There wasn’t a dry eye in the house for those watching General Hospital last week when Luke (Tony Geary) headed to Elm Street to visit the old Spencer house before it’s torn down. Armed with a gun, he intends on ending his life.
But in a turn of events after being visited by the vision of his beloved mother Lena (Laura Wright), who Luke accidentally killed as a young man, their conversation changes Luke’s life course forever. It sets the stage for Tony Geary’s final episode airing today, and gives some closure, and opens new possibilities for the character of Luke Spencer.
Laura Wright received massive praise from fans and critics alike for her touching and emotional turn as Lena, a role she played once before on the series’ 52nd anniversary episode where GH went back in time to 1963, and viewers learned the Spencer family secret. However, in the key scenes last Thursday, Lena tells Luke: “I have been watching you all these years, letting that fateful night define you. It’s time for you to stand up again. You figure out who you are. Better yet, you figure out who you want to be without all of those demons bottled up inside you. The possibilities are limitless. It’s time to move forward.” Luke replies with tears in his eyes: “Momma, what can I do? What can I ever, ever do to make it up to you?” Lena says, “You find the man you were meant to be. You find a way to be happy, and you choose to live.”
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Daytime Emmy winner Laura Wright to talk about: the emotional defining scenes for Luke Spencer, getting to work with Tony Geary in this tearjerker, and to play the icon’s TV mom, while also playing Carly Corinthos Jax! Laura also weighs-in on: Sonny’s (Maurice Benard) recent marriage proposal to Carly, finding out little Jake Spencer (James Nigbor) is alive and well, and the head writing switch announced last week that will see Ron Carlivati exiting the ABC daytime drama, and Shelly Altman and Jean Passanante taking over the position. With one last look at her incredible scene partner, Tony Geary, here’s what Laura shared with us.
After the airing of last Thursday’s episode of General Hospital, you received major kudos for reprising the role of Luke’s mother, Lena Spencer. It was a brilliant performance.
LAURA: The response has been so incredible, and I have been so amazed that so many people had so many kind things to say.
When you got the script for this episode, it was an important key point to the entire exit story for Luke Spencer. He goes back to the Spencer home on Elm Street with gun in tow with the intent on committing suicide, but he is visited by the vision of his mother, Lena. At that moment, everything changes. Everything she said was so poignant and so touching. It was heartbreaking, and beautifully written. What did you think of the writing? When did you find out you would be playing Lena again?
LAURA: Oh, it was beautifully written. I knew I was going to be playing Lena again about a month before I shot it, but I did not know that the story was going to be that Luke was going to kill himself. So when I received the script, I went, “Oh, my God! I am the person who stops him from killing himself!” You know, thinking: “God, how huge is this!” But it all made sense, because Lena had to be the one that released Luke from the pain. It’s so funny to play the mother that is telling Luke Spencer what he should do with this life. (Laughs) I remember watching old Luke and Laura scenes, and the day that Laura came back from the dead, and I remember jumping on my couch going nuts! And to this day that was one of my favorite soap scenes, ever! That was because of Tony Geary’s reaction and how he played that scene, because that, right there, was why everyone loves Luke. Because when Luke goes for it, there is no thought process. He just jumps over the balcony, he knocks things down, and he would die for her. So then fast forward, and for me to play his mom, I had a moment of, “What?” (Laughs) It was incredible. These scenes were not about me, they were about him. I was the vehicle for Luke to be able to let go. I let those scenes be about the story, and the words, and what she was saying to her son.
And you knew these were going to be your final scenes with Tony Geary! Did you feel the enormity of that in that moment? Did you and Tony rehearse those scenes a lot?
LAURA: I did not put too much emphasis on that, because I thought, “Wow! How lucky am I!” Many people didn’t have final scenes with Tony, and I realized I was one of the few lucky ones. So, I didn’t really go too much into that world, because I was in such a grateful place. Tony and I sat down quite a few times sitting next to each other in the hair and make-up chairs, because he had so much stuff going on that day, and it took forever for me in hair and make-up … hair, really. (Laughs) That is because to get my hair to look like it did playing Lena, because my hair is so much longer, and we can’t cut it clearly because I have to play Carly. They had to really work some magic to make it look short. I knew how important these scenes were to the story, but I had to stop and say to myself this is not about you – these are the scenes that make Luke stop and not kill himself. It was about giving Tony what he needed in the scenes for Tony to make the decision to do what he needed to do for his character.
The scenes were the key to everything: Luke coming to terms with his past and letting go, so he can have a future, and find some happiness.
LAURA: I had to realize that, so I could tell the story. If I got caught up in my own emotions or insecurities, then that just ruins it, and it takes away from really what is happening. And when you go, “It’s not about me,” look what comes out of it? Some really beautiful scenes! There was such a bigger picture there that you have to let go, so then you can have it all, basically.
Did you make any adjustments to the lines of dialog in the key scenes between mother and son?
LAURA: I added saying the line, “My sweet boy”. I added that because that was the last thing she said to him before she left, and he never saw her again as the young Luke on the 52nd anniversary episode. There were a couple of other things I changed to try to tie-it in to the last time we saw Lena. I wanted to connect all of that for him, and so when I asked if I could add that line, Tony got tears in his eyes.
What happened when you finished the scenes? Did you get a moment to share a private goodbye with Tony?
LAURA: We finished the scenes and they rushed me down the studio to take pictures with the young Luke (Joey Luthman). I then just walked back down on set as the director was trying to tape the next scenes, and Tony and I just hugged each other. I gave him the biggest hug. There just aren’t any words to say how honored I was to play his mother in those crucial scenes, with Tony Geary, the second to the last day of his career working as Luke.
