The three leading ladies of General Hospital entered a room full of excited fans who have followed them on TV for years – their every story line and their every moment on camera, Twitter, Instagram, and in print. With Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine” playing in the background, and a definite chill factor outside contrasting the warm, welcoming environment inside of Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, you couldn’t get more “Jersey” than this.
Fans brought and bought photos, calendars, and mementos for them to sign. One fan even had a vintage General Hospital board game that she’s working on getting all cast signatures on!
“The most exciting thing about being here, for me, is just meeting them…growing up and seeing them on TV, and now actually meeting them,” shared fan Carolyn Tunstead.
She wasn’t the only one in the packed room who felt that way, either.
Wright entered with a beer in hand, “chasing the hair of the dog”, as she remarked later in our interview, but also showing her diversity from being “chief taster and quality control” of her vineyard Standing Sun Wines.
Wright was in bright spirits as I joked with her about being the official beer taster of the event, and she smiled with a mimosa in her hand saying, “I think I’m the official drink tester.”
“You’re not ‘TheLadyinRed,’” she kidded me, “You’re wearing blue!” [Note to self: Maybe I should invest in an entire wardrobe dyed red to live up to my moniker] ;)
Wright and I noted our similarities – we are both Laura’s with curly hair, and although our middle names differ, mine is Marilyn, it sounds similar to where she grew up – Maryland.
These three soap stars worked the room and shared everything from hair styling secrets to showing fans that even with their stunning shapes, they eat too, as Finola ordered a salad – with a side of fries! [Real women eat! …and can look amazing just like they all do!]
“I was out until 3am,” shared Wright as she took a chair on the stage in the middle of the room with a fresh mimosa in hand, as the public question and answer session started. She appeared to still be on California time and joked, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead…but that gets kind of old when you’re in your 40’s.”
(She’s in her 40’s! Can you believe it with her flawless skin and amazing physique!)
The three ladies jostled for chairs as they poked fun at each other for who got to sit on the tallest one, and who got to take the lead holding the microphone.
“I wasn’t in the middle last night,” joked Wright about their New York event the day before, when she first sat down in the middle chair. “Were we supposed to snuggle?”
“Why does she get the tall chair?” added Hughes with a smile.
You have to love these ladies with their humor!
It was funny when West grabbed a beer bottle and lifted it to her lips when she spoke, as Hughes chided her saying, “You just have a beer bottle,” as she took command of the microphone for the moment.
What ties these Emmy Award winning actresses to their fans, though, is a commonality that many share with others. They are just like the rest of us. They text their kids and wait for them to text back, after asking how their day was - and they get one word answers. They have their off-camera indulgences. And sometimes they don’t have a lot of privacy with their children around at home.
Wright shared, “I remember thinking, ‘I haven’t peed alone in 10 years! And it’s because of the four-legged ones, too. I have 2 cats and 4 dogs.” (Yes, animals sometimes follow you into the bathroom, too!)
“And the kids only want you when you are peeing or on the phone,” she added. [So true!]
These little bits of us are what allows for relatability, crossing the fan-celebrity border.
As technologically in-touch and Twitter savvy as they are, sometimes they need to take a break from it, too.
“I shut off the phone when I get home,” said West. “It’s a great way to connect with people over Twitter, etc. I meet fans [on Twitter] who I end up meeting [in person].” But West doesn’t want to be technologically tied up all of the time. “That’s not the kind of mother I had. That’s not the kind of mother I want to be,” she continued. West has five children that keep her busy off set.
In the midst of the q&a session, the actor who first played Parker Joe Munson as a baby, on West’s former soap, As The World Turns, walked into the club and came up on stage to say hello to his former soap mom, West. She was truly surprised and gave him a big hug. It was a great surprise reunion for both.
While fans had plenty of time to ask the actresses questions, I had some of my own that were slated for their answers. I purposely tried to veer away from their story lines, to give people a glimpse into the real lives of Laura, Maura, and Finola. They graciously indulged me, while I found out what their indulgences are.
“It’s Ruffles potato chips, sour cream and onion dip made by mixing Lipton onion soup mix into sour cream, and a six pack of beer,” guiltlessly reveals West of her ultimate indulgence. “I would consume it all.”
“Switching on a DVD at the end of the day and having a glass of wine; or binge watching TV. Because that’s the moment when I can feel it,” says Hughes. “And I really like baked potatoes. I like all potatoes. Well, I’m Irish, come on! With everything on them.”
Wright shares, “I love to travel well. If I could fly first class always, I would. I eat really well, and I pay the money for good food. I love a great, fresh salad. I love the most colorful foods…a salad with organic fresh tomatoes, organic chicken, and chick peas. I love big yummy salads. And avocado! I could rub myself in avocado! Blue crabs! But I don’t put butter on them.”
[We were all getting hungry at this point, while the ladies kicked back with beers before they had to catch a flight back home.]
Finola: “They’re fuckin’ fun!”
[I love Finola’s conversational flair! This is where the interview got fun. These women are real. They are down-to-earth, professional, and have the biggest hearts. It was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve ever done.]
Maura: “There’s an extended family here...mothers, daughters and cousins. It’s intimate.”
Laura: “There’s so much honesty to the Jersey fans. What we love is you see the groups of women that come, and you see their friendship and their connection to each other, and then you’re connected to it because they watch the show. You become a watcher of their friendship. The character of who they are is awesome. They’re rich with character and history.”
Wright is a native of the East Coast.
