Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Interview: Nancy Lee Grahn's General Hospital Now! Cohorts Are Here to Entertain

We all know Nancy Lee Grahn for playing Alexis Davis on “General Hospital” since 1996. And in that time, we’ve seen Alexis commit vehicular manslaughter, accidentally stab Cameron Lewis, kill Luis Alcazar by pushing him off a balcony, break and enter, and steal and lie — but you’ve never seen her like this. On her new Web series “General Hospital Now!” — which she created and co-wrote with Kaore Bonell — Nancy shows us her silly, smart and hilarious side. She also gets some of her castmates into the act with skits, talk-show panels and man-on-the-street interviews. Six episodes (each of which range from seven to 10 minutes) are now available for online viewing at abc.go.com/shows/general-hospital. I spoke with Nancy about this fun new project recently, and she is thrilled to give “GH” fans the chance to see their favorite stars cutting up and letting go.

Celebrity Extra: Who’s idea was “General Hospital Now!”?

Nancy Lee Grahn: It was mine. I have a writing partner, Kaore Bonell — we met through mutual friends — and he’s a huge “GH” fan. He’s a sketch writer, and I loathe writing, so we came up with ideas together. We just laughed and had fun and thought this would be fun to do. We pitched it to ABC, and they were receptive.

CE: I had a ball watching the episodes; this idea was long overdue.

NLG: Yes, that’s the thing — people don’t get to see that this is a very fun medium. Everyone works hard, and they take what they do very seriously and they do it really well, but it’s also entertainment. And we laugh a lot. We have a great sense of humor about all kinds of things that we do. And that to me is the fun thing about doing “GH Now!” — I think it’s important to find the humor in everything. So we are finding the humor, and we’re letting the audience know that we know that they know that we know that we know that they know (laughs). You know what I mean? It’s just really good fun, and it’s done out of love, and it’s a wink and a hug to the audience.

CE: You guys look like you’re having so much fun; is that an example of the fun you all have together off-screen?

NLG: Oh, yes, we do. That’s what’s fun about this show is we get to show what we do when the cameras aren’t rolling. We’re having a good time.

CE: Do you do this in front of an audience? I know I heard laughter and audience reactions during the talk-show portions, but I didn’t know if that was live or added later.

NLG: No, there wasn’t an audience for these first six episodes. When you do a pilot, there’s not a template for this kind of thing, so you experiment. When we saw the playback of the talk show, we realized that it sounded too hollow. There’s a reason why talk shows have the formula that they have, because it works.

CE: With the immense “GH” fan base, you should have no trouble scrounging up an audience if you decide to shoot more of these webisodes.

NLG: Oh, yes, if we get the privilege of doing more, that’s something that’s going to be addressed. We did this for a very modest budget. And if we do more, hopefully there will be some advertising money, and we can get a little more luxurious.

Nancy with Jackie Kashian, Ian Buchanan (Duke Lavery) and Jen Kober 
CE: Some of my favorite parts were when Jason Thompson could guess all of his male co-stars’ identities by their bare chests, the Alexis Jones law-office commercial, and the on-the-street fan interaction where you were teaching them to do a soap-opera face slap. What are some of your favorite moments?

NLG: I am very partial to the sketches. I love “The Crying Game” sketch, the gurney race. I like the commercials; I love doing on-the-street stuff. And there’s a funny bit where everyone goes to the bathroom in my dressing room, thinking it’s the bathroom. You know, things you’ve never seen before on “General Hospital.”


CE: How is the shooting process?

NLG: I can tell you there’s never been a moment shooting this that was not fun in some way. There was no fighting. It wasn’t like, “What are we going to do?” It was a good group. Everyone got along. Everyone pitched in. Every day was fun that we worked on the show, and I loved it.

CE: How has the fan feedback about the series been so far?

NLG: I’m knocking on wood, because it’s been very positive, extremely positive. People have been so supportive. I’m overwhelmed by how nice everybody is.

CE: I’ll bet your “GH” die-hard fans have their share of ideas for future shows, don’t they?

NLG: We’re getting all kinds of ideas. People are saying, “How about you do this in the next one?” And the actors are coming up with ideas. It’s really gotten a very wonderful response, and I’m really grateful.

CE: You said earlier that you don’t know yet if you’ll get to do more — it depends on the reception these first six episodes get — but I really hope you get the OK to do more episodes. They really are a pleasure to watch.

NLG: You are so nice; thank you so much. I so want to do more. Kaore (Bonell) and I have so many more ideas. It really is fun. And the actors involved are really good sports, and they are willing to play. Kaore and I are already starting to talk and come up with some stuff, so if we get green-lit for more, we’ll be ready.

CE: How can fans help you get that green light?

NLG: We just need a lot of website clicks, lots of clicks. People can go to abc.go.com/shows/general-hospital, and click on the “General Hospital Now!” link on the right side of the page, and watch the episodes. And share them with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Let’s get the word out!

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