Many Happy Returns

You may not have seen the last of Genie Francis (Laura)!

General Hospital's Genie Francis (Laura) possesses a strange yet exciting ability to bewitch an audience. Only five minutes into her much-anticipated three-week return to the show, message boards we buzzing with euphoric fans singing her praises and begging for her to stick around. And they just might get what they asked for. "[Headwriter Bob Guza Jr.] was very encouraging," she reveals. "He said, 'We'd love to have you back again.' And I said, 'I'd love to come back again!' So, I think there might be something in the future." Time to start sending in those cards and letters!

A Return Engagement?

On paper, the logistics look a little complicated -- her roots are firmly and very happily planted on the opposite side of the country. On the other hand, where there's a will, there's a way. "My husband and I are talking about how we would do it and what we would do," she says. "We're sort of in the midst of that conversation. But yeah, I do want to continue to work. It's one of the things that I do best, if not the thing I do best. I don't want to just turn my back on it."

Her stay this time around was rather intensive. The final week she was shooting, it wasn't unusual for her to be working until 2 a.m. "It was an exhausting but exciting week," she sighs. "I was glad to come home, relax and catch my breath. The good thing about making these visits short-term is that they really do write a little arc for you, a story that has a beginning, a middle and an end. The danger when you sign on for something year-round is that you're on one show for a week, you've got two lines, and all of a sudden, you're just hanging around. That's the worst. It's not fun to act, and it's not good for your life, because you're tied down. You can't go do anything. So I prefer these little vignettes. Then I really get to sink my teeth into something, they get their money's worth, and I have more fun."

A Family Affair

If, by some luck of the draw for GH fans, the show were to bring her back again, Francis hopes that once again they'd capture the Spencer family as they are today... and throw in a little Luke/Laura escapade along the way. "What I want to do, if I were God," Francis laughs, "we've done those adventure storylines where Luke and Laura go off. But I'd like to do an adventure story where the family is involved, everybody plays a part in the adventure -- Lucky, Lulu, Nikolas and even Lesley -- where they have taken on this sort of scamming thing that they've basically learned from Luke, but the whole family does it now. I think it would be cute to se ehow it would be today if a family went on an adventure. I think if we were to do one with just the two of us, it wouldn't work because we're not what we were anymore. But if we do it as who are today, with our children, it would work. It would be fun."

Turning On The Waterworks

This time around, Laura's plight was an emotional roller coaster: confusion, frustration, fear, sadness. Then again, that's the stuff that drama -- and Emmy Awards -- are made of. "The scene that I felt the strongest about was in the bridal suite right after they were married when Laura says, 'I want to know the truth about what's going on with me,'" Francis says. "The scenes that follow that, they're my favorite. The ones at the end with the kids are strong, too."

"I heard from the women on the crew that the guys were hiding behind things to cry," she laughs. "I thought that was funny. The big, strong men were hiding to cry."

The crew weren't the only ones affected by the power of Francis' performance. So was her 9-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. "[My kids] did watch my first couple of shows. Before I came home, they aired. My son [Jameson, 12] enjoyed watching it, but my daughter didn't. She said, 'I know you as Mom, not Laura, and I don't like seeing you being in a coma like that. It's scary.' She can't relate to her mother being that way. It's too different a way for her to see me. It was a little bit creepy for her."

Home, Sweet Home

With her work done at GH, at least for now, Francis is back at home in Belfast, ME, and back to a simpler, more down-to-earth lifestyle. "This feels more like real life to me," she says. "The people are more accessible in a really genuine way. Everybody's raising kids and living life. It's a different kind of attitude. We live close to nature here. That does something to a person to keep you equalized.

"I think in L.A., you live close to the shopping," she laughs. Not that she has anything against shoppng. In fact, she pursued yet another dream this past July and opened a store called The Cherished Home. "It's another part of myself that I wanted to explore. I needed to create something here for myself because this is a very sleepy town. It's charming and beautiful, and we have amazing, natural beauty around us, but I needed something to do, something to keep me interested. The name just came to me. It said how I felt about home. Home should be cherished."

And "cherished" her home is. Married for 18 years now to actor/director Jonathan Frakes, she jokes that there aren't many surprises yet. "We've grown together. We still laugh together quite a bit. That's important. Everybody's going to hit bumps, so you don't just give up when you do. To have it really work, both people have to really want to have one marriage in life. And I think he and I both wanted that."

by Rosemary A. Rossi