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THE KIMBERLY MCCULLOUGH INTERVIEW – GENERAL HOSPITAL

Kimberly straigt hair.jpgJUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED

Kimberly McCullough serves up her prescription for soap success!

By Michael Fairman

Year after year, Daytime Emmy award winner Kimberly McCullough has been heralded for her moving, brave and believable performance of Dr. Robin Scorpio, the HIV-positive heroine on ABC’s General Hospital and its prime-time spin-off GH: NightShift.

Her HIV storyline began back in 1995 when she contracted HIV after having unprotected sex with then-boyfriend Stone Cates. What followed was one of the most compelling and moving portraits ever seen on daytime television. Robin not only had to watch her boyfriend die of AIDS, she also had to find the courage to cope and live with what had befallen her. This fall, Robin’s storyline marks another first for daytime soaps—she gives birth to her own child. Through her remarkable portrayal, Kimberly has been a constant in the fight against AIDS, as well as a hard-working actress and humanitarian. No stranger to the spotlight, this month she delivers the opening speech at AIDS Walk LA.

Listen to the audio:

MICHAEL:

Kimberly, you play the historic character of Dr. Robin Scorpio, the only HIV+ long running character on a daytime soap. It carries a lot of social importance, because people watch to see how Robin deals with her life and the issues surrounding living with HIV. How do you feel about that?

pregnant.jpgKIMBERLY:

I think it’s exciting, and it’s a different kind of attention that is paid to it. It’s just not the lover relationship storyline, because things have changed so much since when my character, Robin, was diagnosed. So, that is really cool.

MICHAEL:

Robin is living with HIV, and now is an expectant mother. How far do you think we have come since AIDS was first diagnosed and portrayed on television, to now in 2008?

KIMBERLY:

We didn’t really know much about

it when it first came in to our culture. We have come a long way, and certainly, there is a long way to go. People are living long lives, and that’s why the baby storyline is important, because most people don’t know that HIV+ women can have healthy babies.

MICHAEL:

Did you do a lot of research on pregnant women with HIV? God willing, in the “GH” storyline, will Robin have a healthy baby?

KIMBERLY:

From the beginning of the story, they have been as responsible as they can be, and because it is an HIV related story, you want to give people hope. I don’t foresee the baby being positive. I think the smarter thing would be, to portray a baby that was healthy.

MICHAEL:

When you first learned that “GH” was going to give your character, Robin, HIV+, how did you feel about that?

KIMBERLY:

That was 15 years ago, and I knew nothing about AIDS at the time. As far as character development, I thought it was really ballsy and a good idea.

MICHAEL:

Have you received any feedback from HIV+ women who are pregnant, and who are thrilled that you are portraying their concerns and struggles?

Patrick and Robin.jpg

KIMBERLY:

I have talked to a few HIV+ women who have children. I think they are just happy to see anyone who is going through something difficult, portrayed appropriately in the media. They want an actress to play it positively on TV. It helps them to relate to the character. This one woman was telling me that her kids were being made fun of in school, and other mothers’ would not let them look at their kids when they had AIDS, when in fact, they didn’t at all. It would be so cool if those people could watch the show. Entertainment has a way of getting into the minds of people who generally wouldn’t think that way.

MICHAEL:

On “GH” Robin is involved with Dr. Patrick Drake, who is HIV-. In their relationship, Robin is a very independent woman who seems to be resistant to marrying the man she loves and who wants to marry her. There seems to be so many manufactured arguments to keep them apart. Why?

KIMBERLY:

It’s very manufactured… it’s drama and soap. In general, Patrick and Robin have a more realistic relationship, meaning a relationship you would find in real life, which I like. It’s not too campy and over-the-top. Their problems are real problems; not some bad guy is going to kill them, and it’s not some, “Who’s the daddy?” story. It’s a real issue that people deal with, whether it is AIDS, or some other sexually transmitted disease.

MICHAEL:

Why is Robin constantly declining Patrick’s beautiful marriage proposals?

KIMBERLY:

I think it’s just for drama, and I have to justify it as an actress to portray it, but it’s like… finally, she does.

MICHAEL:

Why does Robin finally say, “Yes”?

KIMBERLY:

Her issue was that she thought Patrick was doing it because he should, not because he really wanted to. In a way, I do understand, because I do have a lot of similar issues to Robin… the intimacy issues and things like that. But it’s true, when you are dealing with somebody like that, you have to prove it to the ‘Nth’ degree before they believe it, you know.

MICHAEL:

But, she’s damaged because of other relationships; she’s afraid she could lose somebody or dies, and not be there for her child. Is that put into how you portray your character?

KIMBERLY:

Yes, because for her, Patrick committing to Robin, and the prospect that she might die and she may leave him alone, she knows what that feels like. I think ultimately why she does say, “yes” and agrees to marry Patrick is: (A) She does believe he really wants to marry her. And (B) if the worst thing was to happen, and they were to get married, and she dies, he would have rights to the child. Otherwise, he wouldn’t. And (C) She wants to be married.

JaggerandRobin.jpgMICHAEL:

On “GH NightShift”, in a recent episode Robin was talking to Jagger (Antonio Sabato Jr) about his brother and her ex-lover Stone, who died of AIDS on the show. Patrick overheard that perhaps it might have been better if both Patrick and she were HIV+. It was a very important scene that I think goes on in real-life with people in those relationship dynamics.

KIMBERLY:

My guess is that it does happen both ways. Some people are OK with it, and some people are not. I have a friend who has Herpes and she deals with that all the time. In a way, it’s a similar issue, but not because AIDS is a lot more serious. You are putting yourself at risk by being intimate with someone, and that can be really scary.

MICHAEL:

You have had three phenomenal leading men on “GH”. The first, of course, was Michael Sutton, who played the HIV+ Stone Cates, and eventually died of AIDS. How was working with him?

