As ABC’s General Hospital heads towards its Golden Anniversary, stars from the network’s longest running soap spoke with the press during a recent media day, revealing the perks associated with their jobs, and why they believe GH has not only survived, but thrived in a changing age of broadcasting, and looking forward to a new renaissance in storytelling.
Emmy winner Tony Geary, who plays the infamous and iconic Luke Spencer, says the soaps’ 50th anniversary has meant surviving. “It means longevity. It means that he show has been entertaining people for two generations,” he points out. “It’s a great honor to be on this show and particularly at this time. It’s wonderful.”
“50 years on television? It’s extraordinary when you think about it, that we’ve been telling stories for 50 years,” agrees Finola Hughes, who plays Commissioner Anna Devane.
Jane Elliot, who joined the cast of General Hospital in 1978 as Tracy Quartermaine, attributes four reasons as to why the soap has lasted for so long: “Good actors, good writers and good producers. And an audience that is very, very loyal.” The actress says the show is in the best shape it’s been in years. “[There are] wonderful stories, wonderful actors coming back and gracing the screen and giving the audience what they want to see.”
Working on General Hospital in the 80s had its advantages. The show entered its glory days under the stewardship of legendary Gloria Monty, who had taken over under a serious threat of cancellation at the time. She transformed the serial into a ratings juggernaut and watercooler fodder.
Ian Buchanan, whose character Duke Lavery gained huge popularity during that era, returned to GH last year to the delight of fans and cast alike. “People were more welcoming if you went other places to work,” he notes, referring to the sometimes-derided genre of daytime drama. The cast was often surprised to find some of the world’s biggest celebrities were fans. “Even around music people like Aretha Franklin or Stevie Nicks, these people are just like ‘We love the shows, we love the shows!” He remembers happily. “We’d go to concerts and almost like sit on the stage. It was so much fun.”
Jacklyn Zeman, who played troubled, redheaded Spencer sister Bobbie, is thrilled to be back on the set with so many old friends. “Frank [Valentini] – our amazing producer, and Ron [Carlivati] – our head writer – have found a way to honor the history and the past of the show and bring it forward into the present and into the future in a very glamorous, exciting, new and different way. And I think that our audience loves that,” she emphatically asserts. “The people who love soaps, the people who love General Hospital, know the history. It’s a generational thing. You get great-grandma, grandma, mom, kids. Sometimes four generations.”
Zeman adds, “Everybody likes to feel that every age group and every demographic as they say in the business, is important. And they’ve managed to do that with this show. Which is I think why it remains popular and it remains so loved in the hearts and minds of our – I want to say audience; fans –but they’re really more like family.”
Geary credits creative and production changes for why he still finds the show exciting. “They’ve revamped. It’s got a very modern look, but it’s reached into its history for all of the story. We’re a real community again. We don’t have ghettoized stories where there are people over here who never meet. That is the way the show was originally conceived, that it would be a community. I think it’s wonderful. I think they’ve done a fantastic job of revitalizing the old cow,” said the actor with a grin and a twinkle. “The old cow is still milking!”
General Hospital’s 50th anniversary celebration kicks off Tuesday, April 2 on ABC. Keep visiting TVSource Magazine for updates, photos and scoop from General Hospital’s 2013 Nurses Ball event, and 50th anniversary.
Additional editing by Angela Rynan Durrell | Quotes courtesy ABC Publicity