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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Interview: Ron Carlivati Gives A Preview of Things To Come!

Ron Carlivati recently joined General Hospital as the show's new head writer. Ron's no stranger to serials – he was part of the One Life to Live writing team for fifteen years, the last four of which he spent as head writer. Ron won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series during his tenure there, and brought One Life to Live much critical and fan acclaim. Now that he's at General Hospital - alongside his longtime OLTL colleague Frank Valentini (who is now the executive producer of GH) – he sat down with to give us a preview of things to come! First of all, congratulations! Everything really seems to be hitting the ground running these days.
Thank you, yes it's a very exciting time in Port Charles!

ABC: You have a history of being a fan of General Hospital, even before One Life to Live. Can you talk a little about that? And what are characters and storylines that made the biggest impact on you when you were a viewer?
Sure, absolutely. Even though I'm most closely associated and identified with One Life to Live – I was a writer on the show for 15 years and I was a big fan of it way before then – I actually started watching General Hospital before I ever watched One Life to Live. General Hospital was my first soap. If my memory serves me correctly, I've been watching it since 1978.
ABC: Oh wow.

Yeah, I was about 10 years old and I used to watch it with my older sister when we got home from school. She and our babysitter were big General Hospital fans, and there I was, sitting in front of the TV with them, and that's how I first got into it.

What I remember the most from that time was the triangle between Rick Webber and Monica and Alan Quartermaine. I loved all the Quartermaines – Tracy and Edward and Lila – and the Webbers, too. Especially Laura. I was into Scotty and Laura before there ever was a Luke and Laura. And I remember when Bobbie Spencer made a phone call and said, "You gotta come to town and help me break these two up...", and that was the arrival of Luke. All those great characters from back in the day – when I think about General Hospital, that's what I first think about.

ABC: So does that play into how we've been seeing returns from classic characters – Anna's back, and Holly and Robert returned, and coming soon we've just announced that Felicia's going to be coming back and Heather Webber. Is it important to you to tap into this rich history of the show?

Definitely. As much as I was already familiar with the show, writing it was a whole new experience, so it really helped to have that familiarity and that comfort level with those legacy characters. To be thrown into the job and be able to write for Holly, for Robert Scorpio, for Anna Devane – it gave me that sense of comfort and home with General Hospital. And Heather Webber – that was another story I loved early on, back when Heather was wreaking havoc all over Port Charles. So it's obviously been a thrill for me to bring Heather back onto the canvas.

ABC: It's gotta be fun to have a character that you can bring in and her entire purpose is to stir up trouble.

Absolutely. You absolutely need characters like that, who are nutty and fun and capable of doing anything, and Robin Mattson is just so wonderful as Heather. And this is not just a return for nostalgia's sake. There's an important story reason for Heather being on the canvas, part of a big mystery that's unfolding, so that's exciting too. Heather holds a big secret.

ABC: Can you tell us a little bit about that?

It's connected to the video of baby boy Moore that Franco left behind for Jason and Sam. Don't forget that Heather and Susan Moore [Jason's bio-mom] were first cousins!

ABC: So you mentioned the Quartermaines. This is a family the fans love. It's been a rough 10 years for the Quartermaines. Do you have an idea of what you want to do with that family and where you want to take them?

I love the Quartermaines as much as any GH fan does, and unfortunately we have seen the family dwindle down quite a bit over the years. So when people talk about wanting to see more of the Quartermaines, my options are, you know, a little more limited than they once were. That being said, you will see them. I love to play Edward, I love to play Tracy, I love to play Monica, and obviously Jason is a Quartermaine, and a big part of the canvas, so yes continuing the legacy of that family is very important to me.

ABC: Your debut on the show coincided with this time of great turmoil on Port Charles, with Robin dying in the lab explosion to the various returns we've talked about. Are you guys going to use this as an opportunity to, for lack of a better term, reshuffle the deck and put different characters in the path of other different characters?

It was obviously a challenge to come in and be handed a show where some very popular characters were exiting [Lucky, Robin, Ethan]. I was like, "Was it something I said?" To come in and find out that Robin Scorpio – who we watched grow up on General Hospital, just like we watched Starr grow up on OLTL – just seeing a beloved character like that leaving...that obviously was difficult for me. But it did give us the opportunity to launch story and to try to make lemonade out of lemons. No one wants to see a beloved character leave, but with the actress choosing to go, at least we were able to get a lot of story out of it.

I was in the same situation with Ethan, too. But once gain, I took it as an opportunity to start new story. Luke has now told a lie that could someday blow up in his face. And you're going to feel the ramifications of Robin's exit for a long time to come. Years to come, if I have anything to say about it!

