GH’s Nancy Lee Grahn Has Found Creative Ways To Spend Her Break From GH.
Since the coronavirus pandemic forced GH to suspend production, Nancy Lee Grahn has been putting her free time to good use, creating online content for her fans and spending quality time with her loved ones. We checked in with the fan fave over email.
Soap Opera Digest: This is probably the longest you’ve gone without working on a soap since your maternity leave in 1998! Has it been strange to have this kind of prolonged break from Alexis and the routine of life at GH?
Nancy Lee Grahn: Well, all of this is strange, to say the least. And my maternity leave was only three weeks, one week bed rest before birth and only two after. So this has been the longest time off of my day job while on daytime. The last two years of GH were not be most engaged there, story-wise, so not being there often wasn’t hard to get used to, but not being there at all was an adjustment. I got a taste of what retirement might look like, and I didn’t like the look at all. So I’m not ever going to retire. So there’s that revelation now.
Digest: What do you miss about going to work?
Grahn: A focused, existing, professional purpose where I show up and do what I know how to do and what I do well. I didn’t have to create or invent a purpose. There’s a big difference.
Digest: I’m so impressed with all the creative ways you’ve found to stay connected with your fans during this time. What made you decide to start up your YouTube chat show, SOAPS IN QUARANTINE?
Grahn: I am always looking for creative ways where I get to do what floats my boat. Where I get to be me outside of the appropriate rules of the soapbox (for which I’m forever grateful). But on my own, I get to be a little more unorthodox. I get to talk about what I want to talk about, write what I like, think my own thoughts, and swear. As some may have noticed, I like to swear. I also like the audience that has stood by me for 34 years a lot. I like our relationship. It’s very give and take, and creating some stuff that might be watchable to them, especially now, is a way I can give back a bit more freely. So essentially, I got a shelter-in- place order, a Zoom box along with nothing but free time, and just started producing stuff.
Digest: Your Zoom interview with Anthony Geary (ex-Luke) has racked up well over 70,000 views on YouTube. Do you feel like you learned things about Tony that you didn’t know before the candid conversation you had?
Grahn: It’s up to almost 82K so far, but who’s counting, LOL? It took off, I think, because we talked honestly about things that don’t often get talked about and I think others found that refreshing and interesting. It’s fun to watch actors just hanging around and clowning with each other, but that quickly grew old for many as the onslaught of celebrity Zoom hangs kept multiplying — and multiplying — to the point of celebrity “look at me” fatigue. I thought, “If I’m going to do this, it’s gotta have some substance, some form, something new to add.” I know Tony. I know his process, his intelligence, his integ- rity as an artist, and his challenges over the years reckoning with that in a medium where the desire to get it right has many limitations. Being honest about that part comes when you’re truly free to speak about it. He is now and I knew that. When you are employed by a successful company, you have a respon- sibility to be as honest as you can be while toeing a company line. It’s respectful. But Ton-Ton has no more F’s to give, as they say, and is free to do and say now what he wants, when he wants, without concern of pushback or ruffling feathers, and I think he did it fairly and squarely. I’m glad he agreed to go deeper than he has in the past with me. If I do another, it would have to be as forthright as this one. I’m not big on predictable fluff.
Digest: You marked your birthday this year with an innovative virtual party on Instagram to raise money for Meals on Wheels, where a large number of your co- stars — including William deVry (Julian), Genie Francis (Laura) and Laura Wright (Carly) — drove by for a socially-distanced celebration. What stands out to you now when you think back on that day? Any favorite moments from the live stream?
Grahn: I really loved my drive-by fundraiser bday. I took an ordinary COVID bday (did I just say that?) and turned it into a win for Meals on Wheels, my castmates (who all confessed that they didn’t realize how much we missed each other until we saw each other), and GH fans who deserved a shared celebration of any kind. I think my favorite part is listening to Kate and me being mommy and daughter. Me out of control and Kate handling everything. Hilariously caught on tape for her to rightfully use to humiliate me for years to come.
Digest: You’ve also masterminded the YouTube series COVID SUPPORT GROUP, co-starring Kim Zimmer (ex-Reva, GUIDING LIGHT et al) and Jane Elliot (ex-Tracy). What was the genesis?
