Last week, On-Air On-Soaps brought you part one of our latest interview with General Hospital’s head writer, Ron Carlivati!
While that part of our chat focused on the writing of the stories and the performances surrounding the Nurses Ball 2014, this second part focuses in on some of the current storylines, characters, and controversies that are stirring up the Port Charles canvas and the GH viewers at home!
Among the hot topics in Port Charles: Just who is this evil Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) anyway? Are Patrick (Jason Thompson) and Sabrina (Teresa Castillo) over for good? Has Sonny (Maurice Benard) gone too far? How will the entrance of Michelle Stafford as Nina Clay shake up the already star-studded line-up on the canvas? Will Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) finally get a mobster to choose her over a life of crime? Will Maxie (Kirsten Storms) find true love with Nathan (Ryan Paevey)? And that is just for starters!
In addition, after General Hospital was shut out in the Outstanding Drama Series, Directing, and Writing categories for this year’s 41st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, Ron offers up his thoughts on the triple omission. So now, here is the rest of our candid conversation with Mr. C!
I read in a recent interview you gave that you are following what the fans are saying about their guesses of who this crime/drug lord Luke (Anthony Geary) really is. Right now, the viewers are maddened and they want to get to the bottom line of who this guy really is! They are screaming, “Enough is enough! Is he Luke … or an imposter?”
RON: It’s obviously driving people mad. Look, part of soaps is being frustrated and thinking, “When am I going to find out the reason he is behaving this way?” And you walk that line as the writers of, “OK, when do we have to give that away?” The payoff is coming very, very, very, soon. You will be getting a very big insight into why Luke is behaving this way within the next two weeks on the air.
You have now added powerhouse and Daytime Emmy winner Michelle Stafford to the cast as Nina Clay, and you already had added Maura West (Ava), another powerhouse Daytime Emmy winner to the canvas. What are you going to do with these actresses, not to mention the other incredibly talented heavy hitters in your line-up of women, in terms of story time and visibility on the show?
RON: It is an embarrassment of riches, and how do you juggle all this? It is a line that you walk. People will say, “Well, why am I seeing this person, instead of this person?” Monica (Leslie Charleson) cannot be Silas wife, for example. (Laughs) The characters are there for a specific reason. When we add somebody new, it’s not just for the sake of adding somebody new. It is because we need them to tell the story that we are telling.
Michelle Stafford recently commented in her interview with Soap Opera Digest that she did not want her, or the character of Nina, to be rammed down the throat of the GH audience right off the bat, because then people could potentially resent that. How are you strategizing having her on the canvas?
RON: You want her to come in and make an impact and a splash, but you don’t want GH to become “The Nina Show.” We are finding that balance. I am thrilled to have Michelle and I have known her reputation. I have seen her at soap events and have seen some of her work, but I was not a regular watcher of The Young and the Restless. I would see her Emmy tapes, and I watched her web series, The Stafford Project which was so hilarious. I am excited to see more when she starts airing. Frank Valentini (executive producer, GH) told me he directed her first day on the set … other than the one day where we snuck her in to tape the one moment on the show. And after he directed her first scenes, everybody was just saying, “Oh my God! You can’t take your eyes off of her.” So, I am excited to see it play out.
Sonny (Maurice Benard) has been on one of the darkest roads we have seen him travel in many years of late. The “crypt sex” scene where Ava and Sonny did the deed in the Quartermaine mausoleum following AJ’s funeral was somewhat controversial and upsetting to some viewers. Was there any hesitation to go there?
RON: There wasn’t that much hesitance. We knew we wanted Sonny and Ava to sleep together. We were trying to figure out … how can we not? And how can we make that happen? I mean, that woman killed Connie! Sonny obviously does not know that. From the moment we started to link them together it became apparent. It started back when Ava was trying to coerce him to stop taking his meds. Those scenes were before the blowout at the wedding reception of Morgan (Bryan Craig) and Kiki’s (Kristen Alderson). You could see there was something great there, and we wanted to capitalize on it. So we locked them in a bond against their will, and Sonny shot AJ. We used that as a way to bond these two knowing that our goal was to have them have sex. When we were laying the story out, there was a moment of, “There’s no way we can have them have sex on top of AJ’s grave is there? (Laughs)” That is what soaps are about … those moments of, “Oh, my God! They didn’t!”
Did Maurice Benard come to you and Frank Valentini about wanting to have a very dark twisted story for Sonny such as this? He cheated on Olivia (Lisa LoCicero), slept with Ava, murdered AJ, etc, etc.
