General Hospital's Jane Elliot and Nancy Lee Grahn Talk About Life in and After the Soaps

General Hospital's Emmy award-winning actresses discuss life on and off camera.

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
nancy lee grahn and jane elliot photo
Photograph: ©Sean Smith/

You've heard the saying: Times have changed, but people haven’t.

Although the trend of television has turned from scripted programs to reality shows, two famous daytime fixtures still remain the same. 

More spoke exclusively with Emmy winners Nancy Lee Grahn, 55, and Jane Elliot, 64, of ABC’s General Hospital about life on and off camera. An edited version of the interview follows.

More: Why have the soaps taken such a hit? Why aren't viewers tuning in any longer?
Jane Elliot: There is the iPhone, cable TV, the Internet, the iPad and smart phones. When you watch things on these devices, you are watching snippets. Soap operas are long-form storytelling. I believe the diminished audience is because soap operas are a dated format.
Nancy Lee Grahn: There are so many choices in media, not to mention soaps today have to do it faster and cheaper. What changed was the simplicity and taking time to tell a story.

More: GH is the last running daytime drama on TV. Do you fear this show could be next?
NG: I will not go down without a fight. I love my job and this medium; I think it is valuable, and I think the audience deserves to have it.
JE: Soaps are so much a part of our culture, American history and art. I would hate to see them completely gone.

More: You both have been starring on soap operas for decades. How does it make you feel to see so many of them disappearing?
NG: I had a lot of feelings about it. Soaps are a community and a familiar place, which people need in this world, but they need to reinvent themselves or it’s going to get ugly.
JE: It is cheaper to put out a reality series and/or a talk show than a program like this. Nowadays, because of the financial crisis, it’s all about saving money.

More: Do you worry that because you may make more money than a younger castmate, you might be the first to go if costs had to be cut?
JE: What makes us more vulnerable is our age, not our salary. The truth is, they don’t really write for people our age, but I am grateful that it is me that gets to be there.

More: Does it upset you that the industry does that?
NG: It frustrates me. I wish it were different, but you just accept it.

More: How do you accept it?
JE: I think about the positive, and that is I get to do what I love.
NG: Me, too. I feel so fortunate that I have been able to work consistently in this industry for close to 30 years, and because of that factor, I got a house and one day can send my child to college.

More: Why is the 35-and-older audience so important?
NG: We have the most disposable income, and we are a majority of the population. Those are two major factors. Look at the great leaders of today. Hillary Clinton is a great influence. In the music world, Bruce Springsteen and Prince can still sell out a concert in seconds, and they are older than, let’s say, Lady GaGa. For some reason there is a notion that people our age can’t be influenced.

More: What influences you?
NG: Anything that talks about menopause, I am all over it. [Laughs]. Look, we are still relevant, and we still matter.

More: In real life, you are both single moms.
JE: Yes. I adopted my daughter, Annie Rose, in 1989, and I have a son, Adrian. I love being an actor and being a mom.
NG: I have a 13-year-old daughter, Kate. Although it is hard to be a single mother, this job does make it easier, because they are flexible and understanding.

First Published May 13, 2011

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