In 1999, ALL MY CHILDREN introduced Finola Hughes as Alex Devane, who was eventually revealed to be Anna’s twin. Hughes played both roles for several months in 2001, stayed with AMC as Anna until 2003, and brought Anna back to GH full time in 2012. Then, this past April, “Anna” began acting mighty strange — because she was actually Alex, posing as her twin, while the real McCoy was stashed away at a British hospital. We grilled Hughes about her twin pique.
Soap Opera Digest: When did you find out that your old pal Alex was going to be back
in the mix?
Finola Hughes: Frank [Valentini, executive producer] gave me a heads-up a couple of months ago. I can’t remember when, honestly, but it was a while back. I should have prepared myself better, and I didn’t, so I was kind of scrambling a little bit when it all started to happen and the story actually started to unfold.
Digest: What do you think you should have done that you didn’t do?
Hughes: I have no idea [laughs]. I just know that there’s something I should have been doing or I could have been doing.
Digest: So I take it you didn’t look at any old AMC footage of Alex?
Hughes: No, I did nothing that would have been sensible. But I have to say that I also was ill-equipped the first time around, because I had been playing somebody that may or may not have been Anna from the beginning [when Alex debuted on AMC and it was insinuated that she was possibly an amnesiac Anna]. Everything was very nebulous way back and then after having [son] Dylan, when I was on maternity leave was when they dropped the bombshell of, “Oh, we’re going to bring Anna back.” Anyway, I just thought about it a little bit and tried to do stuff that made sense in my brain and that’s pretty much it. I will tell you what the hardest part was, completely the hardest part, which is that right as the story was about to kick off, Frank said to me, “Okay, so, we’re not telling anyone.” I was like, “What do you mean, not telling anyone?” And Frank reiterated that we weren’t telling anyone, like, anyone — the other actors, the directors. I said, “I think that that’s a little hard for me to pull off, because hopefully, the directors might notice that there’s something different about me.” He said, “Don’t worry about it.” I said, “And the other actors?” He was like, “It’s fine. Just don’t tell anyone.” And I kind of was left there, trying to do this other character and trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the other actors. It was so hard!
Digest: I can understand Frank’s reasoning, even if it was challenging for you for practical reasons.
Hughes: Yeah, he just wanted to keep it really secret. Like, really secret [laughs].
Digest: What did you do in situations where you had scene partners pressing you and you had to be evasive?
Hughes: I just said, “Just go with it.” I kept saying that to everybody — to Emme [Rylan, Lulu], to Vinessa [Antoine, Jordan], to Anthony [Montgomery, Andre], to Matt [Cohen, Griffin]. I think the first person they started to tell was James [Patrick Stuart, Valentin], because they needed to tell him how the story was going to unfold, but the first few times I worked with him as Alex, he didn’t know. I think that people thought [Anna] was being brainwashed; that’s what most of the actors felt. Or they just thought I was having an off day, I have no idea!
Digest: It certainly doesn’t surprise me that your co-stars thought something was off, because from the first day Alex showed up, so did a lot of viewers.
Hughes: Oh, thank God. All I can say, honestly, is thank God. I had no idea if it was going to work! It’s heartening to know that, and it was heartening to see on Twitter that suddenly people were going, “Wait a minute,” and using the hashtag “AlexNotAnna”. I was like, “Oh, thank goodness!” Because I had no clue. David Canary [ex-Adam/Stuart, AMC] managed to pull it off for years. Jon Lindstrom managed to pull it off [on GH as Ryan and Kevin]. That lovely woman from AS THE WORLD TURNS, Martha Byrne [ex-Lily/Rose], managed to pull it off. But it’s tricky to do.
Digest: How did your co-stars react when they found out they’d actually been in scenes with Alex, not Anna?
Hughes: It has been really interesting to watch the actors’ faces fall as they’ve been informed that they were actually performing with somebody else. Most of them were like, “I thought that there was something weird! I thought that there was something off!” The other day, when I was working with him, James stopped me and he looked a little bit like a deer caught in headlights and he said, “Wait a minute, You’re Anna, right?’ I said, “Yes, yes, yes,” and he said, “Okay, I thought so.” I said, “Yeah, this bit, I’ve been Anna the whole time.” It’s been interesting to work with James, to have a relationship with one actor, but as two different females. He’s wonderful. He’s just amazing.
