How cool is this! When ABC's General Hospital needed to fill the role of a garage mechanic who holds vital information about a hit-and-run crash, they hired a real life car expert from Detroit, Michigan — 52-year-old Mazda product specialist Duncan Hursley. But that's not Hursley's only claim to fame. He's also the grandson of GH's late, great creators, Frank and Doris Hursley! TV Guide Magazine got the scoop on his cameo appearance, airing Friday, June 27.
TV Guide Magazine: How does it feel to see your grandparents' "created by" credit still on every episode of GH?
Hursley: It's really amazing. Their names also continue to appear on every script that's printed up at the studio, which is so wonderful. This is all very surreal for me. I was born in 1962, just a year before GH premiered and I started following it when I was in kindergarten.
TV Guide Magazine: Wow, that sure must warp a kid!
Hursley: [Laughs] I remember sitting in the den with my grandmother every day as she ironed and watched GH, and I'd eat my sandwich and watch right along with her. At one point she expressed some concerns to my mother. "Don't be upset with me, but I think Duncan is really following along on these plotlines!" Those were the great years of Jessie and Phil. By the mid-'70s, I had a mad crush on Dr. Lesley Webber. [Laughs] I vividly remember her tossing Cameron Faulkner down those stairs!
TV Guide Magazine: And you've stayed a loyal viewer ever since?
Hursley: Actually, no. I'd fallen way from watching GH for a number of years but all of a sudden I was hearing in the news about soaps being cancelled left and right. All My Children and One Life to Live were gone and there was concern that GH might not make it, either. I thought, "Jeez, it would be a crime if my grandparents' show didn't make it to the big 50th anniversary." So I tuned in to check it out about a year and a half ago — just after [executive producer] Frank Valentini and [head writer] Ron Carlivati took over — and couldn't believe it! With one episode I was hooked again and haven't missed the show since. Frank and Ron have done a fantastic job.
TV Guide Magazine: And now you're costarring with Jason Thompson and Kelly Monaco!
Hursley: And, man, it was such a thrill. And so hard to believe. [Laughs] It felt like I was walking right into my own TV set.
TV Guide Magazine: The plot has Patrick and Sam visiting an auto-repair shop where your character, Mechanic Bill, coughs up confidential client info about the car that hit Patrick and Sabrina. Thank God we're finally getting to the bottom of this!
Hursley: Frank was very generous and put a lot of thought into the scene and the role. Of course, I can't reveal much but there's an element on the set that eagle-eyed viewers are going to love. It was so much fun. I'd go back in a heartbeat.
TV Guide Magazine: How'd this happen?
Hursley: I was in town doing the L.A. Auto Show last November, and reached out to Valentini. We met and spent a lot of time together at the studio, and he invited me to come on the show. A few weeks ago, they got in touch and made it official.
TV Guide Magazine: This gig isn't totally out of the blue for you, right? Don't you do some acting in Detroit?
Hursley: In my younger years I did a lot of theater. I have some commercials running locally and, occasionally, a film comes through town. The new Batman-Superman movie is ramping up to shoot in Detroit all summer and I have a callback for that. But it's just a sideline. I'm now 15 years with Mazda. I did spend most of the '90s in L.A., waiting tables and getting some soap work here and there. I did an under-five role as a waiter at the Penthouse Grill on Days of Our Lives and that turned into a four-year run. One day, Louise Sorel (Vivian) started calling my character "Claude" and it just caught on.
TV Guide Magazine: And you had great connections at Santa Barbara, right? Your aunt, Bridget Dobson, created that show with her husband, Jerry.
Hursley: I did do an under-five role at Santa Barbara — I was on a team of environmental activists working with Dash Nichols [Timothy Gibbs] and had a scene with the amazing Nancy Grahn [Julia] — but it happened during the time that the Dobsons were locked out of the studio.
TV Guide Magazine: That was the single craziest thing I've ever witnessed in 500 years of covering soaps. They put up a picture of Bridget at the NBC guard gate that said: "Do NOT let this woman on the lot." She was banned from her own show!
Hursley: I remember seeing that in the Hollywood Reporter. I couldn't believe what I was reading! Our side of the family didn't know Bridget. She and my dad, Frank, Jr. were half-siblings. I believe she would have thought my dad was pretty brilliant but they never met. It's too bad. [Logan note: The Hursley-Dobson family history is riveting and a soap unto itself! You can get all the scoop in this great piece at Michigan Today]
TV Guide Magazine: So you never met Bridget, either?
Hursley: Just once. She and Jerry came into a restaurant where I was working. I knew what she looked like because I saw her get up on stage and grab an Emmy.
TV Guide Magazine: That was the second craziest thing in soap history! Santa Barbara won the best show Emmy after Bridget and Jerry were booted out, and we all watched her dash to the stage and grab that trophy before the new exec producer, Jill Phelps, knew what hit her. Crazy times. So what happened when you spotted her at this restaurant?
Hursley: I thought, "Wow, that's Bridget and Jerry and that must be my cousin, Andrew. I can't let this pass." So I went up to them at their table toward the end of their meal and put out my hand to her and said, "Bridget Dobson?" She looked at me with those Hursley eyes. The emotion was all in my throat and I said, "I just want to say hello. I'm Duncan Hursley." And about all she could manage to say was, "How did you know who we were?" That was pretty much it for our conversation.
TV Guide Magazine: Yikes. Well, the Dobsons were always the oddest of ducks but they made spectacular TV. Nothing was better than when Santa Barbara was at its best.
Hursley: I was a huge fan of Santa Barbara. When the Dobsons were writing it, it was a riot and unlike any other show on the air. My hat's off to them because I thought their work was brilliant.
TV Guide Magazine: Back to GH, what would your grandparents think of their show now?
Hursley: Oh, I think they'd be so proud and pleased as punch that GH is still on the air and looking so strong and vital right now. And I think they'd really appreciate the blending of the legacy characters from years ago with all of the newer characters of today. I think they'd also appreciate how hard it is to make a soap today, what with the time restraints and tight budgets, because they were really hard workers themselves. There was one point in the late '50s when Frank and Doris were writing more hours of programming than anyone else in television. Even later, when they started GH, they were also still writing Search for Tomorrow and then a few years later, while they were still writing GH, they started yet another soap, Bright Promise. Their creativity and output was mind-numbing!