In part two of Soaps.com's interview with former General Hospital writer Karen Harris, she addresses the issue of violence on the show, the Spencer family and Rebecca Herbst being let go.
Soaps.com: What do you think of the criticism that "General Hospital" has gotten too violent?
Karen Harris: I think it's gotten less so over time. I think that it's just all generated from the same people. When you look back and Sonny was first on the canvas, you had Ryan Chamberlain [Jon Lindstrom] who was a serial killer and you had Damian Smith [Leigh McCloskey] and that storyline. You know, you had bad guys. You had people capable of abandoning someone in underground caves and threatening people's lives. It just wasn't all from the same people. Now, the violence is all coming from primarily the same group, but Luke [Anthony Geary] has his own game. Because Luke used to have a lot of violence surrounding him, as you know. I mean he started in violence.
I adored Greg Vaughan [ex-Lucky] I loved him as a human being. I thought he really pulled some great stuff out of some of the material he had, but Jonathan Jackson. I was there when Jonathan came on when Claire was head writing. I was there when Amber [Tamblyn, ex-Emily] came on. I would love to see her come back too, but that won't happen. But Jonathan is just fabulous and writing for him is fabulous. I got to write the day he got drunk and confronted Elizabeth and Nikolas [Tyler Christopher] about their affair. I just loved it.
Soaps.com: Jonathan just has great chemistry with Anthony Geary. As good as Greg Vaughan was, as soon as Jonathan came back…
Karen Harris: Greg Vaughan was who Greg Vaughan was. This is the Spencer family back together and I love that. I remember stuff I got to write back in the 90's. When you asked what were some of my favorite things, aside from the big stuff, things like, it seemed silly at the time, but in retrospect I look back and think, 'That was fun.' Like Emily [Amber Tamblyn] and Lucky running away after her mom died. And Foster. I loved everything Foster. One of my favorite scenes ever was when Luke and Laura [Genie Francis], I've been interviewed before about this, but when Luke and Laura were telling Lucky she was going to have a baby, that Lulu was on the way, they didn't know it was a girl at the time, Claire [Labine] gave me the entire act two to write the one scene and it was so much fun. Tony Geary I think had said to me, 'How do you do it'? And I said, 'I think of the Spencers as the Cleavers on acid.' They're just so out there. So it was a whole scene about DNA and dinosaurs and Nazis. I mean it was hysterical and I loved it. I just loved it.
I got to write the Valentine's Day show. We were testing out the chemistry between Brenda [Vanessa Marcil] and Sonny [Maurice Benard] and I wrote the show where they meet, only for like the second time at the car dealership. He's looking at the red sports car and she's looking at a Jaguar and they end up buying the opposite car. In the same show Luke and Laura just moved into the house and he bought her all these appliances and a washer and dryer and a refrigerator and stuff. They did a "This is Your Life" or "The Price is Right." They did it like a game show and the icebox had an ice tray with diamond earrings in it to show he hadn't lost his romance even though they had the white picket fence. I just remember those so vividly. They were really special. I remember Sonny and Mike [Ron Hale] when they were doing Christmas for Stone [Michael Sutton] at Thanksgiving and they were in the kitchen together cooking a pig and arguing about how to cook a pig. It was so ridiculous and so much fun.
Anyway, there's been a lot of stuff. Like I said some of the older stuff comes to me more vividly. One of my favorite scenes with Patrick [Jason Thompson] and Robin [Kimberly McCullough] was the "Jaws" scene. The scene where he's not feeling well and she's taking care of him. He says the last time a woman took care of him was his mother when he was twelve and he was reading "Jaws." It was based on my sister and her son. My nephew. My nephew had read "Jaws" over and over again and my sister had cut out, there was a couple of pages missing and he was very upset about it. Anyway, it was based on that. So, it's a lot of fun. There's a lot of satisfaction.
Soaps.com: My favorite moments are definitely the more humorous, realistic, every day scenes.
Karen Harris: That's the most fun to write. You can write the action, but it's more fun to write the stuff before and after.
Soaps.com: Speaking of the Spencers, do you think they will ever bring back Laura?
Karen Harris: I have no idea.
Soaps.com: Do you know why they don't?
Karen Harris: I have no idea. We talk about it. Bob mentions it. She mentions it, and then Tony goes to Amsterdam. Right now, the canvas is so limited that I don’t know if there's room. They have to keep cutting back on stuff. There was a rumor yesterday that they’re cutting back the budget again, which is kind of shocking.
Soaps.com: What do you think of Rebecca Herbst [Elizabeth] being let go? Did you know?
Karen Harris: No, I did not know. Because I've been gone since December 5, so I was kind of out of the loop. I did not know. I like Becky very much, but I feel as if once the powers that be took a liking to Lucky with Siobhan [Erin Chambers] and once they started playing, I don't even know if that's on yet, but Nikolas with Brook Lynn [Adrianna Leon]. Is that starting to play?
Karen Harris: So, I don’t know how far that's going to advance, but once that happened, it took Becky out of the mix. I feel like, what were they going to do with her? I just don't know. I was a little sad, just like, even though I'm happy to be doing what I’m doing, I'm sad to not be there because it's been home for so long. You always hate to see someone who's been around and devoted so much to the show and been so popular kind of be not be there anymore.
Soaps.com: You're right. She hasn't been in the mix in such a long time.
Karen Harris: And she had a baby and for some reason, they played very intensely the brother conflict, which I thought was great, but I guess they didn't want to keep that central. Once it played out, it was like, now what? And if they're not driving story, those two characters, there's no point in doing that. It just loses momentum. You can't just show up once a week and say, 'I hate you.' 'Well, I hate you.' They have to be driving real story in order to make that work. With Vanessa coming back there was no room for the story. They tried to kind of put everybody in her sphere. So that's kind of why I think that happened.
