On May 8, 2013, Maura West made her GH debut as an art dealer nursing a whopper of a secret: She was the daughter of late mob boss Victor Jerome and the daughter of the not-so-dead Julian Jerome. Digest took a deep dive into Ava’s life in Port Charles with the Daytime Emmy-winning actress.
2013: After nearly 15 years on AS THE WORLD TURNS as Carly (winning two of her three Daytime Emmys for Lead Actress in the process) and a year on Y&R as Diane, one might think Maura West would have been jitter-free when she signed on to her third soap role. But as her first day neared, “I was nervous,” she admits. “This show is very established and very different from AS THE WORLD TURNS, which was more of a mom and pop show.” Her first scripts included scenes with Anthony Geary as Luke, which she describes as “one of the thrills of my career. To start my journey on GENERAL HOSPITAL with Tony Geary and Jane Elliot [Tracy] — I mean, what actor could have a better gift than to arrive and they say, ‘Welcome, here, work with these giants of the industry!’ ”
The reveal of Ava’s off-screen past with Franco was another early treat for West. “Those were really fun days,” she says. “I got to sort of be reunited with Roger Howarth [Austin/then-Franco],” who had played Paul on ATWT, “under completely different circumstances, on a different show, different characters, different everything. I loved that.” The digs weren’t too shabby, either, as Franco and Ava bunked at the Quartermaine mansion. “The mansion and the [nurses’] hub — those two sets are GENERAL HOSPITAL to me. And to be there and sort of walk around like she was lady of the house, I just thought that was too good! I just ate it up.”
She approached Ava’s ruthless, Connie-killing side with equal gusto. “My intention with her [look] — always in dresses, and I chose that sort of wavy bob, like a mob moll of old — was really making her kind of a throwback to that ’40s kind of mobstress,” West shares. “I love this idea that this woman had a gun and she knew how to use it and she didn’t flinch when it was shot. As Maura, I hate violence of any kind, but I can set that aside and say, ‘This is the character, this is the world that she lives in.’ ”
A key player in that world was Ava’s brother, Julian, and West was tickled by what fans referred to on social media as the “inappropriate chemistry” between her and William deVry (ex-Julian). “I saw that and I loved it and I leaned into it!”
2014: Ava’s romance with Morgan hit a snag when Ava had sex with his father, Sonny — in the Quartermaine crypt, no less — which resulted in daughter Avery. “I was definitely nervous about that,” West shares. “At that time, I didn’t know Maurice [Benard, Sonny] very well. We had done a lot of scenes together and he was a bit of an enigma to me, and so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, and when you don’t know what’s going to happen on set, you’re always a little tentative. But right away, we found a rhythm that I was very happy with — and we still have that today.”
Regrets Only: Morgan (Bryan Craig) was crushed by Ava’s tryst with Sonny (Maurice Benard, r.).
2015: A presumed-dead, fugitive Ava returned to town in the guise of “Denise DeMuccio”, supposedly Ava’s identical twin. “In my history, I had already seen Martha Byrne play [the dual ATWT roles of] Lily and Rose, and I didn’t want to be repeating stuff that people had already done, and done so well. [But] I didn’t mind playing a second person, I didn’t mind Ava kind of being in disguise and going to these great lengths, because I’m looking at it from Ava’s perspective. Her baby is in that town, she can’t go back to that town as herself, and she loves that baby, so she’s got to go back! I was a little concerned about [playing] Denise with the fingernails and the wig and blah, blah, blah, but you know, I trusted Ron, I trusted Frank, I trusted my co-workers — and really, I loved it.”
2016: Morgan got back together with Ava’s daughter Kiki, and Ava made the fateful choice to switch his bipolar medication with a placebo, setting off a chain of events that led to Morgan’s demise in a car bomb intended for Julian. “I had to focus on one thing in order to make that work for me, which was [Ava’s conviction that], ‘I’ve got to protect Kiki. She’s going to end up dead because she’s with this guy.’ That’s how I could sell it to myself, was to make it about her love for her daughter…. Ava was a cog in the wheel that led to the death of Morgan. And I didn’t love that, to be honest. But I don’t have to love everything Ava does. I just have to do it as best I can.”
