In part one of a two-part interview, General Hospital star Lisa LoCicero (Olivia) sits down with TVSource Magazine for a very candid discussion on her GH past, present and future. Inside: Did she think she’d still be employed on GH four years later? Who does she thank for the success of Olivia? What’s coming up with Olivia, Steven and Kate?
In September of 2008, just a few weeks after launching our then-website Soap Opera Source, we learned that the role of the oft-mentioned Olivia on General Hospital would be played by daytime vet Lisa LoCicero. Coming from a background spanning roles on Loving, The City and One Life to Live, LoCicero sure seemed like a good fit on GH. Who would have known that four years later, LoCicero would still be on the show, especially when the character was only supposed to be short-term. Now in 2012, the actress is will be celebrating her four year anniversary, involved in a major storyline featuring daytime great Robin Mattson and gets to make out with the hunk Scott Reeves all day. Who wouldn’t love that?
Two weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking to the lovely star in what was certainly an entertaining hour for me. Besides, it’s not every day I get to interview one of my favorite actresses.
TVSource Magazine: You’ll be celebrating 4 years on GH this fall. When you were first hired, did you ever think you would be around this long?
LoCicero: You know I guess I wasn’t projecting that far into the future. I had a sense because you know they wrote the part for me. It was sort of random; it came out of the blue. It was supposed to be seven episodes or something like that. I did have a perception that knowing what the basis of the storyline was, it certainly had the potential to be a really great part.
That’s how they were starting people at that time – not so much doing the screen test kind of thing. [They'd] throw a character up against the wall and see if it stuck. If it did, [they would] make it a contract role. It certainly occurred to me that it could have been a long term thing, but I just played it day by day.
I think a big part of my character being around was the success of Dom [Zamprogna] coming on as Dante. That could have been a turning point one way or the other. If that character would have tanked then there wouldn’t have been a whole lot of point for me to be around at that point. But he was – by all accounts he went from zero to seven hundred like the minute his face hit the screen. Even by accounts of people who’d been in the business, they’d rarely seen a character become so popular so quick. I loved that whole period of time. It was really great – when Olivia still had that great secret and when Dante had the secret and whatnot. That was fun. Playing that out was really intriguing as an actor.
TVSource Magazine: How would you say Olivia’s changed since she first arrived in Port Charles?
LoCicero: Let’s see…since she first arrived in Port Charles? Certainly her wardrobe has gotten better. When she first came on, she was full on, text-book old school neighborhood girl. She’s kind of classed it up a little bit since then. That’s one of the great things about Olivia – she can kind of play all sides of the fence. She could certainly have tea with the queen and mind her manners like the finest lady, but she can also break off the bottle of a beer bottle and cut someone’s throat. She’s both a hoodrat and a lady when she needs to be [laughs].
She’s an interesting chameleon that way. She’s got that kind of social intelligence and she’s always had a great sense of what’s right and wrong. I mean I guess it’s just recently come into question lately – it was a bit of a departure for her to go to Sonny and tell him to do whatever it took to make Johnny stop what he was doing. That was a big thing. When I first read that I thought “oh no she would never do this.” But I wrapped my head around it and it started to make sense. She’s got a strong set of morals I think and she saw that what Jonny was doing was really, really wrong. And her love for Steve and her interest in keeping him safe superseded her distrust for the mob.
I think it would have been something she wouldn’t have done earlier on. But maybe being in close proximity to Sonny over the last couple of years and seeing that as a viable option to ask him for help when she really, really needed it.
TVSource Magazine: I thought it was also a nice point to have Olivia make it clear to Sonny, “Look, I won’t want you to kill Johnny ok?” It showed just how much Olivia feared for Steven being blackmailed.
LoCicero: I actually padded those lines out a little bit. I knew she was gonna get a lot of heat and people would be like “How could you go to that guy? You always say you hate the mob!” [I wanted] to make sure it was really, really clear that she wasn’t saying “I don’t want him dead in the harbor; just stop him from what he’s doing. Keep it so my boyfriend doesn’t have to sell organs on the black market.” Some of that storyline wise was wrapping up stuff from the previous writers that I don’t think Ron really cared to continue, so I think there was some of that that was in that storyline as well – that whole Johnny blackmail thing.