“If I were offered an acting job in New York City, I would move back in a heartbeat if I wasn’t playing Carly on GH,” says Wright. She was a New Yorker from the time she was twenty to the time she was thirty-five. She wouldn’t give up her winery, though. “Of course, you find a way to make it work. John would go back for harvest.”
Regarding clothing, or lack of it, earlier in the afternoon when fans were asking questions, one wanted to know what they wore in the love scenes under the sheets.
Wright boldly answered, “I never did pasties. My first love scene where they wanted me to take off my shirt was on The City. Now I have these bras that just stick on and have boxer shorts on under the sheets, and I don’t touch anyone.”
Speaking of style, Wright is a naturally curly-haired girl. Her preference? “For me, Laura, I love it curly. For Carly, it works straight,” she reveals.
Wright, West, and Hughes are friends off camera, despite their differences according to story lines on the soap.
On soaps, it’s very hard to find women supporting women with the story lines, a fan mentioned. However, the actresses told everyone that in real life, the General Hospital cast is very different. There are only a few soaps now, and many of the stars “soap hop”. Rather than look at each other as competitors, there is a welcoming vibe.
“One thing about General Hospital is that it has a very nice atmosphere,” shares Hughes.
“No one can touch our female cast. Spread the wealth…we now have actors that want to play and support,” adds Wright.
“Sisterhood is rare on soaps. Carly and Ava would probably be friends in real life,” West weighed in.
Besides working as an actress, Hughes is a dancer. She told me she misses dancing. “I do. I gave it up. I went back to ballet a couple of months ago, and it’s fun. I’m enjoying it.”
Wright and her family own the Standing Sun winery. It’s where she focuses some of her “free” time when she’s not on set. She does have her wine preferences, as well.
“I’m a red girl,” [Ah! Red! A girl after my own heart! ;) ] “I’m a person who drinks wine with the seasons. In the summer I like a Pinot Noir. In the winter I love a Syrah or our GSM blend. I like the lighter wines in the summer,” Wright says.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is to see celebrities, entertainers, and musicians kick back and relax post-performance. West, Hughes, and Wright truly enjoyed themselves that afternoon at Uncle Vinnie’s and earlier had told everyone about the craziest, funniest, or most embarrassing things that have happened at fan events.
Wright shared, “I had to sign a girl’s boob once in Las Vegas!”
Hughes recollected, “I had someone slip a piece of paper under a bathroom stall for me to autograph.”
Hey, these things happen!
Not everything is all serious all of the time. The actresses joke around, too.
When you have a Laura and a Maura on set, sometimes it’s hard to tell whose name is being called. Wright and West still play tricks at work when someone calls a name and they couldn’t quite tell if it started with an “L” or an “M”.
“Yes! They can’t even say ‘Laura W.’ or ‘Maura W.’ I play Carly; she played a Carly [on a former soap],” remarked Wright.
“And we both are stunning,” completed Maura with a smile and a wink.
Speaking of funny, imagine if General Hospital resurrected some characters from the past? (It’s been done before…) Hughes said that “Sean and Tiffany would be fun,” while Wright wants Blackie Parrish to come back.
Laura: “I would like Blackie (John Stamos) to come back. He is so cute! I think Blackie and Carly would be awesome [together]!”
Ok, pause. Imagine that couple for a second! Wow, right? : )
And if trading places were possible, what GH characters would each of these women want to play for day?
Wright said, “I wanna play Sonny!”
Hughes competed for the position, almost simultaneously saying, “I wanna play Sonny!”
[They lovingly sparred over who said it first in print.]
Then Wright embellished, “I want Jane Elliot’s part. I don’t wanna be Tracey. I want to be her [Jane] for a day,” she said between sips of a mimosa that I was envying.
West’s answer: “I want to play Carly.”
Humor wove itself through many of the answers given to the questions of the crowd.
When a fan said that sometimes life can feel like a soap opera, Wright nodded, but then elaborated, laughing, with her response, “…but I’m not usually with another man in my bed while my boyfriend is coming home.”
I would guess that would be true for most of us! ;)
The actresses tend to keep their roles as separate entities from their real lives. One fan wanted to know if they get emotional about the story lines they are involved with when they are not at work – if the emotion conveyed while acting carries over into their real lives.
“I’m not affected with my kids by my work. I’m so emotionally invested in the moment with Carly. It’s her scene. I’m never affected at home because Laura is a whole different world. I don’t see my kids at home and get weepy because of what happened on the set,” explained Wright.
West gave her point of view: “I’m not confused. Some people can’t differentiate themselves from the part they are playing. That’s not us.”
Hughes concurred, “Everyone has a process.”
As the afternoon wound up, I felt truly privileged to see the real side of these loved characters. There is so much love, emotion, humor, sex appeal, and honesty infused in Finola Hughes, Laura Wright, and Maura West, it can’t help but transition to in front of the camera. It’s just something that can’t be faked. They had to catch a flight back to California, so we took a few photos, exchanged some hugs, and they hopped into their limo which whisked them away…until next time.
Did You Know:
- Finola doesn’t eat refined sugar or anything with refined or processed sugar in it
- When it comes to kissing on the set, Laura thinks, “Maurice Bernard is an awesome kisser, Ingo Rademacher is so romantic and grand, and Roger Howarth is so yummy.”
- Before Maura knew she was playing Ava Jerome, her script referred to her character as Jordan O’Neal, as a precaution so no one would alert fans about story lines to come.
- The cell phones on the show are props. They are not the actors’ real phones.
- Most of the jewelry on the show is costume jewelry, but Finola’s Anna ring is her own.
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