KIMBERLY:

It was interesting, because in real life Michael and I were very different. Michael and I had a good working relationship and never hung out outside of work. Mainly, because he was a lot older than me… and a lot cooler than me. I was just a dorky teenager, and he was this hotshot Beverly Hills kid. I was very intimidated by him, but for whatever reason, on camera, it worked.

michaelsutton.jpgMICHAEL:

One of your finest moments as an actress was in the scenes where Stone dies. Do you feel it was some of your best work?

KIMBERLY:

I absolutely do. Thank you for saying that. It was one of those things where the story took over. That’s one of those things, when you play a character so many times and so many days, it sort of becomes ingrained and you don’t really have to act anymore. It takes on a life of its own. Everyone in the studio had been with us, and it was really heavy. Our storyline was about life and death every day. I remember when

we did that scene; the cameramen and the men were crying and sobbing. Everyone was able to relate to what was going on at the time. Everyone knew, especially here in LA, someone who died of AIDS.

MICHAEL:

I lost my two best friends. One died in 1987 and the other passed away in 1989 and that was pretty difficult. I watched them both die. It was hard to say good-bye to them.

KIMBERLY:

Had they made peace with it or were they angry?

MICHAEL:

No, I think in the end they had made peace. I don’t know how they did it. I went to see one of my friends who went back home to die with his parents. My other best friend was in a coma in the hospital before he died. Personally, have you known people who died from it?

KIMBERLY:

I didn’t back then, I was a kid. You also have to remember, as you know, a lot of that stuff was hidden. I had a family member die, and it was not said, “He died of AIDS,” but everyone knew he died of AIDS, you know that kind of thing. People did not talk about it, especially if you were a gay man and your family wasn’t cool with that, you had cancer, not AIDS. I am sure there was more people that I did not know had AIDS, because back then, you could not be as forthcoming about it.

MICHAEL:

Robin was next involved with Jason Morgan, played by Steve Burton. How was working with Steve?

KIMBERLY:

It’s funny. I feel like Steve and I had great chemistry also, but our chemistry was based on a friendship. I felt like we had a lot of fun together, and I felt it was more innocent than the other relationships he had on the show which were all sexually-driven. Because his character, Jason, had amnesia at the time and was re-learning things, it was like we could be more playful and innocent about the whole thing.

Jason Thompson.jpgMICHAEL:

Now you are working with the wonderfully talented Jason Thompson as Patrick!

KIMBERLY:

First of all, we are really good friends in real-life. As an actor, he is willing to experience everything. He is really sensitive and vulnerable.

MICHAEL:

And Jason is a great crier.

KIMBERLY:

There are not a lot of male actors that

want to be seen crying or even go there. Jason also has a great sense of humor,

and for whatever reason, we have a competitive, playful thing that worked from the very beginning. We just have so much fun working together.

MICHAEL:

Over the years, have there been other favorite scenes you’ve had, as Robin?

KIMBERLY:

I had a fun scene that airs on “GH NightShift,” with Tristan Rogers (Robert) who gives me the talk. I don’t know if it happened to you, but it happened to me. It’s where your parents tell you everything they have ever wanted to say because they think they might die. So that was a rough scene for me to do, because I have actually had that experience in real life. It was really successful and beautiful for me. I really liked that scene. Other than that, I really enjoyed the scenes with the girls at Jake’s, drinking shots….

MICHAEL:

…. You’re kidding!

KIMBERLY:

They are really special, because I have formed a lot of great friendships. Kent Masters King (Lanie), Minae Noji (Kelly), Sonya Eddy (Epiphany), Nazanin Boniaidi (Leyla,) and Claire Coffee (Nadine), are all really good friends of mine now.

MICHAEL:

Does portraying a doctor on TV get tiresome, or do you like it?

Kimberlyand girls.jpgKIMBERLY:

I like being a doctor. It was a good challenge coming back to the show. When I was away from the show, I was not able to play my age because I looked like a child. So, it was a good grown-up challenge to come back.

MICHAEL:

Now, with being the face of HIV on daytime soaps, and seeing the current state of affairs with the disease, both domestically and globally, where do you think we’re at, as a country?

KIMBERLY:

It’s rising in young female African American women. That says to me, it’s an education problem, and a lot of that is politics and I won’t go into that.

MICHAEL:

You play such an iconic soap character, as Dr. Robin Scorpio, is there some storyline you would love to do but haven’t had a chance to play?

KIMBERLY:

I think because she wanted to be a mother so badly, it would be interesting if she fumbles through the whole thing, and she really isn’t a good mother. I think it would be really funny. I think it would be fun to play and for her to admit she needs some help.

MICHAEL:

What was your feeling on Robin’s “Video Blog” of her pregnancy? I didn’t like it! It was so ridiculous.

finolaandTristan.jpgKIMBERLY:

I hated it! I thought it was playing down to the lowest common denominator. You could tell I did not like it because I just rambled through all of them.

MICHAEL:

How is it to work with your on-screen mom and dad again on “GH NightShift”, Finola Hughes (Anna) and Tristan Rogers? Will we see more of them when season 2 of the show ends, and will they cross over to “GH”?

KIMBERLY:

It’s awesome. I am pretty sure Finola will be there for the birth and the wedding. It’s just that both Finola and Tristan are such phenomenal actors. They have a very long and complicated history on the show, and fans love to see that, and it’s incredible to watch them work together. They are really good to work with.

MICHAEL:

You have walked in The AIDS Walk before, yes?

KIMBERLY:

I have done it several times in San Francisco, New York, and in Los Angeles lots of times. I am walking this year and we have already raised $30,000 for our team… “Team Scrubs”!

MICHAEL:

Is “Team Scrubs” a fan group? I hear they come to walk from all over the country.

KIMBERLY:

They do come. I am not sure how we are going to do it this year, but the first year anybody could do it and sign up as a team member. Last year, they were able to just donate to the team members. Basically, there is a message board called the, “Scrubs Message Board”, and those people really take it upon themselves to raise money for the team. Whether they walk or not, is up to them.

