Monday, February 27, 2012

Interview (GH): Emma Samms Is Back!

She’s back! After last appearing on “General Hospital” in June 2009, Emma Samms has returned to the show for a limited engagement as Holly Sutton. There were mixed reactions about the circumstances of her character’s most recent return, but Emma is thrilled to be back as Holly, and is equally thrilled with the story line surrounding it — and she promises that fans will be too. I spoke with Emma recently about her much-anticipated return.

Daytime Dial: I was delighted when I heard you were coming back to the show, because everything’s better with Holly.

Emma Samms: Thank you. You know, it’s the most wonderful thing. How many people get to return to a job they love and that they started — goodness — over 20 years ago? It’s such a treat. It’s extraordinary, and I’ve enjoyed myself enormously. I just did my last few scenes this morning. It’s been a complete joy.

DD: What made you decide to return to the show?

ES: They got in touch with my agent, asking if I’d like to return. I asked what kind of story did they have in mind, because I know that a lot of people weren’t particularly happy with the last time Holly came back. It wasn’t the Holly that everybody knew, and that was quite disturbing for the audience, and I think in a way for me too. Generally speaking, it wasn’t the ideal return, and I certainly didn’t want it to be the last time anybody ever saw Holly. So, when they told me what they had in mind — which, of course, I can’t tell you — I said, “Yes, please.”

And what I’m delighted about is that the new regime — the new writers and the new executive producer — are very sensitive to the history of characters and the development of the character, and they wanted it to ring true, because otherwise you might as well bring in an entirely new actor. What they have done is something that I’m very much hoping the audience will not just be pleased by, but will make them want to continue watching even after I’m gone.

DD: Can you tell me anything about Holly’s return to Port Charles? Who does she interact with?

ES: Well, this morning I did a scene with both Tony (Geary) and Tristan (Rogers). The last scenes are the best ones to me personally, in terms of being the most pleasing. I urge everybody to keep watching, even if they start thinking, “Ooo, hang on a second.” Just wait until the end of my episodes. I don’t know if that’s enough of a hint, but I really enjoyed the scenes I filmed today.

DD: Each time that you do return to the set, does it feel like a family reunion of sorts?

ES: It does. It really does feel like family, and it’s so interesting, because I’ve done lots of other works since “General Hospital.” But “General Hospital” has spoiled me, and it’s very hard to come across that wonderful atmosphere full of people who work so incredibly hard. They all know what they’re doing so well that it’s just the smoothest-running machine, and it’s such a glorious atmosphere where everybody’s equal; the crew, the actors — everybody’s on a level with everybody else.

DD: I always love hearing how warm and supportive soap-opera communities are.

ES: Yes, exactly. It really, truly is. But it’s also high pressure, and there’s a lot of homework involved, because you’ve got to know your lines when you go in. In the old days when you had all morning there rehearsing, you could almost learn them as you went. And certainly if it was less than, say, 10 pages, I didn’t even look at it the night before. I read it while getting my hair done in the morning. Sometimes you had a great deal more than that. In fact, I think I had the record for a while of 86 pages in one day, which was absurd. You get very used to working with loads of dialogue, but now they’ve speeded up the process, and this is one of hopefully many ways that they’re finding that they can make it a worthwhile financial venture so the show can continue for as long as possible.

DD: What is it about Holly Sutton that keeps you coming back to “GH” and to this role that you created?

ES: I think it’s the combination that she has, which is that she’s very bright; she’s very quick-thinking; she’s very street-smart; but she’s also compassionate. And I think that’s possibly the thing that was missing last time around, but hopefully people will see that her compassion has returned. Compassion is a really important part of her, and so it’s a lovely combination that’s very interesting to play. She’s not cynical. She’s got this big heart.

DD: Whenever you return for these stints as Holly — as well as the fact that Tristan Rogers is back, and Rick Springfield — it must feel like a fun family reunion for you.

ES: Oh gosh, yes. We were all reminiscing a lot when we were working together. You can’t help but do that. We were laughing about that first location, big location, shoot where we wake up in Victoria. That was in the very early days. Also, I was remarking about how the set that was the Scorpio house had the open staircase at the back of it, and how we kind of moved into that. We kept things in the drawers. That really did feel like home. I know it was missing a fourth wall, but actually we kept stuff in there.

DD: With the demise of “One Life to Live,” the higher-ups decided to bring some “OLTL” characters over to “GH” …

ES: I think it’s genius that they’re bringing in some characters from “One Life to Live.” That makes absolutely perfect sense. It was a great show, had some great characters and, gosh, if they can combine those two audiences — it’s a bit of a no-brainer, really.

DD: How do you feel about the future of soaps, in this time of cancellations?

ES: Obviously I think it would be a terrible shame if America lost “General Hospital,” but I think if anybody can save it and keep it on and keep it vibrant and relevant, it would be (executive producer) Frank (Valentini), because I’ve been watching the difference with him at the helm, and it is quite drastic. He’s interested in all aspects of the show, so hopefully that will make it a much more cohesive product. He was there on the set when we were shooting my scenes, and he was interested in the performance and the camera shots and the wardrobe and everything. He obviously cares about it, and I admire that so much. It reminds me of the days of Gloria Monty, when I first started, because it was her vision, and it has to be a complete vision. All of the different departments and features of the show come together on the screen, and Frank wants to see everything and put it all together. I’m really impressed by that, and that therefore gives me a lot of hope for the show.

The one thing that all of us on daytime dramas know is the audience is still there. Soaps are still enormously popular, and I think it’s just a matter of finding a way to make them financially viable. But there’s got to be a way to do that, and ABC obviously wants to make “General Hospital” work, or else they wouldn’t have brought in Frank. Hopefully they do have in mind that there is an absolute goldmine there, and if they can just get it right for the current market, it could go on forever.