RON: Maurice has been so open with everything I have wanted to do with the character of Sonny. We have seen other sides of Sonny in the past couple of years. I think he is able to go to those dark places, and Sonny can scare you! We decided to see how far we can take him knowing that the payoff is coming down the line. What is going to happen, if and when, Sonny finds out Ava killed Connie? And then not only did he sleep with this woman … he helped protect this woman. He murdered AJ (Sean Kanan) then for no reason, and down the line … what is this all going to do with Sonny’s relationship with Michael (Chad Duell)? Down the line this story has such giant stakes, and that is the kind of story you want to have with a character such as Sonny.
What are your plans for Patrick (Jason Thompson)? People have been asking what are you going to do with the character now that Robin (Kimberly McCullough) is off the canvas? Will he have a brand new story of his own in the near future?
RON: Yeah, we are getting there. We took a big step recently as to where Patrick goes and that is such a challenge, because obviously it was a thrill to bring back Robin. But because we knew it would not be permanent, we knew down the road, and as soon as Kimberly left we have that problem of, “Now what?” We had that also when Robin “died”. Is Patrick dark? Is he a drug addict? You can’t be just like, “OK! Now he is in love with somebody else,” and then throw him into a romance in one second. We knew we had that problem. So you weigh the pros and cons and say, “Robin’s return is worth having that problem on the back end.” We are letting the story now tell itself. We had to play out the story of Patrick’s baby, and that gave of us somewhere to go that wasn’t a new love story. It was something logical for Patrick to be involved with when Robin left. We have this baby crisis and then when that crisis is resolved, we now came up with a new arc we are sending Patrick on, and it kind of grows out of the baby story.
Previously, many fans have expressed that the character of Sabrina (Teresa Castillo) was shoved down their throats, and many did not want her romantically with Patrick, and now Teresa is going on maternity leave in real life. Did any of those factors inform you and the writing team as to what the future holds for Patrick and Sabrina as a couple?
RON: Well, as you can see that is not what we are really doing. People think I exited Robin, so I could put Patrick and Sabrina together. I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s irrational. These are two people who care about one another and almost got married, but what we are now playing is that these are the parents of this baby. We are not playing the Patrick and Sabrina love story. This is a story about these two weathering a crisis right now. It’s not like that now Robin’s gone, we can put these two back together.
As for Carly (Laura Wright) and Franco (Roger Howarth), are you still invested in these two to be the romantic end game for each other? That pairing always seems to stir up some controversy, too!
RON: It has been controversial to put Carly with Franco. I like that people have strong opinions, but I can share that our last focus group showed that people loved Carly and Franco. Sometimes what you see online does not represent the entire audience. We got a very positive response on our last round of research for this couple, which is comprised of many, many things, not just ten people in a room. It is a real cross-section of our audience and there are things to be learned from the research.
We have talked in the past about Maura West being a revelation in her role as Ava Jerome. Do her performances inform you as to what you may do with Ava next?
RON: What her performance tells me is that Maura is capable of doing anything, and so we don’t have to be afraid, but of course as a writer you are scared when you take a character down the line of taking certain actions. The response is then, “Oh! They just threw this person under the bus. Oh! They have just written this character into a corner and now they must die next week!” The challenge is; if she does this, how can she survive it? Rather than thinking, “Now we have written her into a corner and we have to write her off the show!” Granted that sometimes happens in soaps, but Maura’s performance is so rich. She brings such heart and humanity to her performances that you do not necessarily understand what she is doing, but in a way you feel for her, or root for her in a strange way, despite the fact that she is doing horrendously horrible things. So of course, it pushes you harder as a writer, because it is worth keeping her around. The thing is … once you have made a character so bad and unbelievable it can turn into a “Who killed So-and-So!” Then, there is no saving them. I am sure you can cite tons of examples of characters on soaps who have been on for years and years, and have done as bad, or worst, than Ava.
Maxie (Kirsten Storms) came back to town, and you have Nathan (Ryan Paevey) primed to be the new man in her life, other than Levi (Zachary Garred), I should say. (Laughs)
RON: I think you could see the connection between Maxie and Nathan right away, and you saw it when she walked into the Nurses Ball. These two may be arguing, bickering, or sparring, but you can see there is a spark there which was our intention when we crossed bringing Nathan on the canvas, while we had one day left with Kirsten before her maternity leave. It was our New Years Eve show, and the scene was at Maxie’s apartment. We crossed these two then, and then we had to wait a few months to cross them again. The idea was always to pair these two characters in some way. So we had her return with her guru Levi who is another polarizing character! (Laughs)
Fans were immediately taken aback by Levi! I think he was being attacked even before he opened his mouth! (Laughs) And then several fans were saying bring Spinelli (Bradford Anderson) back!
