How do you say goodbye? That was the situation Bobbie Spencer (Jackie Zeman) was in on Friday’s episode of General Hospital when her big brother Luke (Tony Geary) gave her the news that he was going to leave Port Charles immediately to find himself, after coming to terms with his childhood past. And that was also mirroring the real-life situation for Jackie Zeman and Tony Geary, who shared their final scenes together, since Geary has retired from the series to go live in Amsterdam and work overseas. It was an emotional TV moment that had many a viewers weeping from coast to coast. For it was Luke, always protecting his younger sister Bobbie that was a cornerstone of the Spencer family relationships. While over the years stories shifted away from Luke and Bobbie scheming together, and they each became involved with other characters, the love that these two have for each other has been undying and unwavering. When Bobbie and Luke came back together on-screen, you always felt the brother/sister bond.
On-Air On-Soaps spoke to Jackie Zeman to get her thoughts on what went on behind-the-scenes as she filmed her final moments and said farewell to Bobbie and Luke, and for now to her good friend, longtime scene partner and eight-time Daytime Emmy winner Tony Geary. Zeman, who has so much history with GH, shared many stories and sentiments about her time with her on-screen big brother. Jackie also weighs-in on the seismic shift to come in Port Charles, as not only will the show be without the iconic Luke Spencer on the canvas, but the new head writing regime that is set to take over the lives of the characters and storylines on the long running ABC soap opera. In a heartfelt, enlightening, and must-read interview, here’s what Jackie had to say about: moving on, new beginnings, and those hankie-filled soap opera “arrivedercis”!
Friday’s episode with Luke and Bobbie saying their goodbyes, I am sure meant so much to long time fans of General Hospital. It was so incredibly touching, and I am sure also for anyone who has a big brother/little sister relationship in their lives, or vice versa, it meant even more!
JACKIE: I was very pleased when I read the scripts, because you could tell that they just took time with them. They were so beautifully written. They gave it a throughline throughout the show that it gave substance that we spent enough time together as brother and sister, and that it wasn’t a two-minute scene shoved in and done, and moving on. There was some depth and sentimentality put into it, because when you stop to think about saying goodbye to someone in real life that you are so attached to, and so emotionally committed to, and has given such allegiance to with your heart, soul and body to for so many years, that deserves a few minutes of goodbye. I was glad they gave that to us on the show, and that they didn’t cut any of it before it made it to air. I can say; that everything we shot they put on the air, which is really nice.
GH included a flashback that gave the moment even more of an emotional impact. When you watched back your final scenes, did you get choked-up, like so many of the viewers did?
JACKIE: Normally. I don’t watch the air shows. However, Kin Shriner (Scott) did watch the episode, and we were texting back and forth that day, and also with Lynn Herring (Lucy). Kin texted: “Watch today’s air show! Your scenes were really good with Tony Geary.” So I did push record on my TV and totally forgot about it, but I did go back and look at it. It was emotional for me when I watched them. These scenes with Luke and Bobbie resonated, and it made it very real to me. You know, the sub-conscious doesn’t differentiate when you are an actor to what you are doing in real life, or what you are doing in a scene. It’s all real in your heart, spirit, and soul.
When you realized looking at this man, Tony Geary, who you have spent decades with on the show, that your time together was for all intent and purposes done together on GH, what went through your mind?
JACKIE: Tony was on for 37, and I have been on 38 years, and that is a lot of history and people always use the word “crossover”. There is a heck of a lot of crossover when you are breathing someone’s air, and emotionally connected in those kinds of scenes. Tony Geary is like the big brother to me that I have always wanted, but never had. Tony would come to see my kids, Cassidy and Lacey, and went to their birthday parties. We all went to Amsterdam 15 years ago to visit Tony when he first got his really nice place there. Tony was so fabulous, and he welcomed Cassidy and Lacey. We have memories not only on-set as Bobbie and Luke, but as Tony and Jackie, as well. They are all enmeshed together. It’s the same heart space.
During the last scene, Bobbie needed to be OK with Luke leaving Port Charles. Luke related that everyone was in a good place in the family, so now was the perfect time to make his exit. For Bobbie, that meant life without Luke in her immediate orbit. How was it for you immediately after you finished your final scenes with Tony?