These scenes are so strong! Would you consider submitting them for next year’s Daytime Emmys?
LAURA: It’s a hard call. The scenes with me as Lena are out of context, and people said I should submit the 52nd anniversary scenes, too. But I think we, as actors, should be able to submit two shows for competition. I am intending on bringing it up at the Actor’s Emmy meeting this week. I don’t think one show is enough to show your work. And I know what their argument is going to be. I totally respect it, and I agree that it’s difficult to get people to watch two shows of work. They are not wrong about that. I am just saying from an actor’s point of view, it’s hard. I think it’s great that they are having a post-Emmys actor’s meeting to hear our suggestions, and for that I bow to them.
Last week, the news broke that Ron Carlivati has been let-go by ABC as the head writer of General Hospital. You took to Twitter with a very nice tweet and thank you to Ron. What are your thoughts on Ron’s departure … and his contributions to GH?
LAURA: The Ron and Frank (Valentini) team saved General Hospital, period. Ron came in and made changes that needed to be done. He brought back core characters that had not been seen forever that the audience just loved. The first characters that pop into my head are Lucy Coe (Lynn Herring) and Felicia (Kristina Wagner) … especially Lucy with the Nurses Ball. Frank is definitely a huge part of that as well, and I am not taking anything away from Frank, who is still there and tirelessly working for us. I love Ron. I love him personally, and there is nothing more fun that sitting next to Ron at the Daytime Emmys! (Laughs) I adore him, and his writing, and his talent, and it’s all there. I wish him the best. Ron is so talented, and so I am just calling this a “nice break” for him, because I am sure Ron is going to kick ass somewhere else.
What do you think about the incoming co-head writing team of Shelly Altman and Jean Passanante? This time it’s two women who will be charged with the task of keeping things interesting and kicking in Port Charles.
LAURA: I‘m excited to see what happens. They have a job and they are writing General Hospital now, and so the reality is it’s already underway, and so … bring it on! Let’s see what’s next. I have been doing daytime for 24 years. and when I was on Loving in my first 7 years there, I think we went through 4 head writers and 5 producers. Stuff like this happens, and you just keep going. I look at the change as a positive thing. I got to work under Ron for 3 years and his writing, and before that it was the legendary Bob Guza, and now it’s going to be two women, which is awesome. I just look it as experience, after experience, after experience.
In other Carly news, she just accepted Sonny’s (Maurice Benard) marriage proposal! Do you think it was too soon for her to do so, given the nature of their often combustible past?
LAURA: I am loving working with Maurice, and it’s so much fun. We love our storytelling. We have a blast working together. And he better say the same thing about working with me, by the way! (Laughs) I loved the dialog where she said, “I know we have done this before, but we haven’t done this wedding. This time it’s a new beginning that ends in forever.” I think she believes that. Sonny and Carly are different now. He is saying, “I am old-fashioned, I love you, and I want you to be the mother to my daughter.” I think life is more important to them now. They both get that loss is huge, and when you have someone who will stick with you through thick and thin, it’s worth more than anything, and that the love is deeper, and richer, and more important. Now I don’t know what Carly will do when she finds out Jason (Billy Miller) is alive, or what Sonny will do if he finds out that she knew that “Jake” was working undercover. And we don’t know what they are going to write now with the new writing team. So, I don’t think it’s too soon for her to have accepted his marriage proposal, because we are riding this fun wave. It’s really sweet and romantic, but they are still Sonny and Carly at their core. They still bicker, but it’s not as intense as it was. I think they are wiser.
I have to say; I got a kick out of the scenes where Jake tells Carly that little Jake Spencer (James Nighbor) is alive. She then has this moment of clarity and shock realizing, if little Jake is alive, then who’s kidney does her daughter Josslyn’s have inside of her? (Laughs) You were great in those moments, by the way.
LAURA: Those were the hardest scenes! (Laughs) Billy Miller and I had the most fun doing those scenes, and we couldn’t stop laughing! But when Carly saw little Jake, he was so adorable, and it was so emotional. They had him looking just like Steve Burton! (Ex-Jason, now Dylan Y&R) (Laughs) So you have to make it as an actress plausible for yourself, so I was like, “Really, Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst)?” (Laughs)
In closing, Monday on General Hospital it’s an end of an era as we watch Tony Geary’s final episode as Luke. What are your final parting thoughts on Mr. Geary?
LAURA: The first time I worked with Tony he said he wanted to change a line, and do something fun in the scene. I think it was my second or third day with dialog basically on GH. Tony goes, “I would like to juggle, tap dance, and sing all in the same scene. Is that OK with you?” I am like, “Yeah!” Tony is, was, the most giving, funny, talented, in the moment, supportive person to work with. It’s almost like you don’t know who you are working with, Tony Geary or Luke Spencer, and all that stuff that goes with that. You don’t see that. He is just an actor on set. That’s the beauty of Tony Geary. I will miss him. Yes, he’s Tony Geary, and he played Luke Spencer, but I am going to miss working with an incredible actor.
So, what did you think about Laura Wright’s performance as Lena Spencer in scenes with Tony Geary as Luke for the final time? Did you reach for the hankies? What do you think about how Laura paid tribute to Tony with her acknowledgement of how honored she was to have had the opportunity in her career to play his on-screen mom? Laura also shared her thoughts on the state of CarSon … do you think it will last under the in-coming head writing regime? Share your thoughts and comments below!