Nancy Lee Grahn, Kelly Monaco, Bradley Cole
Though April 1 marks General Hospital's actual 50th anniversary, the show's executive producer, Frank Valentini, and head writer Ron Carlivati, have been honoring the show's rich history ever since taking over the ABC soap opera one year ago this week. Their efforts have paid off in spades — with a serious rise in ratings and multiple award nominations. With old favorites like Finola Hughes (Anna), Ian Buchanan (Duke), Tristan Rogers (Scorpio), Kristina Wagner (Felicia), Lynn Herring (Lucy) and Robin Mattson (Heather) already back on the canvas, and Genie Francis (Laura) and Jon Lindstrom (Kevin) soon making their way back to Port Charles, what else could possibly be left for fans to look forward to as the actual anniversary date approaches? Turns out plenty. Valentini opens up about all he's cooking up to celebrate GH's golden jubilee this spring.
TV Guide Magazine: What will be happening in Port Charles during the actual anniversary week?
Valentini: We're reviving the Nurses' Ball, which is something the show did years ago to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS. I think the feel-good philanthropic aspect of the show was missing. This gives all the people in the hospital — Patrick, Sabrina, Liz, Epiphany and Felix — a real presence as we celebrate the hospital and the people who are the do-gooders. For a long time the moral compass of the show was off a little bit, and I think now we're back to where it needs to be. And the people like Luke and Sonny, who may do the wrong thing, are still good guys in their hearts. Maurice Benard (Sonny) has just signed another long-term deal with the show and there are some exciting things coming up for him and Kate in the next few weeks.
TV Guide Magazine: What can we expect to see at the Ball?
Valentini: There will be some big story reveals over a few days. We're now doing the sketches for the set and costume designs, which are going to be really exciting. We'll have the characters sing and dance. We'll of course have (inaugural Dancing With the Stars champ) Kelly (Monaco, who plays Sam) dance. We might even bring (her DWTS partner) Val Chermkovskiy back.
TV Guide Magazine: Safe to say Lucy's clothes will come off as in year's past?
Valentini: Yeah, they'll come off. Lucy has a big story that will finish off right at the beginning of the Nurses' Ball.
TV Guide Magazine: Since it is the nurses ball, any chance you'd invite Jacklyn Zeman back as Bobbie Spencer since she was the hospital's reigning head nurse for so many years, and her brother Luke and daughter Carly are still front and center?
Valentini: Absolutely. We love Jackie. We've talked on the phone a couple times and she's lovely. She might appear at the ball, though there are the realities of budgets and scheduling. We're still figuring it out. The people on the show have real affection for her so it'll all work out.
TV Guide Magazine: There are people like Bobbie and Audrey Hardy (an original character not seen since 2009) who are supposedly in the town but never seen.
Valentini: Yes, Audrey we want to bring back as well. My assistant casting director has spoken to Rachel Ames (now 83) about coming for the Nurses' Ball. She's Liz's grandmother and we talk about her all the time so it would be really fun to have her back. I talked to her the other day and she said, 'I think I could come back and sit in the audience. That could be fun.'
TV Guide Magazine: It might also be nice to make mention of Laura's half sister, nurse Amy Vining, who was played for years by Shell Kepler before she passed away (in 2008 at age 49).
Valentini: That's a good idea. Let me text Ron. We should.
TV Guide Magazine: What's up with this talk of a vampire storyline related to the events of the short-lived GH spin-off Port Charles?
Valentini: We're not doing vampires. Because we have Michael (Easton, who plays John) and Lynn who were both on Port Charles with Kelly, we're just doing a nod.
TV Guide Magazine: This week, Anna referenced Holly was in a hospital room with Robert Scorpio (Tristan Rogers), but neither were seen. What is Tristan Rogers' status with the show now?
Valentini: Tristan is so awesome. I'm personally really fond of him. Then we came up with this interesting idea of Robin being discovered by her father. Kimberly McCullough (Robin) has her directing career she's working on now so we've been able to foster a relationship with her so that she can come back and forth while she's pursuing her other goals.
