Prepare for Brenda-Mania! In an unprecedented public relations blitz, ABC will bump its entire August 10 daytime suds lineup for a Vanessa Marcil (sorry, that's Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo!) marathon featuring three of the soap superdiva's most classic General Hospital episodes. SOAPnet is already in the midst of a 25-day Brenda Barrett countdown (key Brenda moments, timelines, trivia quizzes) and will air a four-hour "Best of Brenda and Sonny" marathon August 15, including a long-unseen Ricky Martin episode. The gal herself hits GH on August 11 after a seven-year absence. What's in store for the most deliciously needy, high-maintenance crisis junkie in the history of daytime drama? GH head writer Bob Guza gave TV Guide Magazine some exclusive scoop!
Let's clarify. You were quoted at the Daytime Emmys saying you have Vanessa for two years, but since then there's been conflicting word on that. What's the deal?
Bob Guza: We have Vanessa for at least a year and she and I have talked about going longer. I don't want people to think this is some six week in-and-out. Brenda will be heavily involved with all the characters she had important relationships with, especially Sonny [Maurice Benard], Jax [Ingo Rademacher], Jason [Steve Burton] and Robin [Kimberly McCullough]. I don't want people to think this is just a Brenda-Sonny story. If there was ever a time when Sonny really needs Brenda, this would be it, but all three of her romances will be revisited.
You've told us we'll first see Brenda in Rome working with a children's charity headed by Adrienne Barbeau's character. What brings them to Port Charles?
Guza: We are going to come upon Brenda mid-crisis and, true to form, that crisis is going to disseminate across the canvas and ultimately involve everybody. Since last we saw her, Brenda has become a kind of international supermodel and she is now the celebrity face and goodwill ambassador of the ASEC Foundation, which is the Alliance to Save Exploited Children. Adrienne's character, Suzanne, is the director of the organization, and she and Brenda have become close friends. ASEC is based in Rome but they do work all over the place, including Africa, and we'll be playing off that.
Didn't Brenda hate modeling back in the day? It pushed all her emotional buttons. What's changed?
Guza: She's sucking it up and doing it for a very good cause, but here's the real downside to this new career: Her work has given her a public face and that'll put her in severe jeopardy that will ultimately involve all our heroes in Port Charles. No surprise — Brenda will come fleeing back to town and bring her troubles with her.
What makes Suzanne tag along?
Guza: She needs Brenda's involvement and participation and comes to Port Charles to protect her investment, but also to protect her friend. Only Suzanne understands the danger Brenda is in and the severity of the situation.
You've already revealed that crackpot Franco [James Franco] has a connection to Brenda. Is he behind this crisis?
Guza: [Long pause] Well, not exactly. There is a connection to Franco that'll affect future story, but he is not the source of her problem. But I will say this: The source of Brenda's problem is already on the canvas in a story we are currently telling.
Have the folks in Port Chuck kept up on Brenda's rise to fame?
Guza: Yes, they all know about it and we'll find out some have been keeping secret tabs on her. She's somebody who would be in People magazine — it's that level of celebrity. Working with James Franco has me very interested in dissolving the boundaries between reality and illusion and I love the idea that Vanessa is quite the celebrity in the real world and will now be playing a celebrity on our show. It's kinda neat.
Is Brenda's crisis romance related? Is she involved with someone or is she coming back to town a free agent?
Guza: She is not romantically entangled. It's a bigger crisis than that.
There's been buzz that she somehow secretly gave birth to Sonny's child. Anything to that?
Guza: I'm not going to discount any story but, let me put it this way, Brenda is not coming on canvas with that particular baggage, okay? I'm not saying she won't leave the show with that particular baggage. She's coming with something way more explosive than that.
Okay, Mr. Cryptic, so you're saying she did not have Sonny's child yet?
Guza: I'm saying she is not coming to town with that particular baggage, got it? [Laughs] This is fun. I wish I could conduct my real life like this but my wife would probably kill me.
Yeah, something tells me Ms. Meg Bennett wouldn't put up with this crap!
Guza: I'd be sleeping out in the back yard with the coyotes.
Let's get back to Brenda's many men. Sonny is certainly available right now. Jax is looking that way, too.
Guza: The timing is perfect. Even though there is an attraction that's going to build as Sonny tries to manipulate Claire [Dahlia Salem], he is not in a really strong romance right now. He's in a vulnerable and emotional place where he's caused horrible damage to those he loves and he could very much use someone who will remind him of his glory days, someone who can bring him comfort — and that's Brenda. Jax is also in an interesting place. His romance with Carly [Laura Wright] is on again, off again. But unlike Carly, who is famous for having her rebound relationships, Jax has never rebounded from a romance with anyone — so this may be a first for him. He loves Carly dearly but Brenda needs him. I'm salivating at the prospect of putting Vanessa and Laura together. I'd do a month with just the two of them, but we'd have to rebuild all the sets because there'd be nothing left standing!
The situation with Jason is more complicated. He's got a great thing going with Sam [Kelly Monaco]. Will Brenda bust that up?
Guza: Brenda and Jason were married in one of the funniest, least romantic weddings ever. They do not love each other. They do not much like each other. But he is a protector and he'll respond when she's in danger. It's a very codependent relationship. The difference now is that Jason is in a very committed, very loving relationship with Sam, so what's going to happen when Brenda is in dire straits yet again and Jason has to go run and help her? How confident is Sam of her love affair with Jason, knowing Brenda has this extraordinary allure? I love the way this whole thing is setting up. Also, don't forget that Brenda has never met some of the newer men in Port Charles, like Dante [Dominic Zamprogna] and Patrick [Jason Thompson]. Robin will be in a place with Patrick where she can really use a shoulder to cry. She will need her old pal Brenda There's great stuff to be played with all these characters. Actually, there's too much great stuff. I'm going to work Vanessa as hard as she will let me!
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