Finola Hughes’s Transcontinental Odyssey to GENERAL HOSPITAL
By Ginger Myers and R.J. Johnson
Name: Finola Hughes
Birthdate: October 29th
LIFE IN ENGLAND
“I had a real middle class upbringing. We lived in Notting Hill, a very cosmopolitan area like SoHo in New York City. My mother was a devout feminist. She worked to reform abortion laws. She worked on a War on Rape program. I was brought up on Spare Rib, a real heavy feminist magazine, when I was nine.
“My mother made me world-wise. She was a very strong woman. Her influence on me was to be independent. My father had an influence on me, too…. He worked as a taxi driver. He was a marvelous man … a philosopher. He would laugh at nearly everything. I don’t think much of anything really bothered him. He always told me to just do my best, which I think took the pressure off of me.”
Her parents were, above all, practical people. Their advice about men? — “Have your own car.”
Ballet was Finola’s first passion: “I started ballet when I was three. My mother took me to ballet school, and I said, ‘Oh, I have to go back.’ After one lesson, I started going three times a week. I just loved it.
When I was six I turned to a lady and told her that I could see SWAN LAKE every day for the rest of my life. She said, ‘You’d get bored.’ But I told her, ‘No, I wouldn’t!’ When I grew up, I got into a professional ballet company. We did SWAN LAKE every day and I never got bored!”
It took years of rigorous training before Finola was able to prove that point. “When I was ten, I went to a brilliant school (Arts Educational School). My first public appearance was when I was eleven. I danced at Covent Garden, I played a gnome. I remember thinking that if I never do anything again, I danced in an opera at Covent Garden.
But Finola’s dreams of dancing were almost literally cut short by glass. “When I was 16, I had an accident which sliced my leg open. I was walking on a snow-covered glass skylight over a cellar. I went right through it and lacerated my leg. And that put me out of action for two months. I was livid. I was right at my peak at school. I had the lead in the end of the term ballet. After my leg healed, I had to work very hard, and I did do the performances.”
Dancing school opened Finola’s eyes to the class system in Britain. “There were huge class differences in the schools I went to. My mother told me that I should go when invited out to tea, but that I couldn’t really invite them back. Fortunately, being a performer is a huge leveler because your talent is the thing which stands out … not where you came from.”
With solid training as a dancer, 20-year-old Finola left her native England for Europe. It was a quick journey from adolescence to adulthood. “I was a real trained dancer. Then, I went to Berlin to dance in a film, and I saw all this stuff going on there. Berlin is very colorful and decadent. For example, there are many transvestite clubs. I was suddenly in a very commercial atmosphere, and I met up with other sorts (of dancers). It influenced me. I started to veer away from the classical dancing.”
Finola’s return to England was for a very personal reason. “I thought it would be best to be at home. My mother was sick and dying at the time. Seeing somebody die is a huge blow. My mother had cancer … it takes a long time. And they change. They are not the people you knew in the beginning.”
In 1980, the independent Finola drove her car to an audition which truly launched her theatrical career. “I heard about the audition for CATS from a friend. I called and called to get in. I knew it would be a big hit. I never doubted that it was going to be a success.
“I met Andrew Lloyd Webber (composer of CATS) at the first audition. There were many callbacks. It was so exciting. Near the end, he called me in to do a scene to see if I could take scene direction. He gave me the bitch part (Victoria). I always like to do bitchy things, it’s so much more fun. After I read, he told me to do the bitch part again but with a ‘nice’ interpretation. But it came out even bitchier!”
Her performance in CATS caught the attention of a casting director who asked her to read for the movie, STAYING ALIVE. “They videotaped my reading and sent it to Sylvester Stallone. I hadn’t seen ROCKY, but I knew who Stallone was. I was asked to come here to audition for him. It was my first trip to America. Stallone wasn’t intimidating. He was friendly and funny. I found out the same day as my audition that I had the part. I was doing another Andrew Lloyd Webber show, SONG AND DANCE (now being performed on Broadway and starring Bernadette Peters). When I knew I had the job, I tried to keep calm, but I was really excited. I called everyone I knew in England and screamed and shouted with my friends.”