JACKIE: It was the last scene of the night – and it was like 10:30PM when we shot those and the crew was starving – and so they had a pizza break. We had already shot our first two scenes together, and that was like at 8:30PM. They were pushing a meal penalty, and the director came over and said, “OK. We’re going to break for pizza. Do you guys want to grab a piece of pizza. … or do you want to continue blocking your scenes?” We wanted to continue blocking, because you can’t go eat a piece of pizza on a 15 minute meal break – get the pizza out of your teeth, go the bathroom, brush your teeth and then get right back into those emotional scenes. It’s impossible! So, we said we will just push through, and those kinds of scenes you get them in the first take, because they are so emotional. The blocking was right, the direction was great, the writing was great and everybody was on their game, and it was kind of bittersweet. I just remember thinking, “This is it. We’re done.” But, it wasn’t a sad feeling, but more bittersweet where you want to hang on by your fingernails, because of what you are used to, and what you are comfortable with. It’s the same feeling when your kids go off to college and they are going to leave, or the first time your kid drives after they get their drivers license and you see them driving off to wherever they are going that night. Your heart is like: “Oh, my God. I am just stepping into a new chapter, and I am not sure I am ready to leave the old one. I kind of like the old one.” But life is about jumping off the cliff, and getting ready to fly. You can’t hang on the past. You can’t hang on to what has been good. You gotta put one foot in front of the other with your heart, and greet what ever the next chapter is. So from that respect, I was happy for Tony. He had a great run as Luke. I have had a great run as Bobbie. We both shared a lot of sentimental moments on-camera, as well as off-camera. The friendship will never go away. He has invited me to come to Amsterdam to stay in his house. I will take him up on that offer … why would I not? (Laughs) I love Amsterdam. So, it’s all good. It’s kind of exciting for what’s next for Tony personally in Amsterdam, and what’s next for GH for the story.
New incoming GH head writers; Shelly Altman and Jean Passanante will be writing stories for GH without the central character of Luke. How do you see that changing the canvas of the show?
JACKIE: It’s a big challenge for our new writers that are coming in to say, “OK, what do we do?” There is this hole in the show where the Luke character was for so many years, and because so many of us have been attached to the Luke character. I am sure they are thinking, “What do we do with them?” But you never say, never. Luke and Tony could always come back!
The 52nd Anniversary episode of General Hospital was so important, as now it sort of brings things full circle in order for Luke to leave the canvas, and it shed light on the horrific back-story of his childhood. I remember how a little Bobbie was in the scenes of the recounting of the story, and how her siblings, Patricia and Luke, would protect her, just as big Luke always did. What did you think of that episode?
JACKIE: I thought the writers did a great job on that. Personally, I am one of those sentimental marshmallow people that has a big heart that likes to see the family stuff. I like character driven storylines. That is what emotionally works for me about soap operas, so I loved it! I thought it was beautifully written, and beautifully executed. That was soap opera storytelling at its finest. I thought Dee Wallace was amazing as Patricia Spencer. The only thing that if I could change, and it’s not a criticism, is that I would have liked to have her on GH a little longer. I wished they had stretched it out a little more. I felt that when the character passed right there in front of our very eyes, I wished we had time to deal with the grief, shock, or the devastation of what that’s like to finally find a family member … and then lose a family member.
Luke came to Port Charles some 37 years ago to help his sister Bobbie get Scott Baldwin away from Laura … and all to herself! What do you recall about meeting Tony for the first time, and upon hearing he would be coming to GH to play your on-screen brother?
JACKIE: I was excited! I was living in Beverly Hills, and I was driving to work down the hill of Coldwater Canyon to go to the studio, and a rock hits my windshield. It sounded like a gunshot! So there is a hole now in my corvette, which I had at the time. I then had a flash before my eyes. It’s a flashback of a past life in France, except that Tony is a woman and I am a man. It’s 100 years ago, and we are getting on stage and in the scene he gets shot, but I am assuming it was an acting scene where he gets shot and not real. It was the weirdest thing! And just the night before, I had been in my bedroom in Beverly Hills and this Indian appears as I am meditating and said, “Tony”. So I knew he meant Tony Geary. I then remember going into work and thinking, “Oh, God. I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink, and I never even smoked pot. Tony is going to think I am off my rocker, but I have to tell him about this.” I am such a boring person when it comes to things like that. I am not a party girl at all. So I go, “Tony, an Indian came into my room at night and said ‘Tony’ (Laughs). And I don’t know why, but I know he meant you.” (Laughs) Tony responds, “Oh, yeah. I have a spiritual guide that’s Indian, so thank you, I will check in with him.” I continue on and go, “I know this is going to sound really weird, and I swear I don’t take drugs, but I was driving this morning and a rock hit my car. Come with me to the parking lot.” So, I take Tony to the parking lot and I show him the front of my corvette with what looks like a bullet hole on it. And I say, “So it sounded like a gunshot when it hit, and what I saw was you were a woman and I was a man. We were on a stage in France and we were speaking French.” And Tony looks at me and goes: “Oh! I was doing some past life regression last night with a therapist, which was about the life that I had in France many, many hundreds of years ago.” So, he and I have had connections in different lifetimes! And, probably this won’t be the last. (Laughs)
You obviously knew you had something very special and rare on daytime TV going on when Tony came to the show, and shortly there after, as GH’s popularity soared.