MICHAEL:

Who might participant this year in AIDS Walk Los Angeles from “GH”?

KIMBERLY:

My guess it would be Jason, Minae, Sonya and me, and it will be those people who essentially work in the hospital on the show.

MICHAEL:

You have been asked to give a speech this year at the beginning of the AIDS Walk.

KIMBERLY:

Yes, at the opening ceremony of the AIDS Walk, and I have no idea exactly of how I am going to say it, but I would like to talk about policy. It’s really important right now because of the upcoming election. Some of my speech will have to do with Robin having a baby on the show and how cool that is.

MICHAEL:

Would you go to Africa and help fight and bring even more awareness to the pandemic of AIDS globally?

KIMBERLY:

Of course I would!

Kimberlyhairup.jpg

MICHAEL:

Will ABC Daytime continue their commitment of telling Robin’s ongoing story?

KIMBERLY:

I think it benefits them. It’s a talking point. I heard Brian Frons (President, ABC Daytime and SOAPnet) make a speech about how soaps are talking about certain issues and he brought up my character. It gives credibility to the soaps, and as long as they believe that, and that they are reaching people, they will continue to tell her story.

MICHAEL:

Are there ever times when you see a script and you don’t agree with the lines and you take issue with it?

KIMBERLY:

Yes, all the time. But, I am just an actress. I am not the writer of the show. I only have so much control. I try to put my two-cents in, and yeah, it’s a television show, and I am not the one in control.

MICHAEL:

Do you believe that “giving back” is important?

KIMBERLY:

I was just talking to my friend about this, because I was watching everyone talking about Sarah Palin on CNN. Oh, my God! I did not know if I wanted to throw up or cry. I am so infuriated. I feel like the main thing that frustrates me, is that sense of, “Well, I worked so hard for it, so I get to keep it.” It’s that whole greed thing. Then, if you are not greedy you are called a Socialist, because you want people to be successful. It’s so far from being a Socialist; it’s not even funny. If you had a lot of money you wouldn’t think twice about helping somebody who doesn’t have it. I think it’s just greed and being self-centered, when people do not give back.

MICHAEL:

Do you contribute to charities and how do you discern which ones to give to?

KIMBERLY:

Anything that moves me at the moment, I do. AIDS is something that happened, and then I became passionate about it because of my career. So, I have given a lot of money to AIDS.

MICHAEL:

Do you remember when your character was first were diagnosed with HIV and the powerful statement that it made with your viewing public?

KIMBERLY:

What comes to mind is when we first started the story, and I was thrust into the world, and that’s when a lot of that stuff would happen. When we would do an, “ABC After-School” special, I was able to get in to all these places, such as hospices and what not, that I would not have normally been exposed to

MICHAEL:

Was it hard to go to hospice?

KIMBERLY:

I am an observer, which is who I am as a person. So, it was kind of interesting to me to see how people handle death, and at that time having no hope. Things have changed. I have heard recently that they are happy that Robin is portrayed as someone who is living their life. They have AIDS, and they are just living their life, but they still come across people who don’t want to be friends with them, and they still have these old, bigoted ideas. You may not think it exists, but it very well does. So, it’s kind of like, “OK, yeah, we have dealt with the issue. We know a lot more about AIDS, and OK, we know you can’t get it with you breathing on me, but at the end of the day I don’t want to be friends with you.” It doesn’t change it that much, except in the community that is educated. That is why the education part is so important, because educated people don’t isolate other people just because they have a disease.

MICHAEL:

For those who don’t know, what are the fundamental differences of shooting the primetime spin-off, “GH NightShift” and the daytime soap, “GH”?

KIMBERLY:

There is a huge difference. I shoot “GH, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I shoot “NightShift” Thursday and Friday. We have more time to shoot on “NightShift”. We have two days to shoot one episode, where on “GH” we have one day. The way the structure of the story is set up, the stories are wrapped-up in each episode, so it gives you a chance to play an arc within an episode, as opposed to an arc for three or four months on the daytime version.

Patrickhug.jpgMICHAEL:

We hear there is a big cliffhanger ending on “GH NightShift”. Is Robin in the mix?

KIMBERLY:

Yes, it airs October 21. Robin will be in the cliffhanger. I don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I feel cliffhangers are kind of pushed reality. Anyway, it’s definitely an exciting cliffhanger!

MICHAEL:

Will things get back to normal for you and your alter ego, Robin, when it ends?

KIMBERLY:

It doesn’t end for awhile for me. The next few months of Robin’s life are really fun and crazy. We go into Patrick and Robin’s wedding and then I have the baby.

MICHAEL:

Do you think the gay audience has been vital to the success and endurance of Dr. Robin Scorpio on daytime?

KIMBERLY:

Totally. Especially back in 1995 when we first started it, and that was very interesting. It was taking the girl next store, the girl that everybody loves, and giving her a disease that back then, was considered a gay man’s disease. So it was really cool for people who would normally just write it off and go, “Well, it’s your fault because you are gay.” They are not able to say that if they love the character of Robin Scorpio. I think it was good for the gay community, and the conservative heterosexual as well.

MICHAEL:

When gay men approach you, what things do they say about your portrayal of Robin?

chadandKyle.jpgKIMBERLY:

They say things like: “She is so strong and happy and living her life, even though she has this thing.” I think they are happy to see someone positively portrayed, whereas, their lives may not be as positive and is very scary. It’s not all peaches and roses, but if you are going through something difficult, it helps to see something that is positive.

MICHAEL:

Recently, Adam Grimes (Kyle) and openly gay actor Chad Allen (Matthew) have embarked on a new gay love story on “GH NightShift”. What are your thoughts about that?

KIMBERLY:

Oh, it’s so awesome! It’s so good. Chad is so sweet and such a good actor. I think it’s so exciting that he is getting to play a gay character now, after coming out.  Adam is not gay, he lives with his girlfriend. But, that is also cool because he is not a gay actor and he and Chad are great together! Their whole storyline is not based on the fact that they are gay. I don’t know, because I am not a gay man, but I feel like the way they are portraying Kyle, is pretty cool.

