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80 July 7th, 2014 GH’s Kathleen Gati and Ron Carlivati Interview – The Mutter and the Head Writer On The Making Of Dr. O!

Courtesy/ABC/Steven Bergman

While On-Air On-Soaps was busy working on our special Daytime Emmy coverage and features over the last several weeks, Jeff Giles, the author of Llanview in the Afternoon: An Oral History of One Life to Live, reached out to us with a story idea, that he wanted to chat with none other than General Hospital head writer, Ron Carlivati and GH cast member, Kathleen Gati (Dr. Liesl Obrecht) on how they have together created one of the most fascinating characters in Port Charles for a special feature exclusively for On-Air On-Soaps!  So without further ad0, we bring you …

The Mutter and the Head Writer

by Jeff Giles

Every soap fan loves a grand entrance — like, say, the kind you see when someone’s long-lost, presumed-dead wife rolls into a two-year-old’s birthday party in a wheelchair — but daytime also boasts a long tradition of characters who come on slowly, turning what are initially meant to be minor temporary roles into integral components of a show’s canvas. On General Hospital, that’s a tradition that now includes the delightfully evil Dr. Liesl Obrecht (Kathleen Gati), who’s gone from being Cesar Faison’s second banana to taking over as GH’s chief of staff in less than two years — much to the delight of viewers who have come to love her zest for mayhem.

And the viewers clearly aren’t alone: GH head writer Ron Carlivati has surrounded Dr. Obrecht with dozens of tantalizing story possibilities, from her position at the head of the hospital to an expanding brood that now includes a daughter (the occasionally unscrupulous Dr. Britt Westbourne, played by Kelly Thiebaud) and a son (the upstanding — but perhaps genetically cursed — Detective Nathan West, played by Ryan Paevey), and even a sinister sister in Madeline, played by none other than Donna Mills!  After Obrecht crashed GH’s 2014 Nurses’ Ball with an amazing rendition of the Cabaret number ‘Willkommen,’ we knew we needed to speak with Mr. Carlivati and the marvelous Ms. Gati about their creation’s emergence, and couldn’t rest until we got them both on the phone. Grab ze clamps, Schatzi: this is one joint interview you don’t want to miss!

Obrecht was in the grand tradition of soap characters who began as what seemed to be bit players, but grew to assume really integral, importance on the canvas. General Hospital has a pretty rich history of characters like this, Luke Spencer (Tony Geary) and Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers) are just a few examples.   It’s been a thrill to watch Obrecht evolve this way.  How did this all happen?

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KATHLEEN: It was a two-day job, initially. I was the Swiss-German psychiatrist head of this hospital. Actually, Ron can probably tell you the details exactly what the first couple things were — his memory is better than mine!

RON: I think the way it began was when I believe Anna Devane (Finola Hughes) was following up this lead on a case with Heather Webber (Robin Mattson) and said to her, “I saw Robin.”  That was at the mental hospital. Anna was following this lead and then we didn’t know what happened to her. I think what happened was when he finally found her she was in a straightjacket in this place, but she was actually faking it. She had gotten herself committed.

KATHLEEN: Then Luke (Tony Geary) shows up playing his favorite character, Von Schemerman. “I am Dr. Von Schemerman.” That was hysterical.

RON: … Right, acting like this doctor, and he was trying to find her. Essentially, we just needed a character for him to interact with. That was the director of this place, and that was Dr. Obrecht.  Like you said, that probably was a one or two-day role, because it was to facilitate Luke finding Anna, getting to the next step in their little relationship, and her letting go of this idea that Robin (Kimberly McCullough) had been there. It wasn’t until we really brought Cesar Faison (Anders Hove) on in the guise of Duke (Ian Buchanan) that we needed a talk-to for Faison at that point, and so it made sense to use the person from the clinic. Because Kathleen had been such a good actress, we were like, “Why don’t we use her and she can be the talk to for Duke/Faison?” Then we just started writing her a little bit, and it just evolved that she clearly had this crush on him, like this loyal servant. The more that we got into that, the more it seemed like, “Well, what is that back story?”  At that time, Britt was growing as a character on the canvas, and that’s when this idea started to percolate where I thought, “What if” — and again, it’s a tribute to Kathleen, because we probably would never have done it if we hadn’t had such good actors, but she played that obsession with Faison so convincingly that I thought, “What if they had had a relationship at some point and she was Britt’s mother?” That’s essentially how it started.

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I’m glad you touched on Kathleen’s performance fueling Obrecht’s back-story, because as a viewer, it definitely seemed like the character’s evolution had as much to do with her as an actress … as it did to do with the concept of the character.

RON:  Yeah, because you start to realize what this person is capable of doing and that they could handle more material. I think honestly, once the idea occurred to us, it just seemed like, “How can she not be her mother?” They even look alike. I completely buy that they’re mother and daughter. Also, it served our story because it makes Britt sympathetic; Britt had been so horrible you needed to get into understanding why, and so we thought, “Well, because she had a mother from hell who didn’t love her. She didn’t love her because she didn’t get her Faison.” Then it just really grew from there.

It almost seemed like the writers were playing with a new toy. “What if we put her here? Can she do this? What if …?”

RON: Right. Then it’s just like you said, it just started to evolve, and when we had her sing karaoke with the wig on in the middle of the Floating Rib, now we’re like, “OK, now we know she can sing,” and the next thing we know, she’s singing from a jail cell on Christmas. I’m always fascinated by these characters that are so bad, but still have a human side.  We like to have our fun and play comedy, but to me at the Nurses’ Ball when we saw her in the room dancing, it took this person who was just seemingly this cruel, horrible woman, and you saw a human side. Yes, it was meant to be funny, but it was also meant to show humanity in her. Then that really grew, and I think that she does love her daughter in her own twisted way. We saw that grow and grow and evolve as the character grew.

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Even as you have both given this character all these layers of humanity and turned her into this classic soap character that does the wrong things for the right reasons, you’ve done it without giving her a real redemption arc, That’s a really tough trick to pull off.  What was the process of adding those extra shades to Obrecht? On screen, it evolved impressively slowly and subtly.

