A major one-two punch in 2015 — Carlos murdered Duke, and Anna retaliated by seemingly shooting Carlos dead — upended Anna’s life but good. With her quest for justice for Duke (mostly) behind her and an intriguing new storyline, Finola Hughes is happily looking to the future.
Soap Opera Digest: Anna spent most of this year — and a lot of 2015, as well — grieving and/or seeking justice for Duke. Was that something you were kind of eager to get past?
Finola Hughes: Oh, yeah, for sure. I needed to get past that. You can only do that for two years [laughs]. They gave it its due. And Duke’s son, Griffin, came to town and I think that’s given her family, in a way. It’s fantastic working with Matt Cohen [Griffin]. He’s a lovely person, a lovely friend, and it’s given Anna a purpose.
Digest: I’m very excited that Anna is back with the WSB and that her new story with Valentin has something to do with her past. I would love to know more about Anna Devane, the early years.
Hughes: Oh, yes. There’s a really cool twist to it, actually, and I’m really enjoying working with James Patrick Stuart [Valentin]. I’ve known him for many years — we used to be in acting class together — so it’s been a lot of fun having him come on the show. I think the story moving forward is going to incorporate some people that are going to be fantastic to work with. I’m really stoked — but I shouldn’t use that word because anytime I do, my 16-year-old son [Dylan] just looks at me and says, “Don’t [laughs].” So, I’m really happy to be working with certain people.
Digest: I’m assuming that list includes your longtime friend Michelle Stafford (Nina).
Hughes: I worked with her before so many years ago [on PACIFIC PALISADES in 1997] but I haven’t gotten to work with her on this show. I had a scene with her the other day, a very short scene, and the director came out, Gary Tomlin, and said, “That was like watching a ping-pong match! I had no idea where anything was going!” For us, it was so much fun. I love when you can just throw yourself into another actor. That’s what I always got to do with Ian [Buchanan, ex-Duke]. I never knew what was going to happen. I did that with Kimberly [McCullough, ex-Robin], too, and that’s what Maurice [Benard, Sonny] does with Laura [Wright, Carly], what Nancy [Lee Grahn, Alexis] does — just throw themselves out there and see what happens! Ever since Frank [Valentini, executive producer] got here, he’s pushed us to be immediate, and that’s extraordinary for an actor. Of course, there’s nobody more immediate than Roger [Howarth, Franco], which is why I want to work with him. But it still hasn’t happened!
Digest: In general, do you have a preference between heavy emotional material and the sort of cat-and-mouse, investigative stuff that you go back and forth between on the show?
Hughes: I tend not to judge either, but when I’ve got more of the investigative, fun stuff to do, I know it’s going to be a lighter day. I’m going to get a chance to talk to the crew, say hi to my friends, and then go work with Matt or James or Dom [Zamprogna, Dante]. When there are certain emotional stakes that have to be investigated in the story, then I know it’s a different kind of day; I’m going to be in my dressing room, planning stuff out. It’s a different mindset, but I’m thrilled to have either.
Digest: Obviously, the show has been setting up Valentin to be a challenger for Anna. Do you feel like he’s a worthy opponent?
Hughes: Oh, yeah, he’s so worthy. He gets inside her head the same way that Faison did. He’s getting under her skin with stuff — and she doesn’t know what it is! I think that’s good. You can’t have an infallible character. It’s not interesting to watch and it’s not interesting to play. He has found ways to shake up her stability in the same way Paul did, when he suggested how difficult it would be for her granddaughter if certain things came out about her, like what she had done with Carlos. She came back to that by saying, “Put me in prison, I don’t care.” But with this situation, she doesn’t know what she’s playing with, she doesn’t know what he has or what he knows — and that’s interesting.
Digest: What’s your take on Anna’s attitude about Julian now? It’s got to drive her nuts that he isn’t behind bars.
Hughes: I think it infuriates her, but in a way, Julian is Alexis’s problem. I also think she’s trying to figure out a way to dismantle Julian from a different direction now that she’s with the WSB. It doesn’t serve a soap [for criminals to go to jail] and that’s unfortunate. In order for a soap to win, the bad guys also have to win.
