July 1st, 2010  |  Leave a comment

The James Franco Interview – General Hospital

Courtesy/ABC

Yesterday on General Hospital, James Franco made his heralded return to daytime for round two of his performance as the artist whose canvas is murder, Franco.  This time, the crazed killer is about to unleash more terror on the residents of Port Charles, and continue his strange fixation with soap opera’s favorite mob hit man, Jason Morgan.   Actor, James Franco, who has been just the perfect pick-me up for an ailing genre, has been favorably writing about, experiencing and promoting the soap genre through his exciting and innovative performances that will hopefully draw new eyeballs to soaps, and give those legions of soap fans some tantalizing moments.

On-Air On-Soaps spoke with James Franco on Wednesday, about his second time to the Port Charles party, and how his performance art and love of art plays into this second go-round for his off-kilter character.  James’ relationship with MOCA, (L.A.’s, Museum of Contemporary Art), comes into play with an interesting exhibit created by fictional Franco, or is it?  And that is not all.  On Friday’s episode, James real–life mother, Betsy, will join her son in some interesting and shocking antics and plot twists, when she portrays Franco’s mom.

Here’s a little chat with motion picture, and now daytime drama star, James Franco.  And don’t forget to check out James’s latest movie with another soap alumnus, Julia Roberts, Eat, Pray, Love.

MICHAEL:

So, Francophrenia?  Perfect name for an art exhibit by Franco! Who came up with the title? You?

JAMES:

Courtesy/ABC

Yes, Francophrenia! (Laughs) GH head writer, Bob Guza came up with Francophrenia: Dissolving the Boundary Between Illusion and Reality. Here is the thing; being on General Hospital has been such an interesting collaboration.  Half of the project for me has been putting myself in touch with these people, and then allowing myself to come up with some amazing stuff.  All I told them was, I wanted him to be an artist and I wanted him to be crazy, and they ran with that and gave me more than I ever asked for.

MICHAEL:

Did you have any hand in writing this new arc for Franco’s return?

JAMES:

Well, the first time I went to them, they planned it out. But the second time it wasn’t planned.  I was just planning on being on the show for one arc and that would be it.  But, the second arc starts airing this week and after I talked to Jeffrey Deitch, who is the new head of MOCA, The Museum of Contemporary Art, we talked about a very special event that would be filmed at the museum.  I then went to GH with that.  I said, “This is how I think this new big arc should culminate. We will have a real art show, in a real space in the real world.  It will be Franco the character’s art, but in the way the show will be art.”  We knew that is where we were going.  So Bob Guza, and GH exec prod, Jill Farren Phelps and I, all discussed how we would do it.  So I did have some input.  But Bob is an incredible writer, and he writes the character of Franco so well.  So I want to let him always do that, because he is so good at that stuff.

MICHAEL:

How many episodes will you be on this time?  Last time, you filmed three days and were in over 21 episodes, and you whipped through all that dialog, and ran with it.  I heard through several of your GH cast mates, that your work load and the amount of lines you had to memorize was staggering!

JAMES:

Courtesy/ABC

My schedule this time around was a little more normal.  Last time I was in school, and so they piled all my material on those three days, and it was a ton of stuff.  So this time it wasn’t as crammed into the shooting schedule, but I think I will be on fourteen or so episodes.

MICHAEL:

So MOCA is the backdrop for some pivotal moments?

JAMES:

We shot the final special episode last Thursday at MOCA, and that is the culmination of the arc. It airs later in July.

MICHAEL:

I loved your article, Limits of Control, that you had written for Laphams Quarterly and that you spoke of soap acting.  What made you decide to write that and have it posted on the web?