RON:  For us as the writers, when you’ve got a great villain, you don’t want to completely redeem them or you don’t necessarily want to turn them into a good guy, but I think the trick is to make the audience feel something for them. That’s what we tried to do with Ava Jerome (Maura West), and how we did it with Obrecht was to show how truly she loved Faison, and that she was so hurt by it. When he wanted her to put on a mask and be Anna Devane in bed — as over the top as that situation was, it was to me, unbelievably heartbreaking because Kathleen played it not just angry, but very, very hurt.

KATHLEEN:  That was the turning point for me — and absolutely for the character. That was her turning point. I think that moment changed many things for her: the depth of the pain, how much she would take from Faison. She had taken so much and those lines that Ron and the writing team wrote, were just awesome.  As an actor and as a woman, and as a person on television influencing millions of people, what we say and what we do is so important. Yes, it’s a soap opera. Yes, it’s fiction. However, a lot of people take this seriously, and I think it’s still important to parlay that.  Yes, you don’t go out killing people and putting Propofol in their champagne, but to have some strength — even if you are the worst criminal in the world, you still have a backbone, and you still have depth and you still have some heart, and there is still only so much you will take. I love that.  That was such a huge gift that Ron gave me because it was a chance to give Obrecht a chance to redeem herself in the audience’s eyes and have them say, “Wow, she’s not going to put up with it.” I still get messages every single day: “Don’t you dare put up with that from him. Stop Faison!”  People are so captivated by that whole story. I think they feel for the character.  That was really a big turning point.

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RON: That was when she went from being entertaining or just someone you loved to hate to somebody that you actually felt something for. It amazes me about the power of this medium, especially because the nature of a soap opera is unique. People to do unbelievably dastardly things, but the audience will forgive them if you show another side … I love when I see messages where people say, “I hate that I’m feeling like this, but I actually feel sorry for her.”

KATHLEEN: Right.  It’s like, “How did you do that to me? I feel sorry for you. I hated you. I still hate you, but I feel sorry for you.” I’m like, “Excellent!”

RON: It gives you the confidence to let the characters do unbelievably terrible things, because it gives you the confidence that you can also win people back by showing these other moments.

KATHLEEN: I have to say, the thing I think that’s the most redeeming is the humor for this character. Not just the fact that she’s made some oopsies, like the Propofol in the wrong glass, stabbing the wrong person; these are like, “Oops, well, yeah, I tried,” but just like little mistakes kind of thing. The fact that it’s humor… and the humor is so redeeming.

RON: We like to have our comedy on General Hospital, and it’s a really important thing to me to write. What I love about soaps is that they can be all these different genres in one: you can have romance, you can have intrigue, you can have action-adventure, and it can be comedy. I think some people see it simply as a romance novel come to life, and for me, growing up watching soaps — that’s not why I watched them. All My Children was hilarious, with Opal and Phoebe and Langley and all of these wonderful, funny characters. Those are the characters that are often gravitated to. I doubt that’s a surprise to you based on the way I write this show, but I think it’s important.  People like to laugh. I think it’s important to lighten things up because lot of our plots can be very heavy at times. It’s the nature of a soap. I think it’s just as important as to write those heartbreaking scenes and storylines that rip your heart out, I think it’s just as important to have some stuff that’s a little ridiculous and silly and let’s just all have a good laugh. I just think it’s just like Kathleen said: “It’s part of what makes Obrecht human.” Just the other week we saw her putting on that PowerPoint presentation for her daughter to win back Nikolas– what’s funny is yes, it was ridiculous and over the top, but I believe that this woman would do this.

KATHLEEN: Absolutely, and feel totally good about it.

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RON: You have these unbelievably high stakes. She is doing these horrendously, horrible things. She’s keeping Robin from her family. That’s a heart-wrenching thing to watch that this woman is locked up. She can’t be with her child.

KATHLEEN: Yes, that was sad.

RON: That angst is a little relentless. That’s why I feel like it’s a welcome breath of fresh air when she and Faison are dressing up for Halloween.

KATHLEEN: I appreciated that, because that storyline was rough. The Robin-stealing — I was very much not liked for that. Viewers were like, “Give her back,” but by the end, Robin’s like, “Naw, I’m not going to stay home, because I had a good time.” Wait a minute. I kidnapped her for two years and she can go home and actually doesn’t want to and people hated me for that? Come on, audience, lighten up. Please don’t hate me for that. She got a taste of freedom.

It sounds like Obrecht was essentially a blank canvas in the beginning.  Kathleen, what was the evolution like for you in the way you played the character, from its conception, and then how it changed in response to the material you were given to play?

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KATHLEEN:  First of all, the writing is just fantastic. I open every script and I go “Wow!”  I’ve been given a daughter and a son, and it makes her more human. After that turning point where she said, “No more Faison, no more,” from that point on it allowed for these beautiful scenes between Liesl and Britt, which allowed some of that humanity to come out.  She doesn’t have much warmth. It’s very deep and buried somewhere, but there is something and she is really trying and really wants to.  She’s like this very, awkward, clumsy three-year-old in love and in caring and nurturing, but it’s there somewhere. I love how I’m allowed to expose some of those characteristics in Obrecht to show some of her vulnerability, but not for long; then her cruelty comes back and there’s some evilness or some fun, but right now I’m having so much fun with the transitions. And with Obrecht’s sister Madeline (Donna Mills), oh my God, that was brilliant. Those scenes in prison, Ron, were just so much fun. They were fun, and they also explained — well, obviously, her back-story with a sister and the parents from hell, so clearly there’s a lot. Obrecht isn’t just being bad to her daughter because of Faison. There’s more beyond that, and as the character unfolds, every time I get a script it explains more back-story, so I can bring more to the character and show more of that to the audience. The fans have actually become more compassionate towards her! They’re going, “We love you, because we hate to love you, and we love to hate you, and now we just love you.” The audience is following along and they thought it was all campy, cuckoo, and unacceptable, what the character did, and now they’re totally smitten by her and they’re excited, like, “What’s next? Yeah, do something, do something bad.”

I am right there with the fans!

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KATHLEEN: Right, you too? I also love that now she’s doing dastardly things in a kind, funny way. I’m keeping my nose above the air right now with the things today — I’m teaching Britt how to steal Nikolas (Tyler Christopher) back. It’s adorable: not steal a kid, not steal a baby, not kidnap someone, and not try to poison someone, but how to kidnap someone’s heart? Now that is serious soapdom! (Laughs) That is serious thievery.

