In 1977, earnest law student Scotty Baldwin fell for adorable, troubled teen Laura Webber. They wed, but a permed punk named Luke Spencer threw a monkey wrench into the works. On a warm, L.A. October day, Digest sat down with longtime friends Genie Francis and Kin Shriner outside the GH studio to recall their roads traveled, which repeatedly led back to Port Charles -- and each other.
Soap Opera Digest: Genie, you were just a teenager when you joined GH in 1976, and Kin, you followed in 1977.
Kin Shriner: It was August 2. She was there eight months before me. Do you remember your first start date?
Genie Francis: It was a few days before the new year. December 28, 1976.
Digest: You started out as kids and more than three decades later, you're still friends.
Shriner: We're still hanging out together, having fun. I just reminded Genie when she showed me her new car 30 years ago. It was a Fiat and I was driving a Corvette. But she doesn't remember that. [Francis laughs.] I guess it's not how it happened. It's how you remember it. [Francis laughs harder.]
Digest: Genie, on your Lifetime "Intimate Portrait," you revealed that Kin was your first love and your first kiss. Is there any weirdness there or do you look back on it as a fond memory?
Francis: Totally fond memory. No weirdness attached whatsoever. I love him. We're good friends in life and always will be.
Shriner: I concur. The on-screen kiss was as much fun as I'm sure it will be when we get another one down the road, whenever it's good ol' Scotty's lucky day again.
Digest: At the height of Laura and Scotty's love story in 1980, Kin left to do Texas [ex-Jeb] and has joked because of that, he's responsible for the success of Luke and Laura.
Shriner: I never said I was responsible. My exit made way for it. I remember like it was yesterday, sitting with Gloria [Monty, then-executive producer] at Mirabelle's [on Sunset Blvd.], her telling me how much story she had and I had already penned a deal with NBC. And then I had to drive her home in my jeep. I almost lost her on Mulholland because I had no doors on it!
Francis: Oh, my God.
Shriner: I didn't have the heart to tell her that I wouldn't be around. And then, when she found out, I went from close-ups to wide shots for the next two months.
Francis: I didn't know that.
Shriner: She was a little miffed.
Francis: I bet she was!
Shriner: So there was a whole other story that would have happened, but the deal had been made. They cornered me. NBC was going to put Texas on opposite General Hospital, which I didn't know. They figured they could break up the Luke/Laura/Scotty triangle amd [my contract] happened to be up first and they came to me with that big deal. I was young and I said, "New York?" And I went. But Gloria didn't find out about it until it was too late and she was so mad. But, a year later, I was back.
Francis: Yep, catching that bouquet.
Digest: Genie, what was your reaction when you learned Kin was leaving?
Shriner: Sadness, I would think [laughs].
Francis: I was sad. I was very sad. But that was at a point when we had been lovers in real life. He was my first love and we had broken up, but he was still around on the show and so... it was a little bit of a relief, actually. [They both laugh.] I didn't have to watch him with his new girlfriends all the time.
Shriner: Yeah, she was like, "We broke up and he's still hanging around? Good riddance."
Francis: With a new girl every week.
Shriner: It wasn't like that, Genie.
Francis: Look at him shift in his chair! [Everyone laughs.]
Shriner: Some of that stuff back then is a blur to me.
Francis: I'm sure it is!
Digest: So, Luke and Laura became the biggest thing on television aend Scotty came back for their wedding. Genie, did you know about that?
Francis: No, not until it happened. I thought it was a great twist and everybody loved that Scotty was back.
Digest: Then you left shortly afterward.
Francis: Yes. It was a hotheaded, stupid decision that I regretted so much.
Shriner: What did you leave to do? Did you have another job?
Francis: I didn't really have anything to go to. I just left.
Digest: Did you keep in touch during the years you weren't working together?
Francis: Yes, we did. Kin was great. He always checked in on me and called me on my birthday.
Shriner: Yes, a date that was ingrained in my head. You know know why her birthday would be ingrained in my head? Let's just say if we were dating and she wasn't 18 yet.. [Francis laughs.] It was, "Okay, when is she going to be 18? When will I not be arrested?" [Francis laughs uncontrollably.]
Digest: So, you avoided arrest, kept in touch and both went to other soaps over the years. Why is GH the place you both still come back to?
Francis: Because there were the most successful characters. This is the most beloved character I've ever played.
Shriner: Same thing. I always thought it would be great to play this character in his 20s, 30s, 40s, into his 50s. Who wouldn't want to do that? To get to return that many times was fun.
Digest: GH revisited Laura and Scott in 2000-01, right around Luke and Laura's 20th anniversary, when they got divorced. Genie, what are your thoughts on that being the way to celebrate their 20th? It was dramatic, but some fans were upset.
Francis: Yeah, a lot of people were disappointed. I believe they got them divorced so they could redo the wedding. I think that's what they wanted.
Digest: Kin, you left Port Charles to play that second-time-around story on GH.
Shriner: I was excited. Jill [Farren Phelps, executive producer] pulled me off PC to bring me back. She wanted to play the whole triangle and we attempted to [smiles at Francis], but somebody decided they wanted to go elsewhere and have another life. But it worked out well because PC was [eventually] canceled and as they say, when the music stops, make sure you have a chair.
Digest: So, you owe Genie your chair?
Shriner: Yes, I do.
Digest: Genie, what went into your decision to leave at tat time?
Francis: It was when I was 40 and it was a painful, difficult parting. It wasn't a happy choice. Things just fell apart. My husband [actor/director Jonathan Frakes] was offered this big job that was going to take him to London for a year and I said, "Let's go." It's history now.
Digest: Would you have liked to have seen Scott and Laura play out then or was it better not to, because if it had, we might not be sitting here now?
Shriner: That's what I say. It was the wrong time then for everybody and it's the right time now, and it's only going to get better.
Digest: Genie, do you concur?
Farncis: Yes, I think all of us, Tony [Geary] and Jane [Elliot] included, would like not so much to walk down memory lane, but to tell stories that are in the here and now. With this set-up and the history of these characters, they could do a rip-roaring story in the here and now.
Digest: So, here's the dilemma for longtime fans: Who should Laura be with -- Luke or Scott?
Francis: Here is a woman who's in love with two men and I think that's why it's gone on for so many years. She does love Scotty and she does love Luke. It's just a matter of whether the love brings them together or tears them apart. At this point, the way the writing is, it seems the Luke and Laura love is growing apart.
Digest: What do you think, Kin?
Shriner: After hearing her response, whether she's with Luke or Scotty, either combination would have to resemble a new form of attraction and what they have in common. As Genie says, there's a cornucopia of stories there. How does a woman know?
Digest: At the moment, we don't know when we'll see the characters again?
Shriner: Sweeps, maybe? I don't know.
Francis: It depends. I have not heard anything.
Digest: What will you be doing in your time away from the show?
Francis: I'll be going to Toronto to do The Note 2 for the Hallmark Channel. I just got a new script and I'm very pleased.
Shriner: I will be going to Fort Lauderdale, the Bahamas and New York. I'll be adrift in those places.
[As we head inside the studio, Francis notices Shriner's Vespa scooter in the parking lot.]
Francis: You promised me a ride on your Vespa and I still haven't gotten it yet. You know, when we were dating, he'd come over on his motorcycle and drive up on the front lawn of my parents' house and beep the horn and yell out, "Yo, baby!" And my father would say, "He's a bum!"
Shriner: You never told me that!
Francis: And I'd say, "But I like him, Daddy [laughs]!"
Shriner: Well, as long as he said I was a young bum.
by Tom Stacy
Thank you to Yasmeen for this article!