Soap veteran and General Hospital star Jackie Zeman (Bobbie) sits down with TV Source Magazine for an exclusive interview.
A New Jersey native, Jackie Zeman has spent the past 32 years as Barbara Jean “Bobbie” Spencer on General Hospital, but in 2007, on her 30th anniversary with the show, she was bumped to recurring status.
Jackie, began taking dance lessons when she was 5, she was accepted into the New Jersey Dance Company when she was 15. She accepted a scholarship from New York University and majored in dance. Jackie began her acting career in 1976 in New York, but soon made the decision to move west to Los Angeles,California.
She landed the role of Bobbie Spencer on ABC’s long running soap General Hospital in 1977. In 1978, the show brought onto the canvas, a brother for Bobbie, portrayed by Anthony Geary. Over the years, Bobbie’s history had unfolded and in 1996, the show introduced Bobbie’s daughter, Carly Benson (then played by Sarah Brown, now played by Laura Wright). Bobbie Spencer has been a core character on the show, with major storylines and romantic pairings, until recently.
One of the most poignant storylines Jackie was involved with was in the early 80’s, when the show tackled a domestic violence story. In the 90’s, Jackie was again involved with another important storyline when her character was devastated when her daughter, BJ, was in an accident and gave her heart to another child who needed it to survive. The story also involved Brad Maule, and, Jack and Kristina Wagner, along with Brighton Hertford who played BJ. The controversial story has been one of the most popular storylines in General Hospital history.
TVSource Magazine was honored with the opportunity to sit down with this extraordinary veteran actress and talk about her character and her experience on General Hospital.
TVSource Magazine: Prior to joining “General Hospital,” you played Lana McClain on “One Life to Live.” What was it like playing that character? I believe she was one of the few characters who actually committed suicide on-screen.
Jackie Zeman: Lana was my first contract role on Daytime TV. It was an exciting opportunity for me to play the role and I learned so much at One Life. The people there were like family to me…friendly, helpful, and generous with their time and attention. I have many fond memories of those days. And the fans have been awesome! People still tell me that they remember the storylines we did and how much they enjoyed the show. There is an eternal connection that happens between people as a result of daytime programming. That connection has had great positive impact on my thoughts and on my life.
TVS: After OLTL you joined GH as Bobbie Spencer. What was it like working with the late great Douglas Marland and Gloria Monty?
JZ: Douglas Marland and Gloria Monty are two of the greatest legends of daytime. It was an honor to work with both of them. They had enormous love and passion and commitment. They were highly motivated to contribute the best of their abilities…which was considerable. They inspired and touched the hearts and minds of so many people.
TVS: You and Tony Geary seem to have quite a rapport on screen, how has it been having Tony as an on screen brother?
JZ: Tony Geary….I love him….and I have great respect and admiration for his talent and professionalism. I don’t have a biological brother, but I feel as if God gave me a gift by bringing Tony into my life.
TVS: BJ’s heart story has held a special place in the hearts of many GH fans. What is your personal connection to the story? Does it stand out as one of your favorites?
JZ: Yes the BJ storyline still resonates within me. When Brighton Hertford was on the show it was before I had children of my own in real life. I still feel connected to her and the mutual memories we share from the scenes we did. Brighton was married recently. She is very happy and still beautiful inside and out.
TVS: Do you feel the show could have more interaction between Bobbie and Carly and the Spencer clan?
JZ: I think any opportunity to tell character driven story elevates daytime to its most valuable potential.
TVS: Do you miss the interaction with Leslie Charleson? Monica and Bobbie have had a long standing history, and the show doesn’t seem to want to write for either character separately or as friends. Many fans miss seeing the two of you together.
JZ: Thank you. Leslie is a joy to know and to work with. There would be heartfelt power in a story for Monica and Bobbie. I think many of the female viewers would respond positively to a story that explores the love, friendship, competition, and opposing points of view of these two women. They come from such different backgrounds and yet they have much in common. This would be a challenge for our writers. So much of what we are seeing on screen these days is plot driven.
TVS: Do you feel it was a missed opportunity to have Bobbie and Noah Drake not come together again as a couple when he came back to the show?
