Making Up For Lost Time
Genie Francis's dressing room reflects the girl inside the grown-up. A stuffed panda and baby seal, a pair of snuggly booties and a dainty porcelain tea pot share space with a portable trampoline and an ashtray strewn with lipstick-stained cigarrete butts. Curled up on a swivel chair, Genie Francis, the sixteen-year veteran of soaps talks about her life at the end of her contract with ALL MY CHILDREN. (At press time, contract negotiations were still ongoing.)
Francis is the picture of utter relaxation. She has good reason. She's a working actress. She's happily married. She's healthy. And perhaps most importantly, she's found the inner peace that she's been searching for since she was a child.
Francis spent her childhood trying to conquer a crippling shyness. She succeeded in overcoming it only through acting and that wasn't until she was fourteen. Her introverted nature made for problems interacting with children her own age. Her own family's economic hardships compounded her already blossing inferiority complex. "My family wasn't dirt poor, but we were struggling financially," Francis says. "If you were cool and you were 'in,' you were Chemin de Fer jeans. And I didn't have [them]. It was tough. I felt like I didn't measure up."
Her television debut on an episode of FAMILY helped conquer many of her insecurities. "I had a little surge of personal power where I just looked at these girls who were very mean to me and thought, 'I'm not even going to play their game. I'm gonna be an actress,' Francis recalls.
Explaining the paradox between her powerful inhibitions and her willingness to let go when performing, Francis says, "I was shy about just talking and being myself. But as far as playing a scene, I was not the slightest bit shy because that was acting. I also had feelings inside me that I couldn't show at school and I couldn't show at home. But in acting, I could show all of it."
Several months after FAMILY, the fourteen-year-old actress landed the soap role that would change everything -- GENERAL HOSPITAL's Laura Vining, who went on to be raped by, then marry, gangster-turned-mayor Luke Spencer. Francis catapulted to Stardom.
Today Francis contends that fame was actually a setback in terms of her emotional development. "I wanted to leave [GH] after the first three years, when I was seventeen," she says. "At that point, I could have gone to my last year of high school, graduated with my friends and checked in with my life again. But my agent convinced me that I was a very popular character and that I hadn't made any money on my first contract, which was for scale, so I re-signed for another two years," she recalls. "I'm not saying that I'm sorry I stayed. But knowing what I know now, if I had it to do all over again, I would have gone back to school."
Francis's shyness is no longer an albatross. She credits her husband of four years, Jonathan Frakes, with helping her. "Jonathan has helped me enormously because he's a very social person. You can't be a wallflower with him," she says.
If Francis does not renew her contract with AMC and returns to California, she can do so with the knowledge that she made the most of her two years in New York. In addition to playing Ceara on AMC, she has performed in several off-Broadway and regional theater productions. After years of success on TV (including a role as Diana Colville on DAYS OF OUR LIVES), why has Francis turned to the theater? "I have climbed this mountain already," she says, casually gesturing toward the framed covers of Newsweek, TV Guide, and Us that adorn her dressing room wall. "That's not to say there isn't more work to do in daytime. But you know, it's been sixteen years. I want to grow up and move on.
Yet, Francis says she'd consider returning to GH if the writers decided to resurrect Luke. "I think it would be great fun to revisit," she maintains. "I would love to hear what Tony has to say about that because it was such a nice story that we wrapped up so neatly." Geary, who is rumored to be resuming the role of Luke, declined to comment. Looks like Francis will have to ask him herself.
Genie Francis and Jonathan Frakes met on the set of BARE ESSENCE when she was nineteen. Three years later, they met again while shooting NORTH AND SOUTH. Friendship turned to romance, and on May 28, 1988, they walked down the isle.
"Jonathan keeps me laughing," says Francis. "I get too serious without him. He reminds me to laugh at myself, at this business and at everything else. Things roll right off his back." Francis also thinks Frakes will make an exceptional father. She's wanted to have a child ever since her biological clock "went off" two years ago. While she and Frakes have endured the emotional rigors of a bicoastal relationship, Francis insists she will not start a bicoastal family. "I don't think it's fair to him, to me or to the baby. Once you have the baby, it doesn't make any sense at all to have a weekend father. That won't do."
Thanks to Destinee for this article!