Is There Hope for Julexis? William deVry Opens up About His Return to ‘General Hospital’

General Hospital
Jim Warren
William DeVry, Nancy Lee Grahn

The hottest suds couple of recent years—that would be General Hospital’s Julian Jerome (William deVry) and Alexis Davis (Nancy Lee Grahn)—met an abrupt and controversial demise for the most disturbing of reasons: He tried to kill her. (He had his reasons. He didn’t mean it. Suffice to say, it’s crazy and complicated!). Julian went off to prison and deVry left the soap when he and ABC couldn’t agree on the terms of a new contract.

Now, after being off the air for a few months, the actor has returned with a three-year deal—and that’s sweet news for his vociferous following, the Julexis Army, which mega-blasted ABC on social media to protest his departure. But now what? Can Julian actually be redeemed? Will he and Alexis get back on board the love train? Or is this once-classic love story tainted forever? DeVry weighs in.

In your first episode back—airing November 6—we see that Julian has been badly beaten while in jail. Is this how he wins Alexis’ sympathy?
That’s the springboard. She comes to visit Julian at the prison because she’s heard what happened and that pushes her into action to get him out. It’s just a couple of scenes to get the ol’ electricity going again. It’s a slow re-entry for me. [Laughs] Actually, it’s more like they have me on a morphine drip. Just three episodes during my first two weeks back. But I’m fine with that. I don’t need to work my balls off. But, by week three, things start happening really quickly. There’s some very interesting stuff in the works.

Presumably that would include some sort of absolution for Julian or there’s no way you would have scored a three-year contract.
I have faith in the writers and am super confident they will come up with a story that exonerates my character. There’s a lot more story to tell. The fans should not give up on Julexis just yet.

But some did.
There’s a lot of support from the audience to get Julexis back together. Don’t get me wrong. There’s 10 percent—maybe even 20 percent—of the Julexis fans who think Julian went too far and can’t overlook the domestic-abuse aspect of the story, and they are no longer Julexis fans. They think Julian is a disgusting character and nothing will ever make them forget what he did. But the other 80 percent really wants to see them back together.

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It’s interesting that some fans draw the line at Julian’s crime but keep giving a pass to Sonny the mob king. In fact, half the peeps in Port Charles have killed somebody. One murderess is currently in a love affair with the town priest. What’s the difference here?
You got me. Julian gets a lot of s–t from a lot of quarters. Yeah, he ordered the hit on Duke Lavery, but Sonny has probably ordered 30 hits. And what exactly does Sonny traffic in? He doesn’t just sell coffee. But here’s the thing: Any character can be painted into a corner, but good writing can get them out of that corner, and I trust that’s what will happen here. It can certainly be explained that Julian had his nuts in a vice. He had to make it look like he was going to kill Alexis so that he could save his entire family—and he had a plan to get out of that. That should be enough for anyone who thinks Julian went too far.

But what if it isn’t? It’s asking a lot—maybe too much–to overlook domestic violence, no matter the excuse or justification.
True, but do the daytime soaps always have to set an example and be a platform for righting social injustice? That doesn’t always make for good drama. Too much of that and we’d all be bored and nobody would watch. I don’t know why people would want that. Soaps spin on bad behavior.

Then what about that 10 to 20 percent who simply won’t accept that?
Well, I just hope we can bring those people back with a good story. I think we can do that, as long as they’re not so pissed that they’ve decided to fast forward through our scenes. It’s unfortunate that some people just won’t buy a redemption story for Julian, because he’s really been doing what’s right for his children and grandchildren. It drives me nuts that some people don’t want to see that and give him another chance.

So let’s say Julian is absolved. Then what?
First, they’ll have to address what he’s going to do for a living and how he goes about moving into the future. He will try to move on without Alexis—for now.

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And she’ll do the same?
Yeah, it’s best that Alexis also gets on with her life, dates the doctor, whatever. The audience needs to get really emotional about this separation before any kind of reconciliation happens. Maybe Julian moves on with someone else and it makes Alexis jealous. Maybe she’s like, “I’m trying to move on with my life but I can’t because I love this guy.” If Julian seems to get his s—t together, she may have to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, they share a child. They are a family no matter what. Hopefully, there’s some real emotional angst on this nice little trip toward redemption, you know?

But you have to give it time, right? Not even the most hardcore Julexis fan wants a fast fix that makes no sense.
You can’t rush this. But I think Alexis and Julian eventually getting back together is good for the show. [Laughs] And it’s good for Nancy! She has been self-admittedly bored out of her mind since I left. She has gotten over all her hang-ups about why Alexis would never go back to Julian.

You sure about this?
I know Nancy does enjoy Julexis. She understands that [this romance] resurrected her character. And I realize that hitching my wagon to Nancy’s horse was very good for me, too. There are positives all around. Nancy is a lot more intellectual than I am. I just like to go to work and do what’s on the page and she’s more interested in the bigger picture and more concerned about how things are perceived. And that works for us.

How do you keep Julian interesting in the future? Writing him as an upstanding citizen would be a snooze, but the moment he steps toward the dark side—or even hints of a return to his mobster ways—viewers will say, “See! He is sick and evil!” And so will Alexis.
I certainly hope the writers investigate that. It can’t be made easy for Julian to turn over this new leaf. There has to be pain and slip-ups. There has to be a real journey with this. This is all new for him. He doesn’t know how to turn that corner and choose another life. Daytime drama is all about how characters handle obstacles. He’s got a lot of mobster stuff in his background and it should be put forth. This shouldn’t be easy for him—and I’m looking forward to that.

What if things hadn’t worked out with you and ABC?

I was prepared and excited either way. There’s a lot of emotional work that goes into a situation like this. You have to disconnect. I was very honest with [ABC], telling them that it was okay if it didn’t work out. My wife [actress Rebecca Staab] and I were enjoying ourselves up in Vancouver. Maybe we would have sold our house in L.A. and moved back to Canada and worked on the shows up there. I was having fun and having lots of great meetings, which is why I wasn’t budging from what I was asking for in the new contract—which, let me add, was not a lot. It didn’t amount to a hill of beans. So I was very calm about all of it. I’m not one of those guys who goes into the producer’s office moaning and bitching at contract time.

How much did the fan uproar factor into this happy ending?
We’ll probably never know. There was always a deal on the table but, let’s face it, they could have kept Julian in prison for five years. They could have done a recast. I think it’s safe to say that the fan response speeded things up. A lot of what happened I can’t go into, but by the time we were able to actually have some dialogue, the support from the Julexis Army was very evident. They were amazing! They certainly came out and did their job and I will forever be grateful. Look, all us actors love to stroke our own egos but I truly had no idea how much the fans liked Julian until this contract thing happened. The response was flattering and it was stupefying. And it leaves me really looking forward to the next three years.

General Hospital, Weekdays, ABC