JACKIE: I knew we had a connection. I knew it was working, and I knew the relationship we had the writers loved. Gloria Monty (former GH Executive Producer) gave us time to develop it. Of course, we were young people back then carrying the storyline along with Kin Shriner and Genie Francis (Laura). It was just one of those things, and you couldn’t repeat it, and it wasn’t formula. It was the first time for a lot of things for all of us. We were blessed. We were all young, GH was on the upswing, and we were flying by the seat of our pants, but it was really, really fun!
So, do you think Bobbie will be OK without Luke … or, will she miss him terribly?
JACKIE: I think she will be OK. It was interesting the way they wrote those goodbye scenes. I am glad they didn’t write it where she goes, “Oh, poor me. I can’t lose you.” He goes, “Well, it’s the right time.” And Bobbie goes, “Well, it may be the right time for you, but it’s not for me.” But then she thought for a second and was like, ‘Well, that’s not right. He made a decision. Back off! It’s not about you, it’s about him.’ Bobbie (in her earth-mother, paternal, wanting to take care of everyone else) put herself last. She has always been a giver not a taker. I like that they kept her that way in these scenes. Luke always took care of Bobbie, and Bobbie took care of Luke, but Luke always took care of Bobbie as a brother, and as a provider … but at his convenience … like if he was in town he was there, and if he was out of town, it was out of sight out of mind. Bobbie was always OK with that. That is why every man Bobbie has had a relationship with she had to compare him to Luke. So when Luke mentioned, “You and Baldwin! I don’t know what it is between the two of you.” I wish Bobbie could have said, “You guys are so much alike! Hello!” I am sure neither one of the actors would want to admit that in their characters. But c’mon, Luke and Scott both like to have their way. They’re both charming, they’re both handsome, they’re both adventure guys, and they both fly-by-the-seat of their pants, stand by their families, and are good dads. They would not want to be called “romantic heroes”, but they are, and especially to women who find that attractive. They are so much alike. (Laughs)
There are big changes ahead. What do you think of the head-writing change with Shelly Altman and Jean Passananate coming in to take the reins from Ron Carlivati?
JACKIE: It will be interesting now to see what the new writers will do, as these are two wonderful women. I’m excited to see what they have in store. It will be interesting to see how having two women write the show now, as opposed to having a man write the show, what kind of shifts there will be in regards to storylines and storytelling. I am one who always thinks you’ve got to keep it fresh and new. It will be a new adventure.
You tweeted to Ron Carlivati, shortly after news spread that he was being replaced in his role as head writer of the series, basically wishing him all the best, and as a nod and a thank you.
JACKIE: I wanted to! Ron brought Bobbie back onto the show, when all she was doing was reacting to what was going on with Luke previously. I was under contract to ABC for decades, and then I wasn’t. But I have Ron to thank for changing that, for bringing the character back. I think he wrote some crazy, funny, off the wall storylines, and he kept the show on the air… hello?
What did you think of the final scenes between Jackie Zeman and Tony Geary as Bobbie and Luke said goodbye? Jackie’s comments on taping the moments, the last scene scripts, and some intriguing tidbits about her relationship on-screen and off with Tony? Will you miss the relationship between big brother and little sister in Port Charles? Plus, what did you think of Jackie’s thoughts on the writing regime change at GH, and her nod to exiting head writer Ron Carlivati? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, but first, grab the hankies and watch Luke and Bobbie’s farewell below!