The coronavirus has claimed the lives of a couple of million people around the world, and primetime and daytime star Emma Samms (Holly, General Hospital; ex-Fallon, Dynasty) has been one of the unlucky ones who contracted the virus. Now, a year later, she’s still battling the effects of Long-COVID, which includes ongoing symptoms related to COVID-19 that can range from mild to incapacitating.
Emma Samms — Interview
Eager to bring attention to Long-COVID and raise vital funds to research a potential cure, Samms has organized a Dynasty reunion via Zoom! The live event, scheduled for Saturday, March 20, will benefit Southmead Hospital Trust, and reunite the show’s cast for the first time in decades. Samms discusses her plight with Long-COVID and how this spectacular event all came to pass.
Soap Hub: You look fantastic, now, but I know you’ve gone through a very difficult time having to face COVID. That’s why you’ve started this project you’re working on. Tell me a little bit about what you went through and what inspired you to start this project.
Emma Samms: The crazy thing is that it’s now literally a year ago when I got COVID, which I think I got it coming back from The States, changing planes at Chicago airport. That’s the only guess I have, because it wasn’t really the full pandemic. Got back home. I had been doing a telethon in Iowa and started feeling sick. Ended up at the hospital. Luckily, I wasn’t admitted, thank goodness. [I] assumed that I would get better within a couple of weeks, which is what everyone was saying would happen to those of us that were not hospitalized but had COVID. And I never got better.
It’s been the most bizarre scary thing to have found myself in a situation for a whole year, where there are good days – and this is a good day – and then there are bad days where I can’t even come downstairs because I can’t breathe properly and have chest pains. It comes and it goes. I haven’t felt well for a year.
And, finally, it was acknowledged by the online community that there was something called Long-COVID, because I couldn’t grasp what was wrong with me. I’m one of those people who naturally is kind of a fighter. If something’s not right with me, I’ll just push through. I was a ballet dancer. That’s always the mentality you have to have as a ballet dancer. So I would just push through. I’ve danced with a broken rib, so that should tell you something.
So you were diagnosed with Long-COVID, correct?
Samms: Initially I had COVID. I now have Long-COVID. In The States, it’s referred to as long-haulers or long-haul COVID. I think [Dr.] Anthony Fauci’s just come up with a new definition for it… some different letters. The truth is we kind of found each other. The doctors were very dismissive of ongoing symptoms. They just assumed that we need some physiotherapy and we’d be right back where we were. And I’ve always felt like there was something going on more than that.
Finally, some people on Twitter started talking about these symptoms that wouldn’t go away, and they weren’t actresses, because being an actress doesn’t help you in terms of being the most plausible and believable when it comes to these symptoms. But these were doctors, these were male doctors who started speaking up. There was one doctor in particular who started saying, “I’m an intensive care doctor, and I’m not getting well. What is going on?” And so we all sort of found each other online. Thus, the term Long- COVID was born, and that’s what we have.
And now, thankfully, it’s been acknowledged. It’s been acknowledged by the World Health Organization, by the National Health [Service] over here [in the UK]. They’re beginning to take it very seriously, because they don’t know if it’s an autoimmune response or if it’s what they call viral persistence. Because it hasn’t left my system for a whole year. So I decided that, because there were no answers as to what was going on with us all, I would figure out who was looking into it. So I researched the researchers. There weren’t that many at the time. I guess that was a few months ago. I found this amazing team at a hospital in the UK. They invited me to come and see what they were doing. And I thought, right, well they need funding. What can I do to help them?
And I ended up sort of thinking, well, there’s been lots of reunions, lately. I could ask my Dynasty castmates if they wouldn’t mind doing an online reunion. And that’s where we’re at. It’s happening. More of them have signed up to do it than I could have possibly dreamt. It’s been the most heartwarming thing to have so many of them. Obviously, nobody’s getting paid for it. They’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, and it’s going to be so much fun. It’s the biggest gathering of the Dynasty cast since the show.
Are you well now or is this still continuing?
Samms: No. Not even close. This is my point. I have some good days. Like today is not a bad day. I will face the consequences of having talked to you for 20-30 minutes, which we will do. And then the result of that will be that tomorrow I will have to really take it easy, because I will feel the effects of having talked. Talking is one of the hardest things to do. I can’t exercise. I can’t… I mean, I can barely leave the house.
Gosh. That is really horrible to have to go through this, but at least you’re doing something positive about it. And something positive is coming out of it. So tell me about the event. Who’s going to be there? When is it? All the nuts and bolts.
Samms: It’s Saturday the 20th of this month [March]. It’s, obviously at various times in The States. It has to work worldwide pretty much. So in the UK, it’s at 7 pm. I think it’s at 12 noon Pacific Coast, but I’ll check on the details. It’s on the website. We’ve got a website which is dynastyreunion.com. I’m quite pleased with that.
We’ve got the most extraordinary group of people doing it for us, including Linda Evans [ex-Krystle]. We’ve got John James [ex-Jeff], Gordon Thomson [ex-Adam], Maxwell Caulfield [ex-Miles], Stephanie Beacham [ex-Sable]… I mean, it just goes on and on. Jack Coleman [ex-Steven]. He was one of the first ones to say yes. It’s absolutely fantastic. I think we’ve got at least 15 [people], and then we’ve got some surprises as well.
What is the plan? Do you have an outline or a script of what you’re going to be talking about during this reunion?
