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News for the week of 03-Feb-2014

by Carol Banks Weber

Executive producer Frank Valentini made an educated guess as to GH’s sudden reversal of misfortune. It’s often one of the most talked about shows on Twitter. Ratings are up like never before and TPTB renewed the only remaining ABC Daytime soap for another year. Valentini told TV Source Magazine’s Angela Romack for a January 24th report that a lot of it has to do with fans coming back for the familiar faces, the faster pace, and the constant varied action. “There’s always something going on. There’s always some reward, some surprise, some humor, some romance every day, so every day counts, and I think that’s making a big difference. People are talking about it more often, and we’ve been trending, like last Tuesday…we trended for like 15 minutes on Twitter, number two in the country. So that’s kind of fun. So there’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of heat, there’s a lot of excitement.” Valentini and his GH team were in large attendance at the recent ABC Television Critics Association Cocktail Party.

At that ABC TV Critics Association Cocktail Party, veteran GH actress Finola Hughes (Anna) reacted favorably to the good news that GH keeps spiking in the ratings. She’s been thoroughly enjoying all of her frontburner storylines, as a woman leading a male-dominated police force through the criminal elements. The fact that her character always rides both sides — she once was a double-agent, capable of much more cold-blooded evil than Sonny could ever dream of — adds to that intrigue. Hughes ruminated on the commonality: “Anna is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, she understands, like she’s basically behaved the same way that Sonny would behave in getting rid of one of his enemies. She’s basically done that. She’s no better than him on a certain level and I think she’s cognizant of that. But for Anna, if you like redemption, is the fact that she wants to be the law enforcement of this town, and she really wants the town to be clean, and she doesn’t want this mob war.” –TV Source Magazine interview with Angela Romack, January 27, 2014

Kimberly McCullough (Robin) said getting back on a soap as an actress worked a muscle she’d let go while directing projects. But once she got going, it all came back to her. Still, she couldn’t keep her director/writer instincts completely in check. She admitted to TV Source Magazine writer Angela Romack (January 26, 2014) that she does share her opinions on story and character, and has had to be reminded she’s the actress now. Still, she found the wedding and return storyline full of wonderful surprises.

As a working director, McCullough has asked executive producer Frank Valentini about doing some GH episodes. But that can be a tricky request, considering other cast members’ directorial aspirations. “But right now, for whatever reason, they don’t want me to. I don’t know why,” McCullough began. “I think that Frank does support my career, um, but it’s always an interesting political move because you have a lot of other actors that want to do it, so it’s always kind of like a tricky thing. It’s almost easier if I direct on another show, and also to be honest, I’m more interested in comedy. My first job was a sitcom, and I would like to [do] single-camera comedies. Not that I would turn down a job to do anything. But it’s not really the direction that I want to go.”

McCullough really likes Teresa Castillo (Sabrina). She’s been following this soap newcomer on GH, and has grown to really enjoy Castillo’s way around the tough role. Sorry, Scrubs fans. No conspiracy here. Just admiration. “I think she’s so sweet. The thing that is really weird, and I was actually thinking about writing a blog about this, is like, you really like another actor but for whatever reason on the show, you know, you’re like adversaries. But we’re not even really adversaries. It’s not like a Carly and Robin relationship, where they hate each other. But the fans want to pit you against each other and say that you don’t like each other or say weird, mean things, I mean…” McCullough said. “…Yeah, it’s characters! Not the people. But they can’t separate that for some reason. Um, but yeah, no, it’s been great because I’ve watched her on the show. I was actually there on set for her first day and remember being like, ‘Oh my god, I like her, she’s so good.’ So yeah, it was really fun.”

Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) hasn’t been in a juicy, intense storyline like the baby custody fight since he started the show. For the most part, he’s been a part of almost every storyline, just not as the central figure. Actually, for Zamprogna, that’s fine, considering the alternative. Ever since executive producer Frank Valentini and head writer Ron Carlivati took over GH, saving it from the brink, nobody’s really at the center anymore, and that’s a blessing. “… I don’t think there’s a true center to the show right now, but I feel like I’m being used in a good way. I feel like the baby storyline, and the way it progresses, it’s not just a three-week in and out. You know what I mean. It started, shit, in September and people still want more. So it’s working. I’m happy to be part of a working story.”

