In December 2007, Daytime Emmy winner Genie Francis and Ted McGinley helped give Hallmark Channel its highest-rated original movie of the year. This Saturday at 9 pm/ET, they and the cabler will look to repeat that success with The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love, in which Francis' advice columnist thinks about heading for a wedding and tries to bond with her long-lost daughter, all the while following the emotional mission a brand-new missive sends her on.
Francis spoke with TVGuide.com about the new notes she hopes the follow-up will hit. She also opened up about how her troubled times as a teen phenomenon make her feel for today's super-scrutinized starlets. Plus: Genie's take on soaps' budget-crunching, and her General Hospital future.
TVGuide.com: What was your reaction when you got wind of the ratings for the original Note?
Genie Francis: I was thrilled. I couldn't believe it, actually. I was shocked, this late in my career, to have stumbled onto another success. It seemed like it'd never come around for me again.
TVGuide.com: Why do you think it struck people the way it did?
Francis: Well for one thing, people love Christmas movies, and the book itself was very popular. It has an uplifting message that there is something greater than all of us, and it's working in our best interests. All of our trials and tribulations are ultimately for our own good.
TVGuide.com: When they announced a sequel, my first thought was, "What, is there going to be another note involved?" And sure enough...
Francis: [Laughs] That was my question, too! "How do you redo that?"
TVGuide.com: But this is about a letter written to Peyton's advice column.
Francis: Yes, and I think that's where they see the franchise living, in her "Heart Healer" column.
TVGuide.com: Though it might seem like Peyton and King (played by Ted McGinley) are heading for a wedding, is Peyton not ready to make that leap?
Francis: She's so bruised, so damaged, it doesn't matter how much she loves the guy. She's afraid, and that's what her journey is here.
TVGuide.com: I understand that a lot of fans have been coming up and asking you, "Is the daughter going to be in the sequel?"
Francis: Oh, yeah. People are very interested in that relationship.
TVGuide.com: Where do things stand with Peyton and Christine?
Francis: They're getting to know each other, but she's having trouble being an "instant mother" to a young adult.
TVGuide.com: The original Note prompted you to issue an apology to General Hospital fans, for your abrupt exit from the show in 1982. Why was that, exactly?
Francis: [In keeping with The Note's theme of reconciliation] I asked myself, "Where in my life did I feel really bad about how I behaved?" For me, it was when I was 19 years old and abruptly left [GH], in a huff. There was a gunny sack of mail deposited on the patio of my mother's house. The nation cried out to me, "Why did you do that?" I just wasn't prepared.
TVGuide.com: Plus, you probably weren't in a frame of mind to go public with everything that you were dealing with. [Cocaine and alcohol abuse factored heavily in Francis' decision to exit the soap at her height of popularity.]
Francis: No, God no. I was trying to hide what was going on with me at that time.
TVGuide.com: With that in mind, is there any advice you have for the starlets you cross paths with when you appear on GH from time to time?
Francis: There's nobody who's as young as me or in the same position as I was there. My heart goes out to the Lindsay Lohans and Britneys who have really had childhood taken from them and probably missed important developmental steps. They have become sort of "public domain" and something to be made money on. There's no sense of self there, I'm sure of it. None of those young women value themselves as just themselves; they value themselves for their careers and the money they can make.
TVGuide.com: They're a product, not a person.
Francis: You hit it on the nose. That's something I struggle with even today, because when that gets done to you, it's very hard to go back when you lose your popularity and somehow value yourself as a person.
TVGuide.com: As much popularity as you enjoyed during Luke and Laura's heyday, today's starlets are facing even greater scrutiny and more media exploitation.
Francis: The media has become more vicious, so my heart breaks for those young women. They're in their formative years, and this will all have an impact on who they become as an adult. From the time I was 16 and I had my own checking account, you'd think most young women would run out and buy clothes. No, I ran out and got myself a psychiatrist! [Laughs] But it's to my credit that I was healthy enough to know that I needed it.
TVGuide.com: As we speak today, Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall are making their final appearance on Days of Our Lives. What's your take on the budget cuts crunching the daytime genre right now?
Francis: I know that [ABC Daytime] made a public announcement of having negotiated [All My Children icon] Susan Lucci's money down, which I thought was in poor taste. It's odd that they would announce that. But I think the reason is they want to send a message to all of us.
TVGuide.com: "If Lucci can do it, you can do it."
Francis: Yes — the days of big checks are over. And I can understand that. [Soaps are] a part of the business that appears to be dying, and I don't know if it will be able to carry on or know some sort of a next chapter.
TVGuide.com: Does GH have any current plans for you?
Francis: No. They have not contacted me. They have kept the character alive in a sort of "freeze-dried" state, so it's easy for them to either leave her there or bring her back.
TVGuide.com: The last time you returned, it seemed as if Lulu only thought she saw you...
Francis: But in the end Laura was in fact there, awake, and she did have scenes with Luke. She then chose to leave and go off to France. They've left the door open, but I don't know what's going on with that.
TVGuide.com: Lastly, I have to wonder: How excited is your husband [Jonathan Frakes of TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation] for the release of J.J. Abrams' new Star Trek movie?
Francis: We just talked about it the other night. He said it looks fantastic! [Telling an origins story] is a great idea, I think. It's going to be fun for all Star Trek fans.