On the 45th Anniversary of Her General Hospital Debut, Leslie Charleson Recalls Her Tense Arrival in Port Charles: ‘Nobody Liked Me’ — Plus, a Photo-Filled Look Back at Monica’s Life and Loves
On August 16, 1977, the actress started playing doctor.
However bad your first day at a new job was, Leslie Charleson’s was worse. Not only was hers the day that Elvis Presley died — and the then-General Hospital newcomer was a huge fan — but the makeup and wardrobe departments were on strike.
Plus, the veteran of A Flame in the Wind, As the World Turns and Love Is a Many Splendored Thing was taking over as Dr. Monica Webber from Patsy Rahn, who “had been rather rudely fired,” she said during a 2022 episode of State of Mind (which you can watch in full below). So “nobody liked me… I came into a kind of hostile environment.”
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Turning the Tide
Though Charleson was ready to rise to the challenge, boy, was the deck stacked against her. In addition to the cast giving her mostly the cold kind of shoulder, the producer who hired her was fired and replaced by Gloria Monty. And the show had three weeks to demonstrate some signs of life in the ratings, or ABC was going to pull the plug! “I was saying hello and goodbye to people in the same breath,” the actress told Soap Opera Digest in 1981. “It was very difficult.”
But after Monty implemented her sweeping changes, General Hospital didn’t just bounce back, it skyrocketed to the No. 1 spot in the ratings, thereby buying Charleson time to settle in and make the role of Monica only just her own but so much her own that now it’s hard to remember that anyone else played the part!
Rx for a Wild Ride
As Charleson went from one frontburner storyline (Monica’s love triangle with the Webber brothers, Rick and Jeff) to another (her tumultuous marriage to Dr. Alan Quartermaine), she came to be embraced by both her colleagues and viewers as family. In General Hospital: The Complete Scrapbook, she shared that she’d once been pulled away at an airport to meet a fan’s relatives. “She knew me so well from watching the show, and she was convinced that I knew her, too.
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“Suddenly, she looked at me and said, ‘My God, I am so sorry. You don’t know me,’” she continued. “She told me that because I was in her living room every day, she was convinced we knew each other.”
Relive some highlights from Charleson’s incredible run as Monica in the below photo gallery.
Video: YouTube/State of Mind, MonicaQuartermaine