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Exclusive: Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo Dishes About Her General Hospital Departure

She said she'd only stick around a year and she damn well meant it. Emmy-winning diva Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo will conclude her current run as Brenda on General Hospital the week of July 18. The star gave TV Guide Magazine the scoop on her exit, what she really thinks about the way Brenda's return was written and the likelihood of coming back. You'll be surprised which character VGM wants Brenda to bed next!...

Michael Logan

She said she'd only stick around a year and she damn well meant it. Emmy-winning diva Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo will conclude her current run as Brenda on General Hospitalthe week of July 18. The star gave TV Guide Magazine the scoop on her exit, what she really thinks about the way Brenda's return was written and the likelihood of coming back. You'll be surprised which character VGM wants Brenda to bed next!

TV Guide Magazine: So it's happening, eh, baby?
Marcil Giovinazzo: It's happening! My time's up. It happened awful quickly and I'm really sad about leaving, really depressed, really emotional, but this was always supposed to last just one year. I was always very careful to call this a "visit." Always.

TV Guide Magazine: Let's assess this year in the life of Brenda Barrett. How have you felt about what's been done with — and to — the character? A lot of fans have taken issue with it.
Marcil Giovinazzo: When things go really well, I don't take credit, and when things don't go well, I don't take credit. I don't listen to the good stuff or the bad stuff. I work really hard, come home, hang out with my family. I've been really oblivious to what's been said about Brenda's story and how the audience is responding. And I don't see the show. In our house, we don't watch ourselves on television. [The actress is married CSI: NY star Carmine Giovinazzo.] It just works better that way. Fame is fleeting. It comes and goes, ebbs and flows. I learn so much from failure. I don't really know what you learn from success, to be honest, but I think you learn a whole lot from failure. It's hard for me to really judge what this visit has been like in the bigger picture, but on a personal, selfish level, I've had so much fun at GH and I love my co-stars so much that it's been really, really worth it. As for the writing, I hand over everything to the powers-that-be. I find out what I'm doing when I get the script.

TV Guide Magazine: Last year, you and I did an interview as you were getting ready to make your return, and you said you'd nixed the idea of coming back to the canvas with James Franco because he had nothing to do with Brenda. So how come the first two months of your return story had Brenda stuck in Rome with all-new people — Adrienne Barbeau and that Brad Pitt wannabe and a bunch of the Balkan's hopelessly inept goons?
Marcil Giovinazzo: I don't know why. The only thing I will say is this: When I came back I made it clear I wanted to work with my old gang — Maurice Benard [Sonny], Steve Burton [Jason], Kimberly McCullough [Robin], Ingo Rademacher [Jax] — and I was disappointed that for the first few months I wasn't with them. But I took it on as a challenge. I tried to do something with that situation in Rome, and create a Brenda that wasn't like the Brenda the audience remembered. She'd left all the people she loved and got wrapped up in the supermodel world and become a shell of herself. I've seen people do that in real life. They can lose their real selves.

TV Guide Magazine: I get what you're saying and see the dramatic potential, but I don't think that came across. The writing certainly didn't support it.
Marcil Giovinazzo: Well, I tried to make an acting experiment out of it. I think she only became the real Brenda when Jason finally came to Rome to visit her and when she was back in Port Charles with Sonny again. But no matter what I didn't like, I couldn't be happier about this visit overall. The writers gave me the love story with Maurice and that's all I really, really wanted — to have the opportunity to work with him again, and to give the fans some sort of resolution to that love story. I understand it can't go on forever and that is upsetting, but for these two to finally get married and have their love story — at least for a minute — has been important.

TV Guide Magazine: They barely had time to be happy, though. We never even saw their honeymoon.
Marcil Giovinazzo: But we did shoot it! I have no idea why they didn't air our honeymoon. I don't get involved in the business aspect of things but I thought we shot some really beautiful material, and there was a lot of it! But they have their bigger picture to worry about, and I have a lot of respect for that. The show comes first. It's not about us.

TV Guide Magazine: Did Maurice try to talk you into staying?
Marcil Giovinazzo: [Laughs] He's an emotional mess! He doesn't want me to go. He's begging me not to go, and I don't want to go, but schedule-wise, it has to happen right now. Someday I do want to come back and much sooner than last time. I was away too long before — eight and half years.

