She is one of the most respected actresses in the soap genre. She has made viewers laugh, cry, and at times want to throw something at their TV sets over the antics and schemes of Tracy Quartermaine. But it’s a mark of a fantastic actress to make us care for this type of soap character, and who exposes to us that underneath all of Tracy Q’s bravado, she is a very vulnerable and complex woman. That actress is Jane Elliot.
Right now on GH, Tracy seems to be the only one not getting sick by the poisonous toxin released in the Port Charles water supply by Jerry Jacks. What is up with that? And, what is up with Tracy’s love life? Are she and Luke (Tony Geary) a couple for all eternity? Or, will Anna (Finola Hughes) come between them for good?
Recently, On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Ms. Elliot for a “quickie” chat to get her thoughts on: the renewed interest from ABC on the now lone ABC soap, the shows latest executive producer Frank Valentini, what she thinks of Anna, or even Heather vying for the love of Luke, and why she and Tony Geary are pure magic on-screen. Here’s what the incomparable Jane had to say!
GH is moving into its new time slot on September 10th along with a sense of the ABC network firmly behind them. Did you think a year ago that this iconic soap’s ship may sink?
JANE: I never believed the ship was going to sink. I never believed it was going to happen because it would be stupid to wipe out the entire ABC soap opera lineup at the same time. And, NBC still has a show on the air, and CBS still has two shows on the air, and I just never saw it. I always felt General Hospital would be the last soap standing.
How has executive producer Frank Valentini been to work with? He came into a situation with an edict to save this show, inherited many issues that needed to be tweaked, and is by all accounts doing a phenomenal job!
JANE: Frank and I have known each other for 18 years. I observed and shadowed him and two other line producers at One Life to Live, before I went to produce Loving. I spent a couple of months at One Life to Live; five days a week morning till night shadowing him. We maintained a friendship all through these years and I adore him. I adored him then and I adored him the 18 years we communicated. So for me, it was like coming home. I know he is incredibly bright and incredibly smart. He has a really broad stroke and he takes in more information in 30 seconds than almost anybody I know. Frank sees what is going on behind him, next to him, in front of him, as well as having his own inner dialog going on about what is going on, what he wants to fix, and what he wants to change. I love people like that. People like that I find energizing. For me, it’s a thrill. I love working with an executive producer who comes in before everybody arrives and leaves after everybody leaves.
Being one of the most beloved veterans of General Hospital, do you feel the show has a good shot at making it past its 50th Anniversary?
JANE: It’s good business. It’s a good show. Everyone in the cast is energized and excited about what’s ahead. What could you possibly get to replace it that has such a loyal audience and incredible talent?
Your pal and on-screen acting partner Tony Geary gave you quite the compliment and acknowledgement during his acceptance speech for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series at this year’s Daytime Emmys. What was your reaction when you heard what he had said? Did you shed a tear?
JANE: You know what? I did not know! They pulled the date of the Daytime Emmy Awards show at the last minute, and we knew that we had two dark weeks at GH, and I had a plane ticket for a vacation. I was on the top of a mountain on the Anderson Valley and they didn’t have cable television. But I texted someone, “Did Tony win, yet?” And she texted me back, “Not Yet. The show hasn’t even started yet.” And I said, “Just kidding!” And then five minutes later she texted me back, “He just won!” And I go, “You’re lying!” And the reason I said that was because it was at the top of the show and the timing didn’t make any sense! And she goes, “No. No. He just won! He just thanked you!” So later on I got to watch his acceptance speech and it was so sweet!
How do you like that Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) is seriously in the mix for Luke’s affections? And Heather (Robin Mattson) was for awhile too!
JANE: Anytime I get to work with Robin Mattson and Finola Hughes I am thrilled. I love these women. We all have such a long history with each other. Robin and I started on General Hospital together back in the 70’s and Finola in the 80’s. Finola and I both have personal things we share. We both have biological children and adoptive children. At one point, we talked about writing a book together on the subject and the difference, but there is none. It’s everything we have lived life off-camera together informs what we do on camera. And you know what? The truth is … it is a child’s game grown up. It’s called “Let’s Pretend”. And the better you are at pretending, the better the work is. We call it “the work” now, because we are grown-up and getting paid for it. But it is just “Let’s Pretend”, and they are fabulous at playing that game. And, I would play with them over anybody!
Why do you think it works so well on-screen with you and Tony Geary?
JANE: Again, it’s that trust at being best friends. There is no pretense about it. We both know it’s a game, but we are grown-ups and the trust that we have with each other comes from the fact that we have the same sensibility of what the work is. We never take ourselves too seriously. And we are always grateful and consider ourselves blessed that we are like minded. You know, you get a lot of acting partners and everybody works differently, and everybody has a lot of different sensibilities and attitudes and focus about what they are doing. Tony and I have the same. We are grateful we get to do this, but we also both live another life. He has another life. I have another life. And this is just part of our life and we give it our all when we are there, and then we leave it behind.
Do you miss having all the Quartermaines around?
JANE: I do, I do. But thank God, I have Robin and Finola!
And speaking of the Quartermaines, look for the return of Edward Quartermaine played by John Ingle who has been away from the General Hospital due to illness, next week in a poignant scene which involves Emma and Patrick … and Tracy! In the latest issue of Soap Opera Digest, Frank Valentini teases, “I’m excited for the audience to see Edward. I love John and everybody here loves John. He is sort of the godfather of the whole show. He has this really amazing scene with Tracy, Patrick and Emma. I challenge anybody to not cry during those scenes because we sure did. Wait until you see it. I am not exaggerating. We we’re crying on set. I had to catch my breath and yell, ‘Cut’. It’s huge.”
So soapers, what do you think of Jane’s comments on the future of GH, working with Tony Geary, Finola Hughes, and Robin Mattson? And, what do you think the emotional scene will be about next week involving Tracy and Edward? Weigh-in!