest for Kristina? “Possibly. He is a study partner as of now. But, there is that element that she might have a tiny crush on him. But at that same time, it’s hard for her to get over Kiefer. So it will be awhile before she steps into something like that.” Lexi says being a goody-goody does not strike her fancy, nor being a complete black sheep. “I like the element of both; just because I don’t want people to hate her, but she has a tough side to her to that I like to play.” But what this young gal seems to really want is to be the next female marvel super hero! “I would love to do movies. I just saw Salt with Angelina Jolie, and it was originally supposed to be Tom Cruise in the role, but I could not see him in this after seeing Angelina. You know, I would like to do some action movies, and maybe I should start doing some stunt work. I can do my own stunts then, which I think would be really cool.”
Steve Burton (Jason) and I moved over to the side of the Green Room to have our download on Jason’s latest on-screen antics, what’s next for everyone’s favorite hit man, and his thoughts on the state of the genre. But first, Burton’s thoughts on the second arc of the Franco storyline that last week saw “Franco” fall over the balcony at MOCA, seemingly to his own death. Ah, but its performance, right? But, did it actually resonate with viewers? Burton stated, “First things first. James Franco is a great guy, and the first time he came on to GH he was awesome. The scenes were awesome. I did not see the MOCA shows where he fell off the balcony on-air. I felt there was not the same kind of scenes between he and I and that antagonism on this second arc, because we were not so head to head. This was more periphery. I think that might be one of the reasons some may have not liked it as much. I don’t know. The shoot was great, the location was fun, and it looked great. So it was cool. I don’t know what is going to happen to the Franco character. I was in the make-up room and I think James Franco was on ET and he said, he would love to come back. So that would be cool for us. It was great having him on the show.” But since Franco has given Liz and Lucky’s baby, Aiden, to his own mother, will it be Jason to the rescue? “I was the only one who supposedly knows where the baby is. I think we figure that one out.” So what’s next for Jason…easy… Brenda, Brenda, Brenda! “Vanessa being back is going to help the show a lot. It’s a transitional time for soaps, and we’ve got good momentum, which is great. Brenda is coming back and will be a pain in the butt for Jason, which will be another thing for me to deal with, but it will be cool. It will give everyone great story, and so they don’t have to create brand new story, because there is history there. As for Jason, I think she just annoys him. Before I was always cleaning up Sonny’s messes all the time, and then she came into the picture, and I was cleaning up her messes. But with Brenda back, I know it’s going to be, “Oh, here we go!” (Laughs) It’s very heavy on air for Jason and in story coming up, which is good. At GH we are going dark a lot of weeks next year, with budget cuts and to save money. I am not worried about our show at all, that might be selfish way of thinking because I have 40 friends on GH. I want them to have jobs. But times are changing, but I think GH can survive.”
During the Emmy voting process in which GH was up for Outstanding Drama Series, I couldn’t help but tell Steve (as I had written about in past award show Emmy posts) that the one moment from all the Best Show reels that broke my heart was his performance in the Carnival episode when he was wondering around lost, looking for little Jake. Burton commented, “Yeah…the long walk. We were losing sunlight at that time, and it was my last shot. It was almost like doing a movie, because there were so many people around where you had to prepare for that walk. I felt like I did not get to where I needed to be and when I went back to their booth, which was outside for this shoot, our executive producer, Jill Farren Phelps went, “Ok, great. Let’s just try it one more time.” I mean we did it twice for other reasons, but I personally felt that I did not get to where I needed to be. But people have said, “Oh, it was a great thing, and less is more”.
Burton, who admittedly says he has grown as an actor from his humble beginnings, also admits it is all due in part to mentor and friend, Maurice Benard. It’s Burton who has now given back to young Chad Duell. Steve made a commitment to Chad to help through his first days and weeks at GH. “He is doing a fantastic job. He has a quality in him…he has depth naturally, and some people have it and some people don’t when you watch them. I auditioned with him when they first brought him in, and it originally was not for the role of Michael. They said, “Hey, can you read with him?” So I said, sure. From the amount of material of what he had in the audition, and the amount of what he was able to do, he was very impressive in the audition room. And then, it goes from the audition to 50 pages the next day, and you are in, and that is where the transition was. I saw what he had and it was almost like revisiting Maurice and I, when he helped me. Maurice saw something in me, but it was wild. For me, it was more of a lack of technique in your acting as opposed to being all over the place. Maurice taught me that technique. I worked with Chad for many weeks. I would come in early and we would just go over everything, and every beat of every scene. I couldn’t have done it without him letting me, and him being super prepared. I said, “Dude. You eat, breathe, and live this show. Don’t talk to anybody for the first six months.” He is a young guy. I was a young guy when Maurice said, “You got something.” I was going to leave the show and Maurice said, “Let’s just work together and see what happens”. I saw the same thing in Chad. You know, I lived with Maurice like family. We would rehearse scenes over and over and over and over again. Chad said, “I’m in,” and we went for it. When some people come on the show, they would never give you 50 pages your first day. So I said to Chad, “Nothing else goes on in your life right now but this show, because you are going to live or you are going to die. Especially taking another guy’s role, the built in, “I want him to fail,” is in there. So that is why it’s great with him; that he did come out of it. I knew he could. It was a matter of, “Just relax. You’re OK. Let’s just do it. So, it’s a lot of stuff, but he has the talent.”
