It all started in the backseat of a Chevy Camaro when they were kids over 30 years ago —now they're so insanely popular they have their own army. TV Guide Magazine took General Hospital's William deVry and Nancy Lee Grahn to lunch and had them explain the soap-opera phenomenon that is "Julexis."
TV Guide Magazine: Your characters, mobster Julian Jerome and lawyer Alexis Davis, are the most buzzed-about love match in soaps right now, a true social-media sensation. And they're grandparents, for crying out loud! How do you explain this?
Nancy Lee Grahn: Alexis is a very relatable character who has been without a man for a long, long time and, suddenly, she's intoxicated by this guy. The women in our audience like seeing her excited. [Laughs] It also helps that, when Will kisses me, he acts like he really wants to.
William deVry: They conceived a child in that Camaro all those years ago. When they met up again decades later, it was like coming full circle with your first love. That's a lot of people's fantasy. There's something so sweet about that.
Grahn: They also like this story because it's the completion of a family. We went years not knowing who Sam's father is. Now she has a Mommy and a Daddy.
DeVry: The fans needed a happy ending and [head writer] Ron Carlivati made it happen. It was an unresolved mystery for so long.
Grahn: What I love is that Ron has written this as if there's been divine intervention. Somehow these two found their way back to each other in a meant-to-be sort of way. But, let's face it, there's a bigger, more important reason Julexis is a hit. Will is f--king hot.
deVry: [Laughs] Moving on...I think it also helps that Nancy and I really get along off-camera which helps our on-screen chemistry.
TV Guide Magazine: Though it's entirely possible to have great chemistry and still hate each other...right, Nancy?
Grahn: Sure! Lane Davies and I could go months not talking to each other backstage at Santa Barbara.
TV Guide Magazine: You and Lane were a true suds supercouple, but this is an all-new experience for you, Will. Discuss.
deVry: I didn't get an opportunity to do much of anything as Storm on The Bold and the Beautiful. A couple of good stories, but no love interest. And my only love interest on All My Children, before the big regime change, was Kendall. She and Michael Cambias were on their way to becoming a really strong couple but that literally changed inside of three days. Megan McTavish took over as head writer and splintered them as a couple. Suddenly, I was out of there. Cambias was made irredeemable which, back then, was death. It's not that way on soaps anymore — certainly not on GH.
Grahn: I haven't had this happen to me in years...the last time that was even close was when Alexis was with Sonny. Sexis! And also there was Rexis. Thank God, [executive producer] Frank Valentini stopped my menopause story. Before this regime came along, there was no effort being made to write Alexis as a sexual being. She was swimming in some very frigid waters.
TV Guide Magazine: Some fans think smart, kickass Alexis is being an idiot for falling, yet again, for a bad guy. Thoughts?
Grahn: Hey, I do that in my own life! I'm smart. I'm successful. I'm not an idiot. But my last relationship was very similar to all my other relationships. I keep picking the guy who isn't available. We all have our flaws.
deVry: And Julian is experiencing emotions he's never felt before. He really wants to leave the mob for Alexis. Of course, he can't. If he does, everyone he loves will be dead. The fans understand why he's lying to her.
TV Guide Magazine: So we should trust him? Is there any chance he's leading her on? After all, we still see Fluke pulling the strings.
deVry: If anyone in the audience is still suspicious of Julian, pretty soon you will see something on air that will leave you with no doubt about where he stands.
Grahn: I don't think anybody wants to see Julian turn out to be a d—k. Certainly not the people who follow me on Twitter.
deVry: When I first came on the show, I played him very carefree, indifferent to everything, no real ties. That's not him anymore.
Grahn: Alexis has had enough of con men! That dynamic has dried out. If she gets played yet again, by yet another douche bag, then it shows there has been absolutely no evolution in the character.
deVry: But she always extracted herself from those bad relationships, right?
Grahn: Uh, not always. [Laughs] She has children from most of them! With Sonny, she knew what she was getting into. That's why the previous writing regime constantly repeated the theme that Alexis likes the bad boys, that she always picks the wrong ones. I would like to see a different outcome this time and have Julian get out of the mob for good. Does every guy in town have to be with the friggin' mob? Run a publishing company! Open a car dealership! Businessmen can be devils, too.
TV Guide Magazine: Your sex scenes are all the rage. They even trend on Twitter.
Grahn: There have been four so far.
deVry: She keeps count by the number of spray tans she had to get.
TV Guide Magazine: So no spray tans for you, sir?
Grahn: No. He does sit-ups.
deVry: I had Nancy doing sit-ups on the floor right before our last sex scene.
Grahn: I'm just glad Will's the one getting naked. Frank says he wants wild sex where we rip each other's clothes off. And I'm telling the costumers, "Layers, give me layers!" Why am I stripping? It's Will they wanna see. Lane Davies would never take off his shirt. After sex scenes with him, I'd be the one naked and he'd be in a robe! Same thing with Maurice Benard — the girls all have to get naked, not him. But Will is gorgeous, with a phenomenal physique, so I'm, like, "Okay, buddy, take it away!"
TV Guide Magazine: Will, are you feeling a little bit exploited right now?
deVry: No, but...
TV Guide Magazine: What?
deVry: I wish Nancy wouldn't go on Twitter and talk about our sex scenes so much. I always feel like she's spoiling the surprise. She'll tweet, "Another day on the set, another day of soap sex." And I'm, like, "Nancy, stop giving away story!"
Grahn: That's not story! It's sex!
deVry: I think Julexis has reignited Nancy's sex drive.
Grahn: No argument.
deVry: She was adamant that she was done with men. Then, two days ago, she says, "I think I'm ready for sex again."
Grahn: I was done with men. Now I'm looking. [Laughs] It's a miracle.
TV Guide Magazine: Should Julian and Alexis get married?
Grahn: I don't care about that. I really don't. On soaps, that's always the kiss of death on some level.
deVry: I agree. It's too pretty, too perfect, too clean.
Grahn: There are so many other ways to keep a relationship interesting. A wedding gown? A church? A cake? It would be so bad if those two got married and became generic.
deVry: It's not in Julian's personality. There's just too much dysfunction in his background for him to go there. I think he's struggling for the first time in his life to really, truly love somebody the right way, but marriage? I don't see it happening.
TV Guide Magazine: Let's talk about age, that ghastly subject. For years we got the message that love — and sex — on the soaps is for the young, that this is what the audience wants. Clearly, in your case, that's not true.
Grahn: It's never been true! Brian Frons and the previous regime at ABC Daytime only wanted youth, youth, youth. And our show was going down the toilet. But now we have Vicki Dummer and Nathan Varni at the network, and Frank and Ron at the show, and they don't judge that way. Now there's much more even representation. I've never worked on any show with so many women in my age range. It's incredible. Back when Frons was running things, it was only Jane Elliot and me and they were ignoring us. We were the original walking dead.
TV Guide Magazine: Your fans are so rabid, they've formed the Julexis Army. Are you honored or frightened?
deVry: They're so organized — phone lines, chat rooms, message boards. It's almost overwhelming. And they made this happen. Originally, the plan was for Alexis and Julian to just have a rendezvous. But GH listened to the Army.
Grahn: And, like a real army, they have tactics and maneuvers. They are very powerful and we don't know when they will turn on us and attack. [Laughs] I don't ever want to get on their bad side!
Coming soon: Part 2 of my interview with Grahn and deVry, during which they answer Twitter questions from the Julexis Army. Be there!