Genie Francis On Her Three-Year Deal With ‘General Hospital’: ‘A Feeling Like I’ve Come Home’

Howard Wise/ JPI

General Hospital hasn’t shown all that much interest in Genie Francis in recent years. Oh, they trotted her out for the soap’s 50th anniversary in 2013, and again last summer when her longtime screen partner Anthony Geary left the show. Since then, she’s only been seen sporadically, mostly because her iconic character, Laura, is one of the few in town who are privy to the big “Jake is Jason” secret. For fans of the luminous actress—and we are legion—it’s never enough! But here’s great news: The Emmy-winning Francis just made a deal with ABC that’ll keep her in Port Charles through 2018.

It’s about time! How are we feeling about this contract?
The visits have been nice but this gives me a really warm, cozy feeling—a feeling like I’ve come home. A three-year deal is a very big commitment from ABC these days. It’s too soon to know what stories they have planned for Laura—the who-what-where—but I know they really want to write for me and that’s exciting. [Laughs] They finally took me back!

What kind of contact have you had with GH’s new head-writing team, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman?
Not much more than shaking hands, saying hello, a quick getting-to-know-you thing, but they were very welcoming. They’ve been really busy trying to pick up the pieces of what was left behind from the other writer. They were very stressed out and I didn’t want to bug them. [Executive producer] Frank Valentini wants Laura to have a romance, so I know they’re thinking in that direction. I don’t know if it will be with someone already on the show, or if they’ll bring in someone new. [Laughs] I know nothing! But I’m happy. There’s so much history with Laura. They re-did the commissary at the studio and now they have photos of some of the actors who’ve worked on the ABC lot over the years and there I am! I was so touched by that, so thrilled. I was 14 when I started on GH. And here I am again.

We usually think of Laura on the right side of things, so it’s been fascinating to see her in this morally messy place where she knows Jake is really Jason, yet she succumbed to pressure and clammed up.
To tattletale would have been wrong, so I think Laura did make the right choice. She tried to push everybody to work it out and do the right thing. There’s one scene with Liz where Laura breaks through in a real plea, going from argumentative to “I’m saying this because I love you,” that turned out really well I think. Everyone wants the story to be wrapped up, and the writers are doing a good job with that.

Laura really has a problem with her son, Nikolas, and his part in the cover-up. Will she get over that?
[Laughs] I don’t know! This could get worse before it gets better. This is not how Laura raised her children! But, then, Nikolas is the one kid she didn’t raise. Way back, it was so touching that Nikolas, even though he grew up with the evil, crazy Cassadine family, was very sweet, tender, kind. He had Laura’s heart. But in the back of Laura’s mind there’s always been this fear of, “God, I hope he never acts like a Cassadine!” And when he does, it really terrifies her.

Laura seems to be the only one in town who is actually concerned about little Jake, and what happened to him during all the years he was held hostage by Helena.
Laura was a prisoner of the Cassadines, too. She knows what kind of effect that could have on a person, especially someone so young. Her maternal instincts always kick in.

Speaking of kids, word is that your own offspring, Jameson and Elizabeth, have grown up and are now out of the house and you’ve got a bad case of the lonelies.
It’s such a big life change! That empty-nest syndrome thing we’ve all heard about is the worst. [Laughs] Suddenly, after 20 years, I’m sitting in a quiet house going, “What the hell am I going to do now?” I am so grateful to have this job! The good thing is, I can focus fully on my career again. But I miss having my children around. That’s long been my favorite thing about playing Laura—the kids!

You’ve stayed busy as one of the queens of the Hallmark Channel movies and also as a pitch lady for Nutrisystem. Do people know you more as Genie or Laura these days?
This is so interesting to me. People don’t seem to recognize me as my GH character anymore. They just never believe it’s me. Now they come up and say, “You know what? You look just like Genie Francis!”

This new GH deal makes you the longest-running contract player on the show. Would 14-year-old Genie find this hard to believe?
I never thought I’d see this day. It’s such a surprise. As long as there was a Luke and Laura, I felt I always had to stay in that place. It’s nice not to have to do that anymore and to get past being the eternal ingénue. I love playing the mature Laura, the matriarch. I relate. Getting older doesn’t mean becoming less of ourselves, it means becoming more of ourselves. You’re not so hot under the collar and quick to act. Things that were once so life-and-death important no longer seem that way. [Laura is] at that point in life where she doesn’t much care what other people think. And I so love that about her!