GH’s Roger Howarth And Rebecca Herbst Dish About Their Working Relationship, That Jailhouse Wedding And What’s Next For “Friz”
In late March, GH’s newest on-screen spouses, Rebecca Herbst and Roger Howarth, sat down with Digest for their first joint interview, which was broadcast on the show’s Facebook page. The conversation continued after the cameras stopped rolling.
Soap Opera Digest: Do either of you remember the first time you met?
Rebecca Herbst: It was in passing, but I do remember. I remember him walking into the building. I was like, “It’s Todd [Howarth’s ONE LIFE TO LIVE character, who he played on GH from 2012-13]!”
Roger Howarth: The whole ONE LIFE TO LIVE gang walking in. It was like an album cover.
Herbst: I was like, “Wow!”
Digest: Had you ever really spoken before Franco and Liz got involved a few years later?
Howarth: Not a lot.
Herbst: Or at all, really.
Howarth: I think I was really kind
of socially awkward; at one point I saw her in, like, a really big car and I was like, “That’s a big car!” And then I was like, “God, why do I say such dumb things?” I think that was the limit of our conversation!
Herbst: Yeah, that was the extent of it.
Digest: If it wasn’t the promise of sparkling conversation, what was it about the idea of working with Roger that appealed to you, Rebecca?
Herbst: Just that it was different. I thought it might be a different story for Elizabeth this time, instead of repeating what happened with Jason or repeating what happened with Lucky. And I’m not saying that those relationships should not be spoken about or explored; of course they should be. I just thought that it was time for her….
Digest: To not come in second to another woman?
Herbst: Yeah! Franco’s 100 percent in, and that is a first for Elizabeth — aside from her very first relationship with Lucky, back in the Jonathan Jackson days.
Digest: What did you think about the prospect of working with her, Roger?
Howarth: Well, I had been in the same building with Becky, and I knew that I wanted to work with her. She seemed like an authentic person.
Digest: Did working together come easily, or did it take some time to find a flow as scene partners?
Howarth: It didn’t feel difficult.
Herbst: There’s a natural chemistry between the two of us. And also, going into it knowing that we’ve been doing this for a combined 40-some years, we have a respect for each other. We both know what we’re doing.
Howarth: Yeah, and we both — well, I don’t mean to speak for her, but for me, I felt like I knew that the writing was really strong. I felt that we were being given a really great opportunity, and I felt really grateful to be given the chance to try and play this story between these two people.
Herbst: Yeah, and to have people root for these two people.
Howarth: If you look at it objectively, I thought it was really smart [to pair these characters] and I felt very fortunate to be a part of it. I also felt on a practical level, as Roger, like I needed to do everything I could to make sure that it worked because Elizabeth was such a well-established character and Becky had done so much good work for so many years and was so beloved.
Herbst: That’s nice. I actually thought, “Oh, I feel so bad for him. He has to work with me and he just came from working with Michelle Stafford [Nina], who’s like, Michelle Stafford. And now he’s got to work with Becky?” [Notices Howarth’s shocked expression.] That’s how I felt! I thought that he was going to be totally bummed out and just annoyed.
Howarth: I totally appreciate you. I think you’re really terrific. I do. And at some point, I think you probably said —
Herbst: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry you have to work with me!”
Howarth: No! What I was going to say is that I know what I bring to the table. I know when I walk in a room, no one goes, “Oh, he seems really nice.” So I know at some point, there was probably some math like, “Oh, God, I gotta work with this guy.”
Herbst: No. I actually told Frank [Valentini, executive producer] that I wanted to work with you.
Howarth: “Even if he is a jerk.”
Herbst: “A total jerk.” No, I really told Frank that, and I don’t think I’ve ever told him that I wanted to work with anyone.
Howarth: I’m flattered.
Digest: Rebecca, can you tell when Roger can’t remember his next line? Because he once described to me what he does when that happens.
Herbst: Oh, jeez!
Howarth: No, no, it’s worse than that! I think what I related to you was what she told me I do when I don’t know my line! Because I asked you once, Becky, “What do I do when I can’t remember my line?” Do you remember what you said?
Herbst: I remember the conversation….
Howarth: Well, what do I do when I don’t remember my line?
Herbst: You … you … say my name? You ask a question?
Howarth: You said I lean forward!
Herbst: Oh! Yes! What he does is that he will stare at you, and I guess that probably does come with the leaning forward, because it’s like he’s … [starts to lean forward] not going to say his line. And then it comes to him.
Howarth: I need to shake it out of my head. And I can’t say what Becky does when she can’t remember her line because she always remembers her line! I have never worked with someone who is better prepared.
Herbst: That’s not true.
Howarth: No, it’s totally true. You always know your line. Always. You may misspeak, and we’ll stop, but I don’t think we’ve ever had to stop because you couldn’t remember it. You may say it funny every once in a while, but you always know what to say!
Herbst: Well, then I’m a way better actress than I thought [laughs]!
Digest: Which one of you is the more gung-ho to run lines?