TV Guide Magazine: What's next for you?
Marcil Giovinazzo: Carmine and I still haven't had a honeymoon, so we're trying to work that out. Because of his schedule, we live half the time in New York.Right now I'm really on fire creating my animated children's show, and my organic product line, and the line of clothes I've been developing for seven years. I just got on Twitter because my best friend Jillian Michaels has been screaming at me to do it so I can tell everybody what's going on with all these projects. By the way, please tell everyone that my official [account] is @vanessamarcilg, because there are so many imposters out there. I couldn't use my whole name. It's too long.

TV Guide Magazine: Tell me about it! On behalf of myself and every other soap reporter, I'd like to say thanks. We've had to type Vanessa Marcil Giovinazzo so damn many times we all have carpal tunnel syndrome!
Marcil Giovinazzo: You know what the problem is? Carmine is Italian and he gets all upset if I don't use his last name. He's old fashioned, and he comes from a lovely old-fashioned family who are like, "What do you mean? You have to add the Giovinazzo." I'm like, "People can't say it or spell it!" [Laughs] Reporters are like, "Well, I was going to write something about her but now I can't because I'm exhausted!"

TV Guide Magazine: Speaking of exhausting, what's your take on Brenda's baby drama?
Marcil Giovinazzo: I was shocked to find out there was a baby. I was told Brenda had a miscarriage. That's what the script said so that's what I played. And then suddenly Brenda didn't have a miscarriage after all. But that's soap operas. [Laughs] I could read my next script and they could say Brenda is an alien from outer space.

TV Guide Magazine: That would certainly explain a lot...
Marcil Giovinazzo: In her final scene she could pull off her skin to reveal the truth! [Laughs] People would say, "So that's how she survived dying in that crash off the freeway."

TV Guide Magazine: It would also explain why she always wears those long goofy sleeves.
Marcil Giovinazzo: [Laughs] That's right — to hide her alien hands!

TV Guide Magazine: So back to the baby.
Marcil Giovinazzo: I have to be honest. I never wanted Brenda to have a child, and we all know how much I love being a mom in real life. I'm a teacher's aide at my son Kassius' school. I read every book that comes out on parenting. I'm fanatical about all things motherhood. But, to me, Brenda is a dysfunctional character who always leaves in the end. You can't count on her, so I never wanted her to have a child.

TV Guide Magazine: It didn't make sense that Brenda instantly connected with Lucian, and then it turned out he wasn't her kid after all. We'd like to think a mom would recognize her own child — on a soul level, down in her DNA, wherever, however — so that didn't ring true. Unless it was done to illustrate how Brenda is even nuttier than we think.
Marcil Giovinazzo: That's a great point. Maybe the opportunity to be a mother made her overcompensate and jump on it too quickly. I think you would know your own child, and when it turned out not to be her child, it was so devastating, especially when he was taken away from her, that she really had to question why she felt that connection. But that's what makes Brenda such a cool character to play. She grew up with no real family, no place to call home. She's like a lost soul. Don't forget, she ended up having a nervous breakdown at one point, and it's always possible it could happen again, because she does truly feel alone and unlovable. This is a girl who overcompensates just to feel normal, to feel she's a part of the world. And the only person she doesn't have to do that with is Sonny. She feels like her true self when she's with him, so it's a beautiful love story as a result of that. Maurice brings that out in me so it's not hard to play.

TV Guide Magazine: Are you saying Sonny and Brenda would have made it this time if only her true child, Alec, hadn't been found?
Marcil Giovinazzo: Definitely. She had a beautiful line where she said, "I finally have to put somebody else first before myself." And that's incredible, a sign that she has finally grown up. She thinks it's the thing that's going to finally make her a good person. Wanting to protect this little boy from Sonny's mob world is such a pure thing for her. By leaving Sonny, she's doing the best thing possible for the child and the worst thing possible for her. My therapist told me something great a long time ago: "You love who you love."

TV Guide Magazine: You paid someone for that?
Marcil Giovinazzo: [Laughs] It's true! But that's a whole other conversation. You and I will have to have margaritas and eat tacos and I will tell you my whole theory on it. There's a difference between romantic obsession and being around someone who is unhealthy for you and hurts you in love, but I do think you love who you love, and Brenda loves Sonny period. She's tried every single other option. Sometimes you can love someone so much that it almost scares the crap out of you. If Brenda makes the choice to protect her son and cannot be with Sonny, I think she would choose to be alone. It is the worst thing for her to be away from her one true love, and she needed a really huge reason to do it. So, despite my not wanting Brenda to have a kid, it turned out to be a great thing, dramatically. It was smart of the writers. They're always way smarter than I am. I want the drama to be as high as possible before I leave.

