Jennifer Bransford
General Hospital fans still are reeling from the news that Jennifer Bransford has been fired and replaced with Guiding Light star Laura Wright. So is Bransford, who had played Mafia minx Carly Corinthos Alcazar for less than five months before the ax fell quite suddenly. "It was definitely unexpected and surreal that they were recasting," she admits to "I only found out about a week and a half before my last day, which was [Sept. 9]. You'd have to ask the show why they made this choice."

"Jennifer's casting in the role of Carly did not work out," a GH rep acknowledged without offering any specifics. "She is a consummate actress and she's good at what she does. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors."

Two wildly popular actresses, Sarah Joy Brown and Tamara Braun, portrayed the tempestuous Carly before Bransford landed the gig. Back in April, she had the unenviable task of stepping into this pivotal role the day after Braun last aired. Much grumbling was heard from loyal GH viewers, but many eventually warmed to her.

"When people found out they were recasting Carly," Bransford shares, "they said, 'Wait a second! We didn't want her to go, we were just missing Tamara!' The thing about a recast on a soap is that it really takes time for fans to begin to accept a new person as the character they love. Because the actor is the character for most people. That's why [my dismissal] was so unexpected for me. I knew Tamara went through the same thing [after Brown's exit], and it was understood that it would take time."

All that said, Bransford chooses not to be angry or embittered. "I was really enjoying being in Carly's skin," she says, "and the overwhelming feeling I have is that I am so lucky to have had this experience. As an actress, this has been an amazing challenge for me. I've worked with amazing people like Maurice Benard (Sonny) and Steve Burton (Jason). Their artistic integrity and passion for the show is moving and inspiring. I also had people like [executive producer] Jill Farren Phelps behind me. Leaving was emotional for me because these people have touched my heart in a way that I will never forget."

Sounds like soap fans won't soon forget Bransford, either. "Two days before my last day, a bunch of fans brought this beautiful display of support and affection to the studio. They brought 50 balloons with handwritten messages like, 'I love you Jenny.' There were also dozens of roses and posters and a banner and a gigantic cake that was delicious! There were letters from all around the country supporting me and the work that I did. It made me feel really good getting that from the fans after four and a half months."

The actress's highest compliments, though, have come from her legendary leading man, Maurice Benard. "Maurice was the last person I saw in the parking lot," Bransford recalls wistfully. "He said, 'We're gonna see each other again.' We shared an extremely moving experience with Carly's emotional breakdown story.

"Someone asked me if I would sign up for this show over again if I knew [how it would end] and I would," she adds. "I've gotten so much out of this in my work and in my life. Now I'll spend more time with my husband and my cute little daughter, Alexandra, who's almost two, and I'll look for the next thing!"

And what’s next for Carly? The GH rep says Bransford will last air on Oct. 5, when Sonny is forced to commit the wigged-out Carly to a psychiatric hospital. Laura Wright makes her debut in the role on Nov. 4. “Carly is a complex character, and we are excited to bring Laura’s talent, beauty and intelligence to this role,” said ABC Daytime chief Brian Frons in a statement. “Fans can look forward to high drama between Sonny, Carly and Alcazar this fall.”