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ICYMI: Maura West Interview

GENERAL HOSPITAL - AD/PR gallery - 8/17/17 Maura West (Ava) stars on ABC's "General Hospital". "General Hospital" airs Monday-Friday, 3-4 p.m., ET, on the ABC Television Network. GH17 (ABC/Craig Sjodin) MAURA WEST Credit: ABC

The Storyteller

GH’s Maura West Weighs In On Ava’s Latest Bad Romance

It’s been a rough couple of months for Ava Jerome. Her firstborn, Kiki, was murdered on Thanksgiving by back-from-the-dead serial killer Ryan Chamberlain, who, posing as his twin brother, Kevin Collins, then romanced an unwitting Ava nearly all the way to the altar before being presumed dead (again). As Ava reels from the fallout, Maura West shares her thoughts on the twisted tale.

Soap Opera Digest: What was your reaction when you found out that Ava was going to get involved with Ryan?

Maura West: I thought it was awesome! I think it’s great drama, great television. Jon Lindstrom [Ryan/Kevin] and I have worked together in the past [as Carly and Craig on AS THE WORLD TURNS] and I was excited about going to work and working with him frequently. And then, of course, being in a story where Genie Francis [Laura] is involved? Who wouldn’t want to do that? A story like this is what soaps are made of, I think. I love it. I get it, I buy it, I believe it, and I am thrilled that I got to play this story, for sure.

Digest: It’s a pretty dark story. Ava didn’t fall in love with just any killer, she fell in love with her daughter’s killer!

West: I have heard these bits and pieces of [people saying], “Ava brought this on herself, she wanted Kiki dead.” What?! That is absolutely just nonsense, preposterous — nothing is true about that. This woman did not want anything bad to happen to her daughter. Yes, Ava had those sessions with “Kevin” early on, when they first met, where she said, “I just can’t get over these feelings of wanting revenge.” All very human stuff. Heightened, of course, because Ava’s very heightened, this genre’s very heightened. But let’s go into everyone’s private sessions with their psychiatrists! We’d hear some real doozies, right? But thoughts are just thoughts, thoughts aren’t deeds.

Digest: I thought it was obvious that Ryan killed Kiki because he totally misread what Ava wanted.

West: Yes. Ryan, the well-intentioned serial killer. What he did for love! It’s quite beautiful, really [laughs].

Digest: Yeah, Ryan and Ava could have been a real storybook romance were it not for all that murdering!

West: I agree, because it really boils down to the fact that someone was treating her well. It sounds funny, but it’s true: If we remove that stuff, he really does adore her, and she is so willing and ready and desperate for that sort of affection that she’s all in. Of course, the audience knows the reality here, knows the truth, but Ava didn’t; Ava doesn’t watch GENERAL HOSPITAL! And just playing her, to have someone care about her was very enjoyable for me.

Digest: I really felt bad for Ava, knowing how hard a fall she was in for when Ryan swept her off her feet.

West: So did I! We saw, here and there, little things that perhaps someone who wasn’t so desperate for affection would pick up on. I mean, this man calls her a goddess. If Ava weren’t so desperate for affection, would she notice that this guy’s a little off? She probably would. But she is so desperate for love that she just doesn’t even see it. In fact, I sort of played it, anytime that there was a moment like that, that she is actually, like, under a spell. She’s Svengali’d. That’s how I played it because that’s how I imagine it happens, because, you know, this s—t happens to people! Look at the Golden State Killer! This guy’s married, has a family, lives in a neighborhood, and then it’s like, “Wait, this guy’s actually a monster?!” Ava was so attacked and beaten down all the time that she was a perfect victim for him, really.

Digest: This whole storyline really went to a new emotional level with Kiki’s murder, and the scenes where Ava sees Kiki’s dead body were epic. What are those kinds of heavily dramatic days like for you as an actress?

West: What’s hard is that when stories like this come to a head, there is usually a lot of work around it. You don’t get one script and have a week to prepare that script. These things come in heavy doses. So that week, I’m doing five, six episodes and I get nervous about it because the volume is so great that [you think], “How can I make the 30th scene on the third day of this enormous week as good as I want it to be?” There are only so many words that your brain can hold. So, in that way, it can become difficult. It’s also very draining to kind of be in that Ava world. No one wants to think about the reality [of losing a child]. And I’m not thinking about, God forbid, one of my children having a similar situation or anything like that — I’m faking it, I’m acting. But I’m still entering that world, I’m still letting those thoughts come into my being. And it’s sad. I mean, it really is emotional. I sound like such a drip, but it is emotionally draining to play in that world and to let my imagination take me to a place where something like this could happen to someone that I love so desperately.

Digest: Do you have specific memories of what that day was like, and do you recall how you felt about the scenes when they were done?