When beloved faves from the past started coming onto the show, they made it that much better. Zamprogna can’t get over the improvement overall. “I think a lot of people didn’t know what to think, including the actors. It was like ‘Who’s this? They were here 10 years ago? Oh cool,’ and then when you start to see how much the fans have dug it. [They've] done well interweaving them with existing players and stories. Frank and Ron have done a really fucking great job. They deserve a lot of credit. They’re really great to us as far as writing goes, as far as telling us when they’re happy with us. And I think we should be able to tell them same thing. We’re very happy with the show and with them.”

Fans of the show have gone online to voice their approval and dissatisfaction, and that’s fine by Zamprogna too. Early on at GH, he was warned by the others to avoid the message boards, which only fueled his curiosity. Initially, he didn’t understand the big deal, since fans there were so positive about his character. But then it got nasty, as predicted. On Twitter, it’s even … better?! Zamprogna has found Twitter to be an even greater indication of fan support, despite that one percent. “I’ve done sci-fi before and they’re kick ass fans, and these guys are a notch above the sci-fi fans. I think there’s some people who get annoyed, who come across as ‘haters’ you’d say, and to them I’d just like to say, ‘Stop watching the show if you don’t like it.’ Because it’s a small group of people I believe that are doing it, ones that disapprove of certain things that are beyond everybody’s control. It’s beyond their control. The only thing that’s in their control is to turn the TV off, so if that’s what you want to do, go ahead.” –TV Source Magazine interview by Angela Romack, January 26, 2014

Executive producer Frank Valentini credited head writer Ron Carlivati for bringing back the mob family of the Jeromes to battle Sonny and his family. Valentini approves wholeheartedly of the reintroduction that has reinvigorated the mob landscape. He digs what Maura West (Ava) and William deVry (Julian) have done so far with their characters and “crashing” with Sonny, Morgan, and Michael. The crazy pairing of Ava with Morgan was an inspired choice, but not so impossible. Valentini noticed the camaraderie of their circumstances in the undeniable chemistry. “I think they’re two people who have been thrown together under crazy circumstances and are very attracted to one another and their passion has sort of given way to a bigger and more meaningful relationship.” –Daytime Confidential interview by newest addition, Deep Soap’s Sara Bibel, January 27, 2014

Kudos to Michael Fairman for glimpsing a part of the usually reserved and closed-lipped Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) for fans in his January 27, 2014 interview. Every soap media outlet has been reporting on the ABC Television Critics Association Cocktail Reception the past week or so, and with the same information. Zamprogna certainly went through the usual Q&A about his current storyline with the Lulu recast, their characters losing the baby in a custody fight, this new guy, Detective Nathan, the possibility of him breaking up Lante… But then he touched on a favorite, recent scene at the church when Lulu and Dante had their baby girl christened, and where he, the actor, had to deal privately with the approaching loss of his mother. That came a close second to his final Emmy reel. “I loved the scenes in the church, and the way it was written. You had me, Bradford Anderson (ex-Spinelli), Kirsten, and Emme, and we are all trying to play with each other, and it was a tough time in my life. My mother was very sick and it was right before she passed away, and it was tough to be there. I did not know how I was going to be able to do these kinds of scenes. But when you are working with people like that, it’s really easy, because they keep you in it and they support you. I am glad you liked that.”

The scene Zamprogna did use for his Emmy reel submission happened later, after Lulu left him over losing the baby, when he tried to grapple with the reality of that moment at the boxing ring with Sonny. Zamprogna’s ailing mother had just passed away. He didn’t know what he had left in him to do those scenes, and warned Maurice Benard (Sonny) and Lisa LoCicero (Olivia) earlier when they went to lunch together. What started out as backstory for that Emmy reel (he also submitted the scenes where Dante reacts to Lulu’s death) turned into a most moving endorsement for veteran Daytime Emmy-winning actor and mentor, Benard. “Maurice is the most supportive actor I have worked with in my life, bar none. That guy has been a friend and mentor to me since day one. And those scenes were real, and when he put his hand on my arm in that scene and said, ‘You got me,’ it was Mo telling me I had his support and love. So, we are stronger than ever. My mom got ill very quickly. She went into the hospital on September 1st and passed away on September 25th. It was devastating. You know who your friends are at a time like this. I consider Maurice one of my dearest friends for the rest of my life. He makes you a better actor. He has been doing amazing work. Since I have gotten to GH, Maurice has reached a whole other level, and his ego is completely removed. He is not concerned about Maurice anymore, he is just there. You can tell by the end of the week he is just exhausted, because of what he puts into it. I am so honored to be able to work by his side.”