Digest: To me, a lot of the evidence that the woman I was watching wasn’t Anna was revealed in scenes when you were by yourself and the character dropped her guard a bit.
Hughes: That’s cool to hear, because you know I don’t watch it. There was one thing I did, which probably no one will have seen; I asked them if I could switch on a light in Anna’s house and I went to switch it on where one would think a light switch would be, which is up under the lampshade. And it’s not there; luckily, that’s not where the actual light gets switched on, so I had to follow it down the wire to switch it on under the desk. I tried to do little things like that, just to give people clues. It was fun, just to have different motivations for doing certain things and to find characteristics [in this second persona] and to figure out what I was doing, and it was interesting to think about, “Well, what would this person be doing in someone else’s house, when she doesn’t know how things work and where things are?” I could probably have had more fun with it, but it came with a lot of anxiety.
Digest: As the story progressed, there were more and more clues in the writing that were flagrant, like Anna not recognizing Nathan. As anxious as you were, did you manage to have fun with moments like that?
Hughes: Yes, except that I couldn’t share it with Ryan [Paevey, Nathan], because he didn’t know! Ryan was like, “What’s going on? Oh, this is inappropriate [that Nathan is shirtless in front of Anna].” And I was like, “It’s all good, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” Ryan is such a cool person, he was like, “Okay, sure.” I could have gone further with it, and probably, looking back, I’ll realize that I could have gone further with all kinds of things. However, on the first day, the producers didn’t want [overtly obvious differences]. My hair looked different, I picked a skirt that was very un-Anna-like. And they kind of came down on that, so I was sort of treading this really fine line, this fine tightrope.
Digest: Did you also do your makeup differently as Alex playing Anna? That was the first thing one of my co-workers noticed.
Hughes: I did, yes. I did that all differently. It’s really subtle, but I changed it.
Digest: Can you do that without hair and makeup intervening?
Hughes: I just did it. I did it myself in my room and nobody said anything. Although one time, one of the makeup people came over to blot my lips because I never wear shiny lipstick. I was like, “No, no, no, it’s okay, leave it.” And they looked at me like, “Oh, I think it’s too much.” And I was like, “Okay,” so I took it down a little bit. But they didn’t know why I was doing it, and I just said, “It’s fine.” Anyway, that’s just the outside. On the inside, all sorts of things had to shift, too, and that was fun to figure out. You know, you think things through and you want to take the audience on a ride, and it’s a wonderful gift when writers give you something like this to do, but it is a fine line, oftentimes, that we have to walk.
Digest: Well, this wasn’t you playing Obrecht in a mask playing Anna for a day; this went on for a bit. I think you would have tipped too much and maybe taken away some of the impact of the story if you were, you know, mugging 24/7.
Hughes: I think that’s right. That was what I felt, in any case.
Digest: Did you have anxiety about the workload that comes along with a dual role?
Hughes: My anxiety was more about, “I don’t know if I can pull it off.” That’s always my anxiety! Just, “Can I pull it off?” As an actor, we go after the truth a lot of the time, and this character is lying. So, what does that look like? I got a little anxiety about making it work, that’s all.
Digest: They gave you a little bit of a reprieve to focus in on playing Alex posing as Anna because Anna wasn’t on the canvas at the time, she was off in a hospital bed. Did you appreciate that?
Hughes: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Oh, for goodness sake! I was thrilled that I didn’t have to play both of them too much. I’ve done it a few times, but not as much as back 16 years ago when we first did it.
Digest: When the day arrived where you had to play both characters, is that, like, a schizophrenic experience?
Hughes: No, because it’s easy to play Anna. I don’t feel like I’m doing anything, because I know where she comes from. I understand her. Alex, I’m beginning to understand her, you know? With Alex, it’s like being cast on a new project, playing a new character.