‘General Hospital’ Star Laura Wright Looks Back at 30 Years in Daytime

Laura Wright Daytime TV
Q&A
Dramatic Creations Inc./Arthur Cohen / CBS /Courtesy Everett Collection; ABC/Todd Wawrychuk
Laura Wright on Loving in the '80s, As the World Turns in the '90s, and on General Hospital in 2019

They say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That certainly describes how General Hospital’s Carly Corinthos (Laura Wright) has approached life since the death of her husband Sonny (Maurice Benard). Carly doesn’t know Sonny’s alive and well, living in Nixon Falls, while she is emerging as a force to be reckoned with among the crime families in Port Charles. On Wednesday, watch for Carly to try to convince bothersome Gladys (played by scene-stealing Bonnie Burrows) to hightail it out of town.

Wright’s spent half of her three decades in daytime on GH, but veteran soap fans know she began her soap opera career as Ally Rescott on Loving in 1991. After surviving the “Loving Murders,” she brought Ally to The City, which lasted till 1997. Next, Wright joined Guiding Light as stripper-turned-princess Cassie Layne. After an 8-year run in Springfield, Wright switched networks and coasts, taking on the role of Carly, winning the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2011.

TV Insider chatted with the actress about Carly’s life as a mob boss, her years in daytime television, and more.

Carly has taken on a new role in the mob world. She can’t just walk away as Jax (Ingo Rademacher) has asked.

Laura Wright: Carly’s protecting her family from a world even she didn’t know all the mechanics of. She didn’t know what Sonny and Jason (Steve Burton) really did, the hard decisions they had to make.

What’s Carly’s plan to get rid of Gladys?

Gladys wants money, but she’s terrified of turning on Peter (Wes Ramsey) and Cyrus (Jeff Kober). Gladys is wondering if she’ll die if she does that. Carly’s going to have to jump through hoops in order to get what she wants. Bonnie, who plays Gladys, is incredible. We love her.

'General Hospital' Star Nancy Lee Grahn on Her 25 Years (and Counting!) in Port CharlesSee Also

'General Hospital' Star Nancy Lee Grahn on Her 25 Years (and Counting!) in Port Charles

Plus, the long-running soap's special anniversary episode, and why she couldn’t have imagined a job 'working out better.'

Do you recall landing the role of Ally on Loving?

Yes. I was 20 years old. Two days after I auditioned, they called me and said, “Be in New York by 5 p.m. tonight. You start tomorrow morning.” I had screen-tested with Eric Woodall, who played Matt.

You were part of a whole new young set they brought on.

Yes. It was myself, Roger Howarth (Kent; later, Franco, GH), Michael Weatherly (Cooper), Rebecca Gayheart (Hannah), and Eden Atwood (Staige). They also brought on Paul Anthony Stewart as Casey.

Casey’s death was a shocker and so sad!

I was devastated. It was the first time I dealt with a co-star leaving and a character being killed off. I was so young. I could do [a storyline like that] that more [easily] now. I didn’t have any training. I learned on the job. I had to learn how to separate the “pretend world” from the real one. I was doing it five days a week

Corey Page, George Palermo, Amelia Heinle (aka Amelia Weatherly), Laura Wright, Ted King in The City (Dramatic Creations / Courtesy: Everett Collection)

What was it like when they killed off half the Loving cast and changed the series into The City?

It was amazing and exciting to be doing a whole different show with handheld cameras and shooting out in New York City, but it was sad saying goodbye to the people you loved. It was totally bittersweet.

In the first episode, you were roller-skating?

It was actually rollerblading. I still have them. I used to rollerblade all over New York. It wasn’t a surprise when they wrote that in. I stayed with The City till the end. I have a very different take on things when they end. I ask what’s the next thing I’m going to do? I shot a pilot in Vancouver called Almost Gone. I think it was between us and Buffy the Vampire Slayer for The WB. That got picked up and we didn’t.

Then, it was off to Guiding Light.

Yes. I told [my agent] that I really liked daytime. I was asked to screen test at All My Children for the role of a doctor and at Guiding Light for the part of a stripper (laughs), which is way more fun! The GL deal was much better and the part was really juicy.

It always seemed like the really “raw’ good actors were on the Procter & Gamble shows [like GL]. It seemed like that was the vibe when I was coming off The City. I was very intimidated to go into a whole new world that I didn’t know. It was twice the amount of work. I screen-tested with Kim Zimmer (Reva). The City writers Jim Brown and Barbara Esensten had gone over there and brought me in for a screen test. I knew as long as I didn’t drop the ball that it was kind of mine.

Laura Wright and Kelly Ripa at Daytime Cares Benefit in 1991 (Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

What did you learn from working with Kim?