MICHAEL:

How would you explain who Dr. Robin Scorpio is at her core, to someone that has never been introduced to her?

kimoncouch.jpgKIMBERLY:

Her core is survival. Even as a child she was faced with all kinds of life and death situations. She survived on her own or with the help of others, but mainly on her own. Even when she turned HIV+, she found a way to deal with it. Ultimately, that’s her greatest flaw; because she is so concerned with surviving on her own that existing with other people is hard for her. She is controlling and always in other people’s lives, and a busybody that way. In her own life, she can’t just relax and be happy. She is always second-guessing everything.

General Hospital

GH’s Laura Wright Talks on Mob Boss Carly and Her 30-Year Evolution in Daytime

She’s a fierce, force to be reckoned with, one who delivers raw and emotional performances time and time again, while never forgetting from where she came, and always willing to pass on to her newer co-stars’ the wisdom she gained from the grind of performing in front of the camera in the toughest acting genre there is … daytime drama.

General Hospital’s Laura Wright’s (Carly) real-life soap journey actually has a very humble beginning when in 1991 – fresh off a job at a gas station – she landed in Corinth and the role of Ally Rescott on ABC’s Loving.  Up next, a jaunt to its re-imagined version, The City, until the series ultimate demise in 1997. But that was just an appetizer for soap fans of Wright’s burgeoning talent, when next she ventured to Springfield and CBS’ Guiding Light to take on the role of a stripper with a heart-of-gold who ultimately would be crowned a princess, Cassie Layne. Then, after a popular 8-year-run, she would head to General Hospital, and one of the most coveted roles in soaps, that of Port Charles’ Carly Corinthos following in the footsteps of powerhouse actresses, Sarah Brown and Tamara Braun. In her 20th year in daytime, Laura took home the gold for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series back in 2011, and that brings us to now.  Next week on June 7th, marks Laura’s 30th year in daytime filled with memorable on and off-screen moments that she has cherished.

Meanwhile, currently on GH, Laura is getting to play Carly in a whole new set of circumstances as she enters her three-decade soap anniversary. In story, we find Carly stepping up to run the mob, now that she and everyone else believes her husband, Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard) is dead, and while her best friend and mob enforcer, Jason (Steve Burton) had to go on the run. And from the looks of it, Carly is adjusting to the mob boss role quite well … but is she really?

 

Michael Fairman TV spoke with Laura to get the lowdown on Carly’s life without Sonny, which has pushed her front and center into managing crimes and misdemeanors, mafia-style, all to protect the ones she loves, and to reflect on her amazing ride in daytime; which has made her one of the all-time leading ladies of the soaps.  Here’s what Laura shared about it all.

Photo: ABC

When you first found out what the structure of this storyline was going to be, where Sonny was going to “die” along with Julian (William deVry), and then he turns up alive and has amnesia, what was your initial thought?  Did you know how far they were going to take this for Carly, as far as her now running  the mob in Sonny’s place?

LAURA:  I had no idea about the mob part of it until about two months ago. As far as Sonny having amnesia and having another life now, I love those kinds of stories.  It also gives you as an actor something to play, and what else are you going to do with Sonny and Carly?  You can’t really break them up.  You’re talking to the person who is game for almost anything, so I loved it.  What does Carly’s life look like now as everybody believes that Sonny has died? How does she even take care of herself?  For me, it gave me great material to play because of how it all started to crumble.  Ava (Maura West) takes Avery, Cyrus (Jeff Kober) starts taking over the territory and the town, and Carly starts losing all of this security in her life as she knew it in trying to protect her family, and it was scary for her.

Photo: ABC

Of course, viewers could see where this storyline was heading once Carly lit in to Nina (Cynthia Watros), when Nina was in Nixon Falls and saw that Sonny was very much alive! You could see that Nina was going to seek revenge on Carly and not tell her about Sonny, aka “Mike”, all the while getting closer to him.  What do you think Carly would do if she found out that Nina was with Sonny and kept it from her?

LAURA:  You know, Carly before taking over the mob would have been awful, but now… and I was thinking about this the other day …  I’m like, “Carly would go after her with a gun!”

For years, I’ve always loved this idea of, “What if Carly became a mob boss?”

LAURA:  If they did have Carly go after Nina, then Jason and Sonny would be like, “You cannot do this.”  I think there is this blind rage, at least for a moment.  It can’t just be standing there and yelling at her, do you know what I mean?  Carly would probably take action and then Nina would disappear, or it’s like ‘get me away from her because I am going to kill her’ for what this woman did.  So, you have to have at least an episode of that before you come to your senses and realize that you have children and responsibilities, and you’re going to have to do this the right way, but you have to have the moment of losing it.  It’s stealing their life.  It’s great stuff.  My other thoughts are, “Poor Cynthia,” (laughs) because she’s got to be the nicest human being on the planet, and she is so fun to work with, and so great and committed, so we are going to have some interesting times getting through whatever they write.  I have no idea what they’re writing by the way, and I have no idea when it’s going to happen, but I am sure it will be great.

Photo: ABC

With the way GH shoots their taping schedule, I am assuming now you barely see Maurice, because you are basically in two different parts of this interconnecting story?

LAURA:  We shoot by set.  So, if Maurice is working in the morning, and I am scheduled at let’s say at noon, by the time I get there, he’ll be gone.  So, it’s fascinating. It’s kind of running parallel of what is happening on and off screen because I don’t see him at work, either.

Photo: ABC

Carly seems that she is becoming pretty comfortable in this mob role.  There was a scene that recently aired between Diane (Carolyn Hennesy) and Carly, where Carly was discussing her options of what to do with Gladys (Bonnie Burroughs).  Does Carly like the power this brings her?

