‘General Hospital’s Lynn Herring Reflects on Classic Nurses Ball Episodes

Kin Shriner and Lynn Herring attend the 2019 Nurses Ball in General Hospital
ABC/Michael Yada
Kin Shriner and Lynn Herring at General Hospital's Nurses Ball 2019

ABC didn’t need a neurosurgeon to decide which classic episodes of General Hospital to air now that the show has exhausted its stock of original programs. As this is the time of year when the annual Nurses Ball takes place, viewers are being treated to re-airings of shows featuring the musical talents of Port Charles citizens.

As GH devotees recall, the Nurses Ball, which also includes bringing information on AIDS/HIV to viewers, began in 1994. Executive producer Frank Valentini revived the ball for the show’s 50th anniversary in 2013. This week, audiences will see Nurses Ball episodes from 2014 and 2015.

The ball could not have been revived without its passionate mistress of ceremonies, Lucy Coe, played by Emmy-nominee Lynn Herring, who lives on a ranch outside of Los Angeles with husband Wayne Northrop (ex-Roman, Days of Our Lives; ex-Michael, Dynasty). TV Insider chatted with the actress about why the Nurses Ball episodes are the perfect ones to revisit at this time, parallels between earlier years of the AIDS epidemic and today’s coronavirus crisis, and one way in which soaps could return with original programming. Read on for insightful scoop from the thoughtful actress.

How are you holding up with self-quarantining?

Lynn Herring: I didn’t think I was capable of missing the whole process this much. I’m ready to see everybody again. We’re already being isolated living out on a ranch. Choosing isolation is one thing, but having it imposed on you is another. I really have started to miss humanity, seeing people, and going into town and into work. [Laughs] Now, I get excited when the mail lady goes by.

I’d gotten a rescue puppy a month before all this so, I took an online training class. My 87-year-old dad is very computer-savvy so I’ve been able to FaceTime with him. We sit and chat it’s awesome.

Nurses Ball episodes are somewhat self-contained and they air this time of year anyway.

I was thrilled when I learned this was happening because ‘nurses’ is the first word in Nurses Ball. If in any small way this helps [real-life] nurses realize how much we appreciate their hard work, that’s even better. The Nurses Ball honors all the hard work that nurses do. I was so proud of ABC’s wisdom in re-airing these shows.

All the performances are great, but are there any that jump out at you in particular?

She’s going to kill me for saying this, but that’s okay. Jane Elliot (Tracy) is one of my dear friends. We FaceTime with each other. I called her the other day and said, I think your number with Leslie [Charleson, Monica] is going to be on [at some point]. (Note: Tracy, Monica, and Epiphany, played by Sonya Eddy, performed ‘Jump’ by the Pointer Sisters in 2013.) Jane was so reticent at the time. But she got into the music and the moves. It was like when you see a glint in a performer’s eyes. She moved really well and she kept getting standing ovations in rehearsals. It was wonderful to see.

The Nurses Ball couldn’t have returned without you. It’d be like trying to do Dancing With the Stars without Tom Bergeron.

It meant so much to me when the Nurses Ball came back. In 1994, when we started it, it was the most heartfelt thing because of what we were all going through with the AIDS crisis. When they called [about the ball returning], it was the best gift knowing that I’d be a part of something that had both quality and had an underlying message.

Do you see similarities between the earlier days of the AIDS epidemic and today’s coronavirus pandemic?

Definitely. I think what they have in common is the unknown and the fear. We had the AIDS Memorial Quilt come from Washington D.C. to the show one year and we all hugged each other and we had discussions about what was going to happen. We checked in with each other. I remember knowing someone who tested positive for AIDS. The compassion we felt then is the same we feel today. That’s why, to me, the Nurses Ball is so important.

(ABC/Todd Wawrychuk)

Lucy’s back for more than just hosting duties. In an episode this week, Scotty (Kin Shriner) tells her that she made a mistake in choosing Kevin (Jon Lindstrom) over him. It’s a throwback to Port Charles [the GH spinoff that ran from 1997 to 2003].

Kin and I were recently talking about doing kind a Port Charles reunion [with the actors online]. I remember how excited we were when Port Charles started. We were so pleased with the triangle we had on GH. Lucy is passionate and wacky and she had fallen for the very safe Kevin but she still had this pull towards wisecracking conman Scotty. Lucy was torn between these two impulses – being safe and feeling loved. When Lucy is caught kissing Scotty, I remember feeling how really sad it was – almost the end of an era with this triangle. I think things like this happen in real life in that Lucy’s indecision resulted in her being alone.

Many fans wanted to see Lucy more involved in the story in which Ryan Chamberlin (Kevin’s serial killer twin) came back to the show and began terrorizing Port Charles again.

Frank was really kind enough to let me know [why] Lucy couldn’t be as privy to what was going on. The feeling was that Lucy would have a really hard time not realizing right away that Ryan was back. In reality, that’s true. If Lucy had been yelling, ‘It’s Ryan!’ that would have ruined the suspense. But I hope that if we do revisit [Ryan again] that Kristina [Wagner, Felicia] and I get more involved. We had a lot of fun working together and I enjoy working with Genie [Francis, Laura], too.

The Nurses Ball episodes never fail to address statistics on treatment advances, testing, new cases, which is so important. One year in particular, Lucy really drove the message home with a speech that said this fight was far from over. It still isn’t.

I remember. You sometimes think when you get a script that this isn’t sticking to your brain. But not this one – the first time I read it, I had it. It so brilliantly written. This is exactly the message we need and it’s so appropriate today. If you were 25 back then and you wanted to be dating, it was possible that AIDS didn’t seem like a reality. It’s the same today – when you hear that people over 65 years of age are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus it clicks a switch in young people’s heads. You may think you’re invincible. It’d be great if we can get the message out there that people need to protect themselves.

Are there any particular GH classics you’d like to see rebroadcast?

Everyone from Jane to Jon I’ve talked to [agrees it’s about giving] the audience a bang for their buck. The Nurses Ball episodes hold up with mini-stories within themselves. The whole Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura story would be great to see again, but where do you start?

We could do the six-week Port Charles telenovela episodes that we did towards the end. Would the vampire stories we told be too over the top or might we get some younger viewers? There’s also licensing issues. I don’t wish the task of figuring it all out [business-wise] on anyone! I do believe that the shows hold up if you’re a [veteran] fan. People invest in us. They want to see the journey.

It’d be fun to see more very recent Nurses Balls. Josh Swickard (Chase) stole the show the last two years with his performances of ‘Feel it Still’ and ‘Something Just Like This.’

Oh, stole the show! He’s hilariously talented. There was a big pause after he did the first rehearsal [last year]. We were all stunned by his performance. There are so many talented young people on the show right now.

The show’s firing on all cylinders right now. Hopefully, it comes back soon.

Even if it’s a smaller cast with less [that what’s the norm]. My mother-in-law is 87 and she’s been a fan forever. She said everyone she knows who watches from her hairdresser to everyone is willing to put up with anything to get the show back. They don’t care if it’s two heads talking at a table — because they know what we’re going through. They’re very forgiving. Whatever we give them, they will appreciate, love and embrace.

General Hospital, Weekdays, ABC