Does Steve or his character of Jason, think Michael was truly raped? This is the million dollar soap opera question of the year! Burton has his point of view, “First of all, I like they made it ambiguous and it’s not all just about the rape, or the rape story. This is much more interesting the way they did it, because we are not sure. I have an idea something else happened. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s something that was not good for him. I think that it is good, that they write it into the show that we know something happened. We are the only ones who know, and Dante a little bit. But we are trying to work it through and kind of move on. I don’t know if it will ever be revealed, and I don’t think they should. I don’t think they are going to. They could, but I don’t think it’s worth it. We are getting more emotional stuff out of it. You know the unsaid is more powerful than coming out and saying it.” Burton, who we all know has the buffest body in daytime, has been kickin’ it into high gear this summer with his training, etc. And of course, his legions of fans are always begging to ask the question, “When will Jason be shirtless again?” Burton had this little tease to offer, “Well, since I get out of jail, there is some petting and kissing probably with Sam. I am almost shirtless ready, but they haven’t asked me to do so in a scene. We will see how long I can hold on to my shirt until September! (Laughs)
Next, the actors were introduced one by one to the fans, and then the hilarious Q&A ensued led by John J. York (Mac). Below are some of the best responses from GH cast members to questions asked by the fans!
Megan Ward: Why has Kate not fired Maxie? “I really hope Kate does not fire Maxie, because then what would I be doing? Although, I think that both her and Lulu deserve it from time to time.”
John J. York: What is the worst thing about being shot? “I would have to say the catheter.”
Steve Burton: Who takes longest to get dressed to the set? “Well you know, I have one outfit and I sleep in it. So it’s not me. Ronnie Marmo (Ronnie) takes a little while with that pompadour. I would have to say Scott Reeves. To airbrush those muscles on takes a long time and it’s amazing. (Laughs)”
Jonathan Jackson: Who does he want Lucky to end up with? “The whole chemistry with Elizabeth is always there, and the fact that Aiden is his child but he does not know it, comes into play there. I have really enjoyed a lot of the scenes with Dahlia Salem (Claire), and I have enjoyed the scenes I have done with Kirsten (Maxie), as well.”
Dominic Zamprogna: Did you know your character, Dante, would have such a strong impact? “My manager who was a huge fan of the show told me, “This is such a huge character. You have to audition for it!” So I went, “alright”, and I auditioned. And I realized when your manager, who shouldn’t have a bias on what you’re auditioning for, did with this show, then I realized it was a good part. I want to thank the fans for liking me!”
Jason Cook: Did you like having sex in the broom closet? “Matt enjoys fooling around with anything in a broom closet. He had a dry spell for two years. Who does not want to go to a broom closet and get it on?”
In the end, it was Fan Club Prez, Debbie Morris, who after a long year of planning and several days of events, said it was all worth the effort to make the GH’ers happy campers! “It’s very rewarding and let me say this; I could not do it without my ladies Michelle and Claire. I have had some medical issues this year and they stepped up and put this together for me and that was very touching to me. They are my right and left hand and this is not a one man show. I had a lot of people who helped put this together. This was my 34th year doing this, and it’s been a labor of love.” Since Debbie has the pulse on what her GH fan clubs likes and dislikes, I had to ask, who they were looking forward most to seeing this year? “Dominic! He is kind of smoldering gorgeous. He is a great actor. Steve Burton always, Maurice always, and people love those guys and it’s a given. That has never died. My opinion; that whoever the show chooses to put in the forefront storyline wise, is always popular, but the fans love everybody.” Morris thinks the return of Vanessa Marcil Gioinvazzo is also going to be huge for the fan base. “Brenda is one of my favorite characters, and Vanessa is one of my favorite people. I was there for her first day of taping. She said “hello”, and she made my day. I told her I was just so happy that she was back. She brings a lot to the show. I think everyone is happy with the show now, and the storylines. There is a lot of love going on and they like that. Also, I did like the Franco story. I think it’s always fun when Franco comes back, and it gives it a new element. I also like that they put Dante and Jason together. It’s a refreshing dynamic to see.”
And as the individual autograph sessions got under way and then concluded, followed by more individual fan events on Sunday that went into the wee hours…. I am talking to you Lante fans, everyone said their goodbyes till same time next year, taking with them memories from the hottest cast in daytime, and I am not just talking looks here!
Till next time, Michael.