Viewers have suspected it for months, now General Hospital is finally coming clean. On the January 31 episode of the ABC soap, high school senior Michael Corinthos (Chad Duell) will confess to a secret that's been haunting him since he was imprisoned last spring — he was brutally raped by a fellow inmate. TV Guide Magazine spoke with GH's Emmy-winning head writer Bob Guza about the big reveal and where Michael's sad, shocking saga goes from here.
TV Guide Magazine: Back when Michael was in prison there was much fan uproar and outrage when it appeared you were heading for a rape plot. Since then you've kept things vague. Did you delay the revelation because of viewer reaction?
Guza: Not at all, though we at the show felt the same way the audience did. I remember the day we sat down and I was pitching this idea to [ABC Daytime chief] Brian Frons, and we were all going, "We love Michael! Why would we do this to him?" But that was the very reason to do it — because it's real, because it would happen to a character like him under those circumstances. It's almost a fantasy to think it wouldn't! Uproar from the audience was to be expected, but the only honest way for us to tell the story is to really deal with the reality of prison life. We're doing all the proper research and handling the aftermath as responsibly as possible. We've been working closely with the organization RAINN [the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network] and we will be doing a PSA at the end of the January 31 episode.
TV Guide Magazine: What causes Michael to confess?
Guza: We needed a catalyst, and we realized we had a great one in Abby [Michael's stripper friend played by Andrea Bogart]. Michael will see Abby about to be raped by her ex-boyfriend and he flashes back to what happened to him in prison and goes berserk. In that flashback, we'll see Michael's assault in more detail, though nothing gratuitous or titillating. We wanted to make it clear the assault on Abby has visual and physical parallels to the assault on Michael. The incident with Abby — Michael does save her before she's actually raped — will serve as a kind of catharsis for Michael, and he is finally able to admit to Jason [Steve Burton] that he was indeed raped. He then tells his parents, Sonny [Maurice Benard] and Carly [Laura Wright].
TV Guide Magazine: How does all that go?
Guza: Each reaction is a bit different. Jason has always been Michael's mentor and much like an older brother — don't forget he raised Michael for the first year of his life and he had himself busted in order to go to prison so he could protect Michael behind bars. Yet Jason's lifestyle was directly responsible for Michael ending up in prison, so he's the most guilt-stricken. Jason doesn't have any psych training but when Michael admits he was raped, Jason says and does the right thing. He tells Michael he's a survivor, not a victim. As for Sonny, Michael somehow feels like he's let his father down. The acting through all this is extraordinary. Maurice plays it as if Sonny would give up his life in order to help Michael heal. In his own instinctive way, he, too, does the right thing.
TV Guide Magazine: Surely, Carly must freak when she finds out!
Guza: You'd think she would, but she doesn't do her classic Carly thing. You expect her to go off half-cocked telling Jason: "Go kill somebody! Anybody! Somebody's gotta die for this!" Instead, she's still the mother lion but she takes Michael in her arms and says, "I love you. I'm so proud of you. And I know how hard this was for you to admit." Carly is the first one to urge Michael to get counseling. He at first balks but finally she gets him to do it.
TV Guide Magazine: Does he also open up to Abby?
Guza: Yeah, he does. We've set them up as being rather similar people — they're both loners, both outsiders, they've both dealt with physical abuse. We know she has a history of domestic violence involving her ex-boyfriend. I fell in love with Andrea Bogart from the first time we saw her, when Sam [Kelly Monaco] decided to have Michael initiated into the joys of a sexual relationship by introducing him to Abby. I thought Abby and Michael were so sweet together, and found myself wishing she could be the one to help him and it actually worked out that way! She's the one person he's really able to connect with, the one he can really talk with. We're going to invest in their relationship and build a romance between them.
TV Guide Magazine: So it'll turn sexual?
Guza: As far as sex with women, Michael is still a virgin, and that will change down the line.
TV Guide Magazine: And Carly's okay with this? She had a cow when she found out about Michael's attraction to Abby.
Guza: Carly will come to see just how much Abby can help Michael — ways in which a mom can't help him — and she'll see that Michael really does care for Abby. [Laughs] Also, Carly will start to see a lot of herself in Abby, and for a classic narcissist that's wonderful! They will bond in a big way.
TV Guide Magazine: Then you're no longer playing up the age difference between Abby and Michael? That's also been one of Carly's big gripes here.
Guza: It becomes much less important for Carly and most of our characters though for some, like Kristina [Lexi Ainsworth], it's still a big deal. Kristina is not going to like it, and thinks Michael can do much better with a girl his own age. Besides, she thinks Abby is a gold-digger after Michael's money. But Sonny and Jason and Carly can't really go there now because Abby has been so great for Michael. It's ridiculous for them to insist he can't see her because she's 10 years older.
TV Guide Magazine: Will Abby continue her career as a pole dancer?
Guza: She won't do that for a while, but there could be a pull there or circumstances might make her go back. Let's not forget, Johnny [Brandon Barash] is the one who owns the club, and for our longtime viewers that's an echo to the days when Sonny ran a strip club and hired Karen [Cari Shayne].
TV Guide Magazine: You've avoided giving Michael any sense of sexual confusion as a result of the rape. There's been none of that "Does this mean I'm gay?" stuff. Talk about that.
Guza: We didn't go there because it's become such a cliché. If Michael was gay, he'd be gay regardless of whether or not he was raped. Having doubts [about his sexuality] just wouldn't feel real here, and would be something of a cheat. But he is going to be faced with intimacy issues. Abby has them, too, because of her abusive past, and we're going to take a long time dealing with that.
TV Guide Magazine: Let's back up and get real here. How can Jason and Sonny not suspect that Michael was raped? He was beaten to a black and blue pulp. Jason made him take a blood test. You can see how Carly might be in denial about it, but not these underworld gangsters. They know the drill in prison.
Guza: You make a good point. With Sonny and Jason and even Dante [Dominic Zamprogna] you can't really play Michael's reveal as a surprise. We're talking about a young, vulnerable, good-looking young man, the son of the godfather, and he's not going to escape prison unscathed. They know that. They would assume that. The surprise element here is that Michael is finally able to come clean. If they had forced him to talk about it earlier on, or they staged an intervention to make him 'fess up before he was ready, I can see him taking off or acting out or going into some sort of funk. For a bunch of dysfunctional people, they handle this well! But as much as this is a big step for Michael to reveal what happened, it doesn't mean the trauma of the rape has somehow magically disappeared. It has not.
TV Guide Magazine: How will that play out?
Guza: There's a big rollout here. We'll look at how Sonny's very troubled childhood, which was defined by powerlessness, mirrors the powerlessness Michael felt in prison. Sonny dealt with his dysfunctional upbringing by making himself the big badass of the Northeast. Michael will have a similar reaction. Will he follow in his father's footsteps and become a mobster so no one can ever assault him again? If he does, what's Sonny going to think? What are Jason and Carly going to think? We're going to play the whole "sins of the father" thing big time. Sonny and Jason have chosen the path of violence and criminality and Carly has enabled them. If they object to Michael wanting to enter their world and assume that lifestyle, they're being hypocrites. How they deal with this is going to be very fascinating.