Port Charles’ Charmer Comes Home

She's a gorgeous, slender young woman filled with breezy confidence and a genuine enthusiasm for her career. As she strides into an L.A. bistro, she seems somehow different. Where is the teenage actress who grew up on the soundstages of "General Hospital" and became the center of ABC's "Love in the Afternoon" soap line-up? What about the young woman who reached such heights of popularity that the network had to hire Elizabeth Taylor to upstage her at her own wedding?

We'll be able to find out all these things, because as everyone knows by now, Genie Francis is back on "General Hospital."

G.F.: Gloria (Gloria Monty - GH producer) called me at home and said, "I have this fabulous idea. We owe it to the audience to do this. Will you come home for two months?" I said, "I'd love to do it, but I can't spare two months." We settled on one month of my time, and six weeks air time, and the business people took it from there.

S.W.: Has Laura changed since she wandered off in the fog almost two years ago?

G.F.: I think we'll see a more sophisticated, more mature Laura. She's been through a lot. She's coming out of quite an ordeal. When Gloria gave me the rundown on the story last night, I got chills. It's a fabulous story... I didn't imagine it would be so wonderful. What happens with Tony and me will happen naturally. Gloria Monty has really surpassed herself with this story, so it will be easy for me to have a wonderful time doing it. I'm not worried. I know it will be great fun.
I did this for the fans. And I did it for myself. But I'm also doing it for Gloria Monty. I have so much love for her... she's done so much for me. I really wanted to work with her again.

S.W.: Do you feel pressured to recapture the Luke and Laura mystique?

G.F.: I'm not looking to recreate what we had. We don't need to... We've already done it. I'm looking to satisfy my character. I'm doing this to accomplish something new. Laura is different and the storyline is very different.

S.W.: What's it like to be re-teamed with Tony Geary?

G.F.: Morning rehearsals with Tony and me are just the best. We have a great working relationship. I love him. We think about doing other things together at some time. Since I've left "General Hospital," I've had the experience of working with other actors, and I realized then how great Tony really is to work with. He's a giving actor. With a lot of actors it's like pulling teeth. We are both giving actors, and that's what makes it so special. Tony is also one of the funnies people I know. We did light comedy the last summer I was on "General Hospital," and I'd love to do some more comedy with him.

S.W.: Did you ever have to pinch yourself to make sure it was all real?

G.F.: I did when thing were really popping... when we were on the cover of Newsweek. Thre were a lot of feelings, like, "I can't believe this is happening." I don't think I really realized what had happened to me until I left and was able to look back. I was in a whirlwind. I was pretty young.
The best times were when we were climbing the ratings. We were working so hard as a group, it was insane. Gloria would call us all to the set and say, "I love all of you and these are the ratings."
When Tony and I were reminiscing the other night on the phone, we laughed about all the silly things that have happened on the set... all the flubs we've made. Tony reminded me of when we were on the run. He was Lloyd and I was Lucy and I had to wear that funny black wig.

S.W.: Your father is the well-known actor and coach Ivor Francis. How has he influenced your career?

G.F.: My dad kept pretty much away from my acting. I was very opinionated. I did it the way I wanted to do it. I believed in myself and my creative choices. He left me alone, but I always knew if there was a question I could go to him. He gave me the faith to trust my instincts. When I first came to "General Hospital," I was a kid and had never been on a soundstage before. No one told me what to do. They handed me a script and said, "Go!" I was panicked -- really hungry for someone to tell me what to do and how to do it. So what I did was observe the other actors and do everything they did. Then I started asking questions. Denise Alexander (Lesley, Laura's mother) was really great. She took me under her wing and when she saw I was doing something wrong she would tell me. The first year was a tremendous learning process, but then I got hold of it and took it on my own. You cannot be tense and still be creative. I was very nervous at the beginning, but when I learned to relax, I got better. I talked to myself a lot and said, "Genie, calm down," and it seemed to work. I turned to my folks a lot then. They were very supportive in the early years. They're used to the attention I get now because it's gone on for a while. I think at the beginning they were pretty overwhelmed by it.
I have a cousin my age, who just moved to New York and got a job with a Wall Street law firm. He told me that when he was in school, he wouldn't tell anyone we were related, because he knew that everyone would either bother him or believe him. It made me laugh, because it seemed absurd to me that it should be that way. Different family members took it differently. My mother and father were thrilled. There are lots of magazine covers in their bedroom. My grandparents have lots of magazine covers, too. I look at my family now more as people since I've been away. I've grown up a lot these last two years. It's changed with my parents. There are no expectations anymore. We're a family. And I love them.

S.W.: Do you feel you're catching up with the childhood you lost?

G.F.: I've definitely made up for lost time. I've managed to be a little bit crazy. My first love is my career, and everything is kind of balancing out now. It used to be my career and nothing else. Balance is a wonderful thing in life. Now I just can't imagine myself getting too caught up in work. I'm too protective of myself.

S.W.: What brought you back to New York?

G.F.: New York is a place for people who are very ambitious -- really driven. I should have been in New York all my life. I've had that drive since I was fourteen years old. In New York I'm meeting people just like that -- people my age who have the same dedication I do. If someone has a play reading or an audition, we'll all get together beforehand and help each other. Thta's not something I've ever found in Hollywood. In L.A. people are looking out much more for number one. In New York achievement is much more a group effort.
Gloria Monty was very supportive of my move to New York. She said, "Do it, Genie, it's the best thing for you." And she's right. There are three play possibilities, one I'm really excited about. If it happens, you'll hear me screaming all the way from New York!

S.W.: Is all the press attention getting in the way of what you want to accomplish in your life now?

G.F.: I don't take the press stuff real seriously, though it is distracting at times. Sometimes people can be very rude. It's not so much of an interruption as it is draining. Now I pick and choose interviews a lot more carefully. My favorite ones to do are the soap magazines.
It's very irritating when the non-soap press refers to me as just another soap actress. The soap magazines are always very pleasant to talk to, very supportive. But it seems the higher up you go, the more successful you are, the more good work you do, some of those other magazines just want to knock you down. They really don't like saying good things, and if they do say something good about somebody, they say that it's because she got lucky.

S.W.: A lot of those magazines were not very nice to you when you did "Bare Essence." How did you react to its cancellation?

G.F.: I don't feel that I had to take any responsibility for its failure. It was an ensemble piece. It if had been "The Genie Francis Show," that would have been one thing. But it was a show about a family, and I was just a member of that family. We took the criticism as a group. I don't take it as a failure. We just beginning to build an audience and generate mail, when NBC canceled us.

S.W.: How does Genie Francis keep everything in perspective?

G.F.: I ask for a lot of advice. You'd be surprised how many people I ask. Then I think about it all, sift it through, and then make my decision. Decision-making is not one my strongest qualities. There are many times that I am overwhelmed by the enormity of the decisions I am asked to make. I am still only twenty-one. It was even tougher when I was eighteen.

S.W.: Is your life as exciting now as when Luke and Laura were on the run?

G.F.: What was happening then was a career high; what's happening now is a life high. I'm living a real life now. I have friends I adore. I'm studying acting. I always knew that I would never be able to maintain that kind of popularity. I knew it would wane. Knowing that saved me from the career rollercoaster.
It's a very big kick to go back. It's a once in a lifetime thing. Chances to do something like this don't come along very often. I'm going back to "General Hospital" because I want to do it. I know it will be great fun, and a wonderful experience.

by Susan Wilson