JAMES:

One of the things this project and being on General Hospital has shown me more clearly, is that there are all types of entertainment, and the audience has certain ideas about what a good performance is, and what good acting is and what isn’t.  But, it’s like it all connects with everything, and soap operas have been on for decades, and they are delivering a very specific thing.  This is what has developed over all that time, and it’s entertaining for many millions of people, for a very good reason. This is what has developed for this audience.  And so you can’t take that and compare it to another form of entertaining because it’s a different animal, and in addition to that, when you take a performer from one end of entertainment, like say film, and say put them in this form of entertainment, he is going to be transformed by the context.  The actor on film or on television has so many factors that are mediating between your performance and the final product.   You know there is music, dialog, costume/wardrobe, and the editor, and everything that has gone into this that is transforming what an actor does.  So as an actor, I found first of all you have to surrender to that process, and that is just the way it is. But I also saw, depending on where I am performing, whether it be a movie, a soap opera, or on stage, the performance is going to look different and its going to come out differently, just because of the vehicle I am in.

MICHAEL:   

Courtesy/ABC

Did you watch your work back on GH?

JAMES:

I have seen a bunch of the episodes. I am very happy with them.   For me, one of the things that happened is it’s not so much about is this working, because I went into it thinking whatever happens is going to work because I am surrendering to this process. Essentially, I am offering my services as an actor and I am going to act as well as I can, and they can do with my performance what they will and I will be happy.   Fortunately, they have written such a great character for me and I love where they have taken him. And, I would have been fine if Franco just sat around the house all day and did nothing. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

And so would all of America! (Laughs)  How is working with Steve Burton (Jason) and Dominic Zamprogna (Dante)?

JAMES:

They are great guys and they are pros.  They have been doing it for a while and it seems like it’s easy for them, but it’s nice to see that they take it so seriously, even after years and years of work. The day that I worked with them, I had seen them putting in the time to get it right and in order, and that was very, very impressive.

MICHAEL:

Your upcoming film Maladies, that was how this whole scenario started of you even having the notion of coming on to a soap, let alone General Hospital, correct?

JAMES:

Maladies kind of started the discussion, and in Maladies, which will be a feature film, it will be a very unusual feature film. (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

And that is a performance art piece, involving your collaborating partner, Carter?  

Courtesy/ABC

JAMES:

Carter is an artist, and we did a movie together called Erased James Franco. But, I think he wants to look at Maladies just as a feature film. (Laughs)  Although, I will say he can think that all he wants, because I will say it’s going to be a very unusual feature film.  But in that, I do play a character that was formerly on a soap opera.  And that was how the discussion started about, “What if I was really on a soap opera?”

MICHAEL:

So you thought it would be funny at that time to be on a soap opera?

JAMES:

I thought it would be a little funny.  When I went on General Hospital, a lot of people were surprised.  So I thought, yeah, it would be very funny and surprising, but I also thought the more I talked about it, and the more I thought about it, I thought, ‘You know this would actually be a great opportunity to try something new and have a new experience, but also a way to hopefully get audiences to look at entertainment in a different way.’

MICHAEL:

Did any of your motion picture star/friends go, “What the hell are you doing?”

JAMES:

Of course, that is usually the reaction and that is exciting to me.  The fact that people are having a reaction is great, and it gets a little boring after awhile if all your decisions are the same.  Also, a ton of film actors have been on a soap.

MICHAEL:  

Courtesy/ABC

What can we look forward to from artist/killer Franco in the coming weeks on GH?  Will he be more insane?

JAMES:

In a way, what we have done in this last arc, I think generated some material that will hopefully transcend the show in a way, where when we shot at the Museum of Contemporary Art and what I hope it does, I hope it gives people a second to step back and think about what art actually is.  You know, people can say, “What are you doing? That is crazy, that is not art, because it is hanging in a museum does not make it art.”  At the very least, I hope people will then question what they believe art to be, if they don’t think this is art.

MICHAEL:

Your mother Betsy is coming on the show and making her Port Charles debut on this Friday’s episode.  Truly, how did this all come about?

