Serena Baldwin is all grown up and back home in Port Charles to help her dad, Scott, mourn the death of his own father, Lee. (The second of her two appearances airs today, July 14.) Digest checked in with Carly Schroeder, who played Serena on PORT CHARLES from 1997-2003.
By Mara Levinsky
Soap Opera Digest: On behalf of a whole lot of GH fans, welcome back!
Carly Schroeder: Thank you! I’m excited to be back. Honestly, I think that Kin [Shriner, Scott] and Lynn [Herring, Lucy] have been asking for me to come back for so long that finally they were like, “Okay, bring her back!” I’ve got a protective papa bear who’s been fighting for me to come back for a while.
Digest: Have you been aware that fans have been pulling for this on social media for quite some time?
Schroeder: I actually didn’t know. I knew that there had been a poll about which character fans most wanted to see come back and that Serena was one of the options, but it probably wasn’t the best timing; I had actually just gotten attacked by a Chihuahua, so I wouldn’t have looked cute on the show at that point!
Digest: Oh, no!
Schroeder: Yeah, right as I was graduating college I had a dog bite the end of my nose and it bit it off. They were able to kind of reattach it. I do have a little bit of a scar, but hey, scars give you character, right? I’m a rock climber and stuff, so I have scars all over me.
Digest: What was your reaction when you got the call from GH?
Schroeder: I couldn’t believe it. The funny thing was that I got a call from my manager, but literally not even half a second later, I got an incoming call from Kin Shriner. And instead of answering my manager, I was like, “Let’s see what Kin’s up to!” He was like, “Hey, did you hear you’re coming back to GH?” I was like, “Uh, I think that might have been the other call I just missed!” I was honestly so excited. I was beyond stoked. I have to say that I am so happy I wasn’t recast! I’m so happy it was me that got to return. Kin was like, “Let me catch you up. You have a half brother [Franco]. You have this, you have that, your mom and I are separated now.” I was like, “Whoa, whoa, the last thing I remember, I was blind and had a cornea transplant and I was kidnapped three times and there were vampires on PORT CHARLES!” I was like, “Do I at least get to meet my half brother?” It was pretty hilarious.
Digest: What was it like to set foot in the studio? GH tapes steps away from where PORT CHARLES taped.
Schroeder: Yeah, it was really funny, actually; my mom set out my little ABC ID from when I was seven years old. It looks like Dumb and Dumber; I have a bowl haircut, I have this giant red feather boa, I have these giant gloves that go all the way up my arms, and then the guys in the security office thought it would be funny for them to blow bubbles in the background, so I’m smiling like Queen Cleopatra in my ID picture. I rolled up with that and they were like, “Ma’am, we don’t accept those anymore.” Kin walked me over to GREY’S ANATOMY, which is where they used to film PORT CHARLES, so I got to see my old dressing room over there, which is now being used for Wardrobe. I got to see a bunch of people that I recognized, like Dale, a camera operator. He said, “I didn’t think you would recognize me!” I said, “How could I forget your face and that laugh?” As soon as I heard his laugh, I knew it was him. The director who directed the episodes I was in, Bill [Ludel], he was actually one of the directors that was on PORT CHARLES and I recognized his voice immediately when it came over the Intercom. I was like, “Wait, hold on, I know him!” It was like a family reunion. There were people where I didn’t necessarily recognize their face but as soon as they said something, I remembered them. Big Jimmy, who was one of the prop guys, my brother and I had a special connection with him and he was like, “Hey, if you want to come by the prop room, I saved a doughnut for you.” I was like, “You always had me, Big Jimmy. You’re the man!” It was awesome. I was walking down the halls and it was like seeing my family again. That’s where I was raised. I went to a public school and I was in school maybe 30 days a year. The soap opera was where I grew up.
Digest: What has your relationship been like with Kin since PC went off the air?
Schroeder: I went to Florida [where Shriner lived for a time], we rode Scooters around, we hung out. We’ve been SCUBA diving. We still meet up for lunch. We talk about food, what food’s good, what restaurant we want to go to. Kin and I are both really into food, it’s like a mild obsession and it’s a good thing we both work out a lot, otherwise we’d be gigantic because we both love food so much. Even after we were done filming, he was like, “All right, let’s go to this taco place, and then we need to get some Italian food in you, you need some pasta on your bones!” I was like, “All right!” So, Kin, Lynn and I went to a nice little Italian place and talked food for like two hours.
Digest: How long had it been since you’d seen Lynn?
Schroeder: Oh, my gosh, it had been a while since I’d seen Lynn, but let me just say, she is the most in-shape, has-not-changed-one-single-bit person — She looks exactly the same! I was talking to one of the Wardrobe guys and he had pulled something from the ’90s, from one of the Nurses’ Balls, just to see if it still fit her, and he was like, “It fit her perfectly!” It’s incredible. It was funny because her son Hank and I used to hang out together on set and we ran around a lot. Well, he’s actually big into doing comedy shows now and he just did one last Friday and my boyfriend and I are going to go to the nextone. It was great to reconnect with them. They invited me up to the ranch, which is close to Yosemite, where I go climbing, and it was awesome to reconnect. Lynn and I, we were on set and we’d be going over lines and she would just walk over and grab my hand and we’d squeal, and then we’d go back to doing our scenes. We were just so happy. It was great.
Digest: You hadn’t played Serena since you and she were both children. What did it feel like to be playing her again?
Schroeder: It was great. I mean, I walked into Wardrobe and they had beautiful dresses for me to put on, which, I mean, that is so different from me in real life. I’m always running around in yoga pants or some kind of climbing gear. I got to wear a beautiful pair of heels, my hair was all done up. I got to play a lady. Everybody on set kept saying, “You just got taller!” I was like, “Well, I hope I’ve changed a little. Otherwise, it’d be pretty weird.” It obviously had sad tones to it because of the content, but it was so exciting. It was the best return I could have asked for, it really was.
Digest: Would you be up for doing more appearances?
Schroeder: Absolutely. I would love to be back on, I would love to meet my half brother or any other siblings that might come out of the woodwork, I’d love to do another Nurses’ Ball, I’d love to slide down a fire poll and sing The Spice Girls again. I mean, those are some of my favorite memories. Honestly, I have never worked with such a tight-knit family and that’s the reason why they’re still on air, the reason they are able to get through so many pages each day, is because everybody knows exactly what their job and are so freakin’ good at it, and everybody is so nice to each other. Usually, there’s some sort of conflict on set. Not there. It felt like home.