By Paula Hendrickson
A few weeks ago, news broke that James Franco—best known for his film roles in Milk, Spider-Man and even Pineapple Express, plus TV roles on the cult favorite Freaks and Geeks, and as James Dean in a 2001 TV movie—would be joining the cast of ABC’s General Hospital.
It’s not a permanent gig, but Franco’s character—an artist aptly named Franco—will recur for roughly two months, beginning Nov. 20. (That’s longer than Elizabeth Taylor’s stint on the show as Helena Cassadine, who crashed Luke and Laura’s 1981 wedding.) Producers were able to shoot Franco’s scenes ahead of time, in just a few days, and will incorporate them into the show’s ongoing storylines.
Franco’s an actor know for some eclectic choices, so why not daytime?
He’s not the only big name cropping up on soaps during November sweeps. Two days before Franco arrives in Port Charles, comedy legend Betty White will return to CBS’s The Bold and the Beautiful for a few episodes as Ann Douglas—the ailing-yet-domineering mother of Stephanie (Susan Flannery) and Pam (Alley Mills)—a role White first played in 2006.
While White has gone on record saying she appreciates the chance to leave comedy aside and play a dramatic role on B&B, some people are scratching their heads as to why Franco—a very busy film actor—would want to do daytime. There are several reasons floating around as to why he asked to be on GH. One theory is that ABC and SOAPnet (which repeats GH along with other ABC soaps All My Children and One Life to Live, CBS’s The Young and the Restless and NBC’s Days of Our Lives) must have made an offer even GH mob boss Sonny Corinthos couldn’t refuse. Some think Franco’s researching a future role, while others say it’s an attempt at performance art. It could even be that he’s heard how difficult soaps are, and wanted to give it a try.
Scoff if you like, but daytime actors face challenges other actors seldom have to deal with. Because of budget crunches, most daytime actors no longer have the luxury of something as simple as rehearsing. They often get the script the day before they shoot, memorize their lines (and get changes when they show up for work), and shoot each scene in one take—maybe two, if there’s a technical glitch.
Ask just about any famous actor who’s done soaps, and he or she will tell you daytime is the toughest acting job there is. It should be interesting to see what Franco brings to this new role, and how it impacts ongoing storylines. If you’re a GH fan, send me your review of Franco’s performance.
General Hospital, airs locally at 2 p.m. on ABC
The Bold and the Beautiful, airs locally at 12:30 p.m. on CBS
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Send in your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the November 18-24, 2009 issue