JZ: Most certainly. Noah and Bobbie were a universal example of young love and attraction and how complicated it can be for young people from different backgrounds. Rick invited me to join him on his Rick and Friends cruise this past Nov. There were a few thousand people on the ship. So many of them said they were disappointed in this missed opportunity. Who knows…maybe sometime in the future?
TVS: There are many opportunities for the writers to incorporate Bobbie as more of a matriarch for the Spencer family, but she isn’t. Bobbie has been absent for many very important moments in the lives of her relatives. She was absent from Lulu’s abortion story, Luke’s near death stories, and Liz and Lucky’s ongoing relationship storyline. Why do you think the writers aren’t giving Bobbie more interaction with the family?
JZ: That’s a question for Bob Guza. I would be interested to hear his response.
TVS: Lucas has been gone a long while now, do you think the show will recast the role to bring more story for Bobbie and the family? Has a Lucas recast been discussed?
JZ: So many people have asked me about Lucas. I’m not sure where he is supposed to be. As soon as he came out…he was gone. Maybe someday he will return to Port Charles. I hope Bobbie is there to welcome him when that happens.
TVS: For nearly 30 years you were a permanent fixture on the show. In 2007 the show decided to bump you to recurring. If given the opportunity would you be open to more work on General Hospital? It was so nice to see Bobbie on screen during the “What if BJ had lived” episode the other day.
JZ: Thank you for your kind words. I’m always interested in creative opportunities.
TVS: As a veteran of the industry, how do you feel about the current state of the soap genre as it struggles to stay afloat? Is there anything you feel the soaps could do to lure back viewers that may have tuned out?
JZ: I’ve always loved my soaps. Grew up watching them with my Mom. I feel sad that the daytime industry is struggling to stay afloat. Decisions today are all about money. The ratings are low, and yes it’s true that many people have tuned out. Many people have told me that they fast forward through the shows when they are not interested in the characters or the story. A few years ago I asked the “powers that be” if we could do a romantic story line for Bobbie and was told that our audience doesn’t want to see “old people” kissing. I disagree with this conclusion. So many of our GH fans have told me that they would love to see some story for Bobbie with Noah Drake, Jerry Jacks, and Scotty Baldwin. There are a lot of women over 40…even over 50…60..all ages…who are still interested in romance and great sex. And daytime is the perfect place to explore these possibilities. I know our audience would connect with this because they have told me they would.
TVS: Are there any avenues work wise that you have not been able to explore and would like to if the opportunity presented itself? What have you been doing career wise now that “Bobbie” is not on screen as often? You have also created your own jewelry line. How did that come about for you? Where can those interested purchase your pieces?
JZ: It’s been an exciting year for me….personally and professionally. I like to keep busy, and this new chapter of my life is and exciting and different. HSN [Home Shoppping Network] has given me the opportunity to launch a new jewelry line. My Spice Collection was on air a couple of weeks ago…if anyone wants to take a look they can locate it online. I am working on a new collection of designs for May. This creative process is an interesting challenge for me. I’m learning, and growing and I’m happy.
TVS: How did you get involved with the Gabriel Project?
JZ: The Gabriel Project has been dear to my heart for many years. It was founded by Mark Melamed, a 6th grade middle school teacher from Vineland, New Jersey. Gabriel Project brings kids from Africa to the USA for life saving heart surgery. Mark started the Project as a way of teaching his students to make a difference by contributing to the well being of others. Kids helping kids. For 19 years Mark and his students have been working and going strong. Their dedication is inspirational.
TVS: What would you like to say to all of your loving and supporting fans?
JZ: Recently, I came upon a quote [From Henry David Thoreu] which I would like to share. “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
Jackie’s beautiful jewelry collection can be found on the Home Shopping Network.
We appreciate Jackie’s candor and the opportunity to interview her. We wish her only the best in all her endeavors. Thank you to Jackie for giving us 32 years of wonderful performances on General Hospital.
This interview is not to be reproduced without written consent from the author and TVSourceMagazine.com © 2009 TVSource Magazine. All rights reserved