Soaps.com: Then there's Michael's story, which has been pretty controversial.
Karen Harris: Has it? What's the reaction been?
Soaps.com: It seems the majority of fans think it's a little too dark.
Karen Harris: Hmmm. Male prison rape?
Soaps.com: What I've seen on the message boards is the fans think it's too much for a soap. Personally, I have enjoyed it. I'm not sure enjoy is the right word.
Karen Harris: You appreciate it.
Soaps.com: Yes. I appreciate it. I think Chad Duell is doing a fantastic job.
Karen Harris: I was stunned when I first heard about it. Writing it was a challenge only because it's such a difficult topic, but I thought it was just a brilliant move to put Sonny's son in that position. I thought that was very risky, but in a good way, risky and brave of Bob [Guza, Head Writer] to do that kind of a story. It rolled out nice and slowly. The scenes themselves were terrifying.
Soaps.com: Josh Wingate who played Carter was very believable.
Karen Harris: Terrific. Yep. So it's having an impact on Michael's behavior now. It's having an impact on his relationships. I like the whole idea of Abby [Andrea Bogart]. I think that's really sweet.
Soaps.com: I was a little concerned she was going to be out for Michael's money at first, but she seems okay.
Karen Harris: Yeah, she's a good girl and seems to be a nice person. I'm slightly confused by the Siobhan stuff because I think there were decisions made as the story progressed about how she was connected. It was like, 'Oh! Really?' [laughs] It's really interesting when you're the writer at home and it's, you know…And I'm still nervous because I don’t know where we are in the story.
Soaps.com: We know she's working for the Balkan [Daniel Benzali] because he has her sister.
Karen Harris: Yeah. That was like, we knew he had her sister, but what we didn't know was that she was doing his dirty work. So that was a bit of a shock. That was like, 'Really? Really? Wow.' And what a good idea. There's another element coming in, not until the wedding which was like, 'No. Really?' And it's another twist in the Balkan story, so I thought that was good.
Soaps.com: I've really been enjoying the Balkan.
Karen Harris: He's wonderful. Did you watch "Murder One?"
Soaps.com: I remember him being on it but I didn't watch it. I'm liking how the Balkan is weaving himself into the whole canvas.
Karen Harris: Bob Guza writes great villains. He really does.
Soaps.com: What did you think of James Franco coming on as Franco?
Karen Harris: I thought it was fun. I thought it was enjoyable. It was a challenge. I think, God bless him for having the guts to come on and do that. He's an interesting guy. Very interesting. He's got actually another art installation that's going on right now. Something to do with "The Brady Bunch" or…
Soaps.com: "Three's Company." He was at Sundance and put on a blonde wig or something like that.
Karen Harris: Yeah that's what it was. He's an interesting man. Or he's a tragic headline waiting to happen. One of the two. I'm hoping that he's just an interesting guy. He's very quirky. I thought it was fun. I thought it was different. There's always a challenge to not sacrifice the rest of the show for something like that, but he sort of fit in with the darkness.
Soaps.com: What I like about Theo is he's more involved with the rest of the canvas. I thought Franco was too isolated with just Jason most of the time.
Karen Harris: Most of the time, although, him and Maxie [Kirsten Storms] too. It's interesting. How are the fans feeling about Spinelli [Bradford Anderson] these days? Because I know they got a little distressed that he was so willing to see Dante die when Jason was…I remember getting lots of emails about that and seeing lots of blogging about how could Spinelli do that? You know, it's one thing for Jason [Steve Burton] to be a stone cold killer, it's another for Spinelli to screw over Lulu [Julie Marie Berman], who's one of his close friends and not tell her Dante's in jeopardy.
Soaps.com: I just know that in general people seem to either love Spinelli or they just can't take him.
Karen Harris: [Bradford's] an amazing actor and he's a lovely guy. And like I said, I really like Johnny [Brandon Barash]. I loved Johnny and Olivia [Lisa LoCicero]. I loved writing Johnny and Olivia. I don't know whether they're together or apart. I know they were trying it both ways. I liked them together, but I don't know how long that will sustain.
[We spoke off the record.]
Soaps.com: Ethan [Nathan Parsons] and Johnny are also a lot of fun.
Karen Harris: Ethan, I wasn't sure in the beginning. I liked him, but he grew on me in a huge way. I love him. I think he's great with Johnny. They do a great Butch and Sundance kind of a thing. I think he's adorable with Maya [Annie Ilonzeh]. I love him with Tracy [Jane Elliot]. I think he and Luke do well together. I'd like to see more with him and Lucky, you know, as brothers. They seem to be orbiting in different circles, but I'd like to see them intersect, just as a fan. But I just think he's really, really developed on the show. I see it. I see his growth as an actor and I'm really impressed.
Soaps.com: I think it took time for the viewers to warm up to him because of what he represented for Luke and Laura. People were furious that Luke would have cheated on Laura.
Karen Harris: Yes. That's true. He gets a lot of credit for personal charm and being able to pull that off, I think. That's right. I forgot how touchy that was.
Soaps.com: I thought it kind of went along with who Luke was.
Karen Harris: Yeah, big surprise he cheated.
Soaps.com: But like you said, Ethan and Maya are adorable.
Karen Harris: She just got booked on something. She got a pilot?
Soaps.com: Yes. Charlie's Angels.
Karen Harris: That's right. I wonder if that…well you know what that means. Well, it means a recast is what it means.
If you haven't already, read Part One of Soaps.com's interview with Karen Harris and conclude it with Part Three.
- Lori Wilson