Emma Samms Looks Back On The Glory Days of Soaps

Emma Samms (ex-Holly, 1982-85, 1992-93, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2020)

You joined GH when it was still riding the huge crest of popularity it enjoyed during the Luke and Laura era. “I came into GENERAL HOSPITAL not realizing enough, probably, about what a big deal it was. I hadn’t watched the show, so I didn’t know about Luke and Laura — and that actually was probably a real blessing because I would have been massively intimidated, and it was intimidating enough as it was, to be thrown in at the deep end — and I say literally, I was literally thrown in at the deep end! I was so lucky that everybody really welcomed me, and Tony Geary [ex-Luke] was such a joy to work with. And I think I was also lucky because they had tried his character with two other potential love interests and the audience hadn’t liked it — understandably, because they were so loyal to Luke and Laura. But by the time Holly came along, they were like, ‘Oh, all right.’ The audience, as far as I could tell from the letters I got, were very nice — but I think it’s also good that we didn’t have social media then because that probably would have been really scary! And as it turns out, that experience was useful for me when I went onto DYNASTY [as Fallon], because I hadn’t seen the show. I knew, obviously, what a big deal it was, but if I hadn’t had the GENERAL HOSPITAL experience of coming into a job where there were hurdles to jump, replacing a much-loved actress could have been massively intimidating, but because I had a really good experience at GENERAL HOSPITAL, I think that helped me a lot.”

Remote shoots were much more common in the ’80s, and you actually made your debut in scenes shot on location. What stands out to you about that? “Well, first of all, the water was freezing, and secondly, there were fish following me around in there! This wasn’t, like, swimming pool-quality water at all. And then Gloria [Monty, then-executive producer], who always directed the remote shoots, said, ‘Right, I want you to just sort of hang onto that, hide behind that rock when you see Luke.’ And of course, the rock was covered in sort of slimy stuff and I couldn’t get a grip on it; I was just slipping off it! And Gloria said, ‘Stay still, stay still!’ as I was sliding down, sort of digging my nails into the green goo on it to try and slow my movement! And just the whole pretending-to-be-naked is always a bit stressful as well. It was a big day, let’s put it that way!”

You were half of a supercouple alongside Tristan Rogers (Robert), who was also your real-life love for a time. What do you make of their popularity, which has stood the test of time? “In those days, we did have the time to rehearse properly and tweak it and make it work as best we could, but also, the storylines took time to develop and I think that’s one of the reasons that Robert and Holly worked so well: We were actually happy there, as a couple, for quite a long time for a soap opera! It’s a really rare thing, a happy couple — that hopefully wasn’t boring! [Fans’ affection for the couple] is the most spectacular thing to me and I am so, so grateful to have played a character that people still remember and are still very loyal to. I mean, there are people who, every Friday night, have Robert and Holly viewing parties where they go to YouTube and watch the scenes that we did together, and they can quote them, and then there are people who didn’t see them the first time around but have become Robert and Holly fans in retrospect. This, to me, is just mind-boggling, but those of us who are performers are very well aware that our job isn’t brain surgery. We’re not saving lives; it could be deemed a very sort of fluffy job. But then you think to yourself, ‘Gosh, if I’ve had that kind of impact, what an honor that is. What a significant thing to have done something to at least entertain people for a long time!’ There’s something worthy in that, there really is.”

You also appeared on some wonderful Soap Opera Digest covers.Soap Opera Digest, my God — I think that was the first magazine cover I was ever on! It means a lot to me and I love that you’re still there, still doing what you do so well that nobody else does as well. It’s wonderful. I totally remember those covers because it was a big deal, you know? Getting a Soap Opera Digest cover was huge. The photographer was Jonathan Exley, who was my favorite photographer when I was in the States. It was always so fun because he was a really talented photographer and you knew he was going to make you look good, but he was also a nice guy and it would always be sort of a fun adventure. You’d go to his studio and you’d get to wear something maybe a little different and it was always a positive experience and such an honor, my goodness, to be on the cover. It really was.”


Why do you think the ’80s were such a golden era for GH? “Well, Gloria Monty was a genius. She took such care with every element of the show and she watched to see what you were bringing to it yourself, and if she liked it, she wrote it in and included it. Holly was not an English character; my first two auditions for Holly were with an American accent and she caught me talking with my British accent on the way out and said, ‘Oh!’ She watched what she had and took what she wanted from it and used it and it was just the most amazing place to work. I learned so much. I loved it, I loved the atmosphere. I would never have left if I hadn’t gotten the offer for DYNASTY. I would have been mad to walk away from there, and I wouldn’t have done.”