LAURA:  I think so, but it’s not like she’s sitting around going, “Oh, this is amazing.”  It’s seriously what she has to do.  What she is seeing is that there are so many moving parts that she didn’t realize how difficult it was.  Sonny made it look easy.  There’s not a time to even take a breath.  You’ve got to always be on your toes.  You know, she is doing it in ‘Carly fashion,’ so it’s always entertaining, and trying as a woman to put out all the fires, but there’s 20 fires behind it, because there is just someone constantly trying to take your seat, trying to hurt your family.  There’s just always something to look out for whether it be from the other families or law enforcement.  I think that Carly is surprised that she is good at it and surprised at how making these decisions is becoming easier and easier for her, but I don’t know if she sits back and enjoys it.  At this point, from air to what we are taping, the decisions don’t stop, and the danger doesn’t stop, and more decisions have to be made, and there is no one else to do it.  This is a world that is life or death.  This isn’t like, “Well, if they don’t like me, I’ll just find someone else to do the job.”  There’s nobody else to do that job.  It’s not that world.  You don’t get to walk away, and she is learning that more and more, as she plays in the big world.

Photo: ABC

So, Jason went on the run with Britt (Kelly Thiebaud).  How does Carly feel about that?

LAURA:  Britt saved his life.  She said that on camera.  “She saved your life; she can take you wherever.  I trust her.”  Carly saw how Britt stepped up and helped him.  I don’t think there is anything else that Carly is thinking right now.  Carly doesn’t have the luxury of being old Carly and being snippy, catty, wanting to vet every person in Jason’s life.  It’s just not her reality right now.  That would be a luxury if she could go back and be that person, but that’s not it.  Right now, it’s assessing the situation.  “Is he safe?  Is she taking care of him?  Great.  I don’t care about anything else right now.”  This is the difference between old Carly and mob-boss Carly.  Those days are gone.  She would give anything to go back to those days because she didn’t have to have the world on her shoulders because Jason was safe, and Sonny was alive.  It’s not where she is now.  It’s a different dynamic that she was forced into.

Photo: ABC

When you and Steve Burton are in scenes together, whether it’s just in your eyes, or expressions or emotions, there is so much going on, or at least that’s how it plays to the audience.  Is the relationship between Carly and Jason one of your favorites to play, because it’s so unique and deep rooted into their history? 

LAURA:  Oh, I love the Carly/Jason relationship. It’s the loyalty and that their dedication to each other is unbendable, unbreakable.  It’s so unwavering.  It’s great to play because it’s like being in a really good relationship, even though he’s not her ‘person’, but he kind of is.  It’s being in a great relationship that means that you get to be 100% you and everything that means, and that person loves and accepts you. There’s such incredible love and freedom, and that’s what it’s like to work with Steve because Steve approaches our scenes – and almost every scene when I watch him with other people – that there is no undercutting judgment, only help.  If I’m struggling with a line or I don’t want to do something, he’s either like, “Yeah, I agree. That’s unnecessary; cut it,” or he gives me a really great way of looking at it, where I’m like, “Oh, that is a really interesting thing, thanks!”  So, then you have full freedom to feel and play and do anything, and that’s kind of what you see.  There’s just a confidence, and I think it is also the relationship.  I think it has to be there when I work with Steve because the relationship between Carly and Jason is that way.

Photo: JPI

Carly and Jason accept each other for who they are, all their flaws, and the dangers that come with their lives.  Wouldn’t you say?

LAURA:  She accepts him 100% for who he is.  She wants to manipulate the world around him, so he is safe, and perfect, and always there, but she still accepts him when nobody else does and vice versa.  He knows that Carly is going to destroy things, and mess up, and spiral.  Like, she had that scene where she said, “Even when Jason knows I’m wrong, he supports me.” It’s really that right there that is everything between the two of them, and it’s the hardest thing to find in any relationship, real life, TV, etc.  We always want to change people to make them be who we want them to be so that we feel okay. It’s a great soap opera relationship because it causes conflict in every other relationship that they have, which is great for storytelling in a show because then there is always a challenge, always a hurdle, always a problem built-in if you need drama. It’s because there is so much acceptance and unconditional love and support that they are free to be who they need to be, and I feel that as an actor working Steve as well.  I think that’s what you see when you say there’s ‘a lot going on’.

Carly’s plan for Gladys took quite a turn!

LAURA:  Well, Carly thought the second that Cyrus finds out that Brando (Johnny Wactor) is the father of Sasha’s (Sofia Matteson) baby that Cyrus is going to want to take him out, so she basically said to Gladys, “Look, I’ll set you up.  I’ll give you all the money you want.  Hell, I’ll even buy you a house.  Leave town, but you have to tell everybody that you lied about Jason,” and she doesn’t bite the bait.  So, you then have Carly saying, “Well, we can do this the easy way where I just pay for your life and you go, or we can do it the hard way,” and the hard way is me letting her know that, “You have a grandchild on the way, and your son is going to be murdered if you don’t do this for me,” because it puts Cyrus back in prison because he is on probation, and he has now obstructed justice.  It’s all on Gladys’s testimony.  That was Carly’s plan.  Right now, her biggest threat is Cyrus and obviously as viewers have seen things did not go as planned!

Photo: ABC

June 7th you will be celebrating 30 years on daytime! Do you remember your first day on Loving? What happened?

LAURA:  I do.  Oh, God!  I remember what dress I had on.  I remember how my hair was.

Were you like in “Oz”?

LAURA:  I looked like Oz. (Laughs) I looked like Dorothy… the dress they had me in, the hair, are you kidding?  I didn’t know what a boom was!  I was really loud.  I had one line: “Grandma!” and that was it, and then they had to note that because I kept saying, “Grandmaw,” and they were like, “It’s not ‘Grandmaw.’  It’s ‘Grandma.’”  Then, I did whatever they said at first, but then the longer I was on the show, I was like, “I say ‘Grandmaw.’ I’m not saying ‘Grandmuh.’ I don’t care. (Laughs) Everyone gets their own personalization of how they say what they say.”  That was my big argument, and now I’ve had a thousand arguments over 30 years, but that was my first big pushback because I would be doing, what in my mind was great work.  I got all of the lines out, my God, and that was before we could do pickups, and when we shot the show in order. Those cameras had wheels. So if you were on set, and they shot the scene before us, you had to be ready to go, and they would fly down the studio on those cameras to set up to start shooting the next scene.  If I got through a scene and they had to do it over again because I said, “Grandmaw,” I would be so angry. (Laughs)

Photo: ABC

Who helped you the most on Loving?