Samms: It’s going to be based on a quiz. That’s going to be the main part of it. People can participate by signing up on their phones. If they’re looking at us on their computer, they can sign up on their phone to ask a question. If they don’t have that facility or they don’t what to join in on the quiz, that’s fine. It’s still going to be really fun, because a lot of the questions are going to be read by the cast. They’re going to prompt a lot of very fun memories. One of the things that I think is really important is that people know it’s not just going to be about the Dynasty cast. It’s going to be about what Dynasty did for the audience. A lot of people say that it was very formative watching the show for them, and we’ll want to hear your stories as well.
How long had it been since you got in touch with a lot of these actors, who committed to this?
Samms: Some of them I’ve been in touch with on and off over the years. And some of them I hadn’t spoken to forever, literally since the show ended. I tracked them. It’s been a complete joy to engage and chat with them before we start.
What do you remember most fondly from your time on Dynasty? It’s funny, the thing I most connect with Dynasty is the fashion; specifically the shoulder pads. I loved the show, but that’s what stands out for me, physically. What do you remember most fondly about the show – either something very touching or something funny? Any memories?
Samms: I’ve got so many memories. Mostly, I’m so aware at how lucky I was to be on that show that was an absolute worldwide phenomenon. And once General Hospital had made me recognizable within the United States, suddenly there wasn’t a country that I went to that didn’t know Dynasty. What an extraordinary gift that is to somebody’s career.
What about the fashion on the show? Because that’s what it was so known for at the time, the spectacular wardrobe. Is that something you remember fondly or are there any items from wardrobe that you might still have to this day?
Samms: One of the things that I’ve got leftover from the show is this beautiful, very glamorous… I would say dressing gown, but it’s much more glamorous than that. That’s one of the things that’s going to be auctioned. We’re going to have a little fun auction running at the same time as the [reunion] event. The clothes were spectacular. When you had to wear them, sometimes all day, you were so happy to get home, take them off, and put on sweats, which were more comfortable. I mean, the beautiful pink wedding dress that Fallon wore getting remarried to Jeff — that was stunning, but I couldn’t even sit down in it. So I spent a whole day wearing that dress and not being able to sit down. You can imagine I was very happy to take it off.
You mentioned the auction. Is that going to be the main way to raise funds?
Samms: No. People will pay to join the Zoom [reunion]! That’s going to be the main way that we are raising money, is people buying tickets.
And did you tell me the actual name of the charity?
Samms: It’s the Southmead Hospital Trust. But if you go to dynastyreunion.com, it has all the information you need about the charity and the event.
I’m assuming you’re looking forward to this, to reconnect with everyone at once. Will it be fun to see the whole gang back together again, even if it’s just online?
Samms: The thing about Dynasty is that we very rarely were all together in one room at the same time. In fact, there are some actors that I’m not sure I had many scenes with at all, if any, that are going to be coming to join the reunion. For example, we’ve got both Stevens. We’ve got Al Corley and Jack Coleman, and, of course, they were never in the same scene. So it’s going to be fascinating, but mostly it’s going to be really fun. We intend to just have a laugh. We’re going to remind each other of silly and probably slightly embarrassing stories about each other. That’s my goal.
That’s what everyone likes to hear, the behind-the-scenes stuff. Let me ask you one more thing, I know that because of your illness you had been scheduled to come back to General Hospital, but you were not able to. You did film a short little snippet [that aired on GH]. How did that come about?
Samms: Well, I had been absolutely scheduled to come back and do a decent stint on the show. And once there was a pandemic, that would have stopped me anyway. Production shut down, but also I was not well enough to work. The storyline was sort of crucial at that point. So they very, I thought, kindly asked if I would be able to do just a little scene from home, film it myself, which I did. We sent it off, and it was put in the show, and it was a huge surprise to everybody. And it was such fun to be on the show, yet not to have left my house.
Is there talk about maybe coming back to the show at some point in the future, when you’re feeling up to?
Samms: Well, hopefully, yeah.
Do you still consider General Hospital an old “home” as well?
Samms: The fact that I’ve been doing General Hospital for 30 years means that it is home. Things have changed. There’s a lot of different things there now, but there’s still enough things that are the same and people who are the same that make it a complete joy to go back to.
It’s kind of wonderful because you’re known for two major roles to two different audiences. Do you still get recognized for both shows?
Samms: It is. You’re right, incredible. The different roles that I did that people are still talking about. I’m very very lucky in that regard. And, yes, people sometimes shout across a train. Once somebody… I was on tube train in London and right from the other end of the carriage somebody shouted, “Holly.” It was an American tourist, I guess. That was quite strange and surreal to be on tube, on the subway, in London and have somebody recognize me.
To wrap this up, what is your message to the fans, the people who will be attending this reunion? What would you say to them to encourage them to come, and what do you hope to gain from this?
Samms: I’m really hoping that people who haven’t had any events… there’s no parties to go to, there’s nothing to look forward to in that sort of social gathering sense… So, in the meantime, if they show up for this, it will be fun. I quite encourage people to dress up, even if they’re not going to be seen. It’s a party. It’s a Dynasty party.
I’d love it if people will buy tickets and support something that has now been proven to be a massively big problem, now that people are beginning to figure out how to get vaccinations out to people and the crucial life-saving elements of treating COVID are, hopefully, being addressed. There’s about a third of people who test positive for COVID who are going to end up as long-hauls with Long-COVID. It’s debilitating. And so, not just for me, but for all of those hundreds of thousands of people, who are going to be suffering, who are suffering from Long-COVID, we need to figure this out and get to the bottom of this.