As a viewer, it’s such a treat to have a permanent villain. A villain who’s just a persistent thorn in everybody’s side, and they can’t get rid of her!

RON:  I remember when I pitched her being becoming the chief of staff, our executive producer Frank Valentini and the network did a double take like, “You can’t be serious.” They said, “That’s impossible. How can she become the chief of staff?” I was like, “That’s why we should do it.”  First of all, it galvanizes the entire hospital against a common enemy. Rather than having the kindly, avuncular chief of staff that everybody loves and adores, you give the doctors and nurses a common enemy. It was a way to put Obrecht somewhere permanently in town, and what better place to be on General Hospital than working at General Hospital, and in fact running the hospital? Again, I love to try to say, “All right, we have this outrageous idea and now how can we really make it work?” Then it becomes comical: “All right, then how did she get immunity? How did she do this?” Then we have the idea for her to have Lulu and Dante’s embryo to get her out of her charges. You have to constantly be coming up with these little twists so that it becomes at least somewhat believable. I always had it in my mind that there were all those millions of dollars floating around after Jerry Jax disappeared – the $88 million floating around. I always felt Obrecht somehow had some of that money, and that’s how she was going to secure this job at General Hospital.  Of course, soon as I get it in my head, I see that moment when she comes in like, “I’m the new chief of staff.” And then I have to sell it. I’m so glad that Frank and the network went along with me, because I think yes, it’s a big, bold risky move, although I think that it really did pay off.

I watch the show when I’m working out, so I was alone, down in my basement exercising, and I swore at the screen out loud when that happened!

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KATHLEEN: Did you fall off the machine, flying off the elliptical? Oh, shit. (Laughs)

It was one of those things where the scene begins and you think, “What? This doesn’t make any sense at all.”  But then when it’s done, you realize it makes perfect sense — and not only that, it makes everything better.

RON: It reminded me of when Heather Locklear bought the complex on Melrose Place: You put the most hated person in the position of power over everybody else, and that creates story.

Soaps operate at a very different speed than any other medium, and especially now.  I wondered if there was any kind of learning curve or adjustment period for you? Did you have to get yourself back up to speed working in daytime since you had a recurring role on All My Children back in 1989/1990?

KATHLEEN:  I think anybody who steps onto a soap set is definitely not prepared for that, no matter how many years of experience you have. It’s its own creature, its own animal. Someone said, “It’s like doing a play every single day.”

Not only that, but when I was interviewing folks for my One Life to Live book — and they was people describing 2011-2012; they were talking about having to get together in the dressing room before shooting and doing diagrams to try to figure out where on the timeline scenes were taking place … who they were in love with, and who they hated at any given moment, because scripts were shot so out of sequence that the scenes were months a part.

RON:  I’m not on the set so, Kathleen, correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s a little bit more sequential. Toward the end on One Life, we did so much out of order because we needed to take care of everything that was shot on one set.  Here, the way we have it now, it isn’t as much like that. I think you are playing it little more chronologically.

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KATHLEEN:  Ron is absolutely right, and that’s definitely a luxury. At least emotionally, you know the storyline and know how you feel, because you’re playing the scenes in order. However, there are sometimes like, “No, this person’s dead and I killed them, but now they’re alive.” I actually mark up my script like crazy because things happen after they’re given out, and sometimes we’ve had a couple of those where it goes back and forth because they need to shoot — I guess some actors aren’t free or the scheduling is easier. I don’t know why, but there’s been a little bit of that.  Actually, I was working, I think, last week or a couple of weeks ago, and Frank came over and looked at my script and he went, “Your script looks really angry.” (Laughs) I said, “She is angry. The script is angry.” I have it all marked up, going left and right and up forward and emotionally she’s here and this is going up — there was a little bit of back and forth, and you really have to figure that out, but as Ron says, it’s pretty much in order. That’s one less thing you have to think about: “What’s going to happen next?” Because you know what happened before and the situation you’re in right then. It definitely isn’t a job for the weak-kneed, though.

Now you do have something extra to think about, which is the accent. I have to think that in a medium that is so heavily dialogue-driven and that moves at such a fast pace, you must have to do a ton of work on delivering those lines with the right accent.

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KATHLEEN:  I do. That’s why I’m always begging Ron, “Please, can I have my scripts early, please?” To me there are multiple levels. It isn’t just learning lines and the character and the accent. I really focus on everything, and I try to bring it all to the table in as short a time as possible, the emotional things and figuring out and the script.  But yes, I layer on the accent and that has to be clean. It’s not quite Swiss. It’s not quite German. It’s something in between. It’s sort of a British … I have developed some kind of an accent, sort of a neutral something, because she’s very educated so she’s obviously spent time in England and Britain. I lived in Europe and worked there. The English they learn there is British. It doesn’t matter what country you’re from. They don’t teach you American English, they teach you British English. I added some elements of that, so I really focus on the accent and then I watch the episode and I go,” OK, that wasn’t bad. That wasn’t good. Oh, that word, no, got to work on that word.” I’m always honing the character and the accent. I always want to bring the most accurate interpretation to the character.   People are always asking me, “Do you change anything in the writing?” I’m going, “Not unless I’m an idiot and I forget a word — which happens — or I change something last minute by mistake.” It’s so perfectly written for my character; it’s flawless, everything. It’s a stylized speech, and I feel so bad when I miss one or two great words, because it’s all tied together — the humor, the lines, the phrasing, the phraseology, everything. Ron, I can’t sleep at night if   I’ve missed a word or two. I go home and my husband is like, “Oh dear, what happened?” “I missed one word.” He goes, “Not that really good word! No.”

RON:  I don’t know how you do it. One thing I wanted to add, too — what I find so impressive, not being an actor, is especially the singing. I’m thinking specifically of when we did the Nurses’ Ball, and Obrecht performed “You Were Always On My Mind” as a sort of confession to her children that she was a bad mother.

KATHLEEN: An apology.

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RON: So she has to sing beautifully, and do it in not her natural voice, but with an accent, and play the emotion of, “I’m trying to apologize to these children.” I found it one of the most touching moments of the entire Ball.

KATHLEEN: Thank you. The hardest thing was walking in the heels and singing. (Laughs) That was harder than the accent and the emotion, the rest of the stuff. I was like, “Don’t trip going down the stairs. Do not trip, keep walking. We’re walking.”

