Vanessa Marcil is heading for a June wedding.
In Hallmark Channel’s The Convenient Groom (airing Saturday at 9/8c), the beloved General Hospital and Las Vegas alum plays Dr. Kate Lawrence, a celebrity relationship expert whose picture-perfect trip down the aisle is derailed by a flaky groom. Angling to keep her image intact, Kate recruits her childhood friend Lucas (Gilmore Girls‘ David Sutcliffe) to fake being her fiance. And if we have to tell you what happens from there… well, please turn in your TV now. Really.
Having first interviewed Marcil umpty-ump years ago, this writer jumped at the chance to catch up with her on the topics of mushy TV-movies, her Grace and Frankie crush, GH memories and her non-syllabic thoughts on playing Brenda Barrett again. What follows is, admittedly, not so much an “interview” but two pals gabbing….
TVLINE | Have all the good jokes already been made about Vanessa Marcil playing a relationship expert?
[Laughs] Probably. But it is my dream job, you know. Art always imitates life, or hopefully life imitates art sometimes. I have a psychology major and I wanted to either be a lawyer or a family psychologist, and I am all my friends’ couples therapist — unfortunately for them.
TVLINE | So on a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a relationship expert would you say you are now versus, say, 15 years ago?
I would say about the same. I was raised on Oprah and Dr. Phil, which is not too bad. I see myself as a success, but it just depends on what your goal is, right? If your goal is the idea of getting married and being with someone forever, that’s never been my goal.
TVLINE | On that topic, can I be honest with you? Even with all your tweets and Instagrams and everything, I have no idea if you’re married right now.
I’m engaged. We’re planning our wedding. There’s been a lot of wedding dresses and everybody telling me which one I should wear. There’s been some of that on Instagram.
TVLINE | David Sutcliffe plays The Convenient Groom in your new Hallmark movie. Had you ever seen Gilmore Girls, did you know him from that at all?
No, I hadn’t. But my mother freaked out because she loves Gilmore Girls. It’s funny, he and I got along with each other really well right away, while it’s a very comedic relationship that we have [on-screen] — she’s engaged to someone else, and there’s all kinds of complicated stuff going on. He and I were just like, “You know, for me it either happens ‘just like that’ or it doesn’t.” It’s either like “music’s playing and I’m crazy about someone and I’m going to stay friends with them forever,” or not.
TVLINE | At work we will sometimes chuckle over the synopses for TV-movies, where the girl is engaged to one guy, but she ends up falling for the other guy. Why do you think TV-movies like this resonate with people?
Well, romantic comedies are the biggest movies in the world, right, whether it’s big screen, small screen, in a TV show…. [At home] our new favorite TV show is Grace and Frankie, and my son is the one who introduced me to it. He binge-watches it.
TVLINE | Oh, wow.
Yeah. I mean, he’s a 14-year-old boy. And [Grace and Frankie’s] is a love story, there’s a whole bunch of romantic love stories going on in that show. I just think that no matter who you are in our world, no matter what walk of life, the one thing that everybody wants is either love or to feel like you belong somewhere. Whether it’s romantic love or love between a person and their dog, or two girls or two guys or a guy and a girl, or you and your career, it doesn’t even matter. Everybody wants to be in love with something or somebody. And for people who haven’t found that yet, it feels like that’s the underlying drive behind everything they do.
TVLINE | And stories like this give you that hope, like, “Listen, you might just be one weird job experience away from bumping into the love of your life.”
I think so. With most love stories that I’ve ever found interesting — like real ones, when you talk to people — it was always some weird, unexpected serendipity, some interesting story where it was not where they were expecting to feel love or feel like they belonged somewhere. Even with a career, they thought they were supposed to be “this” and then some weird story happens and they end up doing something completely different, and they’re in love with it. I think that people, even more than wanting to be in romantic love in their hearts, want to find their purpose on the Earth, to be able to do what they love, hopefully for a living. That’s gold. It’s like, you just want to know you matter.
TVLINE | This isn’t your first TV-movie. Do you find that it’s just the perfect amount of work for you?
It is for me, yes. It’s no secret to anybody that I really like to have a good balance of home and work, and for probably 16 years straight really all I did was work, and I just carted my son with me everywhere. That works OK, as you a parent know, up until about age 6, and then you have to revolve your life around their stuff. So I missed a lot. I missed weddings and funerals and parties and holidays and really everything for those 16 years, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. All my dreams came true and I get to do what I love for a living, but I don’t want to do it for 16 hours a day, five days a week anymore. I mean, I can’t. It’s impossible.
TVLINE | Back when Kassius was 6, you told me you would never be a series regular on TV again. Is that still the case?
I don’t think that I would unless it was something that was just…. After Kassius was born I was like, “If a character literally scares the crap out of me when I’m reading it, then I know I need to go do it.” But I would have to ask him first. What if I fell in love with the character — and this has happened a few times over the last five years — and it shoots in Georgia? Or it shoots in Miami? Everyone’s life would have to be uprooted, because I was a single mom, really, for most of his life.
TVLINE | So you don’t go up for pilot season every spring?
TVLINE | You had so much heat, obviously, when you left General Hospital the first time. How did no other soaps scoop you up, or did they try?
They did, yeah. I have no regrets, but the only one that’s ever hurt a little bit in my heart was I got offered Ally McBeal when I left General Hospital in ’98. Literally, David Kelley called me, and that for me is on the shortlist of types of shows that I personally like to watch, and I ended up not being able to do it. I did [the Nicolas Cage film] The Rock when I was on General Hospital, which is really unusual, and I was offered movies after that that were really big, but logistically I wasn’t able to do them, and Ally McBeal was the only one that really, really hurt. But if I had done Ally McBeal, I wouldn’t have done [Beverly Hills] 90210, which I hated — you love some jobs, you hate some jobs — and then I obviously wouldn’t have Kassius [via 90210 costar Brian Austin Green]. So, everything kind of works out the way it’s supposed to, even if you think it’s not. Portia de Rossi ended up doing [Ally McBeal].