Dominick Zamprogna (Dante) said he almost wished Emme Rylan (recast Lulu) came in with brown hair, to further differentiate herself from predecessor Julie Marie Berman (original Lulu). He urged fans to give Rylan a chance, stressing that they both need time to give her a chance to make her own Lulu, which is starting to happen now. Rylan has been wonderful to work with. He’s excited about the possibilities, even with Det. Nathan in the picture.

Maura West (Ava) needed to distance herself as an actress from her previous, most popular soap role — that of Carly on ATWT. As much as she loved that iconic role, she needed a new challenge and a completely blank slate. Enter, GH’s Ava Jerome. What West loves most about this new character is her limitless potential, for both good and evil. “She’s different. She has similarities as women do. ‘How does she carry herself?’ Ava never touches her hair. Ava never moves. Ava’s a snake. She only moves when she is going to strike. And these are things I think about. This is how I wanted to create this person.” Another perk to this new role is playing with some fantastic veteran and hotshot actors, including Tony Geary (Luke), William deVry (Julian), and Bryan Craig (Morgan). She is the kind of actress who keeps her head down, works very hard, and leaves the job of critical commentary to other people. She said she’s there to act, not to circumvent her character with derision or judgment. –Daytime Confidential interview by Susan Hornik, January 24, 2014

Executive producer Frank Valentini told Maura West (Ava) that it all started when he caught her giving Bryan Craig’s Morgan a certain look early on in their mother-of-the-girlfriend/boyfriend relationship. That gave the writers the idea to pair up Ava with Morgan in an amazingly inspired cougar relationship that’s got legs. West joked around about her character’s insatiable appetite with Dominic Zamprogna (Dante) at the Disney-ABC Television Critics Association Cocktail Reception the other weekend. The January 27, 2014 joint interview by Angela Romack gave a lovely glimpse into the natural chemistry enjoyed by these two co-stars who rarely if ever share a scene.

After kidding West about her acting being better than her singing, he likened her Ava to the Cuban cocaine goddess Griselda Blanco. It’s a comparison West liked very much, and was what she’s going for, that badass who could kill at a moment’s notice then turn around and fix her child a tuna fish sandwich after school. Here’s a sample:

TVSource Magazine: Speaking of family and business, Ava’s had her claws in Dante’s little brother, Morgan [Bryan Craig]. Ava likes her lovers young.
Zamprogna: Yeah, what’s with that? Are you still having sex with my brother?
West: Yeah.
Zamprogna: You are?!
West: Several times a day
Zamprogna: Then how are we supposed to do it?
West: I want them all.
Zamprogna: You want everybody. She’s greedy.
West: Insatiable.

Last week Wednesday, William deVry (Julian) shocked viewers by playing grab-ass hard and fast with Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis). Grahn reportedly threw out a thought that deVry was asked by head writer Ron Carlivati to throw in that move, surprising her and thrilling fans.

deVry has been loving himself in this brand new role, a step up from the wasted potential of AMC’s doomed Michael Cambias, who went from a promising businessman and Zach’s brother, to Bianca’s heartless rapist for a senseless plot twist. Yeah.

“Michael had all the potential in the world. In the focus groups, he had over 90 percent approval rating. They wasted that character like no other soap character in the history of daytime,” deVry said. “With the whole new regime, new executive, a new writer, I think if they would have really thought about it longer than they did, they might have changed their minds. They could have redeemed Michael if they wanted to. You know you save a baby and his mother from dying in a fiery crash, and 'Boom!' he’s redeemed. That’s it, 'Boom!' finished. Now he’s a good guy again. It was just the biggest wasted situation; I’ll never understand that for as long as I live.” –Daytime Confidential interview by Susan Hornik, January 27, 2014

Many viewers of both Grey’s Anatomy and GH felt the January 29th guest appearance of Chandra Wilson was wasted on some random, new patient she had to play. Tina Estrada turned up in Kevin’s office for her session, suffering from OC-D, but didn’t really move story forward or interact with any other characters other than Franco. Her one-episode guest appearance might’ve been better served as Grey’s Anatomy Dr. Miranda Bailey, and how about a run-in with nurse Epiphany? Whatever her outcome, Wilson enjoyed herself on a soap she’s been a fan of for a long time. She would definitely return for a repeat session, too.