RON: And with an ankle monitor on, no less. (Laughs)

KATHLEEN:  Frank said to me, “From now on you’re going to be wearing an ankle monitor, so when you come in here you better be sure you have that ankle monitor on.” I’m like, “OK.” I liked it.

Regarding the Nurses Ball, let’s talk about Obrecht’s grand entrance, which — as I’ve told you before, Ron — was the greatest thing I had seen since Mitch Laurence popped out of a coffin on One Life to Live.  That whole thing was the perfect tour de force for Obrecht.  

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RON: We started to come up with that idea that she would crash the opening number because we didn’t want to see the same opening number again. It was Chris Van Etten, one of the writers, who somehow said “Willkommen.” Of course, we all looked at each other like, “Now, it has to be that because that is the perfect song and if it’s not that …” It’s like you have the German thing. You have the fact that it’s welcoming you to the event. It was so, so perfect on so many levels I was like, “If we don’t get this song I will be devastated.”  Then on top of it, there were the little things. There’s the song in Cabaret, “Mein Herr,” and she’s calling Mr. Marbles “Herr Marble.” It was so funny. I was on a plane coming back from L.A., and Cabaret was one of the movies on the thing — I was watching it and in the Kit Kat Club, there’s a shot of a little dummy, which I didn’t even know. It was one of these bizarre things in the background. I realized we could have done a whole Cabaret-themed episode. She could have sung “Mein Herr” to Mr. Marbles. Anyway, we came up with this idea. I went to Frank. He said, “I don’t even know that we can get this song.” Not only that, but I didn’t even realize they were working on a revival with Alan Cumming.  At the time we came up with the idea that was just about to come out. All of a sudden it seemed to be just part of the moment — I’d turn on Jimmy Fallon, and Alan Cumming is on there singing “Willkommen.” I’m thinking, “Oh my God, I cannot believe we’re actually going to have this song at such a timely moment.” Frank managed to get the song and spent a lot of money to get it, and we got permission to change the words from “Cabaret” to “Nurses’ Ball.” It was beautifully, beautifully directed by Larry Carpenter.

It was a showstopper!

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RON:  It was a showstopper. I really couldn’t ask for more. And then, not everybody on our cast can necessarily sing and dance, so we thought, “Maybe Obrecht has another number? What would that be?” Luckily, one of our writers who has a little more emotion and heart than me, Anna Cascio, said, “What about something to her children?” We started to brainstorm the songs, and I think the very first one that Anna threw out was “You Were Always On My Mind.’” It’s one of those things that, again, it just like hits you like, “That can’t be more perfect,” and I even thought, “This verse she sings to her daughter. This verse she sings to her son.” Again, not only performed beautifully, but just directed so beautifully. We were just getting to know Nathan. We only just found out that that’s his mother. The way they shot it with the brother and sister standing together, not only did it serve to instantly create a relationship between the brother and the sister, but you also saw that discomfort on their faces, the real emotion that they can see that Obrecht obviously does feel something for them, so that at the end of the episode when Brit asks Nathan, “Do you mind? Do you have room for one more?” That moment really got to me also.

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KATHLEEN: That broke my heart too. I was like, “Wow. I made a step. There is progress. It’s tiny, but it’s huge. It’s one small gesture, but it spoke volumes.” You know, I have to tell you something about that episode. Bill Ludel directed that particular thing, the singing. He said, “In the very last sentence I want you to do what Barbara Cook does. She drops the microphone and she just sings a cappella.” I watched some Barbara Cook stuff, and I don’t like to watch what other people do because I just like to come up with my own things, but I watched because he was very specific.  But she sings, and I thought, “OK. I think this is too much emotion.” I said to him, “What if we forget about the singing and she just talks to him?” and Bill was like, “Yes.” I love that brainstorming between the writers and the director and the actor. The “Herr Marbles” line that episode? I love that. It’s fantastic. I could pick up this dummy — that was directed by Phideaux Xavier. He said “Just sit there and pick up the dummy,” and I went, “Ooh, can I stick my hand in here and then can I turn the head?”  So I turned his head, but his eyes got stuck staring at me in that position. That was not planned. I don’t know how to work ventriloquist dummies — I don’t know how to move them. I could only turn his head left and right. For some fortuitous reason, the eyes got stuck staring at me. It was so creepy.

So Kathleen, it’s hard to believe that no one on GH knew you could sing before Obrecht’s karaoke number “Is That All There Is” at the Floating Rib!

RON:  We wanted to do karaoke for that party, and then we just had this image of her in disguise roaming through this party with nobody aware, and then to have her sing. When we first pitched it, they were like, “How can she draw this attention to herself when she’s there to murder Anna Devane?” Of course, my answer is, “How can she not?”

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KATHLEEN:   My favorite moment in that episode is where I’m right next to Anna Devane and Duke and they’re right there. They’re going, “Where do you think she is? Well, I don’t know.” I take out this bottle of Propofol, literally six inches away from Anna’s head. It’s absolutely hysterical. It was everything I could do not to crack up. I’ve had so many moments where I have to practice not laughing because the situation is so funny.

RON: It’s much more difficult for the people who produce the show because they see what the physical limitations of the set are and how really on top of each other everybody is going to be. In my mind, I’m picturing a dark, smoky club and she’s moving through the room and she’s in a smoky spotlight singing this song and nobody is really paying attention to her. Of course, that’s not exactly the reality, but the more we talked about it in the end that’s what the producers and the directors really delivered. I believed she could stand there and sing that song with people in their own world, unaware of it. Also, Kathleen, you looked amazing with those glasses and that wig. I don’t know if you remember at the time, but I showed you a picture of Sue Mengers, because that’s who you looked like to me.

KATHLEEN: That’s right. You’re right. No, that was hysterical. I agree with you, because the truth is, so many times we don’t notice who’s around us. You’re in a restaurant. You know the next table. You don’t really stare at them, especially in a bar. It’s smoky. It’s dark. You’re drinking. You’re talking to friends. You don’t really look around going, “Look at that person, look at this person. Who is that? Is that so and so that I know?” It doesn’t even occur to you.