TVLINE | I recall some sort of Twitter imbroglio going on with you a couple of months ago — something about GH‘s Brenda and whether she had a child…?
Because I’m a theater geek, Brenda for me is very real. When you play a role you’re supposed to create their past, so I can tell you every single thing that happened in Brenda’s life before you start seeing her on-screen — in high school when she was 17 and all that crap. And I can tell you every single thing that she’s done during all of the different time periods that she was gone, off camera. And I can tell you what she’s been doing since you last saw her on camera, which I think has been maybe five years. So there was this whole debate [on Twitter], which always cracks me up. But the fact that people get worked up about it is perfect because that’s all the show wants, or any actor. They just want to know that people care enough to be arguing about it. So they were arguing about what happened with Brenda’s baby that she supposedly all of a sudden had, eight years later, but Brenda didn’t know about. Like, Brenda must be doing some strong drugs if she didn’t realize she had a baby!
TVLINE | Right, the whole Lucian and Alec thing.
Yeah. Yeah. There was one baby with that weird woman who was like her caretaker, and then all of sudden that kid was gone and it was a different kid…. I mean, the whole thing was craziness, but it is the kind of craziness that does really happen in life. I mean, don’t you have a friend who was in an abusive relationship and every time you hear a new story about their life you’re like, “What? What are you talking about? That did not happen!”
TVLINE | It seemed like you were denying that Brenda ever had a child.
She never had a kid. You think that Brenda would be the type of girl that would give birth to a child and then not see him for eight years? And then all of a sudden he’s there, and some shady mob person goes, “This is your child,” and she’s like, “Oh, OK”? I mean, that’s not her at all. If Brenda gave birth to a child in a hospital she would know it and that kid would be with her.
TVLINE | Are you surprised by how engaged you get on social media?
Well, first of all, it’s not always me, which is the case with most people. I used to put my initials when it was actually me, but you know, it’s “part of the world” now. You have to do it. It’s in your contract, it’s part of the deals that you make.
TVLINE | I’ve had actors DM me to retweet something of theirs, explaining, “If I have more followers, maybe I’ll get that role next time instead of losing it to someone else.” We’re at this point where a social media footprint can tip the scale when producers are deciding between two actors.
Well, I don’t know about that. I don’t care about the followers thing; that’s a little too weird for me. I mean, I understand that, but that’s a contest that you don’t really want to be in. You want to be picked because you’re more right for the role, or a better actor.
TVLINE | You’re about due for another GH encore. Do you have pretty much a standing invitation from whoever is in charge over there these days?
Yes. They’ve always made me feel super welcome and like it’s my home. I mean, they’re awesome.
TVLINE | But you probably want something short-term, though, if you were to go back again.
[Snorts] Like I would comment on that.
TVLINE | I’m sorry, was that a snort?
Yes. I snorted for you.
TVLINE | So, you were saying….
I don’t think I was saying anything. It’s your turn, Matt.
TVLINE | OK…. If you could change one thing about any of Brenda’s storylines, any one thing that happened to her, what would it be?
TVLINE | There’s no storyline or twist that you disliked…?
No. I mean, it’s crazy to me the women that I’ve gotten to portray. I mean, there’s not a ton of female characters who are complicated and strong and vulnerable and everything that a lot of these girls are that I’ve been lucky enough to play. It sounds corny, but it’s just true. I know how to make a scene work instinctually, but I would never be bold enough to think that I could be a writer and actually create new stuff. That’s like a miracle to me, people who write. Even what you do is amazing. You talk to someone and then you have to create a story around it.
TVLINE | There was no time where Brenda dicked over Jax, again, and you were like, “Really, guys? Again?”
No. I love all of it. They say that for an actor, the thing that outrages you the most is the most fun thing to play because it’s stuff you would never do in your real life.
TVLINE | Do I recall you and Maurice Benard running down a hill on a Puerto Rico location shoot and jumping onto the top of a tram? And you were in heels? [See above video.]
Oh, yeah. For sure. I can do anything in stilettos even though I was probably crying. Except for when Brenda came back and she was stuck on, like, a yacht or something. She jumped off the yacht and swam to shore, and wore some stretchy pants, super-high spiked stilettos and a black jacket for like two months.
TVLINE | Is that the @BrendasJacket that you’re sometimes tweeting at?
No. No. @BrendasJacket is a total asshole and I stole her from set in 2011.
TVLINE | Lastly, it seems like every time I ask you about your favorite TV shows, you always brought up Jon Stewart. You must be missing him these days.
Oh, yes. I love him. I was just talking about him yesterday. Obviously he’s irreplaceable, as we see.
TVLINE | What do you watch besides Grace and Frankie?
I mean, we pretty much watch Anderson Cooper and CNN 24/7. We watch Lisa Ling, there’s a new comedian show on CNN where he just went and spoke to the Ku Klux Klan…. We watch a lot of serious TV. I binge-watch Dr. Phil, the current ones mixed in with the reruns. But mostly I’m watching Grace and Frankie. Oh, my gosh — Lily Tomlin. My son and I have a favorite line, where Lily Tomlin is at the wedding and she goes, “Do any of you bitches have any gum?” She’s just, like, total deadpan and walks through the scene. She’s such a genius. We love her.