To hear Lisa LoCicero tell it, something cosmic was at work when she was tapped to join the GH cast 10 years ago as no-nonsense Brooklynite Olivia Falconeri, mom of Sonny’s secret firstborn, Dante. Back in 2008, “I was doing lots of guest-starring, I was auditioning a lot,” she recalls. “But when you’re living your life in the way you know you’re meant to, it’s like energetic rays go out into the universe and something just comes out of the blue that you didn’t expect.”
Such was the case with GH; her career there kicked off when “my manager called to say that they had like an eight-episode arc written for me on GENERAL HOSPITAL. As everyone has heard me discuss for the past 10 years nonstop, I had watched the show since I was about 8 years old, so of course, I was thrilled. I had done a test with Maurice [Benard, Sonny] for the original Kate/Connie role,” which went to Megan Ward, “and I think they wanted that flip side of that role; they wanted the real Bensonhurst side, and that’s why they brought me in.”
Brooklyn Dodger: Here’s what Olivia looked like around the time she traded Brooklyn for Port Charles back in 2008.
Those original episodes came and went, but Olivia stayed. Then-Head Writer Robert Guza, Jr. “really wanted to play out that ‘son of Sonny’ story, and that was the sort of golden age of this character, for sure,” LoCicero says of the reveal that Olivia had secretly given birth to Sonny’s son, Dante, as a teenager. “Maurice and Dominic [Zamprogna, ex-Dante] and I still talk about what a great time we had at that time, when no one knew who Dante was and there was still all that mystery around it. You got to play a lot of subtext in every scene and it was the most fun I’ve ever had as an actor.”
Family Dinner: LoCicero, pictured with Maurice Benard (Sonny, l.) and Dominic Zamprogna (ex-Dante) in 2009, considers the storyline of Sonny learning that he sired Dante to be her favorite. “People still come up to me and talk about the Sonny shooting Dante scene and all the fallout from that. That was a great episode.”
Even back then, LoCicero didn’t take her longevity for granted. “Watching the show as long as I did, I certainly knew that being essentially a ‘Brenda Bot’ — I’m a diminutive brunette with big brown eyes and a sort of sassy attitude toward the character of Sonny and whatever — that’s like the quickest revolving door on the show! Everybody knows it. It’s basically like you’re walking in there with a trapdoor under your feet!”
Happily, though, early reaction to Olivia was positive on set. “Everyone was incredibly complimentary from day one and we got a lot of great response to the character,” she says. “Of course, at that time, there was a lot of blowback from fans of the pairing that Sonny was in with Kate, and the Internet being what it is, for every person that says, ‘I love you,’ there’s someone else that says, ‘You’re the worst thing I’ve ever seen and I want to poke my eyeballs out with a stick every time you’re on TV.’ That’s just the world we live in now! But Bob was pretty excited about the storyline and so were the producers. I was working every day at that time. There was a lot of energy around it.”
Though it seemed like the show was heading toward a Kate/Sonny/Olivia triangle, Olivia ended up going in another direction. “I think the stuff I did with Brandon [Barash, ex-Johnny] may be one of the reasons that my character stuck around as long as she did,” LoCicero offers. “She sort of diversified early on. If all the eggs would have been in Sonny’s basket, it’s hard to imagine that it would have lasted.”
She has fond memories of the “JOlivia” pairing. “We had the kind of scenes actors love to play, that aren’t so much about plot, but are character-building scenes where you’re eating a dish of spaghetti and shooting the s–t. Working with Brandon was great. He was a dear friend. We always laughed about [the late] John Ingle [ex-Edward] coming out of the building one day as we were walking in and he was like, ‘Grace-Lynne [his wife] and I, we just love your love scenes! We like to watch your love scenes over and over again!’ We just, like, gave each other a high-five and went, ‘Woo! Nailed it!’ ”
Then Came You: Olivia, pictured in 2010, was hot and heavy with Johnny (Brandon Barash) for a while.
After Olivia split from Johnny, Steven Lars won her heart. “That guy should be gold-plated,” LoCicero declares of Steve’s portrayer, Scott Reeves. “He’s one of the sweetest guys in the world. We always joked that by the time our characters actually slept together, they’d been dating for, like, a year. ‘Are we Amish? What is happening here?’ ” In 2013, Steve was written out, and he jilted Olivia on their would-be wedding day. “The popularity of the female characters on soaps, I notice, sort of rises and falls to the degree to which an aspirational male character is in love with you or not,” the actress observes. “Well, that was a big, fat demotion! It was like, ‘You may think you’re cute, but he just decided to go to jail instead of marry you!’ I was always making him lasagna and bringing him barbecue. I did everything right! You suffer a lot of indignities on a soap opera, you really do.”
Almost Paradise: In 2013, Olivia nearly married Steve (Scott Reeves); instead, he went to jail for murder.