TV Guide Magazine: Word is, they're working Jax into Brenda's exit.
Marcil Giovinazzo: Yes! I was itching to work with Ingo, so I was really happy they are giving us some stuff together at the end, especially now that he's leaving, too.

TV Guide Magazine: Do Jax and Brenda actually leave Port Chuck together?
Marcil Giovinazzo: I don't know. My final tape date is June 9 and I'll probably get the script the night before, but I do know there's a big twist when Brenda leaves. They have a surprise up their sleeves. I will say there's still unfinished business for me. I still want a storyline with Tony Geary [Luke] and Jonathan Jackson [Lucky]. And I'd love to do a triangle with Maurice and me and Steve Burton. Steve got me through my first few months when I joined GH and I'll never forget that. I was having some very serious health problems, was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, there was all kinds of drama, and Steve was my rock. Can you imagine if Brenda goes and sleeps with Jason? That would cause so many problems.

TV Guide Magazine: Yeah, considering the long and extraordinary bond between Jason and Sonny. That would be...
Marcil Giovinazzo: ... the ultimate betrayal! The love of her life and his best friend. It's so huge you can't even imagine it and normally my first reaction would be, "No way! I'm not betraying the love story of Sonny and Brenda!" But that's exactly why we should do it. Things like that happen in life sometimes.

TV Guide Magazine: Now, wait a sec! I remember that in one of our recent interviews you were adamant you'd never in a bazillion years play a romance between Brenda and Sonny's son Dante [Dominic Zamprogna].
Marcil Giovinazzo: That's right. I would never go there. 

TV Guide Magazine: But isn't Brenda hooking up with Jason even worse? Sonny barely knows Dante. Jason is much more of a son to Sonny.
Marcil Giovinazzo: [Laughs] I can't believe I have to explain this to you, Michael Logan! A child is a child. Blood is blood. Having sex with Dante would be like a Jerry Springer episode. Plus he's 10 or 15 years younger than me. Jason and Brenda went to the prom together, they have a major connection, major history. Steve and I have our own special chemistry, and I think people would agree with that. Jason and Brenda together would be so wrong but that's why it would make a good story! I'm very often completely irrational and unreasonable, but that's how I feel.

TV Guide Magazine: What if GH gets cancelled and you can't come back?
Marcil Giovinazzo: [Groans] Oh, noooooo!

TV Guide Magazine: Sorry, we gotta go there.
Marcil Giovinazzo: I know it's a reality but I prefer to stay delusional. No matter what other things I do in my career, I had every intention of eventually coming back to GH and growing old on the show and becoming Anna Lee [the late actress who played Lila Quartermaine]. To sit down and have all the young characters come talk to me and get some great wisdom about life — the kind of thing you can only do on soaps — would be so wonderful! I miss Anna Lee so much. I can't even think about Stuart Damon [Alan] without bursting into tears. Where are the Quartermaines? I do believe it was a mistake to get rid of all that history. Aaaauuurgh! It's so hard to think about cancellation. It's such a tough thing to talk about, but [GH exec producer] Jill Phelps and I did discuss it the other day. If GH were to end, I want to be there. If God forbid this show is cancelled, I guarantee Sonny and Brenda will be riding off together into the sunset! That doesn't mean Sonny may not find love with somebody else and have a great relationship between now and then.

TV Guide Magazine: Let's say GH hangs in until September 2012 when Katie Couric takes over. That gives Sonny time to mourn the end of his relationship to Brenda and find a new love.
Marcil Giovinazzo: Oh, he'll do that by next Tuesday. He's such a whore.

TV Guide Magazine: So he'll be settled with someone and be blissfully happy, and then you will come back at the end of the show and screw with that?
Marcil Giovinazzo: [Laughs] Oh, 100 percent! And you can write that in stone. Whether it's Carly [Laura Wright] or some other hooker he decides to shack up with, I promise you Brenda will take care of it! Maurice and I both agree on that fact. Our characters will end up together when the show ends. And, hopefully, that's a good long time from now.

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