Interview: Kathleen Gati on Liesl Obrecht, the ‘Queen of Cat and Mouse’
The General Hospital actress brings parts of herself to her colorful, passionate character.
What started as a two-day guest-starring role in 2012 has turned into a seven-year recurring gig on General Hospital. Dr. Obrecht might not be the most ethical character in Port Charles, but she is entertaining to watch scheme, threaten and blackmail her way around town. Soaps.com had the opportunity to talk with her portrayer Kathleen Gati, who brings a lot of herself to the character of Liesl Obrecht.
Currently, Dr. Obrecht is in on two secrets. One being that Michael Corinthos (Chad Duell) is baby Wiley’s biological father and the other that Sasha Gilmore (Sofia Mattsson) isn’t the daughter Nina Reeves (Cynthia Watros) thought died over 20 years ago. Obtaining this kind of information to hold over people could be considered Obrecht’s sweet spot. “I think she really enjoys having that power,” Gati said. “She’s no longer the Chief of Staff which [made her feel] very powerful. So now her other power is having information on other people. She can pull it up at any time. It gives her protection. I think she just enjoys the cat and mouse. If I had to classify Obrecht, I’d say she is the queen of cat and mouse.”
Though she often does terrible things, Obrecht is not a total villain as she does have a soft spot for her family. Gati pointed out, “It’s not just affection, she has great passion for her family. As much as she can be cruel, she has as much if not more passion and love for the little family and little bit of love that she has. As a person, I’m sort of like that too. There are few people I truly love … and I love them with all my heart and soul. I’m not very good at superficial relationships and I bring that to Obrecht. I put all my passion into that piece of her, all the feeling and emotion because she doesn’t have a lot of it.”
Gati credits the General Hospital writers with helping her to achieve that. “I’m so appreciative of that because it’s hard to redeem her many times,” Gati mused. “These are the saving graces, that she has that love and passion, even though she did a terrible job with her daughter and gave up her son. I mean these are hard [things] to forgive.”
With her daughter Britt Westbourne (Kelly Thiebaud) gone, son Nathan West (Ryan Paevey) dead and Liesl rarely seeing her baby grandson James, Gati explained niece Nina is the only one she has left. Which is what makes keeping the secret about Sasha tricky, even if it is to prevent heartbreak. Gati believes Liesl wants honesty and full disclosure with Nina, but having a secret doesn’t allow Obrecht to fully be in the relationship. “You know, I interpret these things for myself as much as I can and I bring it to the character,” Gati explained. “How would I feel? And I feel bad. I spend a lot of time thinking about these moments and this is not a moment. This is the status of their relationship.”
As for her personal life, Obrecht giddily went on a date with Jasper Jax (Ingo Rademacher) in a recent episode. Though it made for entertaining scenes, Gati opined, “She’s ready to love. I love that it’s an older woman. I get to show that. Who doesn’t deserve love at every age? Why is it only good for the 20-year-olds or the 30-years-olds? Why can’t you have love in your 60s, your 70s, your 80s, your 90s? Love is love. We all need it. Whether it’s sexual or non-sexual. We need love.”
While Jax might not be a realistic candidate, one potential love interest she offered up for Obrecht is Michael E. Knight (Tad Martin, All My Children) who will start airing in Port Charles this fall. But if that doesn’t happen, she’s okay with that too. Gati just wants to have interesting and dynamic roles to play as an actress. Which is something she definitely has in Liesl Obrecht. “I’m so grateful to the writers for giving me those different colors and challenges. Every time I get a script it’s like Christmas for me. I’ve said this before, but I open a script like it’s a gift. What did I get today? I get so excited like a little kid. I need that inspiration. If I had to say the same thing every day for decades I wouldn’t be an actress.”
While it might be the most recognizable to soap opera fans, Dr. O isn’t Gati’s only role. She plays the “kooky, passionate” mother of Kyle Lowder’s (Rex Brady, ex-Brady Black, Days of our Lives) character in the upcoming Mermaid for Christmas, which Gati called, cute, charming, funny and adorable. She also records audiobooks, for which she’s won 5 AudioFile Earphones Awards. In addition, Gati returns for the occasional project in Hungary, which is where her family is from and where one film in the early 90s turned into several successful years of TV and film roles.
While she relishes the variety in her career, for now, Gati enthused, “I’m madly in love with working at General Hospital. I’m madly in love with Dr. Obrecht. The role, the people, the character, the cast, and crew. I’m just grateful to work there.”