Soap Opera Digest: We have so much to discuss! First off, what did you think of Anna and Finn’s breakup scenes?
Finola Hughes: I haven’t seen them, but they felt good when we did them — for a breakup! I love him, I love working with Michael [Easton, Finn], so I’m glad they wrote them the way they did. There were lots of nuances to go into.
Digest: You’ve been working closely with Kirsten Storms (Maxie) lately. She’s told me how happy that makes her; how do you feel about it?
Hughes: Oh, I love it. She just grounds everybody in the scene. She’s just one of those kinds of actors. She’s just fabulous! I think we have a real shorthand now, which is wonderful, as we’ve been working together more and more. You know, it’s a hard story right now. A lot of the time I feel … at sea, a little bit, with what goes on in the storyline, so it’s really great to be able to have someone like Kirsten to kind of be a touchstone and a grounding feeling in the storyline. We’re talking about toxins and poison and this and that, and you need to really work with people that you can find that realness within the storyline. And it’s the same for her; she has a lot to grapple with, too, in her baby storyline. But we have an understanding, and I really enjoy working with her a lot. It’s a pleasure.
Digest: How has knowing she let Maxie down affected Anna?
Hughes: Well, she’s my goddaughter, and the last thing you ever want to do is hurt or exploit someone’s feelings like that, because everybody is so vulnerable in the story. You’re dealing with [heavy] emotions. For me, I could breeze over it; I could figure out a way to not allow things to penetrate my character, but then I wonder where that would take the character. So, I’ve toyed with that; every time I’m reading it, I’m like, “Well, I’ve got to play the ‘I’m sorry’ card again; do I really want to?” There is a part of me that has been kind of like, “I’m going to see where the natural point of ‘enough’ comes, as opposed to trying to impose it.” So, I’m going to wait and see where Anna has had enough rather than impose it in order to save the character, which isn’t my job. My job is to portray the character. I want to see where the natural, “Okay, we’re done” comes. And I think when that starts to emerge, then I feel like it will feel more authentic, rather than trying to manipulate the story.
Digest: It does seem like these two women could get to the other side of this conflict, that Maxie could come to understand Anna’s point of view well enough to move past her feelings of betrayal.
Hughes: Right. I’m thinking that that might happen across the board, perhaps, as it gets weaved in. But I sort of feel like you can’t push those moments. They wouldn’t happen in real life. I have this kind of three-day rule: You have to sit on things for three days before you can confront someone about something, because your initial reaction is dramatic, and then the next day, you’re like, “Okay,” and then by the third day, you’ve got a little bit more of a logical perspective on it. We’ve got to wait for all of these big feelings to subside, in a way. But meanwhile, I’ve got to track through the paw prints of my actions. And that’s okay! I go where the writers tell me. Laura Wright [Carly] and I are sort of similar in that respect. We are both in the camp that we don’t believe you can ever say, “My character wouldn’t do that,” because you just never know. [In those moments] you can actually find some part you didn’t know, and you can discover a hidden depth to your character. I don’t know what the future holds in the storyline, but I’m interested to see. I think there have been moments, like with Mac on the steps at the hospital where they were talking and she took his hand. For me, that felt like a really honest, truthful moment of two people witnessing one person’s [mistake] and being able to say, “Okay, okay, we’re on the same page when it comes to kids.”
Digest: Over the past few months, it feels like a new chapter has begun between Anna and Valentin. What is your take on the evolution of that relationship and the scenes you’ve shared with James Patrick Stuart (Valentin) of late?
