Genie Grows Up

In a dressing room on the second floor of the Days of Our Lives studio, Genie Francis, wearing a floral-patterned outfit, sits curled up at one end of a long sofa, periodically sipping from a mug. The blonde, blue/green-eyed actress, formerly the heavenly half of General Hospital's greatest love team Luke and Laura, is quietly poised and polite to a late-morning visitor. She speaks softly, so softly that at times the tape recorder resting on the sofa beside her can barely pick up her words.

"Hmmm-mmm, I'm very happy now," Francis is saying, responding to the visitor s question regarding her feelings how the character of Diana Colville is evolving on the show. The actress' return to daytime drama had certainly been negotiated with whirlwind speed. She was notified by her agent on a Friday afternoon that she'd been hired, and she started work Monday morning. "I didn't have any information (about the character). They didn't even know her name in the beginning. They wheeled her on a gurney (unconscious, a victim of assault), as a 'Jane Doe.' Oh, oh, oh, it was not a pretty sight," she laughs lightly.

Not pretty either was the reported hostility generated by certain factions of Days fans which greeted Francis when she joined the show, because they felt she was replacing two of their favorites, Derya Ruggles (who was fired) and Deidre Hall (who left to do the nighttime series, OUR HOUSE). Initially, the producers matched Francis with Michael T. Weiss (who plays Dr. Michael Horton), but that all-important chemistry was apparently not there. Then, she was paired with Drake Hogestyn (who plays roman Brady), and slowly but surely the proverbial sparks began to fly, climaxing with their adventures in Greece. Of the chemistry with her leading man, she remarks, "I think it's great. And it's nice to be working with someone who is that interested and dedicated to the work." She admits Hogestyn breaks her up often. "There's a lot of practical joking, goofing around. I think that's part of what shines through, that we like each other so. You can tell."

"So, yeah, I'm pleased with the way its come out," Francis reiterates. "I think it was a long process for them, figuring out what they wanted to do with me, which guy they wanted me to be with, what they wanted the character to be like, what I wanted the character to be like."

She sees Diana as "a very strong person. She gets herself into trouble, but she's also capable of getting herself out of trouble. She's not the classic victim."

Continues Francis, "I'm seeing something in my work that I'm happy about too I'm not quite sure how to put it into words, but with this particular character, I really have seen myself make the transition from playing the ingénue to playing a woman, and that's something I'm very pleased about. to see that transition happen very smoothly. I see myself as a grown-up when I watch the show. this character is so strong that she brings that out in me and I like that."

Adding to the new image of the grown-up Genie was her recent marriage to Jonathan Frakes (who plays commander Riker on the syndicated series, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION). They originally met while working on the mini series, BARE ESSENCE, and exchanged vows in a very private ceremony.

Asked for first impressions of Frakes on the set, Francis says, "I was, like 19 years old at that time, and I don't know, I kind of thought of (Jonathan) as a big brother type of a figure." She laughs, conjuring up in her head some private memory of Frakes. "He's got this great sense of humor. Y'know it's kind of a relief when you're, like, the star of a show and somebody comes up and makes fun of your hairdo or something. He made me feel like one of the guys. He didn't put me up on t his big pedestal. It's kind of uncomfortable—and lonely—to be up there. It's more fun to be one of the guys," she says, punctuating it with a laugh.

They began dating after working together again in another mini-series, NORTH AND SOUTH, and the relationship blossomed. "The nice thing about it is that we were friends for such a long time," offers Francis, smiling. "That's a very positive thing."

Did she think about her own wedding when she played the scene following Adrienne and Justin Kiriakis' nuptials, the one in which Diana fantasized about marrying roman? The actress thaws considerably. "Oh, sure. I thought about it every waking moment, are you kidding?" A laugh. "How could you not?

Francis volunteers that she didn't want a "huge wedding" like Justin and Adrienne's. "No, uh-uh, that's not my idea of a wedding." Further stating: I don't have a big need to share the experience with a lot of people. I want something smaller and intimate. I don't really like big 'to do's' and being the center of attention. I get very embarrassed in those situations. This is not a performance; this is real life."

On the subject of two actors in a family, Francis comments, "Everybody says it's a bad idea…(but) I happen to really like that. I can't imagine being able to explain to my husband, who was an accountant, let us say, what it is I go through every day (at the studio) and what it feels like when I don't get a job or what it feels like to be out of work and the craziness that comes when you're between jobs."

The official production company bio describes Francis as "a homemaker at heart." True? "I like being a woman, I really do," she says. "I like my work and my career. It's a very important part of my life, but I think it used to be all of my life. And it just isn't now. There's more of a balance. I like the idea of being a wife/mother/homemaker…it's very appealing to me."

Genie Francis says the patter of little feet will definitely be heard around the Frakes house in the San Fernando Valley. "I'm 25, I'll be 26 in May. I don't want to wait and have my children when I'm 35. A lot of women in this business wait and wait and wait for the perfect moment, and I guess there is no 'perfect moment.' I'd like to have my children—at least my first one—while I'm still in my twenties."

by David Johnson

BIG thanks to Ann for sending me this article!