Congratulations are in order for Leslie Charleson, who is celebrating her 45th anniversary in the role of beloved General Hospital character Dr. Monica Quartermaine. The actress took over for original portrayer Patsy Rahn on August 17, 1977, and Port Charles hasn't been the same since.
Fans of Charleson have nothing but good memories from her 45 years in the role of Monica, a memorable run that has included iconic storylines like an extraordinary up-and-down relationship with Alan Quartermaine (Stuart Damon), the birth and death of several children, breast cancer, career moves in the medical world, and more. Charleson also looks back on her four-and-a-half-decade run with fondness -- except for maybe her first day on the job, which she says was absolutely dreadful!
"I started the show the day Elvis Presley died, and being such a huge fan, I of course was very upset driving to the studios, and then getting there, I was told that they hoped I had brought my own wardrobe and makeup because there was a strike going on -- and that was before I even got in the building!" the actress shares in the latest issue of Soap Opera Digest. "Then I got in the building and I realized no one really liked me, because the girl playing Monica before me was very rudely fired. To top it all off, the reason I accepted the show was because a producer on the show, Tom Donovan, who was also a producer on Love Is a Many Splendored Thing [where she played Iris from 1967 to 1970] asked me to do it, and then I find out that he is leaving! So, all in all, it was not a good day. Definitely special."
Fortunately, things turned around for Charleson at her new job, where she quickly rose to superstar fame as one half of the immensely popular Alan and Monica pairing. The actress says that she and Damon had a wonderful time working together, and their storylines remain some of her favorites to this day.
"The cat and mouse games that Alan and Monica played with and against each other were a lot of fun for us," she shares. "We had a hard time not busting out laughing sometimes. Stuart and I were so good at playing off each other, too. Of course working with him on the breast cancer storyline, there was so much trust there all the time. With him opposite me, I felt like I could do anything."
Charleson also praises the female writers who worked on the soap during Monica's breast cancer storyline, which she says also helped make the emotional storyline unforgettable.
"It was well-written and it was honest," she says. "We had a woman head producer [Wendy Riche] and woman head writer [Claire Labine], and cancer had touched each of our lives in some way. We all tried to be as honest and forthright as we possibly could because unlike other stories, we weren't freezing the city; this was real life and it was important to get it right."
As for what her 45-year history with GH means to her, Charleson enthuses that she truly loves her job. "I only signed on for three [years initially], but I guess it's attributed to Monica and having fun playing her. I could never do the grueling schedule that they have if I didn't love what I do," she shares.
The actress also enthuses that she's incredibly grateful for the fans. "Thank you so much for sticking by me and Monica for all these years," she says. "Without you guys, Monica would not be around and I don't know what I would be doing... I've been very lucky!"
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