Then, in the wake of Connie’s murder, Olivia and Sonny hooked up for a time. LoCicero took their first love scene in stride. “There’s no one who’s a bigger pro at that than Maurice,” she praises. “He’s delightful and lovely and couldn’t be more respectful. And at that point, we had a pretty decent history as friends. It wasn’t particularly uncomfortable. It’s a love scene with Sonny! What could be bad on that day?”
Olivia got new storyline life when she fell for Wally Kurth’s Ned. “We had a moment at the Nurses’ Ball on the red carpet where I grabbed his arm and people saw something in it. The fans kind of said, ‘That’s something that we’d like to see. Why don’t you give that a try?’ Wally is another one that deserves to be a bronze statue in the town square. He’s one of the good ones.”
Olivia’s marriage to Ned has made her a Quartermaine and, now that he’s mayor, the first lady of Port Charles, just the latest events that would have caused LoCicero to require smelling salts as a child. “My 10-year-old self would have said that working on this show was the best thing that an adult human being could possibly do,” she smiles. “To be on the receiving end of Heather Webber’s LSD poisoning was a bucket list item I never knew I had, but I distinctly remember watching the scene when the baby, Steven Lars, my future fiancé, turned the lazy Susan of poison tea. There have been so many [pinch-me moments]. The first time walking through the hospital’s elevator doors that had the big circle painted on it. The first time I ordered food at Kelly’s, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m sitting in Kelly’s!’ The first time I got to work with Tony [Geary, ex-Luke], Genie [Francis, Laura], Tristan [Rogers, Scorpio], Ian [Buchanan, ex-Duke] and Finola [Hughes, Anna] was pretty spectacular, as well. I count Finola as one of my dearest friends now. If you would’ve told me that when I was 11, I would’ve just said, ‘Can we just fast-forward to that and skip all this crap in between? Because if you’re telling me right now that I’m actually gonna know Anna Devane, that’s really all I need to know!’ ”
These days, LoCicero knows full well that Olivia’s life isn’t the stuff of front-burning drama. “Almost none of the characters that my character was anchored to emotionally [in her early days] are there anymore,” she points out. “Johnny’s gone, Steve’s gone, Connie/Kate is gone, Dante’s gone … I get that my character isn’t necessarily the easiest person to write something for at the moment. Plus, Ned and Olivia are not the kind of couple that cheats on each other.” As a result, “It’s not the job it was before,” she allows. “I have a small child at home [daughter Verity, 3] and with her being my second and final child, I know how quickly these years go. But when she starts needing me less, working three days a month may not remain very fulfilling. But I’ve loved this character more than anything I’ve ever played.”
She views hitting the 10-year mark as a significant milestone both personally and professionally. “I made my most specific childhood dream come true and that it’s lasted this long is amazing,” she proclaims. “To measure a job in decades is basically unheard of in the business of acting, so to hit 10 is kind of crazy — especially, as I said, in the role that is the most likely to sort of have a quick disappearance on that canvas! I’d like to think that I’ve done something right, something that fans have appreciated. I have to imagine that’s the case or I wouldn’t still be there. And honestly, at the end of the day, that is really all that matters: telling a story that people are taking in and enjoy watching.”
JUST THE FACTS
Birthday: April 18
Hometown: Grosse Pointe, MI
Four Score: The actress and husband Michael Jann are parents to 16-year-old son Lukas and 3-year-old daughter Verity.
Daytime History: LoCicero made her soap debut on LOVING, playing Jocelyn in 1995 and transitioning her to THE CITY, where she remained until the show’s 1997 cancellation; and in 2004, she played Sonia on ONE LIFE TO LIVE.
Line Producers: LoCicero turns to her family for help running lines. “Over the last 10 years, my son has gotten really good at playing Maurice Benard [Sonny]. My husband, not so much, because he tries to do a little too much of a routine with it. I always have to tell him to dial it back.”
What A Girl Wants: While most of her GH fan fantasies have been fulfilled on-screen, LoCicero sighs, “I never got a pretty dress from Sonny and I never went to his island. But I did have his first baby, so there’s that.”
Asset Management: As Olivia, she notes, “I’m married to the richest man in town. I believe [the Quartermaines] own half the hospital, and I own half the main hotel and the only place that anyone has a wedding or an event or a party.”
Sweet Charity: LoCicero has parlayed her GH celebrity into annual builds for Habitat for Humanity. “I am so grateful to have been able to put together the Habitat for Humanity builds for all these years and for how many castmates have shown up in support,” she says. “I’d like to put out there that I’m trying to put together an all-soap build— get a little healthy competition working in favor of a great cause!”
DID YOU KNOW?
LoCicero has developed a reality show that she’s pitching with SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE’s executive producer, Nigel Lythgoe.
Tuc Watkins (ex-David, ONE LIFE TO LIVE) played the role of Sonny while helping LoCicero memorize her first week of GH scripts. “I really wanted to hit the ground running, particularly with Maurice [Benard, Sonny], and so I called in favors from my soap actor friends.”
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