In a soaptacular performance, since debuting on General Hospital in May of last year, two-time Daytime Emmy winner Maura West has been chewing the scenery and has been mesmerizing in the role of Ava Jerome, gangster gal, who clearly would stop at nothing to get what she wants! Whenever West is on an episode of the daytime drama, we, and many others are happy campers because we know we are in for a fun ride. As played by West, you just never know what “bad girl Ava” is going to do next!
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with the “soap phenom” at the ABC TCA Television Critics Association Cocktail Reception to get some insight into the making of one of soaps new classic characters.
In addition, Maura weighs-in on having the opportunity to work with Ava’s leading men: Michael Easton (Silas) and current bedmate, Bryan Craig (Morgan). And, we take a few moments to remember the iconic Carly Tenney of As the World Turns, a role that earned West the gold twice from her peers. Here now is what Maura had to say about all that… and the Jerome vs. Corinthos mob war!
Maura, you have this incredible role on General Hospital, and you are so amazing in it! You light up the screen every time you are on. Ava is so delicious to watch, and you play her so wickedly!
MAURA: Something wicked this way comes! (Laughs) And I just feel like, if you are going to do it … do it! And if you’re going to have to end up getting killed-off, get killed-off, but you can’t walk the line.
This is a complete 180 from your last soap role as Diane Jenkins on The Young and the Restless. And I can say, unfortunately, the writing of her was so bad.
MAURA: I can say it, too. Being on GH has absolutely been a breath of fresh air, and to have people who encourage you, that uplift you, it makes all the difference in the world. How can you do a job where nobody is saying, “I see something. Let’s mine that.” That other thing, I don’t even remember that. It’s not something I even think about, although when I tell my husband that, in fairness he will say, “Don’t you do that. You can call up any episode on that show, on You Tube, or anywhere, and you can be proud of what you did there.” I understand that, but sometimes in life you block things out. (Laughs) But to be here at GH, and have such a supportive producing team, and talented writers who understood Ava, and understood me, Maura, rather quickly, is a real gift. It’s magic.
GH head writer Ron Carlivati told me in our 2013 year-end interview that he knew of your work as Carly on As the World Turns, and said this in relation to casting you in the role of Ava: “Immediately when Frank mentioned Maura’s name, I was excited, because I knew she could pull it off, but I only knew her as ATWT’s Carly. Now to see what she has brought to the character of Ava, it has just been amazing.”
MAURA: Carly was an iconic role in the soap genre, and I loved Carly. But I really didn’t want to play Carly anymore. But I do love her, and I have Emmys on my shelf, and a lot of pride and memories from playing her. And so when I took this job, I said, “I am going to make something different.” And out came Ava, with her short skirts and her curly hair, and high heels, and lipsticks. Putting her together is a whole team thing from: Shawn, the costume designer, with the dresses, Ron Carlivati in the writing of her, Frank Valentini’s input, and my creativity to define: what is this woman?
The role of Ava Jerome in the hands of another actress could be played way over-the-top. You have taken this role and made it an art-form!
MAURA: I think if you are going to create a character, create the character, and go for it! That is what I was taught to do. I am an actor; I went to school to do this. I don’t want to play myself. I created something with the help of these talented people and here she is, and I love her. I am in love with her.
What did you think when they told you they were going to romantically pair you with the younger Bryan Craig (Morgan Corinthos)?
MAURA: Well, my boss came to me on the floor and said to me, “You two are going to be in bed in the next two weeks.” I think he wanted to see how I felt about it. Frank is a very respectful dude. And I said, “Well Frank, I am up for anything.” And I truly mean that. Bryan Craig is a great guy. He is a very mature young man. It’s actually a wonderful romance to me. I just said, “I’m game. I’ll play.” That’s what I am here to do. I am not here to be sedate. Bryan is very respectful during the love scenes. I am always very shy doing that kind of stuff, and always have been. I am a reserved woman in many ways. I am just a mom who sits at home and plays board games with her kids. And then you go and do this other stuff. But Bryan is a great scene partner. He is present and always prepared.
