Kelly Monaco celebrates 20 years with General Hospital and opens up about the evolution of Sam McCall

Posted Monday, October 02, 2023 12:28:21 PM
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Kelly Monaco marked 20 years on General Hospital with a wide-ranging interview where she discussed everything from Sam's metamorphosis and romantic pairings to the deep and abiding friendships that Kelly has found behind the cameras.

October 1, 2023, wasn't just the start of a new month. The date also marked 20 years since Kelly Monaco first appeared on General Hospital as Sam McCall, a feisty, independent woman who operated a salvage ship and ran cons to help support her mentally disabled brother, Danny McCall (David Greenman).

Monaco was no stranger to the world of soap operas when she joined GH. She starred as Livvie Locke on Port Charles from 2000 to 2003, playing the wildly popular love interest of vampire rock star Stephen Clay/Caleb Morley (Michael Easton). Her work on the 30-minute soap earned her an Outstanding Supporting Actress Daytime Emmy nomination in 2023. All of that caught the attention of the entire daytime universe, with nearly every soap airing at the time expressing interest in signing Monaco once it was learned that Port Charles would be ending.

In a recent interview with Soap Opera Digest, Monaco chatted about her impressive milestone with GH, how she landed at General Hospital in the first place, and Sam's transition from bad girl to heroine.

Monaco said she was at dinner when she got the call that Port Charles had been canceled. Admittedly, she'd been heartbroken because she'd just gotten her feet wet in the soap opera community, earned a fanbase, and established a family. "I was like, 'Okay, back to the drawing board! Gonna start auditioning again!'" the actress recalled.

Luckily for Monaco, that would not be necessary, because within 30 minutes of receiving the crushing news, offers from every other network poured in. "I had the pick of the litter. Frank Valentini (GH's executive producer, who was the EP of One Life to Live at the time) was probably the most aggressive one that was seeking me out and called me personally, and I also met with All My Children, I think for the role of Babe (Carey). CBS and NBC were in there as well. But I was like, a die-hard General Hospital fan. That was my dream; I was like 'General Hospital all the way!' So I was thrilled when Brian Frons (then ABC's daytime president) said they would create a role for me," Monaco revealed.

Monaco knew that it would be a challenge because her start date would overlap with her continued appearances on Port Charles as a vampire, and she wasn't sure if she could pull it off with the audience seeing her as two different characters on the same network at the same time. "I was really scared about that," Monaco admitted.

Monaco's introduction to GH fans was in the Dead Man's Hand storyline co-staring Ingo Rademacher (Jasper "Jax" Jacks) and Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer). When asked about what it was like to work with a soap icon like Geary, Monaco had nothing but high praise. "You know what? With Tony, he and I immediately had a really special bond. I was like never intimidated by him. He took me into his soul. I always learned from him and I value so much the legend that he is and how genuinely gracious and kind he was with his talent and his time and his energy and his spirit with me. We became really good friends and we still communicate to this day. He writes me the most insanely beautifully worded emails, sends cards and random gifts, like a picture he'll find that spoke to him about me. He was always able to look at me and see a little bit of a scared, damaged girl that I felt [I was inside], but he has always made me see myself with a value I don't see myself with -- like, all my insecurities that I feel, he doesn't see any of those things in me, and he constantly reminds me how special I am," Monaco shared.

The Dead Man's Hand storyline was Monaco's introduction to GH viewers, but she was catapulted to stardom when she landed in the orbit of Port Charles's infamous mob boss Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard). Sam's affair with Sonny was brief and painful (their daughter Lila was stillborn), but it led Sam to the love of her life when she met Sonny's enforcer Jason Morgan (Steve Burton). "There was a magnetic vibe between Sam and Jason from their very first scene together," Monaco said. "When I watch old clips back from that first look, that first introduction, it's like 'Oh, it's there!'"

"With Steve, our natural chemistry together as actors translated really well on screen, and everyone -- the writers, the producers, the directors, and the actors -- worked to be able to form that unconditional love that the characters had for each other. I've had multiple relationships on the show, but ultimately, in my mind, Sam and Jason were always the endgame," Monaco explained. "In their love for each other, no affairs or other relationships or time apart or whatever could ever have come between them. I felt like they always would have come back to each other and I still feel for the history of the characters. Sam will never love anyone the way she loved Jason and I don't think Jason will ever love anyone the way he loved Sam. Jason was the love of her life," Monaco admitted.