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RON:  I had to keep his saying, “It’s a party. They’re not at a Broadway show where everybody is sitting quietly in their seats staring at the thing.” She’s like some strange lady up singing karaoke. I just figured most people aren’t going to be paying attention to her.  I just loved the idea that this evil presence is right there in the room. We actually had something for that day that we had to cut — we had to cut one of the songs, and I think we wanted it … I think it was Felix and Sabrina were going to be singing something like “Evil Woman” or something while she was spiking the drink.

I once spoke with an actress who described her soap character as being “the spoon in the cereal bowl,” and I think Obrecht is someone you can put in any bowl. She’ll stir up everything. I wondered if either of you could leave us with any small hints as to where she may end up next?

KATHLEEN    I always say “There’s so much fun coming up.” That’s where I would leave it, lots of fun things coming up. I’ll leave it to Ron to be more specific.

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RON:  Well, what we did talk about a bit earlier is that what’s been amazing with the character is that it’s been such an unexpected journey from the doctor of this Swiss clinic to Faison to Britt, now with Nathan as her son and Madeline as her sister …  this relationship with Victor Cassadine (Thaao Penghlis). I guess if I would hint at anything that’s been very much unexplored; it’s her past with Victor. What has become of Faison? How does that all tie together — or does it tie together? That is an untapped well there, and we haven’t seen the last of Victor Cassadine, so there’s more to dig into.

KATHLEEN:  It’s the mystery of Dr. O!

So, what did you think about Kathleen and Ron’s comment on the twists and turns in the making Dr Liesl Obrecht and how she ended up as a main player on the GH canvas?  Do you like how the soap tied Obrecht into Nathan, Britt and Madeline?  Do you think Victor Cassadine is on his way back to try to win the affections of Dr O?  What has been your favorite performance of Kathleen Gati’s since she first begin airing on GH?   There have certainly been plenty to choose from! Weigh-in below!

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  1. Margie says:

    I can hardly believe what I’m reading. To me, Ron has turned a great recurring character into a joke. The cast is too large and there are WAY too many comic book villains.

    Reply

    MissyLady replied

    Ditto. I loved Dr. O from her very first scenes until the show decided to redeem her with the smaltzy family nonsense with Britt and Nathan, and making her COS really stinks!

    Reply

    harry replied

    I agree, Margie. I think Fairman is a really good interviewer and asks questions in such a way as to get the subject to reveal something about themselves.
    This interview revealed the fact that Mr. Ron thinks very highly of himself and Miss Kathleen joins him in his self love.
    Bring back Faison and put both he and DR O back in the shadows where they can plot and scheme against the people of Port Charles. Faison brought out the best in Dr O. Making her the chief of staff and the matriarch of a new family has made her too accessible. In this case, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it breeds boredom,

    Reply

    Liz Tano replied

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kathleen and she makes a great villainess but to say her plot lines make sense is seriously ridiculous.

    Reply

    Timmm replied

    Should have been sent off to prison. Way to radical to have her be Chief of Staff. Talented actress but they wrote her into a corner and brought her out in an unbelievable way.

    Reply

  2. jimh(leave it to beaver) says:

    Hate her or love her(im in the latter group) K.G. is a huge talent and daytimes greatest find in a long time…Chief of Staff is a little farfetched but so was a freezing machine and Casey the alien…a little off subject im wondering how Nina got around PC so well and knew exactly where baby Dannys birthday party would be and that Silas would show up which i find farfetched too unless Auntie Lisel helped her out? Also glad Nina changed her top…that strap thingy she was wearing looked like my bathroom curtain i recently tossed out…wardrobe dept. at GH is terrible, especially when Genie Francis briefly returned last year…meanwhile, Rafe dies and his heart goes to Alice? all before he can redeem himself…

    Reply

  3. Alisha says:

    The character of Dr. O has become a joke. She went from an entertaining villain to a cartoon character in no time

    Reply

    Barbara Long replied

    I totally agree with you!

    Reply

  4. BadFan says:

    I realize how out of touch I am with Ron’s thoughts. I think Olbrecht has made a joke of the hospital. What’s wrong with having another Dr. Hardy as Chief of Staff, the stuff they let Olbrecht get away with is pathetic. And when did Nikolas Cassadine become poor all of a sudden that he couldn’t have bailed out the hospital. Ron tries to fit a round character into a square storyline no matter the cost to the integrity of the show and other characters.

    I’m tried of Ron’s pets.

    Reply

    Double Z replied

    Watch the reruns on You tube if you want Steve Hardy. Obrecht isn’t a pet,she’s a backbone character. Out of the box brilliant!

    Reply

    Jenna replied

    Agreed!!! I love Obrecht. She’s one of the best characters on GH!

    Elizabeth replied

    A backbone Character??!!! Compared to what, Bugs Bunny?

    Double Z replied

    Elizabeth,sweetheart, you don’t have to get mean! It’s time for you to switch to another soap. Take a deep breath and repeat a mantra!

  5. Jenn says:

    Love this interview! I’m such a fan of Dr. O and Kathleen. Can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

    Reply

    Double Z replied

    I agree!

    Reply

  6. andrea says:

    GREAT CHARACTER GREAT ACTRESS

    Reply

  7. lisa says:

    I love her – Kathleen is a breathe of fresh air for GH.
    I hope she’s going to be around for a while.

    Reply

  8. GH50 says:

    I read this and it’s just sad. The difference between what RC thinks he is presenting to the audience and the reality of what is on screen is mindboggling. The character of Dr.O started out brilliant and is now a cartoonish joke. RC talks about the soap genre being able to incorporate different elements of romance, intrigue, comedy, action adventure, but he writes none of it well. There is also a difference between “incorporating” different elements and being a schizophrenic mish mash.

    As for DR.O being COS, FV and the network were right to balk and they should have known better than to think RC could follow through and pull it off. Galvanizing the hospital against a common enemy? What hospital? Nobody works there and those who do are never there. Where have we seen any of this? Then he says it becomes comical as to how she got immunity? The only thing comical about that was that it made no sense, the writing has you laughing at it.

    He always had it in his mind that Obrecht had some of Jerry’s 88 million? Great? Are wesupposed to just assume that? This is insane! He has stuff in his mind and nothing is told properly on screen. And regardless, the entire concept of her being needed for the money is ridiculous. The hospital was going under and no one else would save it? Billionaire Nik Cassadine? The Quartermaine’s? Sonny?