Wilson is no stranger to soaps, as a fan or an actor. She’s watched GH for 35 years and has been on OLTL as a recurring character (along with doing background work on AMC and AW). Since Grey’s Anatomy shoots next door, she’s all over GH’s cast and crew, calling herself an “impossible groupie.” She knows if she goes to the studio commissary, she’d make a fool of herself in front of the GH people trying to eat lunch. All that close proximity, about a decade’s worth, made it impossible for her to stay completely away. She’s always wanted to find a way to get on GH. They’ve tried to make it work for years until finally, she just told TPTB to fit her in whenever they could.

The scenes opposite Roger Howarth (Franco; ex-Todd, OLTL) were tightly written, directed, choreographed, and acted. The two-character shots read more like a dark comedic play, time out of mind, than any soap. Wilson said she benefitted from Howarth’s guidance even though it felt odd acting with Todd Manning (remember, she’s a soap fan). “… it was really a hoot for me to work with Roger, though I still think of him as Todd and I always will! He’s making his longtime Llanview followers work real hard to accept him as Franco but, hey, it's a soap! [Laughs] We daytime fans buy even stranger things — like evil twins and people coming back from the dead! I love how so many of the original actors — real favorites — have been coming back to GH over the past year or so for the 50th anniversary. Hey, I’m the public and I appreciate it!” –TV Guide interview by Michael Logan, January 28, 2014

Executive producer Frank Valentini and Emmy-winning veteran soap actor Maurice Benard (Sonny) were on hand January 28 for the L.A. ABC7 affiliate to exalt GH and its 13,000th episode, a milestone indeed. ABC7’s George Pennacchio was among other media reps to mark the occasion. ABC exec Vicki Dummer and some of the cast members — Sean Kanan (A.J.), Maura West (Ava), Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth), Kathleen Gati (Dr. O), Thaao Penghlis (Victor), Sean Blakemore (Shawn), William deVry (Julian), Finola Hughes (Anna), Ryan Paevey (Nathan) — celebrated their soap’s 13,000th episode with a cake-cutting ceremony, photo opps, and interviews. Benard said the best part of working on GH is getting to hang out with his “second family. I love to act, and it’s a great role. Sonny’s like a bad boy, and women want to fix him. A few women have tried, and they’ve succeeded for the most part [laughs].” Valentini previewed lots of “exciting stuff for February and the spring,” culminating with a return of the Nurses’ Ball in May.

Teresa Castillo (Sabrina) expected some bumps along the way during her first-ever pregnancy, but was pleasantly surprised to find hers relatively bump-free—save for that growing baby bump (she’s waddling around!). So far, Castillo’s gravitated toward carbs, desserts, cereal, and fruit, but tries to eat in moderation. She still has to maintain some sort of figure for the cameras, since TPTB wrote her pregnancy in, which she’s been very grateful for. “I feel so lucky! Not having to hide behind counters or large bags is pretty great. I think it’s a cool twist and appropriate for the storyline. It creates more of that conflict and drama we all love so much.” To stay fit without overdoing it, Castillo’s taken to hikes, walking, and trying pre-natal yoga classes (she even saw Drew Barrymore once!). Babble.com interview by Joanna Mazewski, January 28, 2014

GH’s odd couple, Kathleen Gati (Dr. Obrecht) and Emme Rylan (Lulu) went in and out of character for their January 30th Access Hollywood special with Sharon Spaeth, a huge soap fan herself. The special, which was shot with other actors, was in honor of the soap’s 13,000th episode. After all the joking about stolen babies and hospital take-overs was done, Gati — in a normal, American accent! — talked about landing the GH job, a milestone in her own career. “I couldn’t be happier, honestly. This has been the highlight of my career in almost 30 years. It’s been the best job, the best people. It’s a whole family. It takes a village, everyone from every department… it’s one big family, it’s tight-knit, we work out butts off to give the audience entertainment and we get back the love from the audience. It’s an amazing symbiotic relationship we have with the audience.” Rylan had a slightly rough go of it, taking over for Julie Marie Berman, the original Lulu. Although, when Rylan started, she had no idea what she’d walked into. “There wasn’t as much anxiety as there should’ve been,” Rylan acknowledged, laughing. “I didn’t know how scared, … I came in here and said, ‘it’s gonna be so fun,’ and wow, everyone’s so mad that Julie’s not here… She left ‘cause she wanted to, it was a super amicable thing, I came in, was super excited and fun, it felt seamless to all of us here. I loved the amnesia. Everyone has mixed feelings on it. It was a huge gift for me and Dominic to not have to go from one day it’s one person and what that couple is, to instantaneously another person trying to get chemistry and build up that history that they had together.”

Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) and Rebecca Herbst (Elizabeth) made more sense together at the next Access Hollywood video interview. These two started the show around the same time in the 1990s and have worked hard, becoming beloved veterans to thousands of fans. For Christopher, being on GH through the 13,000th episode meant more to him than just a career builder. It’s been a “reflection of my life, not really my career, because I have garnered so many relationships since I started in 1996 as a young, untrained 22/23-year-old actor. I started as a child and I’ve come here as a man, and that’s how I look at it.” Herbst felt the same way. She also started GH young, grew up on the show, and “found a husband here, so I kind of like this place.” She added that she only expected to be on GH for a couple of years. She’s “very excited to be here still.” It also sounded like they offered some hope for Niz fans, despite the Britt factor. Both are incredibly grateful for the passion their fans exhibit. Without that passion, Herbst said, they wouldn’t be there.

John-Paul Lavoisier (ex-Rex, OLTL) gave a rare interview to Michael Fairman January 30, catching everybody up on life after OLTL. It was a sad, happy, goofy, frank, enlightening interview. Lavoisier seemed to really miss working on OLTL. He seemed quite lost, really. If it weren’t for the loyalty and love of his OLTL family — best friend Tuc Watkins (ex-David), whom he baby- and house-sits for, and Hillary B. Smith (ex-Nora), who gave him a job on her new web series, Beacon Hill — surviving the OLTL cancellation would’ve been much harder for sure. Lavoisier addressed the rumor of TPTB asking him to take over the role of Dillon Quartermaine. It’s too bad that never happened. “I have never gotten a call from ABC. There is no truth to this rumor. General Hospital never called me. I have never been out to their studio lot except for a pilot. I have not even seen Frank Valentini since the cancellation of One Life to Live. I honestly can’t tell you what I would say if my phone were to ring. It’s been two years now, and I can’t imagine it ringing.”

Gossip for the week of 03-Feb-2014

by Carol Banks Weber

Rick Hearst (Ric) returns to take back up with Alexis. And since GH prefers aiming high for supercouple status only, that could leave William deVry (Julian) out, according to CrimsonNCream at Daytime Dish, January 24. Don’t shoot the messenger. This is the actual DD-generated rumor: “Ric is for Ric/Alexis. William DeVry probably doesn't know it yet but Julian is not long for this world. Julian to prove himself to Sam, Lucas & Alexis finally agrees to have his stem cells banked for Danny and then is murdered the next day. I'm actually kind of shocked that Frank gave Nancy a voice in this but Rick Hearst is back because when asked by Frank who she wanted to work with if they weren't pairing Julian/Alexis, NLG said Rick.”

It was one of the saddest (and most unnecessary) exits in soap history. Watching the great Robert Scorpio say goodbye to Anna, Robin, and Emma made many fans hate Y&R’s Jill Farren Phelps all the more for stealing him away, as rumored. And for what? So Jill Abbott can have a roll in the hay with her inconsequential music box inheritance? Just as Robert leaves to help for the stupidest reason in the world — if, that is, this isn’t a brilliant cover — in comes Victor Cassadine as the new director of the WSB. Prime reason for Robert to stay. How about TPTB kill off the tired mob, and focus on Robert, Anna, Luke, Holly, and Frisco kicking some WSB ass? You know, the reason GH was good in the first place. Could you imagine if Elizabeth and Nikolas joined in on the ass-kicking spy business? Ratings gold!

If Elizabeth Webber is such a goldmine of a legacy character, and she is, why is she still relegated to the role of a side character, an interloper, supercouple foil? When will she finally get a story of her own, instead of these teasing crumbs? Maybe the recent appearance of portrayer Rebecca Herbst and Tyler Christopher (Nikolas) on Access Hollywood hinting at more could be her big break back into the lead.

In the interest of the adorable children’s triangle with Cameron/Emma/Spencer, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief and cool my jets on Heather running rampant for weeks on end. Up to a point. I’m sensing this is Cartini’s way of forcing audiences to empathize with her as more dimensional than a cardboard villain. But if they’re not careful, they’re going to push Heather, and the more than capable actress Robin Mattson, into overplayed territory. Carly gets free next week, thank the lord.

Executive producer Frank Valentini teased that almost every day viewers will get clues about Faison. Seeing as nobody really dies on this show, or any soap opera for that matter, my bet’s on him surviving Anna and Robert, in hiding somewhere and in cahoots with head honcho Helena.

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