Hughes: Well, I adore James. I’ve always adored James. It’s a real gift to get to work with him, as it is to work with Michael Easton. I have an embarrassment of riches. Now, James is from the old school — he just can’t wait to make you laugh. He is dying to make you laugh! He’s fantastic, a really inventive actor, comes up with all kinds of stuff and it’s a totally different rhythm, and I think as far as Anna and Valentin’s history, there’s kind of an unspoken [understanding] that she can rely on him, and he understands all the crap that she might have been through. She doesn’t have to lie to him. She can say anything and it’ll be fine. Even though she did keep certain things from him, I think there’s … I don’t want to say that there’s a lowering of the bar with expectations, but I do feel that there is a sort of understanding of how you cut corners sometimes in secrecy and in the bigger picture, because they’ve both been part of the [World Security] Bureau. There is an idea between Anna and Valentin that they’ve been through such dark stuff that most things are probably okay. Like, they probably wouldn’t argue about lying to each other. I mean, I think he has been mad at [Anna] at one time for lying or for covering up for Peter, as I have been with him. But the easiest way to explain it is just that there is an understanding between them.
Digest: I thought that was one of the most interesting moments in the Anna/ Finn breakup scenes, where she said, “There are going to be times when I will be able to talk to Robert and Valentin about things that I can’t as easily discuss with you.”
Hughes: Yes. They were really well-written scenes, and Phideaux Xavier, who directed them — that was a moment where he came outside [to confer with me] because there is a moment where I say, “I want to promise that I won’t ever lie,” or something like that, and he said, “Do you want to say, ‘I wish I can [promise]?’ ” And I can’t remember what I did end up saying, but it was this great moment where we were sort of talking about [the nuances of], “I wish I could make that promise,” and I said, “You know, I think I might play it like, ‘I wish I could, but I can’t.’ ” You just wish things were different, but they’re not. Maybe a spy can’t be with a regular person. Perhaps that’s accurate. Who knows? Like, it’s too much to swallow, it’s too much for someone to be on board with. And I can understand that. And I think Anna could at the time, too. And there was this kind of weird professionalism that rose up at that point, which was, “We can’t go there, because I have to protect you.” Which I sort of liked; it was nice.
Digest: Is it more enjoyable to work with Michael when Finn is being loving to Anna as opposed to him being so harsh to her? Or is it equally delightful no matter what?
Hughes: Well, you know — you just trust people. It doesn’t matter what the context is. I’m not a big one to say, “Oh, I wish I didn’t have to do this scene.” I like anything I’m given. I think the difference is how you trust the other actor, like when you just know you can fall into them. Michael is that kind of actor for me. I can just fall into him and just know he’ll be there to catch me, no matter what I do. And it just really works like that with him. So, you just know that whatever his instincts are going to be, they’ll be spot-on. When he yelled at me in scenes we did recently — literally just yelled, “Stay out of my life!” or whatever it was — I remember on the day thinking, “Whoa, that was a lot.” But I think I decided in that moment to go under; I kept my emotions down. When somebody goes high, sometimes you can top them, but it didn’t seem the right instinct to go with. But whatever I do with him, I enjoy, whether it’s comedy, which I really enjoy doing with him — we need a bit of comedy in the show! — or drama.
Digest: Can you imagine a scenario in which the writers could fashion a realistic reconciliation for “Fanna”?
Hughes: Oh, my God, I hope so! I mean, I would love that, of course. But I just have to remove my own personal feelings from that. If Michael’s character is going to work with someone else better, then that’s the way it’s got to be, and vice versa. But you never say never on a soap, do you?
Digest: On the subject of Peter, do you feel that Anna has finally severed the part of herself that wanted to believe so strongly in Peter’s redemption? Is she officially out of the business of trying to be his conscience?
Hughes: I think she is just seeing Peter in a different light now. She says, “You don’t have to go down the route of your father. You just don’t have to.” She can’t save him, but he can save himself. Anna feels like she could tell Peter, “You can save yourself if you want to.” We did a wonderful scene where I said to him, “I tried to love you.” It was very honest, very straightforward. Wes [Ramsey, Peter] and I were pretty happy with it. I think this has been very difficult for Wes as an actor, where his character has just become harder and harder to go back from the precipice, you know? But I think he’s had some marvelous scenes with Maxie, just amazing. He’s got some great things to play right now. He’s so lovely.
Digest: Well, from one Anna fan to another: I hope she gets to smile again — and soon!
Hughes: I agree. Anna needs a win.