Jason Gerhardt (Cooper Barrett) is checking out of General Hospital this week – in a body bag. The actor's exit, less than one-year after he joined the cast of the ABC soap, comes with more questions than answers.
Over the past few months, a serial killer has been picking off Port Charles one-by-one. When Coop is found dead, his death is ruled an apparent suicide. All the signs point to Coop as the serial killer. As the evidence is reviewed, however, it appears more likely that Coop wasn't the murderer – he was a victim.
Gerhardt wasn't surprised to get his pink slip.
"Everyone's been looking over their shoulder," Gerhardt said in a recent interview with Soap Opera Digest. "I've always had it in the back of my mind because Coop's never been in the forefront of a story."
Fans expected much more in the way of story when Coop's last name was revealed to be Barrett. The name "Barrett" seemed to foreshadow a possible return of Brenda Barrett, a wildly popular character played by Vanessa Marcil. Publicly, the show enjoyed tweaking the fans, and took its time exploring the last name mystery. Head writer Bob Guza, Jr. mused in one interview that Barrett was a fairly common last name.
General Hospital execs reportedly floated an offer to Marcil to see if she would be interested in returning to the show, but the actress was under contract to NBC's primetime show Las Vegas. With Marcil unavailable it would have been very difficult, though not impossible, to recast Brenda.
Eventually, a reference was slipped into the show's dialogue stating that Coop's background was probed thoroughly and there was no connection between Brenda and Coop.
Gerhardt's Port Charles adventure actually started well before his February 2007 airdate. The actor auditioned for the role of Logan Hayes, but the show opted to cast another actor for that role. The casting department was so pleased with Gerhardt's work, though, that they invited him back to read for another newly-created role – Coop.