Love, Laura

Genie Francis Adores GENERAL HOSPITAL, But She Likes Going Home To Her STAR (TREK)y-Eyed Husband Even More

Genie Francis admits that when GENERAL HOSPITAL first asked her to reprise the role of Laura Spencer in May, 1992, she said no. When they approached her again, eight months later, she was less empathic -- but just as nervous -- about going home again.

"I didn't know whether to do it," she confided. "My agent would call me up and say, 'This is going on too long. You have to decide.' And I'd say, 'Okay, I'm going to call right now.' I'd hang up the phone and my heart would pound in my chest and I would breathe into a paper bag and I would pick up the phone and I would dial Tony [Geary, who plays Luke]. Every time I was supposed to call ABC, I called Tony! And I would say, 'Do you think we can do this? What do you think? Are you ready?'

They were. Despite the fact that Geary and Francis has not seen each other in years, they decided to have lunch. "We just talked about our lives. Then we kind of went away to our separate corners to think about this. At the next meeting we had another meal together in which we did an improvisation: I got in touch with Laura, and he got in touch with Luke. We brainstormed about who these two people would be today. What would their conflicts be? What would they want? What have the past 10 years been like? And it was that meeting that really made me want to do it. I realized, miraculously, that the connection was still there.

If there was such a strong connection between Geary and Francis, why didn't they keep in closer touch when Luke and Laura left GH in 1984? "We went through so much together," she says softly. "When we left [GH], it was such a huge thing. Luke and Laura were so much bigger than Tony and Genie. Both of us really wanted to move on and forget about it. It's sort of like people who were in the Vietnam War together. I'm sure they don't meet for lunch once a week and chat about it. We wanted to move on. But it's not because we don't love each other -- we do."

So, the forger GH, DAYS OF OUR LIVES, ALL MY CHILDREN and LOVING star went home again. "I have no fantasies that I'm going to become a movie star at this point in my career," she says matter-of-factly. "I think if that was going to happen, it probably would have happened by now. It's tough for a woman past 30 to get through that door. I would love to have the experience of doing a feature film, and my dream job in television would be a sitcom. I got to be goofy and silly and funny on DAYS, and [GH] lets me be goofy. There's a few people out there who understand there's a Lucille Ball in me who wants to come out."

Actually, Francis has mixed feelings about her days on DAYS. "I hated the first year," she reveals. "They just couldn't figure out what to do with me. They didn't give me a past or a future. My agent called [DAYS] and said, 'This isn't fair to her. How can you do this?' The process of discovery happened on the air. It was really embarrassing." Things started to turn around for Francis when DAYS paired her with resident heartthrob Drake Hogestyn, who was then playing Roman Brady. "They said, 'Oh, there's some chemistry,' and they went for it," she laughs. "Then they did the big remote in Greece, but this was a year into my contract. They second year was more fun; I loved Drake Hogestyn. How could you not love him? He's such a gentleman and such a family man. They finally got some juice going between Diana and Roman, really sweet, romantic comedy." But by then her contract was up and she had decided to leave. "It was a pity. [DAYS] was just not a happy experience for me. I was disappointed and I didn't want to continue."

In fact, Francis almost left acting completely. "I said no to agents and I contemplated whether or not to do this at all anymore." She concentrated on nesting with her new husband, Jonathan Frakes (see box). Her daytime memory was jogged suddenly, however, when DAYS approached her about reprising Diana; BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL contacted her agent, and ONE LIFE TO LIVE offered her the role of Sarah Gordon. "I went to New York to meet [with OLTL] and while I was there, Agnes Nixon called about ALL MY CHILDREN. Four shows at one time! This was after a year of saying to myself, 'I'm not going to work, forget it.' BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL is a great show, but I had this incredible meeting with Agnes, and the decision at that time in my life was going to New York. I wanted to try the theater."

Fortunately for Francis, she had an ally. "My husband knows me really well," she smiles. "He knows that I tried very hard to be the traditional wife that year I wasn't working. But it's not me. And I was a little disgusted with L.A. at that point. I wanted to have a dream again. I wanted to love acting again. And I did -- I loved ALL MY CHILDREN. They have a fabulous cast, and one of the most extraordinary directing teams I have ever encountered in daytime. They wrote me something that I desperately wanted to do [Ceara's incest story] and every time I got a play, they said, 'Have a good time, Genie. We love you. Go ahead.'"

Included in her AMC stint was a brief crossover to LOVING, but by then the time away from her husband had started getting to her. So, she moved back to L.A. into the waiting arms of real-life hubby Jonathan, and TV hubby, Luke. "I'm dying to work with [Jonathan]," she beams. "We've worked in several shows together but never played an actual scene together. We're going to do a tour of Love Letters in '94. My dream is to be directed by him -- he's a fine director. I would love to be directed by someone who knows me -- and my work -- that well, and who loves me that much. You know how safe that would be?

Do Francis and Frakes plan to have children? "Even my mother-in-law doesn't do that to me!" she sputters before answering. "I am really ready to have children. I want them very badly. My husband's ready. But honestly, it's unfair to the show to get pregnant during the first year of my contract. That would be unprofessional. They have asked me not to, and I'm abiding by that. I want to give 100 percent of my attention to my first pregnancy, but Laura is something I want to give 100 percent of my attention to right now." With the amount of screen time and heavy storyline that Francis is getting, it looks likes she is giving a lot more than 100 percent to his comeback. "I didn't come in to this thinking I was going to waltz back in time 12 years and have the same experience," she smiles. "I'm smarter than that."

by Carolyn Hinsey