And, you also have the beloved Michael Easton (Silas) to play scenes with as a man with a torrid past with Ava on GH.
MAURA: It’s really funny. I have pictures on my wall that were made for me by my husband. There are various pictures inside a picture frame from my Emmy wins. In my first Emmy win, it was Tony Geary (Luke, GH) who presented it to me. And the second one was Michael Easton. So I had pictures on my wall of these men I had never met, and it was so cool. And when I met Tony, “hubba hubba” … I couldn’t even speak.
And your first scene on GH was with Tony!
MAURA: I know, and I was very scared. And if you ain’t nervous, you ain’t doing it right. I have such respect for Tony. He is probably the best in our genre, and he is fabulous. When I saw my script come in I was chewing my nails, but Tony was an absolute gentlemen and a lovely, lovely man.
What is Ava’s deal with Silas? It appears that she could be a murderess! You could see she could want some people dead to get what she wants.
MAURA: Well, have you actually seen her murder anyone? (Laughs) But, she absolutely loves Silas 100%.
Then, she would probably do anything to keep him … like putting his wife into a coma! (Laughs)
MAURA: Probably. (Laughs) You said it, I didn’t. But honestly, Frank doesn’t tell me anything. I ask him, and he won’t tell me. Nowadays, we only get our scenes, not the whole script. I think having the entire script is kind of important, so you know when other people are talking about your character, and the cuts where they may be talking about Ava, and then they cut to me. And without the entire script, I wouldn’t know that is necessarily happening.
I’ve got to go back in time for a second with you. I posted on the final airdate of As the World Turns, this wonderful interview you. I remember how bittersweet it was. I recall at the time that you alluded to how bad the budgets had become that production could only hire a few extras to round out group scenes or atmosphere. From your vantage point now, when you think of your time at ATWT, what comes to mind? And, what about getting Michael Park (Ex-Jack, ATWT) to General Hospital?
MAURA: Yeah, but we held our heads high there until the very end, and we all are still in touch. And as for Michael Park, that’s not for me to decide, but I certainly would love to see him here at GH. Michael would be a great mobster. People like Martha Byrne and the producers from ATWT, we all stay in touch. It’s nauseating but true, we are like a family. It’s like blood brothers who shared blood, sweat and tears. We are linked for life, all of us.
What’s it like working with your on-screen brother, William deVry (Julian)? Had you met him before he landed on GH?
MAURA: I had never met William before. But, what do you think I did? I You Tubed him. (Laughs)
How do the two of you get along on set? You have to play this sister/brother mobster rivalry.
MAURA: It’s a very funny dynamic we have with each other on set, because we play such adversarial characters. Sometimes, you get thrown off because he is really this other guy in real life, and I am woman who is not really this “bitch.” (Laughs)
The scenes between Ava and Julian often have the sense that the siblings have a one-upsmanship with each other.
MAURA: I don’t ever think about who has the power in the scene. If a scene is written that I am supposed to be affected, I will be affected. I serve the script.
Who got to the set of General Hospital first? You or William?
MAURA: I was on the show first, and then he showed up and got a dressing room with a window! How did that happen? (Laughs)
In other family news, what have you thought of your son Joe’s tremendous success being cast in NBC’s Sound of Music?
MAURA: Can I tell you, honestly? I wasn’t that surprised. In a way I was, because there were so many people auditioning for the part, but I have never met anyone who can sing like my son, Joe. Joe will be in an upcoming episode of The Crazy Ones where he does a song and dance number from Chicago.
Finally, are the Jeromes any closer to taking down Sonny (Maurice Benard)? Is anyone? (Laughs)
MAURA: Of course not! You can’t take down Sonny! No one is going to take him down … it’s General Hospital. (Laughs) But there are other ways to win the battles. And Ava, as a woman, can certainly exert some power.
So GH fans, do you think Maura’s portrayal of Ava Jerome is one of the knock-out performances in the soap genre today? What did you think about her sentiments in the interview?
Do you want to see Ava stay in a romantic relationship with Morgan … or somehow venture back with Silas, even after their relationship has been filled with seemingly treachery? Comment below!