CLEVELAND, Ohio — Port Charles has seen its share of drama over the course of the 59-season run of ABC’s “General Hospital.” What began in 1963 as a daytime series about doctors and nurses in a fictional town in upstate New York has evolved into something so much bigger. Spies, stolen babies, mobsters, misbehaving teens, corporate intrigue and romance, of course. This soap opera has it all.
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The show’s enduring appeal has made it the longest-running American drama in television history. On June 21, “General Hospital” celebrates its 15,000th episode with a special standalone episode centering on longtime cast member Genie Francis’ character, Laura. Back in 1981, Luke and Laura’s wedding attracted 30 million viewers, a daytime record that still stands.
Another Laura, veteran soap actress Laura Wright, has played Carly Corinthos, the on-again/off-again wife of mob boss Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard), for the past 17 years. Wright, who starred on “Loving” and “Guiding Light” before arriving in Port Charles, won a Daytime Emmy for the role in 2011 and is nominated again for the seventh time this year. She’ll find out the results during the televised ceremony airing June 24 on CBS.
In the meantime, Wright talked with cleveland.com about the incredible legacy of “General Hospital,” the fun of playing Carly and some of her favorite storylines and co-stars.
cleveland.com: “General Hospital” is the longest-running scripted drama currently in production with now 15,000 episodes over 59 years. That’s incredible on so many levels. How do you explain the show’s longevity?
Laura Wright: It’s the fans and their love for the show. We’re really here because of them and their love for the characters, the stories and, gosh, the history.
Q: For me, I think part of the reason GH has stayed on the air so long is that it’s never been afraid to be bold, take risks and be relevant. The show has tackled the AIDS epidemic, mental health, Alzheimer’s Disease and, right now, the cast features Cassandra James, who is the first trans actress in a regular role in the history of daytime TV.
A: I don’t think it’s so much a risk to tell those stories because those are stories that should be told. So, I don’t find it risky. I find it current and true to humanity. We’re just telling people’s stories. I don’t know if it’s risky to tell the Alzheimer’s story or the transgender story because we are reflecting people in the world today and I think that’s important.
Q. There are only four soap operas left on network TV. There are always rumors of their days being numbered. What do you think the future of daytime is?
A: I think the future of daytime is strong with all the different platforms you can watch the show on. The fans love that they can get us anytime, whether it be on ABC or Hulu.
Q: What I love about Carly is that I think she is one of the most well-written characters in daytime. She really is this force of nature. What’s it like to come to work and play Carly every day and are you anything like her?
A: First of all, thank you. I agree, she is a force of nature. It’s amazing and exhausting to be Carly depending on the day because I’m also Laura and she has her life. It’s really interesting, the difference between playing in Carly’s world and being in Laura’s world. But it’s super fun and I love doing it. One of our writers explained Carly as the woman that everybody wants to be friends with and I was like, oh my God, I love that. It’s so true.
Q: But you don’t want to be Carly’s enemy either.
A: She’s just so passionate about the people she loves and cares about.
Q: Acting in soaps sounds like incredibly hard work. It’s five shows a week and pages and pages of dialog. How challenging is it?
A: The hours used to be longer, but we now get 16 to 18 weeks off a year. We have to get all the shows still in, so you guys don’t see us take those breaks. Sometimes we can do three to four shows in a day depending on the sets that are up and the actors’ availability. So, yeah, it’s challenging but it’s like the best part-time job on the planet because we have so much time off.
Q: The cool thing about Carly is that she is in everyone’s orbit. She has ties to GH’s big 3 families in the Corinthoses, the Quartermaines and the Spencers. You’ve been in some memorable storylines and had some very talented scene partners over the years. What have been some of your favorite moments or cast members to work with?
A: Carly has a different relationship with everybody. Of course, I love working with Maurice, loved working with Steve Burton (ex-Jason). Maura West (Ava) is one of my favorites. Cynthia Watros (Nina) is fun. Eden McCoy, who plays my daughter (Josslyn), is probably the easiest because we’re so much alike and so in sync when we work together. But it’s also beyond a pleasure to work with Becky Herbst (Elizabeth), Roger Howarth (Austin, ex-Franco, ex-Todd), Finola Hughes (Anna) and James Patrick Stuart (Valentin). These are people I don’t work with a lot, so when I get to work with them it’s different. Storyline-wise, some of my favorites were when Carly was with Jax (Ingo Rademacher). It was fun back in the day when Carly and Jax fell in love because it was refreshing and romantic, and we brought some humor into it. That was kind of refreshing given the other side of Carly’s world, which is death and mobsters.
Q: This is shaping up to be a big summer for Carly. She’s being paired up a lot with Drew Cain, who is played by Cameron Mathison, and keeping a very big secret from Nina. I know you can’t say a lot but can give us a tease of what Carly is going to be up to in the weeks and months ahead?
A: A lot of changes are in store for Carly in many different ways, that’s what I’ll say.
Q: Congratulations to everybody who works on “General Hospital” on 15,000 episodes. Do you think the show can go on for 15,000 more?
A: Heck yeah. Bring it on.
The 15,000th episode of “General Hospital” is scheduled to air locally on Tuesday, June 21 at 3 p.m. on WEWS Ch. 5. The 49th Daytime Emmy Awards airs Friday, June 24 at 9 p.m. on WOIO Ch. 19. The ceremony will also be streamed on Paramount+.
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