Grahn: Well, I got lots of ideas in that already- crowded brain of mine. This is what I’m most excited about for now. I love to write, I love to laugh, I love Jane and Kim, who are the best, and I love [friend and collaborator] Kaore [Bonnell], who did all the tech heavy lifting. (I still have AOL so clearly I can do none of it.) And since none of us were busy, we decide to have a playdate. We learned a lot from this first one. We aren’t pro techies so we just winged it a few times and Kaore looked at it and almost had a breakdown because nothing matched and Zoom shooting clearly has techniques that we weren’t privy to and can only be learned through experimentation. But he pulled it out of his a– and it’s just a bit of good clean fun.
Digest: For a period of time during this pandemic, you were separated from your daughter, which I imagine was not easy for either of you. What was your reunion like?
Grahn: Magnificent. She was in her college apartment and [in] quarantine for 14 days alone without going out at all so she could surprise me and come home for my birthday. She never left. It’s heavenly.
Digest: Kate also graduated from college at USC during this time. What was your at- home celebration like?
Grahn: Unbelievably memorable. I decorated our sunroom, we all three [Grahn, her fiancé, Richard, and her daughter] got dressed up, she put on her cap and gown, and we watched possibly the worst, most anticlimactic, undeserving, uncreative virtual graduation imaginable from a very prestigious college that cost me 80K a year and didn’t even mention the grads by name in their individual schools, or at the very least flash the names in a scroll over the endless speeches from administrators and professors. They wouldn’t even send her magna cum laude rope to her home, and told her she could pick it up at the office when the pandemic was over, but I digress (thanks for letting me get that off my chest). But we got over that quickly, toasted with a breakfast beer, did a grad photo shoot and had a glorious, celebratory day. The next day there was a 30-car surprise parade for Kate and the whole block participated. She will never forget it. It was joyous and perfect.
Digest: Presuming that you have been quarantined with your fiancé, what has been the best and worst thing about near-constant togetherness?
Grahn: We have been inseparable. We had a health challenge to navigate since December until just five weeks ago, which has been my main focus, but we are on the upside of it and doing very well. We are in love and love being in each other’s company. Being quarantined with Richard and Kate is so special, actu- ally. My only complaint is the same as almost every complaint in every household right now: The mom/wife/woman does almost everything in the house, seen and unseen, and men and children do what they can. Don’t get me started.
Digest: Speaking of love interests, where we left off on GH, Neil and Alexis were not in a great place. What is your take on how their relationship has unfolded thus far?
Grahn: Has it unfolded? I can’t remember.
Digest: Describe what it’s like to work with Joe Flanigan (Neil) — I get the sense that you enjoy it!
Grahn: I adore him. He’s interesting, thoughtful and I love listening to him talk about his sons. What a great dad. Says so much about a man to me.
Digest: When we last saw Alexis, she was wrestling with the loss of her license to practice law and grappling with an uncertain future. What’s your take on this professional crossroads for Alexis?
Grahn: I think it would crush her. How that unfolds, I know not. Digest: We were also treated to some really solid “Davis girls” scenes between Alexis, Kristina, Molly and Sam before this break. What was it like on set having all four of you together again? Grahn: Like butter. I want more. I think it seems, so does the audience.
Digest: As you reflect on what these last (many!) weeks have been like, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned?
Grahn: Well, I think the most important one for all of us is to actually learn the lessons that are glaringly apparent right now. The way I see it is the earth has given its inhabit- ants a giant time-out to reflect on what truly matters — among them, the air, the water, the soil, the forests, the beasts and each other. We need a collective healing that can only occur, I believe, if we learn that we are culpable in creating this current chaos. It didn’t just happen to us, it happened because of us. We grew complacent, and took a whole lot for granted. Most importantly that a clean planet and a kind world are not owed to us, but are a result of our commitment to those things. We need to heal. I believe one good way to this healing is to recognize how we can do better. Get involved, get engaged, be a part of the solution, learn facts, believe them, care about others, don’t sit back and wait for others to fix it, be seen, be heard and act to make the world a better place.