    Every time I read an interview with RC, my anger at how bad the show is actually turns to pity. He is just clueless. I will give him this, the show in his mind sounds pretty good.

    Reply

    Double Z replied

    Get over yourself….Dr O,the show and RC are terrific…and the ratings show it. Tune in to your local news if you don’t like GH.

    Reply

    GH50 replied

    Double Z, since you are committed to answering back every intelligent poster who understands the deficiencies in this show, you are going to be busy.

    BadFan replied

    Is that you Ron? I think we should respect ALL OPINIONS about this interview. Telling others to get over themselves doesn’t make your opinion more valid than the others here who hate what Ron has done with the character of Olbrecht and the hospital.

    su0000 replied

    if people would ”lighten-up” and enjoy the soaps as entertainment, that is what they are fictional entertainment, they would have a good time watching a soap..

    RC and his team gives us a great variety and also gives us a chuckle and a laugh and that is a very good thing!.

    people gotta lighten-up, have a good time..
    soaps are nothing serious, why take them as being serious, they are suppose to be enjoyed and fun and they are when people do not take them as being serious as creed.
    Soaps are horrible tragedies, love gone wrong, campy, at times over the top, to entertain with stories of ridiculous fantasy, to make us cry, laugh and have a good time..
    in other words soaps are mainly BS, nothing to get upset over. LOL

    Reply

    Margie replied

    Oh, Su. If Ron turned GH into Planets of the Apes you’d cheer.

    harry replied

    Ha ha ha! Margie, you are funny.
    Suoo, I have lightened up. I have not seen GH in about six weeks. Thank you for telling disgruntled viewers to give up on our soap and to turn it off if we do not like it.
    While I would like to thank you for that valuable advice, I would imagine ABC/Disney would like to put a gag order on you.

    Elizabeth replied

    Well, he certainly has expanded the viewing pool…
    downward by about 50 IQ points.

  9. Johnny says:

    Okay…Kathleen is a phenomenal actress! Period. She brings funny and complexity to her role and does some fearless acting. However………granted….its fiction. I get that. But at some point, some form of reality has got to set into Ron’s mind and realize that even soaps need some form of groundable basis. This is a seriously psychotic woman who held a beloved doctor hostage for over a year…..this is the “Chief of Staff” who shot a nurse on staff at said hospital….and then a few weeks later is viciously slamming the nurse for being late. Show me a hospital with a deranged murderous chief of staff and I will show you an empty hospital with no patients or staff. Its too absurd and too much. We have not seen Monica for MONTHS…..the rightful Chief of Staff. There has to be a way to keep Obrecht around without such a glaringly, stupid, preposterous premise as her being Chief of Staff. The fact that Ron touts his own writing brilliance so thoroughly for his work with Obrecht and his mantra of “Evil Always Triumphs” is very creepy and disconcerting.

    Reply

    Double Z replied

    It’s not your neighborhood hospital, dear. The hospital you want wouldn’t make it to the Soaps.

    Reply

    Elizabeth replied

    It used to be…. and did quite well in the ratings AND in the emmy awards when that was the case.

    Double Z replied

    Was that the case? Most of the action took place out of the hospital The epic LnL love story and them going on the run is what brought the G H ratings sky high. There is just so much that can be staged in the hospital….therefore the outside action. The Dr O situation has everyone talking…seems like a good move to me.

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    You didnt mention how dumb it was for Liz to go back to the hospital and work for the person who shot her but i do like K.G.(Dr.O) and wish they didnt make her C.O.S.,…instead she shouldve went to work for rival hospital Mercy where she attempts to ruin Monica and GH after Monica is appointed as C.O.S. instead…wouldve made for better drama…imo…however, in spite of major flaws the show still entertains me!!!

    Reply

    harry replied

    These are very good posts, Double Z and Jim–bravo to both of you.
    Double Z, the hospital we want did make it to the soaps for almost 50 years.

    Reply

  10. su0000 says:

    quote Ron[

    ”People like to laugh. I think it’s important to lighten things up because lot of our plots can be very heavy at times. It’s the nature of a soap. I think it’s just as important as to write those heartbreaking scenes and storylines that rip your heart out, I think it’s just as important to have some stuff that’s a little ridiculous and silly and let’s just all have a good laugh.”

    And that is why I love GH..
    It is very unique..
    No other soap uses humor and can be a little ridiculous and silly, not like GH does !!
    and along with the heavy dark drama there is usually something that will give me a chuckle or laugh……
    GH Rules!!

    Reply

    Double Z replied

    I agree. I lol a lot during the show. The humor on GH is often subtle and dry and many times it in your face. …something for every one. I love it.

    Reply

  11. Tammy Kreiss says:

    She is as brilliant as the writers! When we met, & there was no accent, I nearly fell over! She is not only fantastic, but an awesome lady, in REAL life! Great interview, thanks y’all!

    Reply

  12. Double Z says:

    Thank you for the in depth interview. Dr. O is a complex, entertaining character …as are many of the GH family. Kudos to the writers,actors and all involved in making GH tops!

    Reply

    su0000 replied

    -
    I raise my glass and toast to that .

    Long live GH! the #1 soap with quality not quantity ..

    Reply

    harry replied

    Quality not quantity? Huh?
    That is the point many of us have been trying to make. There has been too much of Dr O–a little bit of her goes a long way and in having her enmeshed into the fabric of this soap as the matriarch of a new family, not to mention the chief of staff, GH is definitely erring on the side of quantity not quality.

    harry replied

    Double Z? Or it Double SU doubling her pleasure?

  13. Tammy says:

    I like her character but not to fond of her being the COS. some realism would be good on GH. My favorite moments with her are her scenes with Liz and the halloween stuff with Faison

    Reply

  14. 80sGHFan says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with the notion that the writers have to just write one moment where a villain is supposedly sympathetic to make me feel for him or her. Dr. O singing to her children at the nurses’ ball and the blt scene with Heather played for me exactly as they were, cloying and manipulative attempts to win sympathy.

    I cringe at the idea that we are to root for or find acceptable these cartoon villains, from Heather to Dr. O to Franco and probably soon to Nina. They’ve kidnapped, killed, and had people assaulted. I will never find them engaging as characters, and to the extent that I would root for anything, it would be for their permanent capture. But clearly that is a hopeless wish. So I can only wish for cancellation so that my favorite characters — the good guys and some with a few shades of grey — are not ruined any further, being sacrificed at the altars of the overplayed, over-the-top, cartoonish villains.

