Nancy Lee Grahn is sweating at lot these days on the set of General Hospital, and it's not due to those cancellation rumors. It's because she's going somewhere Susan Lucci never dared — this week her character, Alexis, will be declared menopausal! TV Guide Magazine spoke with the Emmy-winning Grahn about the dreaded "M" word, how she copes with ageism in soaps and why the hell she can't stop tweeting.
TV Guide Magazine: Many a daytime diva would refuse to do this menopause story. How you handling it?
Grahn: I say bring it on! I was called into the producer's office and asked if I had a problem with it. Who am I kidding? I'm going through menopause myself. I'm always hot and crabby. I'm tweeting things I don't mean. When someone startles me I scream like I've been stabbed in the eye with a knife. I won't allow the heat turned on at home, so my poor daughter has to wear a parka in the house. [Laughs] Plus, my memory is going. The other day, I kid you not, I could not remember the word "party" if my life had depended on it. I was, like, "What the hell do they call it when people get together and have fun? It starts with a P." It's terrible!
TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, but, does the audience want to see this?
Grahn: Do they want to see one more mob shootout? In the 15 years I've been on GH we haven't had many stories told about women from a woman's perspective. I think I can make this funny and entertaining and relatable. Besides, it's very timely.
TV Guide Magazine: Uh...why would that be?
Grahn: Because the soaps are also going through menopause! Women can either think of this stage of life as death or a chance to transition into something wonderful, and that's what the soaps need to do. To survive, they need to change with the times. They need to adapt. [Laughs] They need some damn hormones!
TV Guide Magazine: It was Jill Phelps who gave the green light to this menopause plot but now she's out as exec producer. Will your new boss, Frank Valentini, stick with it? Or will Alexis make a miraculous recovery?
Grahn: Frank doesn't like the idea of Alexis having menopause because he thinks it makes her too old. Now if she turned into some dried-up old hag over this, well, that would be very painful to watch. But there's no need for that. I had a great love affair in real life, a really amazing romance, after I started menopause, so I know it's not the end of life as we know it.
TV Guide Magazine: But now Alexis can longer have unplanned babies with insanely inappropriate men!
Grahn: Not unless you want the baby to have three heads. [Laughs] Though that would be a soap first!
TV Guide Magazine: Actually, I think they did that on Passions. Speaking of tweeting things you don't mean, what's up with that, doll? You've gone crazy on Twitter! Do we need to stage an intervention?
Grahn: I'm a performer, a communicator. It's my way of doing PR for myself. It's called survival, because most of the time the media isn't interested in us soap actors.
TV Guide Magazine: You've blasted everyone from Vera Wang, because she's a soap snob who wouldn't make her dresses available to GH, to that poor girl who beat out Lexi Ainsworth for the Daytime Emmy last year.
Grahn: I was pissed! I saw those Emmy tapes. There was no contest. That award was Lexi's. It was like they were asking, "Who's prettier, Angelina Jolie or Phyllis Diller?" And then they opened the envelope and the winner was Phyllis Diller! Don't me wrong, I love Phyllis Diller. But, c'mon, let's be real here! And my Vera Wang rant was very well deserved. It reached 100,000 people. How else is someone like me going to reach that many? I'm not on magazine covers. I have no voice. Twitter is a place for me to say what I think and get some response back. [Laughs] It's a place for me to vent about the Kardashians. And I have very funny and intelligent people responding to me, so it's like an ongoing dialogue, a conversation.
TV Guide Magazine: No worries that this could backfire?
Grahn: If I do an article regarding soap stuff, I have to watch what I say because I'm an employee of ABC. I am mindful I'm in business with a big company. But there are other matters where I have very strong opinions that have nothing to do with my place of employment, matters that I absolutely can and should talk about. Like when Jet Air f--ked me over, I said so. When Jet Blue was great to me, I said so. I'm not tweeting boring, stupid stuff like, "Hey everyone, it's Sunday!" or "Guess what? I'm at Starbucks!" I try to tweet something with content, with value, with humor, something that's interesting and provocative. I'm trying to keep myself relevant. I have 37,000 followers which may seem minimal but it's a lot for daytime people. I have no apologies!
TV Guide Magazine: Not even when you gave away that major GH plot spoiler by revealing Sam [Kelly Monaco] was pregnant? Didn't you catch hell for that?
Grahn: [Laughs] I did! I've gotten in trouble a couple of times. But let me tell you what happened there. I had not been watching the show at the time and I thought that news was already out. Fans were Twitter-tricking me. They were asking, "How do you feel about your character becoming a grandmother?" and "Isn't it great that Sam's pregnant?" And I'm, like, "Oh, yes!" not realizing I was confirming it. I was rightfully reprimanded by the network. It was an honest mistake, I swear. I would never be that stupid.
TV Guide Magazine: Well, I just gotta ask: How do you feel about Alexis becoming a grandmother?
Grahn: I'm really happy, actually. It's such a cliché to have grandma issues. Look, I handled it very well when the writers suddenly decided that Sam was Alexis' long-lost daughter, which basically made my character 110 years old. I'm just fine with it. Women, and actresses especially, have such a problem dealing with age and talking about age. There's such a stigma still attached to it, and I'm all for helping wipe that out. I want to make aging hip. I want to make menopause cool. [Laughs] Just as soon as I stop sweating.