TV Guide Magazine: Is the ultimate plan to have Robin back in Port Charles full time?
Valentini: We would love to. It's going to depend on her. Our door is always open.
TV Guide Magazine: In the meantime you are setting up the character of Sabrina as a possible love interest for 'widowed' Patrick. And we all know it's only a matter of time before you give this Ugly Betty a beauty makeover. When's it going to happen?
Valentini: It's coming. The time has come to reveal Sabrina's beauty. Maybe around the Nurses Ball.
TV Guide Magazine: When you introduced the Swiss clinic storyline, I was convinced there were going to be even more dead people being secretly kept alive. Tops on my wish list were Alan and Maxie's sister Georgie. Any chance?
Valentini: That's a really big facility so anything can happen (laughs). At this point we don't have anything planned. We hope to be seeing Stuart (Damon, who plays Alan) again. And everyone loved Georgie.
TV Guide Magazine: Maxie's got to be pregnant with Spinelli's baby, right?
Valentini: She is probably pregnant.
TV Guide Magazine: Can you see yourself recasting the Jason role now that Steve Burton has signed with The Young and the Restless?
Valentini: Not at this point because Jason's absence opens up a lot of fun possibilities for Sam.
TV Guide Magazine: With Prospect Park now reviving One Life to Live, which you executive produced in its final days, there are reports that they have first rights to the characters of John McBain and Todd and Starr Manning, who you've now successfully integrated into the Port Charles canvas. Should we be worried they'll all have to say goodbye?
Valentini: Right now we're trying to work it out. I can't really say because the lawyers are doing their thing. Our hope is that we'll be able to continue what we're be doing.
TV Guide Magazine: Genie Francis has been so misused during her previous returns. What will be the extent of her participation this time?
Valentini: It's open-ended and will be something really exciting that will affect the whole Spencer family. We're working on bringing back some of the Spencer boys as well.
TV Guide Magazine: The Spencer boys are Lucky, played by Jonathan Jackson who is now on Nashville, Ethan and Nikolas. Who do you want to bring back?
Valentini: Nashville is part of the ABC family so it's just a scheduling situation for Jonathan, who is just a lovely guy. And maybe Ethan. And I've met with Tyler (Christopher, who plays Nikolas) who is a strong possibility. I can't say definite because we have to make deals.
TV Guide Magazine: And Denise Alexander, who played Laura's mother, Lesley Webber?
Valentini: The casting people are looking into her availability now.
TV Guide Magazine: Anything you can tell us about Laura's storyline?
Valentini: We will explore where she's been, what she's been doing, why she's been away and she'll come back with a big secret.
TV Guide Magazine: Laura was written off at one point as flying off with Scotty Baldwin. Any plans to bring back Kin Shriner, especially now that Lucy's back?
Valentini: We'd love to have Kin back, it's just right now we're juggling so many. And we don't want to short shrift anyone in terms of their returns. Timing is important. We were careful to bring Felicia back when we got (Kirsten Storms) back as Maxie.
TV Guide Magazine: That brings us to Frisco. Are we going to see Jack Wagner, who hasn't been in Port Charles since 1995?
Valentini: Yes. I think it's going to happen. We're very excited. He's got a lot of things going on, so it will be a limited thing for now. We're working with his schedule.
TV Guide Magazine: Given that Jack and Kristina were once married in real life, safe to assume you got the okay from Kristina first?
Valentini: Well, yes and no. I feel I have to respect people's privacy. I just let her know that we were going to be doing a story that involved Frisco Jones, because as an actor that's what she needed to know, and she was fantastic. They get along great and have a family, so it's all good.
TV Guide Magazine: Maybe you can reunite Kristina and Jack in real life?
Valentini: (Laughs) Stranger things have been known to happen. Hey, on One Life to Live, I introduced David Fumero (who played Cristian Vega) and his wife, who played his sister.
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