West: You know, I do my best to prepare the best I can. Those were difficult because of the situation; she’s walking into this room full of people and there are all these witnesses around. Frank [Valentini, executive producer] was on the floor, as well, and Frank is so great in moments like that, in scenes like that — so great for the actor, he really is. It’s really a strength of his, I think. My instinct, Maura’s instinct, was to touch this body but of course, me, the actor, knows that the body itself is a crime scene and there are cops there. We were doing the blocking or the rehearsal, and I’m crying, and I remember asking, “Can I touch her?” It’s not written that she’s touching her, so I didn’t know. And they just said yes. It is a dramatic television show. In reality, would the police officers in that room let her unzip that bag and get her DNA all over that body? Probably not! But it would have been really hard if I couldn’t do that, if they said no. That would have changed the scene entirely. Interestingly, Hayley [Erin, ex-Kiki] had already left, so there was a body double in the body bag. Somebody told me somewhere along the line that there were discussions about using a dummy, a body form, in this bag, and I think it was one of the writers who said, “No, she should have a body there.” And thank God! There was this beautiful young woman in this bag and I said, “Is it okay if I touch you here?” and she said yes, and I said, “Is it all right if I kiss you?” and she said, “Okay, yes.” We didn’t know each other, we’d never met, but it’s amazing how little moments like that can really affect someone’s performance. I remember sending my son Joe the scripts beforehand. He really is a great resource for me because he’s such a great actor himself and someone who will never lie to me and someone I trust completely. I said, “What do you think about this?” And he just said, “You’re going to be great.” The scene, as it’s written, is really exactly as it played; there were no dialogue cuts, and it was all right there on the page. I remember going home and he said, “How did it go?” and I went, “It wasn’t my best work, Joe. I hope I don’t disappoint you.” And then it aired and he loved it. He was really very sweet. That day, in particular, I felt a little bit out of body. I was driving home when it was all said and done and it was almost like I wasn’t there. That has happened to me a few times over my career, where it almost felt like it wasn’t me.

Digest: What has it been like to work so closely with Jon again?

West: It’s funny; it has been like 10 years since we last worked together and boy, it is just like putting on your favorite running shoes. It was just so comfortable and we just slipped right back in, as different characters, because Ava’s really not a whole lot like Carly — she looks a lot like her, she’s a little older than Carly Tenney — and Ryan is quite different from Craig Montgomery. So here we are, different characters, different times in our lives, a decade later, and it’s really been fun and comfortable and trusting. God, when you can have somebody you can trust, it just makes a huge difference for an actor. I’ve loved every minute of it. He’s a very smart actor, a smart guy, and a terrific scene partner. And he’s really cute!

Digest: I enjoyed that even though she believed Ava to be the “other woman”, Laura had a great deal of compassion for her, as opposed to villifying her.

West: Yeah, I know. When Laura is on that bridge with her, she is extremely … I would use the word “loving”. I think it’s a really nice dynamic between these two women. I mean, it’s a role that Genie Francis is so darn good at, this character that is the matriarch of the show. That’s what she is. She treats Ava really, really well, and with love. I loved those scenes and I was very pleased that that’s what the writers chose to do on that bridge, have these women come together rather than hiss and have a catfight up there.

Digest: I have to admit, I was a little sad to see Ava’s fantasy pierced when the truth came out.

West: I felt the same way! I love Ava. I’ve made it pretty clear that I love this character, I forgive her her flaws, I can find reasons for her behavior, and so for me, playing this was really fun, very dramatic. It’s very Shakespearean. They’re up there on this bridge at night and she’s thrown off the bridge and then rescued by Jason and pulled back over and to hear all of this in the wind and the moonlight on the river — it is extremely dramatic and well-written and anybody who likes Ava, I think, will feel for her. Not because of me or because of anything I’m doing, but because of the story, the way it’s written. And even people who hate Ava, I mean, it’s pretty hard not to be moved by it. Not by me, but by the situation, if we can put ourselves in this situation, which is what I do; I just pretend, I’m just pretending. I put myself in that situation and it’s devastating! I don’t know even how she is going to get through it. I really don’t. We’ll see!

Digest: And they haven’t found Ryan’s body. Who knows what that means!

West: If Ava Jerome doesn’t get to kill that guy, I am going to go to my grave with the regret of my career. There had better be something, and it had better be good! I wish that for her.

Digest: Well, she said to Franco that she wants him to be alive so that she can kill him.

West: I loved that! He’s awesome, too, my God. I mean, if you want to work with somebody awesome! I just love Roger Howarth [Franco]. I’ve always loved working with him. It’s funny; we did do some scenes here and there on that other show back East [on ATWT, where he played Paul], but I don’t recollect them. But I have to say that some of my first scenes on GENERAL HOSPITAL, those first scenes in the Quartermaine mansion between Ava and Franco, those are some of my favorite scenes that I’ve done on this show. I love Roger, and I love Franco and Ava together. I love that there is this man and this woman who have been together, who have hurt each other, but there is love in there and friendship in there. Put him on the short list of people who care about Ava. There aren’t many!

Digest: How do you think Ava will manage living in the same town with Kevin, with someone who looks exactly like Ryan?

West: That’s interesting to think about, isn’t it? That would be tough! But she’s not the only one. A lot of people in this town have a history with these men. I think she could just be added to the list of people who will be having a hard time!

Digest: I wonder if this ordeal will shift how people in Port Charles view Ava, if they might have a bit more compassion for her.

West: I wouldn’t bet on that. Come on, now! Every town needs a whipping girl.