TVSource Magazine: Steve seems to have been a pretty positive influence in Olivia’s life. What is it about Steve that attracted Olivia to him? Was it that he was “safe”? And by safe I don’t necessarily mean the “not break your heart kind of guy,” I mean the “I won’t get you killed” kind of guy; especially considering her last boyfriend (and Sonny before) were mobsters.
LoCicero: I think he’s not the kind of guy she normally goes for. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this for the character [as of late]. I think Olivia is attracted to a man needing her – that seems to be a thing and that was the tricky part of Steve – by all appearances he kind of had his shit together. He’s a handsome, smart surgeon; a good, clean, straight-as-an-arrow kind of guy. I think she became activated when she saw that the whole Memphis thing come out. And now there’s the stuff with Heather – she’s very, very protective. That’s how she knows how to show her love – to protect the people that she cares for. So I think at first it was a little difficult because he didn’t need her, but once it became clear that he really did need her, I think in her emotional life, took the relationship to another level. That’s sort of like being needed – being needed it’s like the ultimate aphrodisiac for Olivia [laughs].
TVSource Magazine: It makes sense. I mean if you look at it, Sonny was her first love and he was damaged…
LoCicero: A damaged, misguided youth. And then she had a baby when she was a baby. She knows to nurture and so take care of people is certainly what she does. I mean Johnny was this sort of troubled figure. It’s just like in real life – you think you’ve gotten to someone – you think you’re going one way then you go “oh my gosh, this is exactly kind of the same.” I’m sure there’s not a person that’s been in the dating world more than 10 years that can’t relate to that aspect. It’s like “oh my gosh I keep dating the same person, in a different package, over and over again somehow.”
Certainly [that's] what’s going on now with Heather. You really could argue that Steve is putting her in more danger than any of the other two ever did. I can’t give out any spoilers but I know there’s some very exciting activities coming down the pipeline. I just got some scripts the other day that – I’m over the moon as a longtime General Hospital fan. As I said many times, my story when I was 9 or 10 was Heather and Joe Kelly and the baby and Susan. That was the thing that I was running home from school to see – Steven Lars and Heather Back when the nurses wore nurse hats and little blue cardigans over their nurses uniform [laughs].
TVSource Magazine: So you were thrilled when you heard Robin was coming back to the show?
LoCicero: Oh my gosh! I was so thrilled and I remain thrilled. She’s just such a pleasure to work with. She’s funny. She brings it, she loves to work and I loved her work beforehand. She loves to run stuff so when you get up there you can sort of play when you really know your words and know where the scene is going – you can get up there and kind of play. I don’t often, I mean I’m my own worst critic when I watch myself, but I loved those scenes at The Floating Rib with she and I and Spinelli. I cracked myself up in doing and watching those. She’s a dream.
TVSource Magazine: Those were fantastic. Your one liners about Heather being cray are absolutely hilarious.
LoCicero: [Laughs] We keep trying to keep to those funny.
TVSource Magazine: Do you adlib any of those?
LoCicero: Yes there have been a few and I do try to keep it – I mean I know – I’ve tried to add in sort of that she blurts it out and says “I know, I know you’re not supposed to talk about people’s mental illness that way. It’s not ok to say ‘she’s cracking up, losing her marbles.” It’s a sensitive topic so Olivia frequently apologizes for her blurt after she’s done it. Heather just gets under her skin for obvious reasons.
TVSource Magazine: With Olivia and Spinelli teaming up to find out Heather’s secret, are you working with Bradford [Anderson] more now than you pretty much have been?
LoCicero: Oh yeah. We’ve never really had a lot of storyline before. He’s another one. We like to run our lines and get them so we can get up there and really knock it out. That character [of Spinelli] – that energy of that character and that of Olivia – they meld nicely together. That’s really kind of a fun recipe with the two of them together. She’s sort of sardonic and he’s so super earnest that it is sort of a Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker kind of relationship [laughs].
TVSource Magazine: I spoke with Kelly Sullivan a few days ago and she had nothing but flattering things to say about you. She said you were her first friend on the show.