    Reply

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    I was going to agree with some you said(villian characters should pay for their crimes) until you said you wish for cancellation…putting 100s out of work just because you are disastified with the show is far worse and stupid than the things youve complainef about! What if people dont like were you or a family member worked and wished the same thing!!! Now sometimes i think the show is absurd and could do better in the writing but most other times im entertained and enjoy watching it…yes, i wish it was like it was when i first watched over 30 years ago…yes, i want more of the Quartimaines…yes, Ron isnt perfect…but some days i need an escape from the crazy real world and as long as GH provides that escape, i hope it last another five to ten years!!!

    Reply

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    meant to say id rather watch the craziness of GH and escape the craziness of the real world…

    Double Z replied

    Change the channel…

    Reply

    Margie replied

    Rudest, lamest remark ever.

    Double Z replied

    Ever? Let me put it a different way. If gh50 is so upset with the show, rather than get himself in a tither,he should not watch it. There are SO many other programs on the tube to satisfy his needs, he should change the channel. That goes for all of the nay sayers ….watch some other program! It’s better for their health.

  15. Charday says:

    I love me some Dr. O, Britt, and Nathan.

    Reply

  16. MC says:

    First, KG does a fantastic job with what she is given. She seems like a lovely woman and a talented actress. But I am sick to death of everything Westbourne. RC has taken this two day character and turned the show inside out and upside down giving her a backstory, then a daughter, a lover, a son, a sister, a niece, and probably a great niece if todays foreshadowing is true. That is more family and connections on screen than the Webber/Hardys, the Quartermaines, the Spencers, the Jones, or the Scorpios. The only character approaching the same amount of relatives is Sam. If he put just one eighth of the effort into writing for the true history of the show, rather than this farce , GH might be recognizable.

    Reply

    MissyLady replied

    Ditto! RC is too busy building his own version of OLTL with Dr. O and company, to care too much about the Hardy/Webber’s, Quartermaine’s, Baldwin’s….

    Reply

    Margie replied

    Honey, this ain’t nothing like OLTL. Sadly.

    Double Z replied

    Change the channel.

    Reply

    MissyLady replied

    Your answer is to change the channel? If the roles were reversed, and OLTL was turned into GH, OLTL fans would be furious! If Guza was HW at OLTL and turned it into the Sonny, Carly, Jason, mob central, fans would be livid.

  17. Dan says:

    It’s amusing to listen to people complaining about Kathleen Gati being too over the top and cartoonish as Dr. Obrecht. An over the top villain on a soap opera? Nooooooo!!! Say it isn’t so! Next you’ll be complaining about love triangles and evil twins.

    I think Kathleen has done a tremendous job in the role. The scenes with her and Faison sniping back and forth like an old married couple were a riot, and I always love when she gets to work with Finola Hughes. Those two play off each other so well, and have such a chemistry on screen.

    Reply

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    Kathleen is a keeper…

    Reply

  18. KM says:

    Dr. O=Heather Webber. A little goes a very long way in the case of both characters.

    Kathleen Gati is obviously very talented as is Robin Mattson who I’ve loved forever but both their characters have been so over written as OTT cartoon villains on GH that they really aren’t sustainable even in the crazy, anything goes world of soaps. The writers obviously know this as well because they basically just made up a new Heather after draining the last one dry.

    The joke is a little stale now kind of like Heather’s sandwich art.

    Reply

  19. CJ says:

    I was excited when GH wasn’t cancelled and hopeful when a new team came in. The ratings are up a little but I worry they won’t last. GH is not being written for the long term viewer and the flash in the pan fans won’t stick around very long. I work and don’t get to watch everyday but when I do I’m always saying “who the heck is that!???? Nothing is keeping me interested enough to go make the effort to find ways or time to watch every single day like I used to do. Stop the madness of stunt casting and crazy unbelievable characters and plots. Some things are just insulting to the fans they are so out there.

    Reply

  20. GHoldie says:

    She’s in the tradition of Helena, Faison but with a soul. I love her. The canvas is WAY too crowded now but Dr. O is a keeper. I do wish the writers would not paint characters into the damn corner and have to figure out how to get them out. Kathleen is a great addition to the cast, imo.

    Reply

  21. brian says:

    Could the Westborne’s be the new Quartermaines ?

    Reply

    MissyLady replied

    Ding! We have a us a winner! GH fans wanted the Quartermaine rebuilt, so why not kill off AJ (again!), and keep Monica off screen for months, while RC decides he will build his own version of the crazy Quartermaine family with Dr. O and the Westbourne’s! …GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRr.

    Reply

  22. crimson151 says:

    I love the actress. I think she is very talented but I gotta say I am thoroughly sick of the character. One of my major complaints with RC’s writing is his ‘shiny new toy’ fixation. He finds a character (usually a campy OTT one ) and an actress he likes and suddenly the show is hijacked by them. Dr O has more family then long-term vets. Suddenly she is everywhere and a part of everything, thus a character I was enjoying a lot becomes one that I just want to see the back of. That is unfortunate. I don’t feel any sympathy for Dr O. I think its ridiculous that she is COS. That she is actually even still there after shooting a nurse in her employ and kidnapping her, a baby and a member of the hospital board is just not in anyway funny or entertaining. Obviously soaps are not real life but to me in order for drama to be drama there has to be some measure of reality inserted. GH has lost that lately.

    Now Ron has a new shiny toy in Nina and again another character is hijacking the show. I love GH and I believe he can write an excellent soap but he def needs a firm hand to keep him from his tendency to either write too campy or too focused on a couple of characters at the expense of the show. That is what I see happening now. Stories and characters disappear for weeks. Important story beats are totally missed or happen offscreen. The cast is way too large but just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Scenes are short and choppy with the exception of those of a favored few characters.

    While I like KG and think she is a talent. Dr O should have been a short term character. At the very least she should have been gone at the end of the Robin arc to prison for a period of time and maybe brought back in 6 months or a year for another short arc.

    Reply

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    Ron did a terrific job with OLTL during the shows final 2 years at ABC and i hope he will someday reach that level of greatness at GH…it has its good moments but maybe the writing isnt there because the cast is too bloated…jmo!!!

