Daytime's most controversial — and, now, precarious — soap is ABC's General Hospital and it has a new head writer. His name is Garin Wolf and he's been on the GH team since 1997. This isn't his first time as chief scribe — Wolf helmed the soap during the Writers Guild strike of 2007-08 — but this is certainly his most critical stint. (You'll see his work begin to air the week of July 25.) Can Wolf save GH from being swallowed whole by Katie Couric? Can he redeem child-killer Luke Spencer? Will he cut back on the mobsters? TV Guide Magazine spoke with Wolf to get a preview of things to come.
TV Guide Magazine: What's Garin Wolf all about? How does he plan to move GH forward?
Wolf: I want to make this a nice, easy transition. I want to bring balance to the show. I'm very big on secrets and romance and triangles. I'm a child of Dickens and Doug Marland. I love Dexter and Desperate Housewives. I'm very eclectic. I love to combine a lot of different things, which is what's great about soap operas. I love multi-generational stories. This is an amazing cast and I want to use everybody. I want to mix it up and bring back the entertainment. I want to bring back the reality to the characters' lives. If you're a cop, what is your life really like? Even in the most outrageous storyline, there must be some kind of identifiable emotion. I don't care if we're talking about a mobster or a plumber — you have to watch and say, "I know how he feels. I've been there." And we really need romance. For me, that's all about yearning and obstacles. You have to know who you are rooting for and rooting against. I want to bring back villainy — dishy villainy, fun villainy, dangerous villainy. This is going to date me. My earliest soap opera memory is having a crush on Ann Flood on The Edge of Night when I was 7 years old. And I went from there to Dark Shadows. Growing up, comic books were soap operas for me.
TV Guide Magazine: Let's talk about that balance you mention. Will the hospital be prominent? Will mobsters continue to rule the town?
Wolf: The mob will still be there but it will become a background for the emotions of the characters. The Spencer family, the mob, the hospital, will all have equal weight. I probably shouldn't say this, but so will Wyndemere. Everyone has a story, no matter who they are. Everyone can make you laugh and cry.
TV Guide Magazine: Wyndemere, eh? So maybe we haven't seen the last of Nikolas? Word is, Jax will also be back. True?
Wolf: The theme for the summer is "Sometimes they come back." And you can take that how you will. I want to position characters and point them in new directions. I don't want to ignore their pasts. I want to use their pasts, but I don't want to derail the potential for trying something different.
TV Guide Magazine: Where does Brenda's exit leave Sonny?
Wolf: Sonny is going to be an unattended pressure cooker this summer — and we all know what happens to those. He's not going to take Brenda's departure lying down, and that's all I'm going to say.
TV Guide Magazine: Does the Corinthos-Zacchara war continue?
Wolf: For a very long time. Bruce Weitz is delicious and his character, Anthony, is one of those characters where you go, "Look at what an awful thing you've done! Do more!" I want to tweak him a little bit. The mob to me has always been operatic. Everything they do is big. Who knows when you're going to die? So you live big, eat big, die big, and I want to have fun with that. I'm more interested in the emotions of a mobster than his warehouse. "Opera" is part of soap opera, and we shouldn't forget that. Soaps are about tragedy, about tears, about something bigger than us that we want to get involved in. It's a ride. I love to play in the dark. I don't want to stay in the dark — but I love to play in it. I love to laugh and cry, and that's what I want everyone to do. And, as I said, I love secrets. This fall, I don't think there's anyone in Port Charles who doesn't have one.
TV Guide Magazine: Does Jason remain Sonny's right-hand toady?
Wolf: Yes and no. When fall comes, Carly, Sonny and Jason will all have their own individual directions but it doesn't necessarily mean they're in different stories. I love Carly with a passion. She's going to have one hell of a new challenge. Jason and Sam's plans for something more permanent are going to lead to a real test of who they are and it will open a door to a new mystery. Michael still has to learn some very serious lessons. The situation he's in demands a maturity beyond what someone his age is capable of, and that's going to lead to a big clash. Kristina is going to go through her own little trial, and I don't mean a murder trial. She has to come to terms with her father and her life. She's going to be very interesting to write for over the next few years, because, after all, she's Sonny's daughter. She saw someone shot when she was four years old. She was abused by her boyfriend and almost got blown up. There are things simmering inside her we haven't seen yet.
