Some may say the future of soaps seems grim — but the mood was anything but during General Hospital‘s showing at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills on Thursday. Several key cast members — including Anthony Geary, Kelly Monaco, Nancy Lee Grahn and Laura Wright, to name a few — and executive producer Frank Valentini took the stage to discuss the future of the ABC sudser — which is nearing its 50th anniversary — as well as preview what’s ahead for all of your Port Charles (and Llanview!) faves.
Here are eight key takeaways from the panel discussion:
ADDING NEW LIFE | At the start of the panel, Valentini was careful to note that he came in earlier this year to remodel, not rebuild General Hospital. “I think the show was in terrific shape, but there needed to be some tweaks.” And now? “It’s much more my taste and my sensibility for the show to go just a little bit faster,” he shared. “I also thought there were some key characters missing, not in terms of who they were, but certain archetypes that I thought were really important to bring on the show.” Valentini explained that his choice to bring on “some of the people from One Life to Live was a little bit of a way to honor that audience and also to create story that was good for the current cast of General Hospital.” For example, “John McBain being a police officer [on OLTL] was a good fit to merge into the PCPD.”
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A SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT | As you’ve probably figured out by watching General Hospital this week, Kimberly McCullough is back, baby! “Robin is back for a little bit,” Valentini confirmed. The EP explained that while the actress had chosen to leave the show to pursue her dream of directing prior to his joining the series, they quickly bonded and after a few weeks of working together, “I said to her that this is such a wonderful thing that [she'd created], so let’s try to keep it alive as opposed to snubbing it out. She’s open to it, and we’re going to try to work together.” Added McCullough’s on-screen cohort Jason Thompson, with a laugh, “And who doesn’t want to do a story about electric-shock [therapy]?”
THINK OF LAURA | For the foreseeable future, Luke Spencer will remain Laura-less. “Unfortunately, contracts forbid us from even discussing that,” Valentini said of the possibility of Genie Francis — who is currently on The Young and the Restless — returning to her iconic GH role. “I’ll just say we’re big fans of Genie’s and we wish her all the best — but I think we’re pretty solid right now.”
CHANGING IT UP | Michael Easton, who plays stalwart cop John McBain, discussed his “bittersweet” move from the axed One Life to Live to General Hospital. “It’s been exciting to come over and work with these guys. It’s been new energy for me… I was in a stupor a little bit [at the end of OLTL], and these guys have snapped me out of it. I’m really happy to be there.” And his new castmates are happy to have him. Shared Maurice Benard (Sonny), “I love that there’s new blood. They’re great… They’re bringing a different element to Sonny that wasn’t there before; maybe a little bit more vulnerable.” And speaking of Port Charles newbies that we love…
BLAIR WILL BE BACK! | Valentini told TVLine following the panel discussion that, “Kassie [DePaiva] will definitely be coming back” as Blair Cramer. The showrunner also promised that it will “absolutely” come out that Todd did not kill his brother Victor over on OLTL. “We have all these great surprises to play out,” Valentini teased.
NO NAT… FOR NOW | On the possibility of further complicating John McBain’s love life by at some point getting his Llanview love Natalie to Port Charles, Valentini confided to TVLine that “legal issues, in terms of the Prospect Park deal [that almost gave OLTL an online home]” were among the reasons why Melissa Archer has yet to at least cameo. “I can’t really talk about it, but I will say that Melissa is a very close friend of mine and I adore her, and she’s a phenomenal actress.” (Easton, for his part, told us he’d love to reunite with Archer, since the “one-sided phone calls” between John and off-screen Nat are getting to be a bit much.)
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER | Valentini, for one, is thrilled about General Hospital‘s upcoming “great” time slot change. “I like the way that we’re being positioned with the other shows surrounding us. I know that the network is doing a big push to inform the audience about the time change.” What’s more, the soap is planning “an umbrella story” leading into the move, and has “a lot of really fun surprises [and] terrific stuff coming on in September.”
STAYING POWER | And when it comes to life for General Hospital beyond its upcoming 50th anniversary, Valentini is “confident. All I can say is [ABC] invited us here [to TCA], and to me that’s a great sign.” He added that in anticipation of the show’s big 5-0, the soap will be “rolling out lots of different things between now and April — and past then… So, you just need to watch the show to catch the energy and the momentum that we have.”