By Mary Ann Bourbeau |
RED BANK – Nancy Lee Grahn likes getting up close and personal with fans who know her from her longtime role on the ABC daytime drama “General Hospital.” She used to attend large events with cast mates, but found it impersonal and unfair to those who attended.
“They would listen to us talk and maybe get a picture,” said Grahn during a telephone call from her California home. “It was too chaotic and not purposeful. I don’t know if they enjoyed it, but I certainly didn’t.”
Grahn, who portrayed Julia Wainwright on “Santa Barbara” before taking the role of lawyer Alexis Davis on “General Hospital” in 1996, is hosting a lunch event in Red Bank on May 20. The event will be capped at about 30 people.
“I like doing things my own way and making my own rules,” said Grahn. “This is personal and it’s more fun for everybody. We just sit around and talk about anything and everything, and everybody gets a picture.”
Like her character on “General Hospital,” Grahn is a strong-willed, liberal feminist who makes no apologies for her views. She often runs into critics on social media who don’t agree with her anti-Trump politics.
“A lot of Trump supporters on Twitter are incredibly rude but I like a debate,” she said. “I’ve also met some lovely people who don’t agree with me politically. If people disagree, that’s fine. But if they’re hostile, I block them.”
Grahn, who grew up in Skokie, Illinois, says she doesn’t worry about alienating fans or upsetting the network with her strong views and occasionally stronger language.
“This is a critical time in our country,” she said. “We need to get a hold of our democracy again. I have daughter. I care about how I leave this planet and who I leave it to.”
She said the network has been incredibly supportive of her outspoken views.
“ABC is very respectful of my voice and my right to use it,” said Grahn.
Politics aside, many fans just want to hear about “General Hospital” and Grahn’s role as half of the super couple of Julian and Alexis, also known as Julexis. Although Julian tried to kill Alexis, the couple still seems to have strong feelings for one another.
“ABC was instantly going to put us back together with the goal of making the audience happy,” she said. “But there was abuse in that story and it had to be addressed. It was important to me as a woman, plus my character does have a moral compass.”
Grahn said she does have input into her character’s storyline –sort of.
“They will always hear me out,” said the Emmy Award-winning actress. “They won’t always do what I say, but I’m respected and I’m listened to.”
Were there ever storylines she didn’t want to do?
“Yes,” said Grahn. “I win some and I lose some, but I will always try. I never go down without a fight.”
Her favorite storylines, she said, are those that come from character and not from plot.
“I loved when Alexis became (mob boss) Sonny’s lawyer,” she said. “They let that relationship develop and as a result, the audience was tremendously invested. It looked like something that could actually happen. It wasn’t someone getting a C-section with a butter knife and five minutes later everything is fine, or people coming back from the dead. That’s not my thing.”
Grahn got her start on the daytime drama “One Life to Live” and later had roles on many primetime shows, including “Models Inc.,” “Melrose Place” and “7th Heaven.”
“I had offers to do other things but the smartest decision I made was to stay in soap operas,” she said. “I’ve had a job for 31 years. I’m so thrilled that I don’t have to run around looking for work. I have a steady income and I get to act every day.”
And how does she feel about aging in an industry that is notoriously obsessed with youth and beauty?
“I’ve been able to age on a soap opera with grace and respect,” she said. “That’s not the case in other situations. I still have a lead role where my character has a vibrant life and is still having great sex.”
Lunch with Nancy Lee Grahn will take place from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 20 in Red Bank. Ticket price includes meal, soft drinks, autographs, photos and plenty of personal time to chat. To obtain the name of the restaurant and ticket price, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published in the May 10 – 17, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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