LAURA:  Nada Rowand, who played my grandmother, Lisa Peluso, who played my aunt on the show, and Eric Woodall was my best friend and he played Matt Ford.  He and I would get together every Sunday night, and here’s a little bit of trivia for you … Eric lived with Billy Porter! They graduated from Carnegie Mellon together.  So, I would go over to his apartment, and on Sunday night, we would go over all of the scripts together for the whole week because Eric graduated from Carnegie Mellon; I worked at a gas station. (Laughs) We had very different talents that we were bringing to the table for this soap opera job.  Eric helped me a great deal, my gosh, and so did Bernie Barrow (Ex-Louis).

Bernie was an amazing actor and the only Daytime Emmy winner, ever from Loving!

LAURA:  I had scenes with Bernie because he played my grandfather on the show. I had no idea about half the notes that they were giving me. Bernie would pull me aside and explain what they meant and teach it to me in a way where I knew how to incorporate it into my scenes and adjust and take the notes.  He was extremely helpful.  Then, there is the famous Noelle Beck (Ex-Trisha) story, where two weeks after starting the show, Eric and I were invited to go to the Daytime Emmy Awards.  I was dying because I grew up watching daytime television, and I grew up watching the Daytime Emmys.  So, when I was allowed to go, I told my mom to ship me my prom dress from my senior year of high school, which was this poufy, emerald green thing, and it looked like something from Dynasty with jewels all over it.  I got it, and I was so excited, and everyone on the show was like, “Oh, my God, someone has got to tell her … she cannot wear that dress.”  I didn’t know you could go to wardrobe and ask to borrow a dress, because I’d only been on the show for two weeks maybe.  The same day, they came to me and said, “So, if Susan Lucci (Ex-Erica, AMC) doesn’t win, you’re going to be interviewed on Good Morning America the next morning about how the gas station girl got a job.”  So, it was a big deal. I’m getting ready for the Emmys, and to put this emerald-green dress on, and there is this knock on my door, and it’s Noelle Beck.  She has this beautiful, black, strapless dress. She’s like, “Your dress is beautiful, but I don’t know, I think this is really simple, and I think you might really look beautiful in it if you want to try it on.”

Photo: JPI

Her dress?

LAURA: Her dress! It was a dress that was in Noelle’s closet on the show because she went to wardrobe and was like, “Laura cannot wear that emerald green prom dress.  She will be laughed at.”  I would have been mortified because I did not know what people wore.  I had never been to a red carpet! Noelle went to wardrobe, and they all came up with this dress, and so she came to me and said, “Your dress is so pretty, but I think this might go better with Eric’s suit,” or however she sold it! I tried it on, and I just felt so sophisticated, and I was like, “It’s okay if I wear this!?” and she’s just like, “Oh, my God, yeah!”  When I think back to that story, I’m like, ‘thank God for Noelle Beck’.  It was one of the funniest stories ever, and her dressing room was right across the hall from me, and she was from Maryland; I was from Maryland.  She was like a sister.  Noelle was always looking out for me, personally.

Photo: ABC

Over the years, you have become one of the great leading ladies of daytime.  Was there a moment, when you were like, “I’ve got this down now … I really know what I’m doing.”

LAURA:   There have been different moments.  I remember the first time where I felt like ‘an actor.’  It was when they shot and killed Casey (Paul Anthony Stewart) on Loving, and he had to die in my arms.  I embodied something and felt it in a way that was different.  I didn’t know what it was at the time because I was playing my emotions of Paul leaving the show. I was really confused because I was like, “Do I really like this guy?” like in real life, because I didn’t know.  I didn’t have any tools of acting to know how to separate.  I was so in love with the characters’ love story, which was also my feelings at the time because I didn’t know the difference.  I didn’t know where Ally stopped, and Laura started.  I was just kind of playing myself.  I remember they called Paul to the set for a goodbye, and they were giving him a big cake and everything, and I could barely hold it together.  I couldn’t believe he was leaving.  I was like, “You’re going to say, ‘I changed my mind,’ right?” and I really believed that.  I really was like, “There’s just no way he’s going.”  Then, we had to shoot his scene, and I was very emotional and upset.  But, it was the next day where I had to go and play the scenes where he is dead and talk about it to the family, and that was when I just lost it.  I just changed as an actor in those scenes.  I remember having an opinion.  When the writers were telling me the story that they were going to tell, I remember saying, “Well, I think the interesting moment is she is not going to believe it,” and they were like, “What do you mean?”  I say, “When she comes home from the hospital, I think she needs to be like, ‘We have to go back.  Casey is at the hospital, and he needs us,’ and they were like, “That’s such a great thing to play.”  That’s what shifted for me.  I just remember there was a moment where Ally couldn’t lie anymore. She couldn’t convince herself, and then she had to tell her son that Casey wasn’t coming back.  I really understood what it was to get lost to a scene; what it was to not be Laura going, “I’m going to act now and play this scene.”  I learned how to become the character and transform in the moment.

It’s was on-the-job training.

LAURA:  Oh, for sure on-the-job training, because I went to one acting class thinking that in New York City I need to know what I’m doing, and I was so terrified to get up and speak in a scene that I literally could not talk.  I couldn’t even function outside of the safety of what I knew on a soap opera set.  I had that happen with my meditation teacher training a few years ago.  I almost left the training because it was terrifying for me to get up and not know what I’m going to do and have the script, no cameras in front of me!  It was very bizarre.

Photo: CBS

And later, Guiding Light came your way!