JAMES:

Yes, that was incredible.  That idea kind of developed over time. When I was on GH the first time, Bob Guza had seen my mom’s Funny or Die sketch, and he said to me, “Your mom is really funny.” And I knew that my mom wanted to act professionally.  She is a writer and she has written many children’s books that have been published, but she has taken acting classes for the last three years.  When Bob told me he thought she was funny, I told him he should put her on GH.  So, all the episodes had been written for the first arc, but when I came back this time, it was kind of a given to bring mom on, and so she plays my mother.

MICHAEL:

Do you actually have scenes together?

JAMES:

Courtesy/ABC

We have a ton of scenes together. (Laughs)  My character Franco, turns out has another name.  I guess he has an alias, and she calls me by the other name, which is actually Robert Frank.  The great thing about Bob Guza is that he brings in all these cultural references.  Robert Frank is actually the name of a photographer and filmmaker who made the film The Friends of Allen Ginsburg.

MICHAEL:

Was mom not a soap fan?  Or, did she watch soaps before?

JAMES:

She is a soap fan now!  (Laughs)

  1. Starling says:

    Oh, look. Smirking, pretentious movie star returns to GH.

    Reply

  2. Darcy says:

    Great great interview, I read that he wanted his character to be dark but a serial killer? I’m sorry I’m a huge Franco fan and I didn’t expect a Harlequin romance but I wanted to see him at least “like” women. I found the writing the first time very misogynistic. I thought the 1st time around with Gillean (his agent) was soo hot and then poof she disappeared for the most part. I wanted a crazy but a more “romantic Franco.” He’s friggin gorgeous..I know its his art and all and I will watch him but sex is performance art

    Isn’t it?

    Reply

    Anna replied

    Bad guys on soaps are by far the most interesting characters to play.
    So of course if JF has the choice (and he has !) he would want to play a villain.
    Actually it is the flawed characters the most interesting to play but on soaps it is rare and for a short stint a bad guy is a good option, he can always play grey, flawed characters on movies.
    Interesting his art project, JF is pro-active with his smart movie choices or his studies in order to be a writer as well as his art projects tied with his work on a soap opera, keep up the good work James !
    I am looking forward to see him in the next Danny Boyle with Amber Tamblyn (ex-Emily on GH) hey Hollywood land is a little world..lol

    Reply

  3. Doe says:

    Well, Mr Franco is a very intelligent man to be sure. He is still educating himself in the art of film and someday I believe he will make a great movie. He can play any role, for example the life of James Dean whom he has quite the image of. In this interview you can see the brilliance he brings to any project such as “Franco” on GH. His continuing search for knowledge impresses me very much. I saw his mother in her role last week and they certainly have a strong family resemblance. I say, drag this story on for a while so we can watch his art at work. Loved the interview, Michael.

    Reply

  4. mas says:

    The “FRANCO STORY SINKS GH LOWER & LOWER, it is soooo “BAD” it makes you lol at the “HORRIBLE” writing James Franco looks like a big smirk as he talked the Man Guza into another debacle.Mr Guza and Mr Benard said the viewrs did not what Sonny to be “normal” so they brought Sarah Brown back how did that work out?? She jumped ship and is now on B&B and saying and acting like the actress she is. Megan Ward get’s pushed aside for LLoC and what a “Mistake” that has been, the rating continue to dive and what does Mr Guza think of next the “Re-hase Of Brenda” betting the soap on her is going to have the same result ZERO ratings and more viewers leaving, The viewers hae sent a clear message, GH has not listened and now we the viewers are very likely to loose GH, they bet on the 18-49 group, Hey Mr Guza you think they will stick by you and we who did for over forty yrs should be ignored??? Sonny & Kate was the begining of a new era for GH, but , pushed it aside, changed “HISTORY” and what did you get, you are almost at the bottom of the heap, OLTL is getting better and better, the viewers got what they wanted, well you and the most inept writing team need to head over to Bell and assoc. to learn how it is done, as for Brenda, please the winey woman will sink faster then Titanic.

    Reply

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