The initial thrill of victory quickly turned into agony of a disciplined body building program. In an interview in People, Stallone said, “Her buttocks had to be more curved, her shoulders broadened.” Finola explains, “I was real thin at the time. Stallone had me work out with John Travolta’s trainer in order to build me up.”
With that intense body development course behind her, the renovated Finola admits that, “I’ve only seen STAYING ALIVE two or three times. I was so blown away by everything that I didn’t sit and analyze it. Some of the reviews tore my stomach a little, but everybody gets panned in their career. Someone came up to me once in New York and said, ‘God, you were a great bitch!’ I thought that was a great compliment.” But not nearly as complimentary as Stallone’s People Magazine prediction, “If stardom isn’t a strut away (for her) … then I give up.”
DESTINATION: NEW YORK
After STAYING ALIVE, Finola journeyed to New York where she lived with her boyfriend, Michael Praed (Prince Michael, DYNASTY). “We didn’t live together when we were both working in London. Michael came to New York in the summer of 1984 to do a Broadway play. I joined him in the fall (of 1984). The situation just kind of threw up together. It really wasn’t a hard decision.
“We actually met several years in a restaurant in London. Some friends introduced us. Later, he told the newspaper that he thought I was plain looking. It was a headline in the Daily Mirror. He never lived that down.
“I was attracted to Michael because he was carrying a plastic bag. I thought that was great instead of a Louis Vuitton handbag. After our first meeting, he sent me a letter at the theater where I was working. The next week, we went to dinner. He was very funny, and we got along pretty well. Afterward, we met quite often.”
A last trip to Hollywood is the latest stop on Finola’s itinerary.
“Unfortunately, the Broadway play Michael was in flopped and he was kind of down about it. I told him I was going out to Los Angeles to look for work. I wanted him to come with me. People were calling to ask him to screen test for DYNASTY. So, we both came to L.A. in November of 1984. Michael was cast in DYNASTY right after we arrived.
“About three months later, I was called in to read for the role of Anna Devane on GENERAL HOSPITAL. By the way, it was originally written for an American actress. After the screen test, it took two weeks for them to make their decision. I was going to a wonderful acting school (run by Milton Katselas), and all of these very sophisticated, blonde American girls in my class were talking about being up for the role of Anna. I just knew that I hadn’t gotten the part. When I found out I did have the job, I screamed and jumped up and down.”
With their signatures on successful television contracts, Finola and Michael negotiated their next important contract: a house.
“Michael and I rented this house (with an option to buy) early last summer. When he found this place, we fell in love with it. It’s so quiet. It’s really easy for us to make a place look lived in because we are basically messy.
“Michael has his recording studio set up here. And my brother, Sean (age 17), has been here for three months. I brought him out after my father died so he could be with me for a while. Sean is brilliant. He plays the guitar, and he has put a band together, and they already have their first gig!”
Now that they are settled in their new home and are established in their careers, Finola and Michael have become a highly recognizable couple. Do adoring fans ever disrupt their privacy when they are out in public? “It can be a problem, but I don’t find it a problem,” said Michael in an interview with TV’s AM LOS ANGELES. “I find it quite flattering, really. I do. I love it, as a matter of fact.”
Regarding her responsibility to fans, Finola expresses this philosophy, “I don’t think that a fan would like to think that I was obligated to do anything. I think they would like to know as much (about me) as I’m comfortable in telling … that I’m not being put on the spot. So, I tell them as much as I’m comfortable with. They have to respect that just as much as I respect them.
“I take fans seriously. I read my mail. If someone writes and says I look nice in the green dress, I tell wardrobe and I wear it more often….”
Finola seems to enjoy her work more than fame and fortune: “I don’t think about making a lot of money. I think it’s nice that I can pay my bills. I just love working. If you are rich you are working. I’ve never been out of work for more than four or six months. My advice to a young actor is to work hard. Take the first job that comes along. Work begets work.”
This interview ran in the March 11, 1986 issue of Soap Opera Digest
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