No "I do's" were swapped in the making of the "Hallowedding" of GH's Franco and Carly, but plenty of hearts were broken (and arrest warrants issued) after Franco punished his cheating non-wife by screening the Evil Eye necklace-captured footage of Sonny and Carly dishing their respective roles in A.J.'s murder and its cover-up in front of Michael (and District Attorney Scott). As the dust begins to settle, Head Writer Ron Carlivati gamely tackled our wedding-related Burning Questions.
By Mara Levinsky
Soap Opera Digest: Was Franco's pantomimed eating of the popcorn scripted?
Carlivati: No, it was not. I mean, we indicated that the camera was on Franco at the reveal, to see his reaction. We did not say what that reaction was. Frank [Valentini, executive producer] told me, if I'm remembering this correctly, that [Roger Howarth] did it with the popcorn during rehearsal, and then he didn't do it when they went to tape it, and Frank was like, "Wait, wait, wait, why didn't you do that thing that you did before?" And he was like, "Oh, I don't know, I was just trying it," and Frank said, "No, no, no, you gotta do it." So, it was something that he did when they were rehearsing and Frank loved it and said, "You have to do that when we tape it."
Digest: Related question: That amazing end-of-show wink that Franco gave Carly after destroying her life. Was that scripted?
Carlivati: That was not scripted, either. The way we wrote that scene, I mean, there were two huge things going on. Obviously, Michael is walking out on a devastated Carly, so we wanted to give that its moment, where she tries to go after him and he says, "You're dead to me," and walks out. And so what we wrote was, "Make sure we see Carly's devastation and let that wash over her, and then, like kind of typical Carly fashion, we see her suddenly go cold and hard and turn around and face the guy that just did this to her." So, [Laura Wright] had two things to play. She had to play the devastation over the loss of Michael, but then we wanted her to be like, "Wait a minute, where is that motherf—–r that did that to me," and turn around and give him the look of death. We thought, "We're ending on the showdown look between those two." That's what we wrote. And Roger added the wink, which I thought was the ultimate sort of "F you" to Carly, which, I gotta tell you, almost made me fall off my chair. It really was amazing. What we wrote was that she turns and locks eyes with him and we know the battle is about to happen, and then he just gave it that little capper, which kind of put it over the top.
Digest: The meanest wink in soap opera history, I'd say. What went into your team figuring out when to get the kids out of the room and what would be appropriate for the kids to hear and be privy to?
Carlivati: I was like, "The kids can not see this tape." It's not exactly a sex tape, but we felt, "Okay, we've got to get those kids out before the tape plays." It was really impossible to get them out any sooner, because they're there at the end of the episode, and once he says, "No, I won't marry that lying, cheating whore," they're kind of rolling until we can get them out. We wanted to see Josslyn and Spencer's reactions to the whole thing, but where we drew the line was, "They can't see that tape, but as long as we get them out before that, we'll be okay." I'm sure kids have seen and heard a lot worse. It's so funny because in a lot of ways, it just rolled off of them. Spencer just wanted to know, "Will we still get cake?"
Digest: What went into figuring out if the tape was going to be admissible, like, if Sonny and Carly were recorded without their consent, could they still be prosecuted, etc.?
Carlivati: Well, we definitely wanted there not to be a loophole, like, "Oh, this tape is not admissible and Sonny's going to walk, as he always does." We didn't want that. We wanted the sense of, "This tape is going to bury him. This tape is the final nail in Sonny's coffin." So, we didn't delve too deeply into the inadmissibility of the tape.
Digest: Could this tape also put Franco away, as an accessory after the fact just as Carly was, since he too had knowledge of the crime?
Carlivati: I mean, in theory. Look, a lot of this is going to be up to a prosecutor, how much they want to go after people for an accessory-type crime. Once you start going down that road, it's like, "Let's put Kiki and Morgan away!" I think the true criminal here is Sonny, and arguably Carly, who was in on this cover-up from the get-go. I think people who have found out and not run to the cops, I mean, that is really up to prosecutorial discretion, whether or not they are going to pursue that kind of thing. In theory, yes, you could call Franco an accessory after the fact. I think his subsequent crimes far outshadow that [laughs].
Digest: Michael became privy at the wedding to the crypt sex between Sonny and Ava. Had you deliberately been holding that in your back pocket as something that would also really devastate Michael?