I’d say the value of being fearless and going for it and not to taking on other people’s energy. When there are 30 actors on set, you can’t take on other people’s energy and worry about things. Kim didn’t do that.

What memories do you have of Cassie’s love story with Prince Richard (Bradley Cole)?

Magical. That was so well done. I was in love with Richard and Cassie. When he died, it was so well-written, heart-wrenching, and beautiful. People still ask me today about that story. I loved it.

Thoughts on Bradley coming back so quickly as Jeffrey, Richard’s look-alike?

It was great. Once Richard had abdicated the throne and moved to Springfield, what was he going to do? It gave me great story [after he died]. I think the new writing regime thought that Bradley was great and so, they brought him back as Jeffrey.

It seemed odd that Cassie would turn to Edmund (David Andrew Macdonald) who’d done so many horrible things.

But how many people in life stay with someone they shouldn’t? Cassie and Edmund bonded over Richard’s death. They were both mourning the loss. Edmund found a reason to want to take care of Cassie. Cassie saw Edmund in a different light and she’d stay him, “I think about all the horrible things you’ve done.” They never shied away from what he’d done. I think where we fall short in storytelling is that we’re sometimes afraid to tell the truth and be honest. The audience isn’t stupid.

I like telling the story that everyone says “can’t” be told. In real-life, people are capable of doing anything given a situation. I don’t know why we choose to hold characters [on TV] with more integrity than we do real people.

Laura Wright on Guiding Light in the 1990s (Robert Milazzo /© CBS /Courtesy Everett Collection)

How much of GL’s viability led to your decision to leave in 2005?

A lot of things played into my decision. Yes, there was the viability. A lot of changes were going on. You could feel the level of confidence being put into the show by CBS and P&G. It wasn’t the happiest place to be at that time. I felt like I’d been there for eight years. I said to myself, “Gosh, I’m so unhappy.” I needed to shift my perspective or change my job. I want every day to be amazing.

Before [my representatives and I] called GL back about renegotiating my deal, Brian Frons [ABC’s then Daytime chief] had asked if I was available. I said [to my agent] ask him if I should sign a new contract. He said tell her not to. I flew out to Los Angeles to meet with Maurice and everyone at GH. I was very concerned about moving my family to California so, I turned the job down.

I went to GL and said I will stay with you and we should start negotiating. Everything I asked for – and I didn’t ask for a lot because of the changing climate – was a flat “no.” That very same day, [then GH executive producer] Jill Farren Phelps called me and said the writers really want you to take over the role of Carly. I said tell them I absolutely will.

How was it leaving GL?

It was the hardest thing I ever had to do because I loved those people. I had my kids there. I loved the character. I had to tell Ellen Wheeler [GL executive producer], which was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. She was asking me are you leaving or not? If so, she had to recast because they had so much story written including Cassie and Josh (Robert Newman). I said, “I’m leaving” and she said, “thank you” and hung up the phone.

Ouch.

Three hours later, my phone rang and it was Ellen. She said, “Now, I can say congratulations, I’m so happy, and I love you. I just had to be a boss.” She had to let the network know I was leaving. On my last day, she was standing there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I crumbled to the ground in tears. I had ten days to move my family across the country. Doing GL had prepared me for playing Carly. Right away, I loved how fierce and “in your face’ she was.

I wanted to bring so humor to her. She thinks she’s always right. She is, but she goes about things the wrong way. After a few months, Jill said, “You can take a breath and stop walking on set every day with the other actresses who have played Carly. She’s yours.” I never looked back.

Laura Wright and Maurice Benard on General Hospital (© Howard Wise/jpistudios.com)

Frank Valentini, GH’s executive producer told us: “Laura is not only a phenomenal actor, but an incredible professional and a super cheerleader for the show. She’s very generous with her time especially with the younger actors. I can’t say enough good things about her.”

That’s very nice of him. I don’t ever say anything officially to the younger actors. What I love to do, if they ask, is help open up their minds when it comes to dialogue and telling the story.

Nina (Cynthia Watros) did try to tell Carly that Sonny’s alive.

I remember shooting those scenes. Carly ripped her! When Cynthia came to set to shoot her part [of the phone call] I said, ‘Oh, by the way, I gave you so much ammunition. You’re good!’ If I were worried about Carly looking like a bitch then she wouldn’t have given Nina a reason to make such a life-altering decision.

Any final thoughts on the last three decades?

I’m so grateful for these 30 years. I have loved every second and everyone with whom I’ve ever worked. There are times I sit back in awe of my what life is and what I get to do for a living. I’m beyond grateful. I’m still in awe. I still open my scripts with excitement.

General Hospital, Weekdays, ABC