Digest: So almost nobody pays for their crimes.
Hughes: Right, but there’s nothing to stop you from almost getting there. That’s something that I’ve never made peace with, but I have to make peace with so I can put my makeup on in the morning and go on set! It infuriates me that it can’t be another way, you know, unless you lose characters.
Digest: Speaking of which, Anna has lost quite a few who were really important to her life in Port Charles — Robin, Duke, Luke, Patrick.
Hughes: When Jason [Thompson, ex-Patrick, now Y&R’s Billy] left, I literally went up to Frank and said, “Do not take anyone else away from Anna. I can’t take this!”
Digest: What did he say?
Hughes: “I know, I know, I know [laughs].” But the writers really have a great handle on Anna and they have given the character the right things that she needs, like work and an incentive. Somebody that gets her, Griffin. She’s surrounded by people she can turn to, like Jordan and Dante and Andre, and she’s beginning to get a nemesis, so those are all great things.
Digest: Are you interested in possibly playing another love story, or would you rather stay away from that for a while?
Hughes: Look, I think other people do it better than I do, honestly. There’s a certain criterion that works, and I’m not sure that they’ve found that. I think it’s a double-edged sword problem; when you have a character that plays smart, I think the audience weighs in heavily on where that character goes romantically. I think the writers go round and round with that, and I understand that position. For me, I’m fine. Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do.
Digest: It’s funny to me that you think other people do it better, because it’s rare that a love story resonates as deeply with fans as Duke and Anna did — and there are also people who are passionate about Anna and Robert. So, clearly you’ve done something right!
Hughes: Right, yeah, I mean, those two did work, for sure, 100 percent. But I honestly believe that other people do it better than I do, and I’m fine with that.
Digest: It was four years ago this month that GH announced your return to the show. Are you happy you made that choice?
Hughes: Oh, God, yes. Of course! I’m glad they asked me, I’m glad to have an opportunity to investigate such interesting parts of the character and get to play with amazing people. It’s been hard losing certain people that I used to work with. That’s been really difficult, I can’t lie. However, it’s been fantastic to be able to walk into Matt Cohen’s dressing room and work with somebody who says things like, “I love our scenes together” — which I do, too. I am so glad for the opportunity to work with James and Michelle, and Kimberly when she comes back to visit, and Dom and little Brooklyn [Rae Silzer, Emma] and Scarlett [Fernandez, Charlotte] and Vinessa [Antoine, Jordan], who was turned into a great friend.
Digest: So, you’re stoked?
Hughes: Yes — super-stoked!
Just The Facts
Birthday: October 29
Hometown: London, England
Roll Call: Hughes originated the role of GH’s Anna in 1985 and left in 1992, visiting in 1995, 2006, 2007 and 2008 before rejoining the show full-time in 2012. She also played Anna on ALL MY CHILDREN from 2001-03 (and Anna’s twin, Alexandra, from 1999-2001), and Anna on the GH spin-off GH: NIGHT SHIFT in 2008.
Young At Heart: Hughes wed artist Russell Young on July 4, 1992.
In The Heights: Hughes’s kids are quickly dwarfing her, “which isn’t difficult because I stopped growing when I was 12. Dylan is 16 and taller than me so I now have to ‘parent up’, as they call it. Cash is 12 and up to my nose. Sadie is 9 and up to my shoulder.”
Animal Attraction: Two dogs rule the roost in the Hughes/Young household. “Ziggy is a chocolate Lab and Caspian is a Pharoah Hound. They’re the most elegant dogs; I always think of him like the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Ziggy is basically Eeyore; she doesn’t remember why she entered the room and she’s not entirely sure what’s happening at any given moment. The two of them together are a comedy show.”
Did You Know?
• After spending Thanksgiving with her neighbor Susan Flannery (ex-Stephanie, B&B), Hughes will be visiting her brother and her husband’s family in England for Christmas. “I’m very excited except that it means packing suitcases.”
• She was cast on GH the year after she moved to Los Angeles.