Soap icon and longtime General Hospital star Genie Francis, best known for her role as heroine Laura Spencer, has been dropped as a contract star on the long-running ABC drama, months before the series 55th anniversary.
As first reported by Daytime Confidential, with additional reporting via Soap Opera Central, the fan favorite was blindsided by what was essentially her termination. It is said that executive producer Frank Valentini wanted the actress to appear in a dozen episodes. Francis appeared in nearly 50 episodes in 2015, and averaged around 70 or so in 2016 and 2017.
Entertainment Weekly reports General Hospital opted not to extend her contract for another year. “She did not want to leave the show as a series regular,” Francis’ agent Arthur Toretzsky told EW. “It was not her choice to leave.”
Francis signed a multi-year deal in 2015 alongside co-star Finola Hughes, a deal heralded by the showrunner at the time. “We are thrilled that Genie and Finola will continue to make General Hospital their home for years to come,” said Valentini. “These enormously talented actresses have created timeless characters that resonate with our fans.”
Francis has recently been featured in a storyline gaining traction with the audience, which featured her character Laura, now married to Jon Lindstrom’s Kevin Collins, running for mayor of Port Charles. Laura was abruptly written out to care for her injured off-screen grandchild.
Francis’ rise to stardom began when she began playing the role of Laura Spencer on General Hospital, which she assumed in 1977. She is most noted as one half of daytime’s most popular super couple in Luke and Laura. Luke and Laura’s November 1981 wedding drew 30 million viewers, turning the episode into the highest-rated hour in soap opera history. In addition to GH, Francis has also starred as Diana Colville on Days of our Lives, Ceara Connor Hunter on All My Children and Genevieve Atkinson on The Young and the Restless. Francis won the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2007.
Genie Francis’ 2002 exit from GH came amidst a very public contract dispute. The actress requested the summer off to celebrate milestone birthdays for herself and husband, actor Jonathan Frakes. However, Francis was denied this request by then-executive producer Jill Farren Phelps. In her exit interview with TV Guide, Francis said though wasn’t the sole reason for her exit, it was the final straw.
“They put in my last contract that I had to give 120 days notice to get a six-week vacation. I had completely forgotten that it was there, and that made me really angry because I fought all along to have equality with my partner, Tony, and they don’t impose that on him for his vacations, but they do impose it on me. I just decided that this wasn’t right,” said Francis in 2002. “I’ve worked long and hard, and I’ve fought for equality, and I can’t seem to achieve it. And I’m not ever going to turn 40 and my husband’s not going to ever turn 50 again. I wanted to live my life without feeling like I was so owned by [ABC] and that I had to beg for every little scrap of time off. It didn’t feel right anymore. Life does not go on forever. So I just felt like, as much as I love the show, as much as I love Laura, as much as I love many of the people there, I really essentially needed a longer leash, and they wanted me to have a shorter one. So I just said, ‘That’s it. I can’t do it.'”
16 years later and it doesn’t seem like anything has changed. You’d think an “enormously talented” star playing a “timeless chareacter that resonates with the fans” would be given more respect. She deserves that. We deserve that. #TimesUp.