LoCicero: First of all she is so delightful. The way that she has jumped into this medium and gone straight to just like leading lady times three thousand in the span of a couple of months [is amazing]. With the amount of material and the difficulty of the material she’s doing – she’s just knocking it out of the park every day. It’s like unbelievable. We hit it off from day one. On her first or second day, she and I had like 40 pages of monologue. She was just hitting the ground there so we went out and ran it and ran it. She was like peeing her pants a little bit. I was like don’t worry, if we have to run it, we’ll run it all knight until you feel confident and comfortable. Those were some of my favorite scenes I’ve done with her – the scenes between Kate and Olivia in her office. [Watch those scenes here]
TVSource Magazine: It seems like for the first time that Kate and Olivia really addressed the big elephant in the room – that’d be Sonny. Back in November, there was an episode where Kate and Olivia had a heart-to-heart conversation at the Metrocourt. In the scenes, Olivia acknowledged the fact that Kate and Sonny belong together; even though she admitted she’d always have feelings for him. I’m pleased the relationship between those two is showcased more often.
LoCicero: I think at this point in the storyline, Olivia is glad to see the two of them together. I don’t think that she, at this moment, is experiencing jealousy about Kate and Sonny. I think she’s really supportive of the two, especially with everything Connie/Kate is going through and all that kind of stuff. That would be a way that she’s changed.
When Olivia first came on she was not very happy about Kate being with Sonny based on it being dangerous, but she seems to be finally supportive. Maybe after having been around Sonny again the last couple of years, she’s sort of understanding the complexities of his life a little better than she did and accepting him a little bit more. I’m gonna guess. Olivia was ranting and raving in the beginning “You gotta stay away from him. He’s gonna get you killed. Yada, yada, yada.” She obviously has some sort of internal truth with Sonny in the years she’s been in proximity to him. And I could on all day about Kelly and what a sweetheart she is and what a good energy she is on the set. She’s a good egg in every single way.
TVSource Magazine: Olivia’s judged Kate very harshly over the years for Kate abandoning her past. Now that it’s been revealed why Kate really left Bensonhurst, will Olivia treat her differently? Will she look at why Connie became Kate a little bit differently?
LoCicero: Oh 100 percent. As far as Olivia and anyone else in the family knew, Connie just gave everyone the finger and said you’re not cool enough to be in my orbit and now I’m Kate Howard. I think a lot of what Olivia reacted to was being there in Bensonhurst and watching Kate’s parent’s hearts break. She saw the pain that it caused the rest of the family when Connie did what she did. Of course she had no idea that Connie was suffering this trauma, she just thought she was being a bitch. That’s kind of what everyone thought.
TVSource Magazine: Have you filmed any scenes with Kelly post-reveal? Does Olivia know that Joe Jr., raped Connie?
LoCicero: Yes. She sort of tells it off camera, but yes we did film some of that stuff. It’s really moving. It brings them closer and closer together. I think that one of the things Frank said (and he’s really right). He knows this genre so well. He was watching when we filmed the scenes together in the hospital when Olivia goes to visit her at Shadybrook and after the scenes he came up and said “This is what soap operas are all about. It’s the desire to believe that there are these family members that will love you no matter what. Whether that actually does happen in life or not, part of the fantasy that people want in a soap opera, aside from the romance and sex and excitement – part of the fantasy people are looking to live is that there are these family ties and these people that will do anything for you no matter what. And they’;ll love you no matter what.” And he feels that is what’s happening between our two characters. I think he’s really right. I never saw it that way, but I think it’s really wise.
TVSource Magazine: Olivia was very nurturing and comforting and understanding that I think added a very interesting layer to the complex relationship between Kate and Olivia.
LoCicero: Right. I think this is obviously going to, minus the judgment that she’s had with Kate her adult life, they’re just gonna probably be best friends I would imagine. Also, the character of Kate has changed a lot. They’re not making her a bitch on wheels anymore. That was sort of when Bob [Guza] was writing for Megan [Ward]. It was more of that Devil Wears Prada – she was being a bitch to everyone. I feel like they said “No one likes that. No one wants Sonny with this woman that’s a total bitch.” They’ve made Kate a lot more sympathetic in terms of storyline but in also the way they write her day-to-day interactions with people.
In part two of our interview, Lisa talks about the changes behind the scenes, the OLTL “invasion,” what’d she’d like to see happen with Steve and Olivia and more! Check out our Facebook page this weekend for a sneak peek of part two!