The Spoils of War
North and South brought three couples together – and united they stand
Maybe it was the heavy breathing demanded by the script. Or the sultry Charleston, S.C., and St. Francisville, La. locations that stood for the antebellum South. Or the women’s bosom-enhancing bodices and the men’s sleekly tailored uniforms. Something was in the air during the 1985 filming of North and South, ABC’s Civil War miniseries based on John Jakes’s 1982 best-seller. How else to explain the real-life romances – and eventual marriages – of three couples who met while working on the show? “The period garb helmed,” admits actor Jonathan Frakes, who played Yankee wimp Stanley Hazard. Frake’s wife, Genie Francis (cast as Stanley’s sister-in-law, Brett Main Hazard), concurs: “The guys looked so dashing and the women looked so gorgeous. We all looked good!”
…That come-hither stare also worked for Francis, 31, who had first met Frakes, 41, when both costarred on the short-lived NBC series Bare Essence in 1983. There, she says, “he treated me like one of the guys – which I loved.” But on the North and South set, she developed “a big crush” on him, she says, and flirted, southern belle-style, with “meaningful looks, giggling, and fanning.” She was blushing, however, the night Frakes and Read took her and Kilbourne to a Bourbon Street strip joint to celebrate Genie’s 23rd birthday. “It was so embarrassing, I was dying,” she says. “But it was funny.” Just a few weeks later, though, when Frakes proposed a weekend getaway, she balked. “I was scared,” says Francis, whose lack of an offscreen love life during her original stint as teenage Laura on General Hospital (to which she returned, nine years later, last fall) “made me a little more innocent than a lot of women at 23.” She suggested she and Frakes have a low-key, old-fashioned date. “We went to a McDonald’s and sat in a church parking lot and talked,” recalls Francis. “Our wild lives!” quips Frakes, who moved in with her a year after North and South wrapped and popped the question – on his knees – in 1987.
…Read and Kilbourne recently faced an even more harrowing ordeal: the loss of their unborn child in the final month of Wendy’s pregnancy last month. “We’re devastated, but we’re making a slow and steady recovery,” says Read, who shares a four-bedroom house in the San Fernando Valley with Kilboune and their son Jackson, 3.
“I can’t imagine a cruler thing to endure,” says Francis. She and Frakes are themselves expecting a child – their first – in August. “Jonathan’s going to be a great dad,” Francis predicts. “One night I found him going through all these books to see what I should be eating.”
Meanwhile, the three North and South couples still keep in touch. Read considers Frakes a close friend, and the two like practical jokes. After Frakes (now in his final season as Cmdr. William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation) remarked how much he was looking forward to working outside of Trek, he arrived in his trailer on Heaven and Hell’s Old West set to discover a Trek uniform in his closet. “It came with a pair of cowboy boots and a hat,” says culprit Read.
But mostly the couples prefer their own company… Still, their favorite collaboration remains North and South. “It’s been a momentous journey,” says Down. Francis puts it more emphatically. “It was without a doubt,” she says, “the best time of my life.”
By Tim Allis and John Griffiths
Special thanks to Rabet for sending me this article!