Carlivati: Yeah, from the beginning, we had to be really careful and figure out a way that that didn't come up, because obviously, he'd heard that Sonny and Ava had sex. The thing was, we wanted Sonny and Michael to be as close as we could possibly have them be before the tape, before Michael finally finds out. So, we felt like hearing that he and Ava had sex on his father's grave would kind of do the opposite, would kind of make him feel disgusted by Sonny. So, we were careful that even when he heard about Ava and Sonny sleeping together, [that wasn't revealed]. In front of Michael, anyway, we didn't have the setting and the circumstances come out, and that's because we wanted to hold it for this time. I didn't want his feelings for Sonny to be confused, I wanted them to be pretty straightforward like, "Oh, my God, this is the guy who has been there for me ever since A.J. died." [Concealing] the crypt sex was a, to keep Michael and Sonny really close up until this moment, and then b, it was just an added terrible thing to let Michael react to now.
Digest: Franco told Carly, "The tumor didn't make me do anything." Was this Franco being reactionary, or have you and your team definitively stated that the tumor removal didn't change the guy fundamentally?
Carlivati: I think the tumor did cause a lot of his irrational behavior and we had some medical testimony to that effect. I think, in a way, Franco saying that is him just saying, "You could cut that out of me but you can't cut out who I am at my core." And in a sense, I think he is embracing who he was pre-tumor removal. So, I think the tumor was legit as the thing that caused it, but what he is trying to say is, "There is something broken in me underneath all that." And in a way, he is sort of owning that quite dangerous side of Franco and saying, "It's not as black and white as the tumor made me do it."
Digest: Carly lashed out at Franco, essentially saying, "I just convinced myself that I loved you and never did." Did you deliberately kind of want to give a voice to that segment of the audience that always had a problem with the idea that Carly would fall for Franco, tumor or no?
Carlivati: I mean, sure, for the audience members who said, "Oh, she would never fall for this guy," it's great to have her say, "I never really loved you." I think that she did, but I think it was interesting to kind of delve into the idea of, was it somehow all mixed up with Jason and the idea that he was his twin brother and there was some good in him that she was trying to see, that she was willing to overlook these other things. It does bother me that people say, "He had your son raped," when we said that he did not. You don't have to like it, but we wrote that he did not intend for that to happen, and so, for purposes of the character, Carly saw that tape and she believed him. And he did try to save Michael's life after that, when Morgan knocked him in the water. [Laughs] I did toy with the idea of having him say, "Oh, and by the way, I did tell Carter to rape Michael," but I thought that was just one step too far.
Digest: Was Franco's initial, "Hell no," kicking off, "Hell no, why would I want to marry a lying, cheating whore," a deliberate nod to the previous "Hell no" wedding that Roger played [as OLTL's Todd, who in 2001 dumped Blair at the altar with the same phrase]?
Carlivati: I gotta tell you, no [laughs]. I heard people say "the 'Hell no' wedding" and I was like, "What are they talking about?" I mean, I honestly … I've been doing this since 1996 and sometimes, you forget these moments. I don't know if it was something I remembered subconsciously, but no, it really was not [intentional]. I mean, I work with other people who worked with me on the other show you are referring to, and nobody said, "Oh, wait — this!" From the moment I had him propose and her say yes, I knew that I wanted to get to the altar and have him say, "The hell I'll marry you!" But the exact line, in all honestly, was not meant to echo any other scene he may have played in the past. I honestly forgot all about that.
Digest: I was a little taken aback when Franco revealed to Carly that Sonny had tasked Shawn with killing him and Carly was so comfortable with the idea of Sonny ordering a hit on the guy she had told him repeatedly that she loved.
Carlivati: Yeah, I think once he did what he did to Michael — which obviously was his revenge on Carly and Sonny and Michael was not the intended victim; he was trying to take Michael away from them by playing that tape — but once he did that, I mean, to me, that's totally Carly, to say, "I wish I had succeeded the first time I tried to kill you, when you first came back to town!" I see the contradiction there, but to me, it's totally Carly that the minute she realized that he'd set her up for this entire thing, in that moment, she wanted him dead.
Digest: You were clearly building to this point and people knew what was coming, and yet it was exciting as a viewer, through a combination of performance and writing and production, to feel like, "I know what's coming and I'm on the edge of my seat, anyway!"
Carlivati: There are those two different kinds of moments. There are the moments that come out of nowhere that shock you and then there are ones that you know are coming and you just sit back, watching it play out.
Digest: Fake popcorn in hand.
Carlivati: Pantomimed popcorn in hand, yes.