The Comeback Kid
Genie Francis begins a new chapter of her -- and Laura's -- life
For those of you who sent in endless cards and letters, who left insistent messages on the General Hospital hotline and who "bumped on the boards" just to keep Genie Francis' name out there, your efforts weren't for naught. She's not only back as Laura, she's ready for more! "If it weren't for the fans, I wouldn't get to do this," she says humbly. "I'd like to thank them for following my career and supporting me. I'm grateful. And I'm delighted to entertain them."
Although it's hard to believe, it's been almost two years since Francis last stepped onto the GH set. Ever since that magic potion LS-49 woke up Laura from her catatonic state, then just as quickly put her back to "sleep" again, fans have been clamoring for more. And why wouldn't they? Viewers the show had lost turned back in to see her, and Francis won a coveted Daytime Emmy for the brief stint. While the network was looking for precisely the right moment for her to return again, frustration among fans grew as they sat and waited. Every few months, Francis was approached by the press -- yes, including Soaps In Depth -- and asked if/when we'd see her again and if her stay could be more permanent.
"It got to a point where I didn't really know what to say anymore because, the truth is they hadn't asked. They don't seem to want it. It's not me who's saying no. I don't know why, but no, they're not asking, and I think it's time to accept it and move on. The truth is that the daytime business is faltering. They don't have much money. Luke and Laura is a very high-ticket item, and it's probably easier for them to pay only one of us... and then have a wig!" she laughs, noting that "Laura" is frequently seen from behind and played by an extra.
So, the very good news is that Francis is back, at least for right now. And yes, she'll be back again for a quickie in October. Anything past that is in the hands of the soap opera gods. Meanwhile, Francis is lovin' what's in front of her. "This is a story about a psychic connection between mother and child," she explains. "I think that a very moving part of the story is that her love for her child is stronger than her illness."
Since Julie Marie Berman's arrival as Lulu, everyone and their mothers have drawn comparisons between the two actresses -- both pretty blondes with exceptional depth to their acting. By the same token, there have been parallels between their characters that can't go without notice. Considering Mommy is in a loony bin, that's not such a good thing! Thankfully, Laura was able to recently tell her daughter how they're also very different, which was nice for Francis, who tossed a little history into the mix. "I actually added in some stuff about how she had these blank spots because of the way she grew up," she says. "Laura was tossed from home to home, didn't know who her mother was, so she has a lot of weird abandonment issues and a lot of places where she shuts off as a human being. Lulu doesn't have that. Lulu can remember everything. The truth about Laura is that sometimes she can't."
With her GH gig being a limited run (taping of her episodes will have been completed by the time you read this), Francis is looking ahead at her acting future. She'll start shooting a follow-up to her very popular Hallmark Channel movie, The Note, sometime this coming November. "Everybody loved it," she says of viewer reaction to the film. "It didn't feel fully over for a lot of people, so we felt it was prime for a sequel. I think it's going to have a lot to do with those two important relationships coming into [my character's] life at the same time -- a man and the instant daughter."
While she's keeping busy on that, hubby Jonathan Frakes will be directing a new TNT series starring Timothy Hutton called Leverage. There's lots of work circling this showbiz twosome. If luck is on their side, there will be much more to follow. "We are actually moving out here to L.A. to give it a try for this season," says Francis, who lives with Frakes and their two children in rural Maine. "My kids are coming out, so we're going to be here, trying it out and seeing how it goes."
So if a long-distance relationship with the star has ever been a point of concern for the network in the past, they can put it to rest. Francis will not only be ready and willing, she'll also be able... and practically right around the corner from the studio Port Charles calls home.
by Rosemary A. Rossi
Thank you to Yasmeen for this article!