LAURA: When The City got canceled, I shot a pilot that did not get picked up, and my agents were like, “What do you want to do?” and I was like, “I’m really good at daytime… can we just stick with that?  I don’t really want to do this auditioning thing.” So, then all of the sudden within a week of me saying, “I think I’ll do daytime again,” I had a screen-test for All My Children and Guiding Light at the exact same time.  I was like, “What are the parts?” and I wasn’t going to pit them against each other because my agent was like, “It’s bad taste. We don’t represent that kind of negotiation.” You have to pick because before you go into any screen-test, you already have a pre-negotiated contract, and the deal has been placed.  So, you know going in what your situation will be.  So, it was All My Children, playing a doctor, or a stripper with a heart-of-gold on Guiding Light.  It was the role and that Guiding Light just had a better money offer that pushed me towards that screen-test. Then, I had to go in and meet Paul Rauch (Former EP, GL) before I screen-tested, and then Jim Brown and Barbara Esensten who were now the head writers at GL. They wrote for me on The City.  They were the ones who said, “Let’s get Laura Wright in here and see if she wants to do this.”  It’s interesting, because when they were shooting Annie’s (Cynthia Watros) big trial on Guiding Light, and Kim Zimmer (Reva) had these incredible, long days and tons of dialogue in the courtroom scenes. Then, they throw this screen-test at her with me in the middle of the afternoon! I remember when we were doing the scene. Kim had jumped to another part in it, and of course, I knew the script backwards and forwards because I’ve had it for a week and a half.  Kim had probably looked at it that day because she’s got a thousand other lines that she’s learning for that week of shows.  We were in the middle of the scene, and they’re rolling cameras, it’s very emotional, we’re going at each other, and Kim had jumped to the next page of a line, but I knew exactly where she went, so I went right there. We got back on track and ended the scene, and Kim goes, “She just saved my ass in that screen-test!” and we just started laughing.  It was a great moment.

Photo: LWInstagram

The cast of Guiding Light was so amazing!

LAURA:  So amazing, and that’s where I met my man.

Wes Ramsey (Ex-Sam, GL, now Peter, GH) at the time had a crush on you if I recall the story.

LAURA:  Yes, he had a crush.  I don’t know if he wanted to go out with me because when I first came on, I was pregnant, so that would have been weird! (Laughs) We have a funny story that he told me four years ago when we got together. Wes was going through old photos that he had logged into his computer and was trying to put things in different files, and he’s like, “Oh, my God.”  He had come back a few times on Guiding Light after he’d left, and one of the times was after I’d had my son, and this was when Richard had died, and Cassie had chopped all of her hair off.  So, he was going through these photos and he showed me that he had snuck a picture of me.  (Laughs) Then, he’s like, “See, I told you I had a crush!”  I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s so funny!”

Do you and Wes run lines together at home, even though you are in different storylines on GH?

LAURA:  If he needed me too, I would, but Wes has a totally different way of learning his lines than I do.  His prep work is very different than mine.  His is very professional and probably how you should do it. He is a Juilliard graduate.  So, he was taught well, and I’ve just figured it out.  Mine is just pure survival …’the gas station girl’.

Photo: ABC

What was the impact Guiding Light had on the trajectory of your career?

LAURA:  Guiding Light was 100% an actors show. They told a different kind of story, and the actors across the board were serious and wanted you to take it just as seriously. You were either going to sink or swim on that show, and I had to figure out how to swim. I think I spent the first six months in my dressing room crying when I wasn’t on set, trying to figure it out.  I was really taken care of on Loving.  I was 20-years-old when I got that part, 27 when I left. When I went to Guiding Light, it wasn’t like I wasn’t taken care of and protected, but it was a new energy. No one knew me.  No one knew what I was capable of.  I didn’t even know what I was capable of at the time, and you weren’t going to phone it in there.  I started working with Kim Zimmer and Jordan Clarke (Ex-Billy Lewis).  My God, you’re thrown in with people who make you feel things and play things that are uncomfortable, because that’s what we do as actors.  We make it uncomfortable, and we stretch the boundaries, and we play these emotions that are so raw and real.  One day I was freaking out over a scene with the characters of Edmund and Dinah, and I just said I would never do this.  I was just adamant. The director, said, “We have to do this.  So, you have to give me one reason where you could stay in this room.”  I said, “I guess my daughter could walk in the door, and I don’t want to leave her,” and he goes, “Great!  That’s great,” and I go, “Or…” and it just opened this door of there’s a thousand ways I could play a scene.

Photo: CBS

When you came onto General Hospital and embodied Carly, did you feel like this was it now… and that you were in command of your craft?

LAURA:  No, because it took me a long time to get comfortable.  I’m the fourth Carly, so you want to honor what they’re writing, you want to honor the fans and what they love about the character, and there were three women who played her before me and somebody loved something about all of them. So, you want to bring that, as well as make your own mark.  You’re taking over a leading female role of the show with that much passion and dialogue that comes with the character, so it was a lot of pressure at first, but I was excited for it.  I showed up every day ready to kick ass, but as far as feeling like, “Ha ha, it’s mine; I’ve made it!”, I’ve never felt that.

Photo: ABC

I have spoken to many of your co-stars through the years, and they often share how you helped them within a scene, or with something they were struggling with.  That is where experience can be a great asset for a performer in this medium.

LAURA:  As a female lead on the show, I do think it’s important to lift other women up to become their own female leads, and I do mean that.  If I’m working with someone, and I see them get a note that they don’t understand, or it’s a technical note, but gosh, it’s an important scene for them emotionally, anything I can do to help them in that moment, whether it has anything to do with me or not, I am there for.  There was a bathroom scene that I think aired a week or so ago with Carly and Sasha.  In the scene, Sasha (Sofia Mattsson) has all of her makeup in front of her, and the shot they need to get is through the mirror.  Sasha has a full conversation with Carly, who is standing upstage. It’s very difficult to do that when you don’t have rehearsal time to figure it out. They gave her the note that they needed her to say her line into the mirror, or they can’t get her face, right? I’m like, “Hey, do you have any idea how you’re going to do that?” because it’s so hard! I wanted to help. Having 30 years’ experience in something feels great, and it’s shocking because where did those 30 years go? What incredible memories I have, but what it’s gifted me the most is being able to help people through my experience, and through what I have learned along the way.  The whole show shines when we all shine, not just when one person does.

