What does happiness mean to General Hospital‘s Vanessa Marcil (Brenda Barrett)? Never again having to answer the dreaded question: “What is it like kissing Antonio Sabato Jr.?”
“That’s the first thing people always ask me,” she says, groaning. “I get so sick of that… What do you say? That there are fireworks or something? He’s just a guy — he is beautiful and nice, but he’s just a guy.”
But Marcil’s not complaining — and why should she? With the popularity and experience she’s gained playing Port Charles’ tempestuous teenage vixen-in-training, the 21-year-old beauty is sitting pretty.
A California native and the youngest of four children, Marcil grew up in Palm Springs. Although she’s been performing since age 14, it wasn’t until she had a few years of college behind her that she began to seriously pursue an acting career. Marcil got her big break while studying law at Golden West College in Huntington Beach, Calif.; an agent saw her performance as Maggie in a production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and signed her to a contract. That’s when she decided to turn in her law books and take a shot at stardom.Her career choice, however, did arouse parental opposition. “My mother encouraged me,” Marcil explains, “and has since the beginning. My father, a self-made millionaire who thinks everything is about money, was worried that I wouldn’t make it. He wanted me to stay and finish law school.”
But Marcil’s passionate conviction triumphed, and several months later — September 1992, to be exact — she landed a contract with GH for her first television role.
Not one to conform to type, Marcil confesses that it her brief time as a professional actress she has had to fight to keep from being stuck in the stereotypical mold her exotic looks tend to suggest. “I’m always cast as the sexpot,” she laughs. “So in that respect my looks sometimes hinder me. If you are pretty, sexy or whatever, people always want to typecast you in those roles. They don’t want to give you the chance to play something that your looks go against. But isn’t that what acting is? It’s not being who you are, it’s being able to completely become someone else.”
Marcil is confident that the multifaceted Brenda will help her overcome these stereotypes, making for a smoother transition into other dramatic roles.
Like most dedicated daytime actors, Marcil has definite ideas about her character, and, in fact, had a hand in developing Brenda’s background. “When I first came on the show, Crystal Carson (Julia) and I got together and created [the character’s] history,” she explains, “basically so we could make sense of where the two were coming from. The writers decided to use it. With the disinheritance story (Brenda’s dad dropped her from his will, and until recently Julia silently supported her), we wanted to show the depth of how much Julia cares about Brenda; to show that even though her father wasn’t there caring for her, Julia was. Eventually I think Brenda will learn to have a relationship with her sister.