Is it too early to call Maura West the soap sensation of the decade? Oh, hell no! Already a two-time Emmy winner as the marvelously maddening Carly Tenney on As the World Turns, West hit General Hospital in May and has electrified the ABC show with her performance as mob spawn Ava Jerome. Next week, the deadly glamorpuss gets serious about her plan to steal Port Charles away from the town's current crime lord, Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard). What better time for TV Guide Magazine to sit down with the wild, wild West?
TV Guide Magazine: How's it feel to play a lady gangster? Usually the women in crime families are home, in deep denial, making the pasta!
West: It's awesome! And it makes Ava even cooler. She's like, "So what if I'm not a guy? I'm an heir!" She didn't marry into the mob. She is the mob. When you grow up watching your father come home and wash blood off his hands, you don't give it much mind. There are no rules when you've been raised in a world like that — and that's very freeing as an actor. I loooove Ava! I love that she is so poised — almost hyper-poised — as she struts around town yet she's also gritty, angry, really abrasive. I love that she's hiding things.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you make sure that the audience doesn't turn on you?
West: You don't. I don't think you can! They're supposed to hate Ava but what you want is that they love to hate her. Still, you can't worry about it. You play what they give you and, hopefully, let the viewers see that if you scratch that surface there is a heart and soul somewhere under there. In soaps, there's always room for redemption. [Laughs] Well, almost always. She doesn't see what she does as bad. Mobsters go home to their families at night and eat dinner, just like you and me. And they have a huge capacity for love. They can bury someone in a shallow grave in the woods and then go to their kid's Christmas concert on the way home. They're not judging, they're just doing.
TV Guide Magazine: So then it's a good thing your stint at The Young and the Restless didn't last that long? You wouldn't have been available for GH!
West: Everything usually does work out. I just have that attitude about life. Honestly, I was at Y&R so briefly that I don't even think about it! [Laughs] I must have blocked it out! Sometimes I'll see a magazine article where they'll say Maura West and in parentheses they have "ex-Carly ATWT" and "ex-Diane Y&R" and I'll go, "Huh?" I met some wonderful people at Y&R but that experience is not something my heart aches over, not something I miss at all. Clearly there was no intention to make Diane a viable character at that time, so I probably would have been off by now anyway. I try not to think about it. [Laughs] So, gee, thanks a lot for bringing it up!
TV Guide Magazine: As if going up against Sonny isn't foolhardy enough, Ava is in cahoots with her brother Julian (William deVry). That could prove really dangerous, right?
West: There's growing friction between Ava and Julian over who's in charge. Ava thinks they're equal and wants them to be co-bosses. But there was a GH storyline [in 1990] where Julian killed their sister, Olivia, because she wanted to be boss. He wasn't gonna let that happen. [Laughs] So, yeah, this is dangerous!
TV Guide Magazine: What were you told about Ava when you agreed to take the gig?
West: Next to nothing. You have to put your faith in people, which was hard because I'd never met [executive producer] Frank Valentini and [head writer] Ron Carlivati, but they are so fun, so infectious! But, then, Ava was not intended to hang around all that long. The role was original written for just five episodes. Basically, she was there to drop off Kiki [Kristen Alderson] and then leave town. By the time I left my meeting with Frank, it was up to seven episodes, with the possibility of it becoming recurring. Then I was offered a contract before I even started my first day.
TV Guide Magazine: So, then, we can't exactly credit the contract to your stellar performance?
West: [Laughs] No, I guess not! There was so much faith involved on GH's part and I was really nervous on my first day. Terrified, actually, because you so want to please your bosses. You so want everything to go well. My first scenes were with Tony Geary [Luke]. I don't know any actress in this genre — or any genre — who wouldn't love to spend a day on set with him.
TV Guide Magazine: How much did you know about the drama going on with the Llanview 3? You were basically there to facilitate the return of all three actors.
West: I didn't know about any of that. Really! [Laughs] In fact, I only started piecing it together after I saw that Roger Howarth's [Todd] hair was suddenly a different color.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you come onto a soap and take it over — let's face it, you have! — without pissing off your costars?
West: That can happen, I guess, but I am a genuinely nice person. I try to bring the best energy I can to work, to be the very best scene partner, to be prepared. I don't try to outdo anyone in a scene, or undermine anyone. And that does happen — everywhere! I mind my own business. And, also, they're a very nice bunch of people at GH. Tony and Jane Elliot [Tracy] were so embracing and kind to me and that really made a big difference because they have power and they can really shape your experience there. Bottom line, the goal is the same for everybody on the show — to make a good product. There's no reason for any nastiness. No room for it, really.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you ever consider laying off the daytime soaps for a while and taking a shot at primetime?
West: No, because for me it's all about the character. I am not a snob about daytime at all — clearly! I think the daytime shows are great and can remain great and have just as much talent, if not more so, than primetime. Sometimes I'll watch a primetime show and will raise my eyebrow at some of the acting. I'm really proud to face the challenge of a soap opera. I shot eight episodes last week at GH — no joke! [Laughs] And, hey, I have five children, so I really need to work. When something this good comes along, I'd be an idiot to say no!