You will definitely see some new couples, and you may see the return of some old couples. And the couples that currently exist are going to be tested. Obviously Jason and Sam are an incredibly popular couple. And there's a lot of story going on with them, with Sam's pregnancy and also with what happens after Jason finds out that Sam kept him in the dark about Robin. We have this great couple who are very strong and very solid in a lot of ways, who recently got married and are about to have a baby, but my intention is to shake that up a little and test their love – which I think will be exciting and interesting for the audience, to watch them try to weather those storms.

Lulu and Dante are another popular couple who recently got married. And now they're working together too at the police station, so look for some danger and adventure for them as well as romance.

Let's see, who else? Elizabeth and Ewen are going to start dating, but I'm well aware that there's a big fan base out there for Jason and Elizabeth, too. It's my intention to play that history whenever we can. They're friends, and they've gone through the death of a child together, so they'll always be in each other's orbit because of that. But they will be in story together, too, so stay tuned!

We also have Sonny and Kate, who've found their way back to each other after Brenda's exit. But now we've thrown in the complication of Connie, her split personality. So that's another couple who will be tested. On the one hand, you have Kate who truly loves Sonny, and on the other hand you have Connie, who wants to break them up. We're having a lot of fun with that – as the audience has seen – with the way she's planning to go about trying to bust them up by using Johnny. And at the same time Johnny is starting a new relationship with Carly. So that'll keep all those characters mixed up with each other and I think it's going to be very exciting to watch.

You bring up Kate and Connie. Obviously you have a little bit of experience with multiple personalities ...

Yeah just a little bit!

ABC: ... from OLTL. Are you conscious of trying to take an approach with Kate and Connie that's slightly different than Jessica and Viki on OLTL? Or are you gonna take the lessons that you learned with One Life and apply them to her?
Well what happened was, the seeds of Connie – this other personality of Kate's – were planted long before I got there. It was very clear that that's the direction the story was going in, and I had two options: To continue it, or to drop it. And having written multiple personalities on the other show, at first I felt this wasn't something I wanted to do again, but it was so beautifully set up. And there is such a great storyline that comes out of it that I decided to run with it, even in the face of people comparing it to OLTL. We get really great story out of it, and we will have a few fun little mentions of the OLTL storyline as well. But I'm trying to give it a different slant as much as possible.

ABC: It's been a lot of fun so far. I was thinking the other day that whoever's job is it to dress Connie, has got to have a fantastic job. It's sort of like a license to go crazy.

Yeah, everyone's doing a fantastic job. Hair and makeup, costumes, and especially Kelly Sullivan. To be thrown into a situation where she has to play a completely new character...I think she's really doing an amazing job.

ABC: Clearly one of the big storylines right now that's unfolding is Starr, Blair, Todd and John returning to ABC Daytime from One Life. Can you talk a little bit about the idea to bring these characters and where that came from?

Sure, you know, coming off of writing the end of OLTL, it seemed like a very obvious question – should we explore the idea of bringing any of these characters – characters who are all part of the same ABC Daytime family – into General Hospital? I was always intrigued whenever there was any kind of crossover on the ABC soaps, so I was exciting by the idea of doing something like that on GH. The OLTL audience was left wondering what happened to these people, so it seemed like a great way to be able to answer some of those questions, but also to use it as a way to shake up the canvas on General Hospital and create new story.

GH needs young people, so Starr being one of the most popular young characters on ABC Daytime, she seemed like a natural fit. And then you think about who her father be able to pit two guys, arguably the two most infamous characters in daytime television, Sonny Corinthos against Todd Manning...I mean, who could resist that? So that's where the idea began, and then I had to jump in and try to figure out a story to get it going right away – so that was the impetus for the car crash which puts the Corinthos family and the Manning family head-to-head right away.

ABC: It's interesting with Todd vs Sonny, because with Sonny it seems like you've got this character who's sort of like Todd. You can sort of push him more and more into bad behavior and the audience will still allow for it. That's gotta be fun to be able to play around with.

Absolutely, these are two guys that you can really take to their limit. They're two very dynamic and very complex actors and their characters are similar in that they're both capable of really bad behavior but also fiercely love their families and will do anything to protect them, so it seemed logical for them to butt heads. But they're also two very different guys from very different backgrounds – I mean, you have a newspaper publisher and a mobster. So it's very exciting for me, and I think it will be too for the audience to see the two go at each other, and to see how the families interweave – such as how things will evolve between Starr and Michael. You have the daughter of Todd Manning and the son of Sonny Corinthos, suddenly thrown together. But what kind of relationship can they possibly have if his father caused the death of her daughter? That's a big obstacle to overcome!

