Good news for General Hospital fans who feel the lone ABC soap has been dark and depressing lately: new co-head writers, Jean Passanante and Shelly Altman (who recently took the place of former head scribe Ron Carlivati), have big plans to reintroduce romance to the struggling show. And it all starts happening the second week of October, when the pair's material is set to hit the air.
The writers spoke with Soap Opera Digest about their plans for Port Charles, and both agree that passion and love are missing from the current canvas. "There is a pretty clear interest in bringing more romance to the show, and I think both of us have a pretty good track record with that and tend to be emotional storytellers," Passanante says. "If you listen to us planning things and laying out a week of episodes, you always hear, 'Okay, where's the romance?' It's our natural inclination as storytellers to frame every story in romantic terms... You have to ask yourself, when you're approaching that as deliberately as we are, 'What's the love story here? I know there is a bad guy stalking somebody in this, but what are the romantic stakes?'"
But Altman points out that romance doesn't necessarily just mean, "candles and flowers and rose petals, or sex." In fact, she says it's much more. "Romance is also yearning," she explains. "Romance is the wild, crazy, romantic gesture, or the unexpected romance, people finding themselves in a fraught place at the right time. And pretty much every day that we lay out, we look for those moments."
The pair, who also wrote together for CBS' The Young and the Restless from 2013 to 2015, agree that love is the magic that draws viewers in and makes them stay. "It's so interesting to hear from the viewers because they are advocates for one couple or another and they are completely contradictory, the ones who want Jason (Billy Miller) and Sam (Kelly Monaco), the ones who want Jason and Elizabeth (Rebecca Herbst), and you can't please everybody, that's for sure," Passanante says. "But that just fascinates me, that for the really serious, committed viewers, their way into the show is the couples."
Speaking of couples, one that has recently won the hearts of viewers is Franco (Roger Howarth) and Nina (Michelle Stafford), whom many fans feel aren't necessarily fitting well into the show. Passanante and Altman agree that the couple does feel a little isolated, and they say they immediately set out to integrate them more fully. "The more we integrate them with the rest of the canvas, the more you'll see their humanity," Altman reveals.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the reveal about Jason, both writers confirm the fireworks are right around the corner. "I don't know what the [original timeline for the reveal] was, to be honest. We are following a natural course of a train down the track," Altman says, with Passanante adding, "It's coming soon. That train is moving into the station as we speak. It's long-awaited, obviously."
While it's not necessarily news on the romantic front, one thing many fans might be happy to hear is that the new co-head writers do not plan on expanding the cast with new characters. "[The cast] is large, with people that represent pretty much every type that we could want," Altman explains. "We do not have immediate plans to bring anybody new in, [but] there might be some characters returning."
Adds Passanante, "To be very truthful, and this is not meant as a criticism of anyone, it is much easier to write a story where you bring in a lot of new people because you don't have to account for the complicated history of the people you already have. There is part of me that goes, 'That would be great! Let's bring in a whole bunch of new people!' But it's also the challenge of soap operas to write for the characters you [already] have."
For the full interview with Altman and Passanante, check out the latest issue of Soap Opera Digest.
What do you think about Passanante and Altman's plans to bring more romance to Port Charles? What additional changes do you think need to be made so the show is a better place to spend an hour a day? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, on our message boards, or by submitting Feedback.
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