Interview

Kelly Thiebaud GH Exit Interview

After playing Britt on and off since 2012, Kelly Thiebaud is leaving again — and this time, she says, it’s for good. She opened up to Digest about bidding farewell to Port Charles.

Soap Opera Digest: Talk me through your decision to leave GH.

Kelly Thiebaud: There are so many different aspects of it, honestly. One is that I’m in love and have been doing long-distance for almost a year now and my partner cannot move to the States at the moment. But also, as a lot of people who have followed me on the show know, I am very interested in doing other things with my career. As much as I love Britt and I love the fans and I love working on GENERAL HOSPITAL, I just felt like I had to leave and go and pursue those other dreams and goals of mine, because being [on GH full time] doesn’t really allow the flexibility to do other projects. So those were the two biggest factors in my decision.

Digest: When did you make the decision?

Thiebaud: This has been something I knew [was inevitable]. My return to the show [in 2020] was only supposed to be temporary and to be quite frank, it was only because of my relationship with Steve [Burton, ex-Jason] and our characters falling in love with each other and having something really magical happen between us that made me want to stay, so I agreed to stay longer. I was very clear with the writers and Frank [Valentini, executive producer] about that. We were all really excited to go on this journey, and then the whole bomb dropped [with Burton departing the show in 2021] and I was really disappointed about that. It was like, “What just happened? I stayed on the show for this storyline!” But it was always going to be a temporary thing for me because I really want to do films and theater and all sorts of other things. It was always something that I knew would happen, I just didn’t know quite how it would happen until this beautiful soul came into my life and it kind of made the decision for me, in a way.

Digest: When the news broke in August, a lot of people thought you leaving had to do with your role on STATION 19.

Thiebaud: Yeah, I don’t know what it was about that Deadline article that made people think that I was leaving for that show. Honestly, I probably would have been able to do both if that was the case, because it’s on the same network and Frank is so incredible and always wants to try to help his actors [do outside projects] as much as he can. But that had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Digest: Let’s talk about Britt’s journey on the show. She was such a different person when you began playing her in 2012.

Thiebaud: I know! I was watching some of my early episodes on the show and wow, who she was then and who she is now really is so different! It’s a really beautiful thing to see. I loved that her start was, you know, getting on stage at the Nurses’ Ball to announce she’s pregnant and being so snarky and rude to Sabrina and Emma. Looking at it made me feel for her because at that time, she had no self-worth, and I look at her now and I see so much freedom with who she is. She’s not perfect and she can still be catty and rude and inconsiderate, but there’s so much more love in her and light in her and humor and confidence. Just as a woman, I absolutely love her so much and I’m really going to miss playing her. It actually makes me sad to think about not getting to dip my toe into that world again. But I really feel like, especially in my last few days — I’m going to get emotional — that I really soaked in the experience of being on that stage. The sets, the actors I was working with — there was a moment where it kind of hit me. I was like, “I get what this is.” It’s weird; sometimes when you leave something, you finally understand it, and I think I had that feeling. It was really beautiful to leave with this kind of peace with what I did on the show, my experience there and the wonderful people that I got to work with. It’s something that when I look back on, I’ll feel very privileged to have been part of a legacy show and to have played a character on and off for nine years who started off not likable, but became someone that viewers would tweet me about to say how much they love her and how fun she is and how much they enjoy watching me. That’s just so meaningful.

Digest: Can you put into words what you feel like you were able to see those last few days that you hadn’t before?

Thiebaud: Because I wanted to do other things and there were other pursuits that mattered to me, I think that in my mind, for the longest time, I was trying to make it something it wasn’t. But I was able to kind of look at it from an outside perspective and go, “This is so cool! Look at these sets that people built and these cameras and we get our makeup done and we get wardrobe and we come up here and run our lines and explore the scene!” Just all the things that go into making a soap opera really kind of came full circle for me once I was no longer expecting it to be something it wasn’t, and there was a moment where I was like, “Now that I’m seeing it, do I want to leave it?” I was like, “Oh, wait, I get it now, but now I’m leaving! This feels weird, maybe I should be staying and enjoying seeing it differently?” There was a little bit of a tug within myself with that.

Digest: You’ve come and gone before, but this exit is scripted to be permanent, as Britt died on camera. Did you have an opinion about that?

Thiebaud: You know, I had serious talks with Frank about wanting to leave. He is a wonderful boss, very compassionate and understanding and I am so, so grateful to him and what he did for me, from hiring me to letting me go on to this new chapter in my life. In the soap world, you can still come back after you die and who knows what will happen in 10 years, but for me, really wanting to move on in my creative experiences and in my life, I needed to feel like this was the end, and that’s why we all kind of decided on her dying.

Digest: Was it sad to shoot?

Thiebaud: Oh, my gosh, it was so sad! I wanted to make it look believable and I was nervous about that. I was on YouTube searching, “How to die properly as an actor.” I really cared about how it looked and that was challenging and stressful and just knowing that this was the end, it was very emotional. There was a scene where Britt’s body is lying in a hospital bed and her mom is crying over her and delivering this beautiful speech I was lying there knowing this was my last scene, Britt is dead, my TV mom is crying and I’m trying not to get affected myself because I have to play dead. I just love Kathleen [Gati, Liesl] so much; she is like a mother to me. After they cut, the crew and producers and everyone just came over and gave me so much love and I started sobbing. I received so much enthusiasm and excitement from people for what’s to come in my life, and just nice and kind words about how much they enjoyed working with me. It was a beautiful day.

Digest: Britt hasn’t been very lucky in romantic love, but she’s had some top-notch friendships on the show — with Brad, with Maxie, and more recently, with Austin — that the fans are really going to miss.

Thiebaud: I’m so glad the show highlighted the Britt/Brad relationship throughout the years and gave me this beautiful best friend. I can’t speak highly enough of Parry [Shen, Brad]; I just love him and I think he’s a shining star. Kirsten [Storms, Maxie] is so fun and so alive in scenes and we had great conversations when the cameras weren’t rolling. Roger [Howarth, Austin] is so great and I think it was an unexpected bond for both of us. We just floated off of each other really easily and I had a blast working with him. If I’d have stayed, I would have loved to be paired up with Roger. I think it could have been a beautiful story, a friendship that turned into a love story.

Digest: What did packing up your dressing room and walking out the building for the last time feel like?

Thiebaud: Well, luckily, I didn’t have a lot of stuff in my dressing room, so the packing was really easy! When I walked out, it was, like, 9 o’clock at night because we had really long days my last week there. I just remember holding my bag in front of me, but in such a way that it felt like I was giving myself a hug and just really breathing in the whole energy and vibe that I was walking away from all the years and the experiences and emotions. I just felt at peace and I felt really proud of myself.

Digest: As well you should. You’ve created a character that is truly going to be missed, as evidenced by the huge reaction news of your exit garnered. What did that response mean to you?

Thiebaud: It was overwhelming. It was so lovely and appreciated. I know this isn’t the way that the fans wanted things to happen, but I hope that they like how we wrapped up this special character. I’m so grateful to them for the support that I’ve gotten over the years and I hope they continue to follow me in what I do next.

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