'General Hospital' Star Laura Wright Reflects on 15 Years as Carly Corinthos

Laura Wright General Hospital
Q&A
Walt Disney Television/Todd Wawrychuk

Laura Wright celebrates 15 years as daytime’s most famous Mafia wife on Wednesday, November 4. In 2005, the actress, who had been on Guiding Light as Cassie since 1997, left Springfield and moved 3,000 miles across the country to take on the role of General Hospital’s Carly Corinthos, a role that had been played by three other performers.

Over the last decade and a half, Wright’s taken Carly — and the show’s fans — on a rollercoaster ride as the devoted wife and mother who fights to protect her family. TV Insider chatted with the Daytime Emmy-winner in order to mark this occasion.

Happy anniversary!

Laura Wright: Thank you!

Take me back to 2005. What led you from GL to GH?  

It all came about when my contract was coming up for renegotiations on Guiding Light. Brian Frons [then head of ABC’s Daytime] had called me about a year-and-a-half before and was curious about my coming to one of his ABC shows. [Later] I told my agents to call Brian back and ask if should I resign my contract with GL. His response was: "Tell her no." I had no idea [he had me in mind] for Carly. Carly was the only character I would move to the West Coast for; I jumped at the chance to play her.

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Were you familiar with the character?

Oh, yeah. I used to watch Sarah Brown [who originated the role]. Sarah actually introduced me to Wendy Riche [former GH executive producer] at the Daytime Emmys once and said, "If I ever leave the show [Laura] is the one who should play Carly."

How did being on GL and also Loving and The City help prepare you for GH?

I think it gave me the confidence that I needed to make the move and being able to walk on set and play Carly. You can’t come on being afraid. Jason [Steve Burton], Sonny [Maurice Benard], and Carly are a threesome. They’re a family. I couldn’t be the weak link. Carly is the rock, really, in a lot of ways. She’s the rock for Sonny, and Jason’s the rock for her.

I had to come in and make my mark immediately. I also felt [Carly] was a part made for me. I couldn’t have played Carly before Cassie. My time on GL taught me a lot about acting and being in a  talented and strong personality cast. GL taught me how to understand other actors and their methods, and how to respect it. It also taught me how to have my own method and hold my own with these talented actors.

Laura Wright

What did you learn from the other actors on GL?

I learned how to be present in the moment. It’s all about the script. My job is to serve the script and the audience — not my ego. I learned that no matter what anyone else is doing I go back to my perspective and my place in the script. I learned how to get out of my way and to tell the story. It’s about the story. It’s not about me.

Carly had a lot of backstory by the time you came on. How’d you get up to speed?

I read the scripts and listened to [writer] Elizabeth Korte, the "forever writer and historian" of the show. I had to bring my own version of Carly. I didn’t go back and watch anything. I didn’t want to mimic anyone else.  I had to bring, of course, what made Carly her – the feistiness of Sarah, the emotions and depth of Tamara [Braun], and the intensity that Jenny [Bransford] brought to that part. I wanted to bring all of that and also humor. Carly has this childlike quality that a person would have to have in order to justify some of the things Carly says and does.

How do you handle scenes that specifically reference stories that were played before you got there, like when Carly apologized to her mother Bobbie (Jackie Zeman) for her role in breaking up her marriage.

I watched the show back then. I watched when Bobbie walked in when Carly was in bed with her husband. Sometimes, I’ll ask what did [Carly] do? And then I’ll get an answer. I can play the moment of how sorry Carly was for what she did. I did that when Nelle (Chloe Lanier) kept bringing up Carly’s past. I feel like I’ve lived it. I feel like her past is my past even if I didn’t play it.

The show’s afforded you the opportunity to play other characters like Lena, Luke (Anthony Geary) and Bobbie’s mother, in a special flashback episode in 2015.

I loved that. I was honored. It gave me a chance to do something different. There was this crazy moment where I walked on set and looked down and saw this watch from the 1960s that they’d given me to wear. I just felt sucked into that era. I became this other character. It was so fascinating. It was interesting to me and I recently got to do the Suffragist movement [in the special election episode]. It was incredible. We had a full female cast and female director. I was blown away being a part of something so real that was a part of our history.

How does it feel having Carly’s kids be teenagers?

I love it! I never care about the age because it’s not about me, it's about the story. As long as I’ve got a great story, it’s all good. (Laughs) I wasn’t loving Carly being pregnant! I didn’t mind the age, but I just didn’t want to wear that [fake] belly!

Are you able to teaching things you’ve learned to your TV daughter, Eden McCoy?

I do my best. When I was first on soaps, we had so much time [to do the show]. We had time on set with the producers. They’d come out [from the booth] and we could do a scene six or seven times. Kids today don’t have that because we don’t have the time. I try to help Eden with [the technical issues] or if I see her get a note that she may feel is against her instincts. The question is, "How do I sell what’s being asked of me without me feeling stupid?" I also told her she needs to take care of herself. Her body doesn’t know she’s faking [these heavy emotions].

Carly and Sonny have fought larger-than-life villains, but nothing was more emotional than the recent Alzheimer’s storyline with Mike, played by Max Gail. The family really came together.

When I was doing fan events, the No. 1 thing that came up was that story. One scene would represent one person’s experience and another scene would represent someone else’s. The story, hopefully, gave people comfort, letting them know they weren’t alone. The writers told this story so accurately. It was so heartbreaking. Max is such an amazing and giving actor.

This [solidified] Sonny and Carly as a couple. They’ve also buried a son [Morgan, Bryan Craig]. Family has become so important to them. Who knows what will come to rock their world? I know the writers can come up with something, [but] it’s not going to be some [standard] jealousy. They’ve gone through too much for something silly to break them up.

Carly’s had some great nemeses including Mary Pat, played by Daytime Emmy winner Patricia Bethune, who terrorized Carly after she was institutionalized

I loved working with Patricia. It took a lot not to laugh through our scenes. Once we got into it, it was great.

Another great nemesis was Nelle, played by Chloe Lanier. In the Crimson office, Nelle told Carly why she was in so much pain, and Carly did begin to look at Nelle with some sympathy

I think it’s only interesting if Carly does consider there were reasons Nelle was the way she was. Carly understood Nelle, but she also knew there was no saving her. She was a sociopath.

Do you recall which shows you submitted to win the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2011?  

I remember the scenes being Michael had been convicted [for killing Claudia, played by Sarah Brown]. Carly was freaking out. Jason was telling Carly she was going to pull it together. There was a scene with Carly watching them handcuff her son. She told him he was going to be strong and he would handle it.

Any shoutout to the fans and the show for this great run?

Yes. I’m so grateful. General Hospital has the most loyal and incredible fans on the planet. I’m so grateful to have been embraced, that they love my version of Carly. I also want to applaud the show’s cast, writers, crew, producers — everyone. What do we in this medium is so incredible. Our writers are already writing six weeks ahead. In prime time, [shows] get table reads, they have writers on set. We have everyone showing up in all departments doing the best that they can to their abilities and for the opportunities that we are given. I am grateful all day long.

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The Emmy winner also previews what's in store for Sonny and Carly once Sonny's son Dante returns to Port Charles and shares her dream storylines.

Our writers blow my mind. They have 30 actors to write for.  I applaud them and everyone.

General Hospital, Weekdays, Check Local Listings for daytime/syndicated shows, ABC