TV Guide Magazine: What about Luke? Hasn't he been painted into a corner?
Wolf: You can never paint Luke Spencer into a corner.
TV Guide Magazine: Uh, you sure about that? I love Luke and love Geary, but after he killed little Jake, then refused to admit he's an alcoholic, then fled rehab, you couldn't think of him as anything but an a--hole. Right now I feel like I don't want to see a moment more of him — and I'm guessing a lot of viewers feel the same way.
Wolf: Tony will be gone for a few months on his vacation and, when he comes back, Luke will walk into something he never expected. This is a puzzle I've been left with and I like working it out. The denial of the alcoholism is very real to me and has happened with many people in my life. It's painfully real. There's a fine line to walk here. Luke's family wants him to be sober and become something he's not. Most of us don't know mobsters, but we do know alcoholics. I know where I'm going with this. I love a good, long story arc, and that's what this will be. The entire Spencer family is going to go on a very big journey.
TV Guide Magazine: So we'll be able to forgive Luke? And he'll get past killing his grandkid?
Wolf: Eventually. I certainly hope so. This is such an old battle. The audience thinks they want to see happy people on their soaps but you don't want to watch happy people for all that long. And happy people are also a disservice to the actors and the writers. I love what Tony does. To redeem Luke too much would take away his edge.
TV Guide Magazine: Robin and Patrick?
Wolf: They are a central happy couple right now, but I want to tell an ongoing arc about how they are a two-career family. They both work in the same hospital, they live and breathe their work and it's going to lead to tension. It's going to take them into a very dangerous place of trust.
TV Guide Magazine: The Quartermaines long ago lost their prominence in Port Charles. Can anything be done to bring back their glory days?
Wolf: Sometimes they come back. [Laughs] Do you hate that phrase yet? You're going to get sick of me saying it.
TV Guide Magazine: Yes, Mr. Cryptic, it is already officially annoying! So there's still hope for the Qs?
Wolf: God, I hope so. They're a cornerstone. I love them. There's not a character on this show who is mined out yet. There's always something we haven't seen, a twist on a character we think we know but really don't. I love the idea of pinball characters. If this person had not crossed the street at this point in time, this would not have happened. If somebody had just kept their mouth shut, this would not have occurred. That's the kind of thing you're going to see this summer.
TV Guide Magazine: What about the missing vets fans are begging for? Leslie Charleson? Jackie Zeman?
Wolf: Everybody's important. Everybody has a part to play.
TV Guide Magazine: Let me guess: Sometimes they come back? At least tell me you're going to give Nancy Grahn a story worthy of her talent.
Wolf: I don't want to give it away but, yes. I love Nancy. She is one of those actors who can bring you heart, humor, intelligence and tears. She has such a wonderful range and I have something for her that's going to let her do all of that and more. Alexis is already connected to so many characters, and she's going to wind up in a position to be even more connected. She will have her own story to blaze underneath everything.
TV Guide Magazine: Have we seen the last of James Franco?
Wolf: Sorry to do this again. [Laughs] Sometimes they come back! Franco brings a very big smile to my face, a Dexter kind of smile.
TV Guide Magazine: Thanks to this damn Katie Couric talk show, there's an increased likelihood of GH being canceled. The fans want some hope.
Wolf: And I want to give it to them. Look, you can't please everybody. But just watch. Take the ride. Don't try to write the third act. I think we've forgotten how to get lost in the fantasy, the drama and the fun. I want the audience to do that again. I want them to cheer, laugh, cry, shake their fists... a little bit of everything. And, no, we are definitely not dead. Please don't shovel the dirt in our faces. I have a great cast and a great writing and producing team. We've still got a lot of life in us. Just watch!