Photo: LWrightInstagram

What do you think your late parents would say about your 30 years in daytime?

LAURA:  Oh, they would be so proud… so happy.  It’s just so crazy that it’s been 30 years, and 2020 being the longest year with what we all experienced with Covid-19.  Looking back on my daytime career, I don’t know why, the shows didn’t let me go. I think it really was work ethic.  I can really say my work ethic is a huge part of me sticking around because I never got lazy.  I was never not going to figure it out.  I was never one to show up not knowing her lines, or being a problem, or not caring. I think that’s what kept me going, and then listening, watching, feeling, and I’m just so grateful.  I’m like, “Wow, what a ride!”

Photo: ABC

… And what can you say about what your time as Carly has meant to you within your now illustrious daytime career?

LAURA:  I love every second of it.  It’s my choice how I show up on that soundstage.  After 30 years, I am not bored.  I have had my moments of trying to find the fun in it and caring about Carly’s storyline at the time. That’s my own choice though, right?  It’s a choice – how I choose to show up every day there – and what I choose to find interesting and challenging, and I do.  No matter what storyline they’ve given me, I can choose for it to be, “Okay, I’m here.  I’ve been doing this for so long, I could do it in my sleep,” or I could choose to show up and go, “Where am I going to kickass today?  Where is the moment?”  Now, I don’t love the amount of time it takes for my hair to get blown out; I’ll be honest (Laughs). I’m an antsy person.  But when I get on set, it’s my choice to find the love and the fun of it, whatever that is for me.  I choose to open up every script I get, the second I get it, and am always excited to see what I’m doing.

Photo: ABC

Finally, what would you say, as a tease of what we should look forward to in the coming weeks involving Carly?

LAURA:  All I can say is there is amazing stuff coming, amazing performances, amazing excitement, amazing heartbreak, amazing surprises.  It’s all coming.

So, are you into Carly running the mob? What do you think will happen when and if Carly finds out Nina has been with Sonny aka Mike for months?  What has been your favorite moment of Laura’s on the soaps throughout her 3 decades in daytime? Share your thoughts and congrats to Laura in the comment section below.

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Interviews

Y&R’s Telma Hopkins and Bryton James Talk on their ‘Family Matters’ Connection, Amanda Sinclair’s Past, and the songs of Tony Orlando and Dawn

This week, kicks-off a very special guest appearance by Telma Hopkins on CBS’ The Young and the Restless.  Hopkins plays Denise Tolliver, a private eye with some very important intel for Amanda Sinclair (Mishael Morgan), about her past, her father, and her biological family drama.

Photo:CBD

Telma’s guest stint on Y&R reunites her with her dear friend and former on-screen son, Bryton James (Devon Hamilton) after they appeared together on the late 80’s and 90’s sitcom Family Matters.  Fans of the comedy series remember a very young Bryton as Richie Crawford and Telma as his mother, Rachel.  Year laters, they now have the opportunity to work together in Genoa City.

Photo: CBS

In a new interview out today on the Michael Fairman Channel, Telma and Bryton chat virtually with Michael, and we learn that Telma is a longtime fan of Y&R, a huge fan of Mishael Morgan’s, and just how Denise Tolliver’s arrival in Genoa City will set the stage for fireworks to come.

And while Telma and Bryton reminisce about first their first impressions of each other on the Family Matters set, we also delve into another key part of Hopkins career as part of the iconic singing trio Tony Orlando and Dawn, whose hit singles included: “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole’ Oak Tree”, “Candida”, “She Don’t Love You” and more.

Photo: CBS

So, excited to see Telma and Bryton together again? What were your first impressions of Telma as Denise Tolliver on today’s Y&R? What is your favorite Tony Orlando and Dawn tune? Did you watch “Family Matters” with Telma and Bryton years ago? Share your thoughts in the comment section.  But first check out their full interview below.

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Days Of Our Lives

WATCH: Daytime Emmy Nominations Special 2021 Replay

Last night, during the Daytime Emmy Nominations Special Livestream on the Michael Fairman Channel, 15 nominated performers who will be going for gold on the upcoming 48th annual Daytime Emmy Awards, shared their reactions and their excitement at learning they were in the running in the major Daytime Drama performer categories as chosen by their peers.

Throughout the livestream, the actors also shared what scenes they chose for their reels in the competition that landed them in the top spots in their respective categories.

Photos: ABC, CBS, JPI, NBC

During the broadcast, Michael welcomed: The Bold and the Beautiful’s Darin Brooks and Courtney Hope, General Hospital’s, Maurice Benard, Finola Hughes, Max Gail, Briana Lane and Dominic Zamprogna, The Young and the Restless’ Bryton James, Melissa Claire Egan and Alyvia Alyn Lind, and Days of our Lives nominees: Victoria Konefal, Cady McClain, Wally Kurth, George DelHoyo, and Tamara Braun.

In addition, NATAS President and CEO Adam Sharp shared insight into this year’s nomination process, the year in daytime, and teased what to look for on the upcoming Daytime Emmy Telecast on June 25th on CBS, where the award show recently got a two-year pick-up.

In case you missed it, enjoy this kick-off to Emmy season and watch the Daytime Emmy Nominations Replay below.  Then let us know what moments you enjoyed the most during our show, and who you are rooting for to take home Emmy gold in the comment section.

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GH’s Kelly Thiebaud (Britt) chats with Michael Fairman about Britt being on the run with Jason, their burgeoning romance, working with Steve Burton and her other co-star and Britt’s diagnosis of Huntington’s Disease. .Leave A Comment

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