On GH And Off, Motherhood Is A Hot Topic For Finola Hughes
Last year, GH stirred up fan controversy with the reveal that Anna had a son with Faison, Peter. Now Anna finds herself trying to stave off the fear that it was her twin, Alex, who actually gave birth to Anna’s other child, beloved daughter Robin. Her portrayer, Finola Hughes, took a break from Anna’s angst to talk about reel- and real-life motherhood with Digest.
Soap Opera Digest: Anna has been very shaken by the thought that Robin could biologically be Alex’s. How would you describe the impact this has on her?
Finola Hughes: Well, this is the thing that’s the most important thing to her in the whole world, honestly, her daughter, Robin, and her grandchildren. And so she spirals a little bit. And Robert just thinks that she’s tormenting herself. That’s initially what he says. I think it’s quite well-written. It’s a very good idea. I mean, it’s a good point — if somebody was just spiraling, you would say, “Why are you doing this to yourself? You’re just making yourself crazy with these thoughts!”
Digest: It’s been a rough road for Anna with her surprise son, Peter. How would you characterize where they are in their relationship?
Hughes: They have started what I would like to call a thaw. They’re not like besties or anything, but they’ve begun this kind of dance, if you will, of “I won’t be so prickly with you if you won’t be so prickly with me.” I don’t think people would believe it if we suddenly were like, “Woo-hoo! Let’s just be buddies.” It’s a little push and pull.
Digest: It’s just a fascinating thing to me, how long Anna’s imperfections as a mother, and Anna’s striving to be a better mother, have been part of her identity on the show. You were so young when that all began!
Hughes: Yeah, Robin has been a reality almost since the beginning. I was 23, maybe 24, and I was given a 7-year-old to work with!
Digest: And it happened to be an awesome one, Kimberly McCullough (ex-Robin).
Hughes: Yes, an awesome 7-year-old who’s ended up being one of my friends forever. But I think that’s part of why Anna is torturing herself, because Robin has been such a constant. Your children are your constant. Honestly, through thick or thin, through everything that happens, they’re the things that you show up for and keep going for. And I think it’s really nice that Robert’s back because they share that. If there’s one person she can talk to, even though she’s torturing both herself and him with it, it would be him.
Digest: What do you think 23-year-old you was pulling from to play that side of Anna?
Hughes: My brother is a lot younger than me, like eight years younger, so I’ve sort of grown up with a younger sibling. I think that gives you a sort of view of what it’s like to talk to younger kids. Plus, she was so adorable that it was just fun. It was really fun.
Digest: And now you have three children of your own. Did you always want to be a mom?
Hughes: I didn’t. No. Not when I was younger.
Digest: What changed for you?
Hughes: I don’t know. Just maturity, I guess. I began to think about things and life didn’t seem to feel as purposeful for me without [children]. I really think it is something that clicks in for some reason, for some people and not for others.
Digest: Tell me about your kids.
Hughes: Well, my oldest [Dylan, 18] is just so handsome. He’s about ready to go off to college. He’s an athlete and he’s got accepted through his athletic abilities into a college, which is really wonderful. My middle son [Cash, 14] is a budding entertainer, but I warned him that he has to learn how to use cameras and all of that. He’s actually really story-driven, really likes writing and movies and film. And then my daughter [Sadie], she’s 11, and she’s just this rocket athlete, too. It’s kind of cool. My middle son’s an athlete, but he also has other interests.
Digest: Are there things you notice as different in the task of trying to raise a young woman vs. a young man?