ABC: Speaking of Starr, who has this huge loss right now, I'm wondering if that character goes darker.

There is that possibility. Here is someone who's already been through a lot in her young life but now to lose her child and the man that she loved – that is obviously a gigantic blow. But will it take her to a darker place is really the question. Is this a girl who's out for revenge, or can she find a way to overcome those impulses? It is, I think, a more interesting and compelling story than when we left Starr last, happy and about to record an album. I don't think that would be as compelling for the audience to watch.

ABC: Certainly. We also know, certainly fans of ABC Daytime will know, that Michael Easton, who plays John McBain, and Kelly Monaco who plays Sam, have a history going back to the show Port Charles. I'm wondering if there are plans – and what you can talk about it – to throw those two back into the same orbit?
Yes. Of course that was something that crossed my mind right away. These two had been part of a "super couple" in the world of ABC Daytime, so what would it be like if the two actors shared the screen again? I feel that the character of John McBain makes perfect sense in the world of Port Charles. [He is] a darker character, and a former FBI agent in a town filled with crime, with a crime lord at its center. So we gave him a past with Sonny. And yes, he will cross with Sam pretty early on, and there is that little flicker of recognition between them; "Haven't we met somewhere before?" And it's been fun for me to play with that. John's arrival will be yet another challenge for Jason and Sam. How will Jason respond to this guy showing up in Port Charles, on a professional level, as John takes on Sonny's organization, but also on a personal level, interacting with his wife?.

ABC: Carly and Johnny seem to be going through a lot of that too, where their attraction to each other has ramifications going through all their tangled connections.

Absolutely. Here you have Carly being drawn into this new relationship with Johnny Zacchara, and Johnny's number one enemy is Sonny. Who's not only Carly's ex-husband, but also in love with Kate, whose alternate personality is out to sleep with Johnny. Carly and Johnny have great chemistry and I think they're going to be a sexy, exciting couple. But they're going to have a bit of a bumpy road because of all those other complications.

ABC: Luke is a signature General Hospital character. Do you have any thoughts on what's in store for him in the coming weeks and months?

Sure. As I said, I remember when Luke first came on the show and I've watched him grow and evolve as a character over the years. Obviously, Luke and Laura was a big thing when I was growing up – that's an understatement – and it would be great to revisit that someday, but I also love the character of Luke on his own and I love his interaction with Tracy. I think that was such an unexpected relationship that is very funny but also very real. And that will continue. I also plan to move him closer to Anna Devane. They're old friends and he's there for her as a friend during her grief, but remember that he's sort of sacrificed his own son to "save" Robert Scorpio, who was at this distraught, suicidal moment in his life. To give Robert hope and the will to live, Luke makes this impulsive decision and tells this big lie. And Anna has no idea. So anything that might develop between these two, there's going to be that big lie hanging over it.

Rebuilding Luke's relationships with certain people in town is also very important to me. That very powerful story of what happened with Jake made Luke somewhat of a pariah in Port Charles, so now it's interesting to me to see if Luke can repair some of those relationships. And yes, Lucky is gone and Ethan is gone, but we have Lulu on the canvas who is his only daughter, and I really like their relationship as well. It calls to mind Laura for the audience, and I think that's a great thing. And then of course there's Heather. When she was last in town, she had a pretty unhealthy fixation on Luke. And we'll see that hasn't gone away...

ABC: Anything about Patrick?

Of course. Patrick will continue to be a very important part of the Port Charles canvas. Jason Thompson is an extremely talented actor and it's been heartbreaking to watch him in the aftermath of Robin's death. So how will Patrick, now a widower and a single father, deal with his grief over losing the woman he loves? We're going to see various people reaching out to try to help him, like his father, Noah [Drake, played by Rick Springfield], his brother Matt, and also Epiphany, who was the first person we really saw comfort him – I thought that was such a beautiful and poignant moment. I think those two have the potential to form a very special relationship.

Maxie's another character who's been hugely impacted by Robin's death, now that she realizes she was responsible for the lab explosion, even though it was an accident. So she is tortured by that and the decisions she makes now will have a big effect on her relationships with both Spinelli and Matt. And Mac, too, of course. And that story will bring Felicia back onto the canvas as well.

ABC: Yeah, that seems like a hugely emotional thing with Felicia coming back in the midst of all this grief.
Absolutely! I'm thrilled that she's coming back. And you never know who else might pop up, so stay tuned!


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