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Jacklyn Zeman & Kin Shriner Talk Classic GH on Maurice Benard’s SOM

Maurice Benard Jacklyn Zeman Kin ShrinerMaurice Benard Jacklyn Zeman Kin Shriner

With all the camaraderie that you would expect from long-time co-stars and friends, General Hospital’s Maurice Benard sat down for his video podcast, State Of Mind, with a couple of Port Charles’s most famous faces, Jacklyn Zeman and Kin Shriner, to get the scoop on the soap’s heyday.

Jacklyn Zeman & Kin Shriner: Back To The Beginning

Benard (Sonny Corinthos) reminisced about the first time that he saw General Hospital as a teen. “I remember being 14 years old, I think being sick with pneumonia or the flu, and seeing Jackie Zeman [Bobbie Spencer] and seeing Kin [Scotty Baldwin], wasn’t that big on seeing Kin Shriner [he jokes], but I know he was a big star. I know Tony Geary [Luke Spencer], Genie Francis [Laura Webber], but Jackie, I just know that she was so pretty with these big brown eyes and a nurse.”

Benard wanted to hear about their first auditions next. Zeman told the story of her bumpy start. “I never auditioned for GH. They just offered me the role because I was on One Life to Live [Lana McClain, 1976 – 1977]. My first audition was for Ryan’s Hope. In those days, and this is New York, there were no cell phones, there was no script, no fax machines. You had to drive over. You got sides, which for those people who don’t know, the first time you saw the scene was two minutes before you were walking into the room. Thank God I had a really good memory.

“I go in the office,” Zeman continued with her story. “In those days, there was no camera or anything. You just go into the office, and he is there at his big brown desk. Sitting on the other side. He says, ‘Are you ready?’ and I said, ‘Yes,’ and I start with my monologue. I think it is going well. I am halfway down the first page. The tears are flowing. It was very emotional. His phone rings, and he answered the phone.”

Zeman thought she lost the role, but her agent had other news. “I got offered a part on Ryan’s Hope and One Life to Live at the same time, and I had to decide which one to take. I didn’t know which one to take, and she said, ‘Well, One Life to Live is offering you $25 more a show than Ryan’s Hope. At that time, you do three [shows] a week, and it adds up to $75 a week, and that was a lot of money in those days.” And that began her journey towards General Hospital.

Shriner’s story was a bit different. “I did come in and met the producer Tom Donovan. There was no actual scene to read. There was no real audition. He just kind of talked to me. The whole Scotty character was completely invented by me.

“We were going to do two shows.” Shriner specifically recalled. “It was August 2 and August 4th, and they booked me. That is why I remember. And I came on, and I was supposed to be dragged out of Greenwich Village, and they said, ‘Okay, what do you think? Should we bring this young Scotty character on for the great Peter Hansen [Lee Baldwin]?’ So, I did the two shows.

“And I thought this is really fun,” Shriner recalled, but he had big movie plans. A couple of days on the set had changed Shriner’s mind about doing a soap opera. “I would love to do this. And a couple of weeks went by, and I thought, ‘Christ, it’s just not gonna take.’ Then, two or three weeks passed, and, finally, my agent called and says, ‘Yeah, yeah, they really want you. They are going to do a whole big story. Three-year contract. Blah, blah, blah…’ So, we were in.”

Genie Francis had debuted as Laura Webber about six months before Shriner, and Zeman signed on about six months later. Leslie Charleson (Dr. Monica Quartermaine) soon followed, and the rest was history.

The Great Gloria Monty Made Her Mark

In 1977, soaps had already come a long way, beginning on radio as serials used as a source for marketing products to housewives and then moving on to live television. By the mid-1970s, ratings were going down. Networks were looking for new ways to bring in a younger audience. By 1978, Gloria Monty was brought on board to helm General Hospital and had a six-month plan to bring up ratings.

Shriner and Zeman shared how Monty made her mark. First changing filming live to live-to-tape, then adapting to a three-camera setup, something Desi Arnaz promoted. ‘So, I was there for six months of it being live. Once Jackie came on and we switched to the Desilu Studio, a different studio, it all changed. When Gloria Monty decided it could be done a different way and that is when soap operas changed.

“It was like the soap operas are not getting canceled,” Shriner went on to explain. “They could have been canceled. She said, ‘We are going a different way with this. We are going to edit. We are going to change it. We are going to go outside. And we are going to go young, all young.’ Because she was given an edict that this show is off the air unless you can change the ratings. And she jumped up, and it is documented, almost 15 Nielsen points in one year.”

The Laura, Scotty, and Bobbie triangle gained so much popularity and attention that Zeman required federal protection due to threats that came in through the U.S. Postal Service. “I had full-time FBI bodyguards for over a year,” she explained. “Two and two, two shifts a day, and they would park outside. I lived in Beverly Hills on Coldwater Canyon. They would sit in a car outside my house — they didn’t come inside — they sat outside and guard my house. If we went to a restaurant, we would go with Kin, they would walk into the ladies’ room with me. If it was men on the shift, they would stand right outside the door because of the death threats. Bobbie was a naughty, bad girl.”

Jacklyn Zeman & Kin Shriner: Behind The Scenes Shenanigans

The dynamic duo had so much more to share with Benard about their early days at General Hospital. Highlights include everything from insider stories on co-stars like Francis, Geary, Tristan Rogers (Robert Scorpio), Chris Robinson (Dr. Rick Webber), and rabid fan encounters. Zeman shared stories about her upbringing, her career as a dancer and a Playboy Bunny, her early days doing intimate scenes with Jameson Parker (Brad Vernon, OLTL), being married to the famous DJ Murray the K, and hanging out with the Beatles.

Shriner told behind-the-scenes stories of working with Francis, working live shows, scene-stealing co-stars, using Geary as a prompter, fan events, dodging the FBI detail, posing for a hot soap star calendar, and more. No General Hospital fan will want to miss this episode of State Of Mind. Watch the full episode here and return to the channel next week on July 24th for Part Two of this special sit-down interview.

Fans can follow Jacklyn Zeman on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Kin Shriner on Twitter and Instagram. Follow Maurice Benard on Twitter, Instagram, or State of Mind.

General Hospital (GH) 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 that’s been posted on GH spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.

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