2017: When Carly and Sonny confronted Ava over her pill-swapping, Ava wound up with devastating burns from a fire. “That was so cool, wasn’t it?” the actress says of the blaze. “That’s in my memory box of episodes that I really loved.” She is equally fond of the Ava/Griffin pairing that sprouted from her misfortune. “Of course, Ava is going to fall in love with a priest, because nothing could ever be easy for her!” West chuckles. “I thought Griffin was really good for her, and I stay in touch with Matt [Cohen, his portrayer]. In my career, there have been a handful of true gentlemen that I’ve worked with, and he is one of them. He’s a treasure of a human being.”
2018-19: In a devastating blow to Ava, Kiki was murdered by Ryan — who, posing as Kevin, seduced an unwitting Ava. “That was really juicy,” nods West. “Ava falls in love with this guy she thinks is Kevin, thinks is a stand-up guy, clean as a whistle as far as mob ties or any of that, and she can’t believe that this guy would fall for her. And she was sort of right to doubt it! Jon [Lindstrom, Kevin/ex-Ryan] and I go back quite a ways and played a couple [on ATWT, where he played Craig], and I was thrilled to work with him so closely again. That’s the guy you trust on set, 100 percent. We work really well together.” The scenes on the bridge in which Genie Francis’s Laura breaks the terrible news to Ava that she’s been sleeping with her daughter’s killer are ones “I’ll always remember,” she adds. “It was the first time that I had worked with her in any meaningful way on the show, and it was an incredible experience.” All in all, she sighs, “I felt devastated for Ava, this character that I’ve grown to love, warts and all.”
On a more positive note, Ava forged a beautiful new connection when she hired Trina as an intern at her gallery, a relationship fans have fallen in love with. “And I have, too,” West says. “Both Sydney [Mikayla, ex-Trina] and Tabyana [Ali, Trina] are wonderful young women, and I really love that relationship.”
2020-22: Ava began the new decade as the new Mrs. Nikolas Cassadine. “I love the Cassadine era and that was such a great entrance for Nikolas to return — and a great moment for Ava, when he burst into the wedding of Nina and Valentin in his living room at Wyndemere carrying the dripping Ava!” West wishes Ava had carried her princess status even further (“I was hoping there would have been a moment, a scene, a something, where I would have had a tiara on!”), but is glad that even though the marriage didn’t last, her change of address did. “I love that Ava lives in a castle. It’s perfect for her!”
A large cause of the demise of the “Nava” union? Spencer and Esme joining forces to break them up. While they’re a thorn in Ava’s side, their portrayers, Nicholas Chavez (Spencer) and Avery Pohl (Esme), are sheer joy for West. “I love both of those young actors — I mean, they’re stars, 100 percent. Nicholas Chavez, he’s on a rocket ship. He can do whatever he wants; he’s just magnificent. They both have the right idea, you know what I mean? They’re on time, they’re good-natured, they know their lines, they’re prepared. They just get it. I think so highly of them both as young actors and as people.”
2023: Today, Ava is grappling with having killed Nikolas (or so she thinks), and covering it up with Austin’s help. Says West of the dynamic between Ava and Austin (or “#Jolt,” as they are known to fans hopeful their collusion will lead to canoodling), “I don’t know where that’s going, but I love that I’m able to play with Roger again. He is certainly on the short list of who every actor wants to work with. I’m a lucky duck.”
Which she could say about her GH run as a whole. “I love my job,” she declares. “I love being an actor. I love being on set, I love the crew — I just one hundred percent love it. Being on this show is an extraordinary experience and I’m eternally grateful.”