    Reply

  23. jimh(leave it to beaver) says:

    Sometimes me thinks some commenters use different titles because their comments are often too identical to others under different titles and under these different titles seem to agree with their own comments…too coinkydinky, just saying!!!

    Reply

    harry replied

    Ha ha~ Jim, I do believe you are correct.

    Reply

  24. janet says:

    There is no hope for General Hospital. Does Ron really believe the bull he spews ? Sure Gati was fun for a short while, but she is done. Did he say Robin put herself in a straight jacket, I know he said she had three squares, and a cot. She wasn’t being held against her will. She wasn’t being tortured with her daughter and husbands pictures ? reading this the only question I have is How long before the show is cancelled ?The man is unbelievable. Gati now has more relatives than the Quartermaines thanks to Re-Ron.Ron has never written any story that ripped my heart out,all he does is rip off stories that have been done before, and not very well. Shades of the Jason, AJ car accident. Will Molly wake up and become a hit kid for the mob ? Take Rafe’s heart and give it to Alice ?Hello Maxie. Two characters each having babies ,which one will die and which mother will steal the other one. Seen it all before. No thanks.

    Reply

    Double Z replied

    Switch to another Soap.

    Reply

    Timmm replied

    I double that Double Z! Turn the damn TV off if you feel so negative about GH! There is no hope for Guiding Light! There is no hope for All My Children. There is no hope for OLTL. Frank and Ron GAVE us hope for GH. Thank you guys.

  25. shrona says:

    Am I the only one who was cringing at “Welcome to the Nurses Ball” with the staff lip synching to a Disney-World type track? Ick. Boring. The rumbling thunder and the Obrecht opening number was a breath of fresh air! I love Kathleen Gati and any excuse to give her more air time is fine by me. As for those who are complaining that the plot line isn’t realistic- let me mention a few other GH tales- The Ice Princess. Laura marrying her rapist. Drugging the water supply. The dead returning to life. You want realistic drama? Go watch TNT. USA runs Law & Order SVU about 75 times a week. GH has had that mix of comedy, drama and fantasy since I started watching in high school (and I’m 54). And get over the fact that there are new characters- Kimberly McCullough and Steve Burton DON’T WANT TO COME BACK.

    Great interview, Michael. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    Are you me…lol…im 54 and started watching(occasionally) when i was in high school!!! However, i did see some gh back in the 60s when me late granny was a huge fan!!!

    Reply

    shrona replied

    Hey, jimh, if you and i are the same person, our son is starting college in the fall and I could use some help with tuition! ;) But seriously, when I was little my mom was into the old CBS lineup (Guiding Light, Secret Storm, Love of Life, As the World Turns and Edge of Night) and we somehow switched to ABC. I was a big GH fan during the Luke and Laura years (used to schedule college classes around it) but stopped watching for awhile. Got back into AMC and OLTL during 2 maternity leaves and taped, then DVR’d then until cancellation. The OLTL transferred characters brought me to GH and I am enjoying it right now.

    jimh(leave it to beaver) replied

    We watched some of those soaps…i especially enjoyed Edge Of Night…Dark Shadows and Strange Paradise was freaky fun…we watched almost every soap, often turning channels back and forth…no recording soaps back then(wish i could had)…NBCs Days, The Doctors, and Another world were are top 3 in the 70s but we continue to watch others on occasion…Ryans Hope, AMC, OLTL, ATWTs, Passions, Santa Barbara and most others…GH i watched from the late 70s to mid 80s and occasionally later and now regular agai …did see some GH back in the 60s at my late grandmas…at one point or another i must have seen most every soap from the 60s to the present! Hated school when i had to miss my soaps!!! Now im addicted to Britians Coronation Street…down to earth character driven near real life stories…wish our soaps were more like it!!!

    Reply

  26. Moneca says:

    Great article! I always love learning how they come up with story lines and how they evolve.

    Dr. O singing to her children was probably my emotional favourite but I must say I loved “Willkomen” for the camp and Broadway aspect. Kathleen does a fantastic job every time she’s on screen. I truly do love to hate Dr. O!

    Reply

  27. Sandy says:

    While I don’t always agree with RC, I still think he is great. I hated that AJ always had to be the loser. I adore Dr O. KG is amazing. For every 1 thing I think he does wrong there are a dozen things he does right. The comedy, the kids, the villains are all an important part of GH. Even Fliuke is entertaining. I can’t wait for Luke Spencer to expose Fluke!
    GH is the BEST! I’ll always choose to watch it over the Victor Newman Show !
    Wonderful interview as always MF!

    Reply

  28. TinaP says:

    The character of Dr. O has become a clown, just like Heather before her what was once and interesting character is now a joke. What’s worse is she is being used to make even bigger jokes out of long time legendary characters. Thank you Ron NOT!

    Reply

    MissyLady replied

    Ditto! Monica was fired as COS because of AJ, but Dr. O has down far worse and she still has a job?!

    Reply

  29. BRONX JAMIE says:

    GH IS THE BEST! THE WRITERS DO A GREAT JOB AT KEEPING YOU GUESSING ABOUT WHAT IS AROUND THE NEXT TURN. I LOVE DR. O AND I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE WHO IS IMPERSONATING LUKE. LEVI IS AN ASS WHO IS IN DIRE NEED OF A HAIR CUT. WISE UP MAXY!!!

    Reply

    Margie replied

    WHAT??!??

    Reply

    Harry replied

    Bronx likes to keep us guessing, Margie!
    I tend not to read comments featuring all caps. I just want to say, Stop screaming, I cannot hear you.

  30. boes says:

    Nothing against Kathleen Gati – the woman has talent. But the focus that Ron C. has put on this cartoon character and her insta-family is maybe the worst of his sins.

    There really is no hope with this show.

    Reply

  31. jared says:

    I wish Dr. O would get involved with Sonny.

    Reply

  32. JD says:

    Kathleen Gati is the best newcomer on GH in years. Of course the situations she is involved in are ridiculous but she manages to pull it off with such vitality. Oh to see her team up with Grant Putnam!

    Reply

  33. Margie says:

    Sorry, Michael. Wonderful interview. I wish Ron would listen to fans and not think of all criticism as coming from haters, because it isn’t.

    Reply

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