Herbst: Hmmm. I don’t know. I think we both know when it’s warranted, when the material needs to be run. And then we most definitely will find time to do that.
Howarth: I like the way you do it. Sometimes, when you run lines with an actor, they feel compelled to also match the energy of a performance, and the timing of a performance and sometimes even the blocking of a performance.
Herbst: And then it gets stale.
Howarth: The way we do it, it’s kind of like, “Duh-duh-duh,” “Duh-duh-duh.” It’s a shorthand. And then I’ll remind myself that, “That’s a cue,” that kind of thing.
Herbst: We’re doing it mostly for direction and just for the sake of actually remembering the lines. I mean, we’ll discuss what the emotion is within the scene, but then that doesn’t happen until we tape. Even in rehearsal — I’m not a big, “Let it out all in rehearsal” person. We kind of save it.
Digest: You’ve both told me that you still get nervous about the work, at least from time to time. What kinds of scenes get your nerves going?
Herbst: For me, it’s scenes where I have to address a group of people, like funerals, or even weddings. Having a lot of dialogue in front of all of my peers? No thanks. Not my thing.
Howarth: That’s nerve-wracking, for sure, because you feel beholden and responsible not to waste anyone’s time.
Herbst: Yeah, because everybody’s just wanting to go home and it’s all on you. That’s hard.
Howarth: Anxiety for me is weird. It comes at strange times, it comes a lot, and it’s something new every time and different every time. There’s no consistency to it. But I don’t think I’m afraid of, like, larger material or the emotional aspects of a role. That doesn’t make me nervous so much as, like, I’ll be nervous sometimes because there are certain words in the dialogue that I just can’t seem to commit. There’s one every day that I just can’t seem to get into my head enough to get it to come out properly. [Pauses.] And then I lean forward. [They laugh.]
Digest: Any final thoughts before you go?
Howarth: Just thank you to the fans for watching, and for all of their support.
Herbst: Absolutely, thank you to all the fans. We appreciate you. w
(NOT) GOIN’ TO THE CHAPEL
Neither actor was bothered by “Friz’s” decision to say, “I do” while the groom was behind bars. “I thought it was great,” Howarth enthused. “The point of that story, as I saw it, was that they really cared about one another and they just wanted to commit to one another and get married … I think they’re pleased with the choice that they made.” Herbst shared, “I felt relieved that it was just happening because I know there were a few people out there who wanted them to get married, and after the first and second and I don’t know how many attempts we had, it was just nice that we were actually doing it.” She doesn’t feel they need a redo with all the trimmings. “I don’t think Elizabeth needs another white wedding dress,” the actress teased. “She probably has a half a dozen of ’em!”
Herbst is pleased that all three of Liz’s boys are now regularly seen on-screen. “I love that we’ve let them out of the attic,” she winked. “It’s been nice to not just talk about them and have them with us.” Howarth would welcome the show exploring Franco adopting Cameron (“That’s a good story”), as well as Liz and Franco possibly expanding their family. “When Franco and Nina were discussing a baby, Franco was mortified at the idea,” he pointed out. “And so it might be a way to represent growth and how he’s different in this relationship and how he’s different as a person.” Herbst observed, “Elizabeth has never had a planned pregnancy, so I think it would just be a different scenario for her. And she’s so completely in love with Franco that I’m sure she would love to have a baby, a baby girl, with him.” “Triplets!” Howarth chimed in.
BREAKUP TO MAKEUP
The actors weighed in on the couple’s recent dust-up over Franco not cluing Liz in to the deal he made with Jordan to plead guilty to Ryan’s crimes in order to suss out the real killer. While they both felt that Franco had no choice but to adhere to Jordan’s instructions to keep Liz in the dark, Howarth qualified, “Perception is everything, and I think if Elizabeth’s feelings were hurt by the perception that he had a choice and chose not [to tell her], then that’s what’s important.” “I personally feel like it was a little extreme for her to give him such a hard time,” Herbst opined. “But I definitely think that she does have abandonment issues — and at some point, maybe they should be resolved.”
Herbst addressed the desire that fans have expressed to see GH tackle a more Elizabeth-centric storyline, saying, “Of course, I would welcome it. But I also understand that sometimes a story is about you and sometimes it’s not and I am okay with that…. I know a lot of people say that they would like to see Elizabeth’s point of view and have her be more front and center, but I feel like the story that revolves around Franco, Elizabeth is as much a part of that story as Franco is, because if there’s no Elizabeth, then why do we want to see Franco get out of the bubble wrap [when he was trapped by Seth Baker] or the dog cage [when he was trapped by Tom Baker]?” Like many viewers, she’d be interested in a visit by Liz’s absentee parents (“They can stay for two days,” Howarth joked). Herbst offered, “I think it would stir up an awful lot in her and she would be a mess. I think she has worked really hard to keep her strength, because she’s got to take care of these boys and keep her relationship going strong, and I think having her parents show up would probably tear her apart.”
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