Fans love and adore Emma Samms as Holly Sutton on General Hospital, but few know the tragic story that inspired her and her cousin, filmmaker Peter Samuelson, to create the Starlight Children’s Foundation to bring joy and happiness to seriously ill children and their families the same year she landed in Port Charles. On this week’s episode of GH’s Maurice Benard’s video podcast, State Of Mind, the two co-stars talk about her journey from experiencing grief to healing her broken heart and bringing hope to others.
Maurice Benard and Emma Samms: Loss and Inspiration
Samms was just 9 years old when her younger brother, Jamie, passed away at age 8 from aplastic anemia. “The effect it had on my family was quite devastating, in particular, on my mother,” she explained, before sharing how motherhood deepened her empathy. “And since I have become a mother myself, I can understand what she was going through. But it also prompted me, as soon as I started my career and had a platform that could be useful, like yourself, to make myself useful. And that is why I started the Starlight Children’s Foundation because I knew what those families were going through.”
It was another little boy who gave her the idea for her charity early in her career. “The first film I did when I was 17 [titled Arabian Adventure], in the UK, and I played a princess. There was the premiere to raise money for the hospital that my brother had been in, which is called Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. And the same day as Princess Margaret came to the hospital…they showed the film to the kids at the hospital.
“And there was one little boy called Sean, who was 11 and was going into surgery for a brain tumor,” she continued, going on to describe his condition. “They were doing the surgery through the back of his mouth, so he was completely immobilized with a metal frame, so it was drilled into his skull here and here [points to opposite sides of her forehead] and then big metal bars drilled into his pelvis. He had every tube in him that you could imagine.
“I popped my head around the corner and said, ‘Did you see the film yesterday?’ and he said, ‘Yes!’ and I said, ‘Well, what did you think of it?’ and he said, ‘Well, it was rubbish!’ [Benard and Samms both laugh] We just really had this fantastic conversation where he was just basically mean to me, and then that evening, one of the nurses called me at home and tracked me down and said, ‘Would you promise to come back after Sean’s operation because it really cheered him up?’”
Samms soon bonded with the ailing boy and his family. And when doctors were unable to remove all of the tumor, they knew they had to make the most of his time left.
Emma Samms: Welcome To Los Angeles!
As a young actress, she decided to take her chances in Hollywood and moved to the United States, where she had a traditional start. “I had moved to Los Angeles and worked as a waitress. A classic story. It was a deli. I don’t think it is there anymore, and I worked just the lunch hour. They said I could eat while I was there, so I ate the whole time I was there and then nothing else for the rest of the day because I couldn’t afford to.”
Yet the spunky actress never forgot the little boy and his family left behind in the UK. Just about the time she landed an audition at General Hospital in 1982 as Tony Geary’s new love interest, Holly Sutton, she teamed up with her cousin, filmmaker Peter Samuelson, to fly Sean and his mother out to California for a trip to the Magic Kingdom. “I brought him out. I flew him and his mother out and took them to Disneyland because that was the thing and especially around that time. Going around Disneyland, I realized, ‘Gosh! This has made a real difference.’ Not just for him, but I was looking at his mother’s face as she was watching him have a good time.”
It was a healing journey for Samms and her cousin, who were able to transmute their grief for Jamie, lost so long ago, and help others in a similar situation. They started the Starlight Children’s Foundation the following year and have been helping families ever since.
Maurice Benard and Emma Samms spoke of her childhood, growing up in London, her boarding school experience studying ballet, her battle with Covid, and the long-lasting effects that she still battles. She spoke of her trepidation going into her auditions at General Hospital after actresses Demi Moore and Janine Turner failed to win over fans as Luke Spencer’s love interests, being charmed by Geary, and terrified, yet dazzled, by executive producer and director Gloria Monty.
The Port Charles fan favorite covered her invitation to primetime and working on classic Aaron Spelling shows like Dynasty, The Colbys, and Models, Inc. She even shared some relationship advice that is not to be missed if you are thinking about giving up on love. Fans will want to see this episode!
Follow Emma Samms on Instagram and Twitter. Find out more about the Starlight Children Foundation and learn how you can help. State Of Mind is nearing the 80K subscriber mark. Check it out and follow Maurice Benard on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
General Hospital airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Port Charles, check out all the latest GH spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.
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