'General Hospital's Jacklyn Zeman Previews Bobbie's Medical Crisis

Michael Maloney
Q&A ABC/Craig Sjodin

After years of taking care of patients, General Hospital’s Bobbie Spencer (Jacklyn Zeman) is getting a medical story of her own. Dr. Lucas Jones (Ryan Carnes), who has type 1 diabetes, theorized that his mother’s symptoms are a result of her having type 2 diabetes.

Medical-themed storylines are nothing new to GH. Back in the 1990s, the show excelled in them telling poignant tales of breast cancer (Monica), AIDS/HIV (Stone/Robin), and organ transplant (B.J./Maxie). TV Insider talked to Zeman about taking on this medical tale, the information it’ll provide to viewers, and how it’s brought her first love (obsession?) Scotty (Kin Shriner) more back into her life.

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In today’s episode, Lucas’ theory on his mom’s condition gets confirmed. Read on to get the scoop from Zeman on this new story for Bobbie!

What were your thoughts on this storyline?

Jacklyn Zeman: I was on vacation in Greece, which was wonderful, when I got the scripts. I got an email and learned I was doing multiple shows in one week. Frank [Valentini, executive producer] had said something to me when I was in rehearsal for the Nurses Ball. I thought this is all good! I learned [more] when I read the scripts. There was no Internet out on the sea so I couldn’t download the script, but an I.T. guy on the ship helped me out. I was able to read the scripts on the way home on the plane. A lot of it was medical as it’s a diabetes storyline and so, I wanted to have it down perfectly. I always try to learn the lines verbatim, especially with medical storylines, because I have such a great respect for the writers.

 

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Crete!

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And, as a nurse, Bobbie would especially know the terms.

Yes. People in the medical profession watch our show. Also, the complexity of getting to play Bobbie having type 2 diabetes is very interesting because there are so many people who are affected by diabetes in this country. We should have it on the show. This story is a reminder of the complexities of life, the cycle of life. Wonderful things happen and challenging things happen. Sometimes, they happen at the same time. You have to look at it and say it’s all good.

Scotty (Kin Shriner) and Bobbie have remained pals, but he comes back into her path more for this story. Veteran GH fans recall that the Bobbie/Scotty/Laura (Genie Francis) triangle was instrumental in not only saving the show from cancellation circa 1978 but also helped propel it to the top of the ratings.

Thank you.

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Can you talk about the Bobbie and Scotty dynamic and what they’ve mean to each other over the years?

Bobbie and Scotty have survived 42 years of intimacy, partnership, friendship, and, at times, adversarial agendas. Through it all, they’ve managed to remain friends. I love that. Nobody’s perfect. There’s a chemistry there. Kin and I had that in our early 20s when we came on the show, which was fabulous. They were writing the love story between Laura and Scotty, but the sexual spark was between Bobbie and Scotty. [Our show presented] how different things in a relationship were important to different people.

Gloria Monty with Jacklyn Zeman and Kin Shriner on the set of General Hospital in 1980(Joan Adlen/Getty Images)

Gloria Monty [the show’s late legendary executive producer] was really good at laying that out, non-apologetically with all the characters. I feel blessed to have been a part of that which led to such audience allegiance and love. [The late] Doug Marland was head-writing the show in those days. He was very, very good at developing really strong characters that had good qualities and some not-so attractive qualities just as people are in real life. Our characters have survived all these years because the foundations laid early on were so real.

 

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Lovely lunch with my @generalhospitalabc Pals. #StuartDamon @kinshriner #LeslieCharleson @wallykurth Oh what a treat!

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People identified with Bobbie wanting to better her life. She was someone many people wanted to be like.

I agree. That’s what people have told me, especially women. This was 40 years ago. Even now, women can feel challenged with equality. When I came on as Bobbie, [she and other nurses] were still wearing nurses caps, dresses and [sometimes] high heels! Getting scrubs on the show for nurses was a big thing. A nurse was going to wear pants?

As Bobbie and Scotty’s relationship has progressed over the decades, people have asked me if I feel that Bobbie and Scotty could have a relationship together. Kin’s been on a scooter because of a sports injury. He called Frank and said, “Frank, by the way, I can’t walk. I’m going to have to use a wheelchair.” The writers have written us some great scenes [coming up]. Kin is so great at comedy.


Soaps have such a responsibility when a medical issue is introduced. How is GH handling Bobbie’s case?

They say that stress is a big factor. One of the symptoms is thirst. Also, vision gets blurry. A lot of people in the health care profession are always too busy taking care of everybody else. It’s easy for Bobbie to dismiss the symptoms. She thinks I’ll get to it when I get to it.

Do you remember the 50 Years of Soaps special on CBS? You and a handful of other actors were invited to introduce a classic clip from your work. Your scene showed Bobbie ripping into Scotty over their relationship and how being a “have not” influenced her actions.

I do remember that. That was wonderful.

Through diet and exercise, diabetes can be more brought under control?

Yes. People get a diagnosis like this and they get scared, but it’s not necessarily all doom and gloom. It involves lifestyle changes. Bobbie doesn’t want a pity-party. She’s not dying!  She wants to be around for her loved ones.

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So, we’ll be getting to see not only a story for Bobbie but also helpful medical info on diabetes.

Yes. All of it is so important. It’s why I’ve always loved soap operas and loved working in them. It’s important what we put out on the air. They can affect someone’s life. This is exciting to me. It’s so much fun to come in and be proactive once again. Bobbie’s always been an extremely opinionated, proactive, intelligent doer. She’s a “worker bee,” a lover, a doer, a mother. She’s not a taker. She’s a giver. She wants to contribute to the world around her. This story is a gift that’s been given back to me, and I hope the audience likes it because it’s real!

General Hospital, Weekdays, ABC