Hughes: Yes, there are definitely differences. However, my mother always told me, “I’m not raising a boy or a girl, I’m raising people.” I’ve tried to do that. What’s different is not so much what you put into them, it’s actually how they interpret it and what comes back from them. Like, my middle son is very vocal and he has a lot to say about everything. Anything that gets brought up at the dinner table, he has a lot of opinions, whereas my daughter could care less. She’s only 11. She just reads books all the time and watches RIVERDALE and knows everybody’s character. Her drive is a little different. She is a boss though, I gotta say. As a girl, she’s a total boss. Yesterday, she pushed her volleyball team to win the last game and they came in second in the whole tournament. I was watching her side of the court, and she’s not even the team captain, but she was bossing those boys around. I just was so proud of her. I said to her afterward, “Who are the team leaders?” And she said, “This boy and that boy.” And I said, “You’re very good. You could do it, too.” And she said, “Well, maybe I’ll ask.” I think because she has two older brothers and maybe a strong mom that she sees no boundaries. And then my older boy is just on the field. He’s very strong-minded. He’s a little quieter in person, but he’s a lot of fun. A very, very funny kid. Both the boys are very funny. They have really funny senses of humor. My middle son makes me laugh a lot and my older son is very, very dry. Dry as a bone.
Digest: Do you find you enjoy your children more as they age?
Hughes: They were cute when they were younger, but every age is really good. Every age brings its own gifts. The gratitude you feel as they get through each little step in life is just, “Oh, my God, thank God we got over that,” or that we made it through. Lots of stuff comes down and just can hit you in the face about raising kids. You’re like, “Oh, damn, I never thought of that!”
Digest: What are your kids’ relationships with each other like?
Hughes: The two boys, they do their thing together. Sadie’s just out on her own. She’s very much an individual. She likes to read, she likes to paint, she likes to draw. She’s kind of like I was when I was a kid. I was a bit of a loner. But we spend time together.
Digest: Have you been around Kimberly and her 2-year-old son, Otis?
Hughes: Oh, yeah.
Digest: What is it like to see her as a mom?
Hughes: It’s crazy! She’s a really good mom. She’s very good. Both of us, I think, suffer from — well, maybe Kimberly’s a little better at it, but I do a lot of over-explaining as to why I’m parenting a certain way and they, like, roll their eyes. They’re like, “We got it. We’re good.” Some people are very protective of their little babies, but Kimberly, she’s a really good mom in that she allows her kid to make mistakes. I did the same thing. I let them fall and then just go like, “Oh, you fell.” She’s kind of a little bit like that. I just try to let the kid figure it out. I mean, I didn’t put them in danger or anything!
Digest: Were your own parents like that?
Hughes: My mom was very up-front. I grew up in London and she would say, “Walk down the middle of the pavement because somebody could grab you from the car or somebody could grab you from a house.” I was 8! I’m like, “Why didn’t you just walk with me?” But at 8, I was going on the bus on my own to school ’cause it was just a different time, back at turn of the century [laughs]. We were all allowed to go on buses on our own.
Digest: What is it like for you think about your oldest son going off to college?
Hughes: It’s really sad. I’m so proud of him, but I’m gonna miss the heck out of him. He’s just such a lovely person, a great person.
Digest: You have a demanding job, a husband, three kids, two dogs. What is your strategy for handling it all?
Hughes: I don’t know that I handle it! I show up for all of it and I just try to do the most awesome job I can in any one area when I’m there. That’s what I try to do. I can’t always say that I’m always on top of it, but there’s certain things that you can’t let slip, like your family — you can’t screw that up. I just definitely try to show up and be the best I can in those situations. You’ve got to put in the time. You just have to make the time and put in the time [as] your priorities. Your priorities, I think, are what makes it work, one way or the other.
Did You Know?
Hughes and hubby Russell Young named their eldest, Dylan, after Dylan Thomas, the favorite poet of Hughes’s father. Their middle child, Cash, was named after Johnny Cash (“Russell and I are both fans”). They picked Sadie “because we wanted a name that was old-fashioned, but girly at the same time.”
Sadie is pals with Natalia Stafford, the 9-year-old daughter of one of Hughes’s closest friends, Michelle Stafford (Nina). “They get along really well. There is an age difference, but Natalia’s pretty sophisticated. They’ve actually spent a lot of time together.”