In 2006, Sam learned that she was the love child of Alexis Davis (Nancy Lee Grahn) and Julian Jerome (William DeVry), tying Sam to the Cassadines through her mother and the Jerome crime family through her father. Sam gained two maternal sisters -- Kristina Corinthos-Davis (Kate Mansi) and Molly Lansing-Davis (Kristen Vaganos) and two paternal brothers -- Lucas Jones (Matt Trudeau) and Leo Quartermaine (Easton Rocket Sweda), but it's Sam's relationship with her sisters that she identifies with most. "I can relate to the Davis girls because I have four sisters; I'm one of all girls. I think it's a really special bond when you have sisters. There's a lot of story to be told there that's so juicy and meaty because it's relatable, and that's always what we want on screen. We want to watch something that we can relate to," Monaco said.

The actress also talked about the other important relationship in Sam's life -- that with her close friend and former partner in the private eye game, Damien Spinelli (Bradford Anderson). "Yeah, those two characters work really well together and them having a P.I. agency was really fun and interesting and intriguing. I love anything that keeps Sam active and having her in P.I. mode was a way to keep her active without it being, like, the hitman's girlfriend doing dangerous things. I think she thrives in action and needs to be active." Monaco said. "You can be a mother and a badass at the same time!" Monaco declared. The actress welcomed that, and she believed that it was what the audience wanted to see for her character because Sam "is a very independent, kick-ass woman."

Regarding the long-standing rivalry between Sam and Elizabeth Webber Baldwin (Rebecca Herbst) and if there's a possibility of it returning, Monaco wants the two to move forward. "Becky and I talk about that all the time! First of all, I love Becky; I've known her for 20 years and she's one of my closest, best friends. And Elizabeth and Sam have so much to relate to one another about." Monaco pointed out. Indeed, they do. Both Sam and Elizabeth spent years vying for the affections of Jason Morgan, and each bore him a child: Danny Morgan (Zakary Risinger) and Jake Webber (Hudson West).

"They've been through so much together, so much loss and heartbreak and their children share a father. Instead of having them ignore each other, they should come together and get into shenanigans! They should be an adventure buddy team! I'd love the two of them to go out and be Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman II, you know?" Monaco asked. "Let's get her out of that nurses' uniform and let's go on an adventure!" the actress suggested with a laugh.

When Monaco was asked about what it was like to work with Billy Miller, who was cast as Jason Morgan in 2014, she had nothing but praise. It is important to note that this interview was conducted before Miller passed away on September 15.

"Working with Billy was so much fun. I knew him prior to him coming on the show and he brought in a completely different energy. He was really silly. He loved gags and it was really light, and then, when it was time to be serious, it was really serious. I'm sure it was pretty intimidating to come into a role like Jason Morgan and I commend Billy as an actor because that takes a lot of confidence. We worked really hard on our stuff and tried to make the transition feel natural for the audience, and I think we achieved that," Monaco said.

In 2017, Burton returned as Jason Morgan, and it was revealed that Miller's character was Jason's long-lost identical twin brother, Drew Cain. These days, Sam's relationships are a far less complicated. She's currently in love and living with Dante Falconeri (Dominic Zamprogna) and their blended family of three children. "Dom is awesome. I love working with him. He's super-fun, he's a wonderful actor and he's got my back no end."

Monaco also addressed Sam's growth over the years and how she would describe how different Sam of today was from the woman we first met in 2003. "Sam came onto the canvas only having herself and her brother, always taking care of someone and never being taken care of. I think the biggest evolution for her is starting from being a really lonely, scared woman and becoming a woman who is still really independent but is protected by family and friends and love and relationships and loyalty, and she never had that before. Now, she has a family and kids. She came in bent and broken, and I feel like there's a lot of her that's still broken, but she's constantly sort of putting the Rubik's Cube together. All the pieces don't fit perfectly yet, but it's certainly not broken anymore!"

Finally, Monaco talked about GH's 60th anniversary. "It's wild to me that I've been a part of ABC for 20-something years and GH for 20 years. I was in my early 20s when I started! GH is such a legendary show and I consider it my second home. Every day when I drive to the lot, I am just so honored to be a part of it."

Congratulations to Kelly Monaco for 20 years on General Hospital!

What was your favorite romantic pairing for Sam McCall? Would you like to see Sam and Liz deepen their friendship with a fun adventure? Have you been watching her for all her years on ABC? We want to hear from you -- so drop your comments in the Comments section below, tweet about it on Twitter, share it on Facebook, or chat about it on our Message Boards.

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