RON: I know! And everyone loved Spinelli (Bradford Anderson) from the first five minutes he appeared on the show? Levi is here as part of a story and the character is here to tell a story. Maxie is such a fun character. We put her through the ringer before she left, and to have her come back saying she has found herself. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the views she comes back with, it’s just that she is throwing herself at it whole-heartedly with a guy she does not know well. I think she was so desperate to show somebody that she changed that she was going to latch onto the first thing that came along, and that was Levi. So we are really contrasting these two guys; Levi is this hippy-dippy free-thinking guy, and Nathan is a more hard-nosed, buttoned-down, practical guy. We kind of pitted these two guys against each other with Maxie in the middle! I mean, I would be happy for people to root for Levi and Maxie (Laughs) But … you can see. Draw your own conclusions when you see how this all play out.
Last week, the earth moved for all of us when Julexis finally had sex! They even were trending on Twitter! Got to hand it to Alexis (Nancy Lee Grahn) … she still keeps picking men immersed in the mob, even though she dumps them for being in it! Go figure!
RON: Oh, my God! It was trending on Twitter for like an hour! This woman is this really smart, capable attorney and she goes for Sonny, Jerry Jax (Sebastian Roche), Shawn (Sean Blakemore), and now Julian (William deVry), and with Jax (Ingo Rademacher) and Ned (Wally Kurth) in there too. Bad boys do seem to be her weakness. We saw from day one that Julian and Alexis shared a child in Sam (Kelly Monaco), and what there is between these two, and what is the most logical love story to tell. Alexis fought and gave in because Julian is compelling and sexy, and there is that connection to Sam and their grandchild. They definitely are a hot couple. The trick is now: how does the mob fit into all of this? Yes, Alexis fought this and she broke up with Shawn over the mob, and if she is going to stay with Julian, can he stay in the mob? Or, can he get out? We now know he reports to Luke and he is not in control. It is not like Sonny, who could theoretically walk away from the mob, although I don’t really think Sonny could just walk away. Julian does not necessarily have a choice to get of the mob, but now he has more to live for than he did when he came to town. Back then, he was Derek Wells and didn’t have anything. Now he is Julian Jerome and he has Lucas (Ryan Carnes), Sam, Danny and Alexis. Now he has something to live and fight for! Does he want to do that in the mob …or … does he want to stand on his own two feet outside of that?
Finally, I want to address General Hospital’s Daytime Emmy snubs in the Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing categories. I can’t even remember the last time GH was not in the running! Some are theorizing that the reason GH did not make the cut in the Drama Series category is because one of the two series submissions was from last year’s Nurses Ball. Overall, you must have been disappointed in that it would have been great way to cap off the series 50th anniversary season which was during the eligibility period. In the writing category it comes down to submitting one episode … so what did you go with? And now looking back, do you think you would’ve submitted a different episode?
RON: For writing, we submitted the day after Robin had been seen at Patrick and Sabrina’s wedding. You got to see Emma (Brooklyn Rae Silzer) still run down the church to see her mother standing there, and Robin and Patrick’s reunion, and Duke (Ian Buchanan) and Anna (Finola Hughes) had scenes, and Luke was on the roof with Jerry Jacks, and that kind of material. But my feeling is: it is a very capable and worthy episode that is just as worthy of a nomination as any of the other shows that I saw. I am not saying that General Hospital should win, but I do think there is something strange there. I don’t think any subjective person could watch these show and go, “These shows are worthy of a nomination and this one is not.” It shows me that something does not add up. I am not accusing anyone of anything; but it just seems either there is something wrong with that system, or there is something unfair going on behind-the-scenes. You can argue whether the episode we chose was the best one to submit for the whole year, but certainly it was just as good as the others that I saw. I would say that about the Directing category and I would say that about the Drama Series category, and Writing. To me, it’s not about awards … that’s not what it’s about for us. We have fun writing the show. I want the show to stay on the air. But it would have been good for morale of the show and everyone who works there. It is disappointing.
So, what do you think Ron’s comments on the reveal of Luke? What’s next for Patrick? Maxie’s love life? Carly and Franco … and Julexis? Are you looking forward to seeing Michelle Stafford as Nina Clay mix it up on the canvas? What do you think about GH’s Daytime Emmy writing snub? Weigh-in below!