Soaps in Depth - May 2, 2000

Let's Make A Deal!

By Michael Ausiello

 

In her only interview, Emmy nominee Sarah Brown reveals why she re-signed to play Carly and how ABC put that big smile on her face

Talk about a cliffhanger! With her contract set to expire at midnight on March 12, GENERAL HOSPITAL's Sarah Brown (Carly) still had not come to terms with ABC on a new deal - and the deadline literally was just hours away. The sticking point? "I was testing for a pilot," she explains, "and I was already in negotations with GH. And you can't walk away from a negotiation that you start."

So the two-time Emmy winner, who last September first hinted in Soaps In Depth that she was anxious to spread her wings creatively, hunkered down with her team of agents and managers to ponder the dilemma: Should she recommit to GH and risk being unavailable for the pilot, or quite GH and take her chances? "Not to say that I was seriously just going to walk off the show or anything," she points out. "GH obviously would have needed a wrap-up to its story."

Luckily at the 11th hour, a hero emerged. "ABC stepped up and said, 'If you get the pilot, we'll alow you to do it and work for our show," Brown reports. "So I had a win-win situation. On one hand, I had a pilot; on the other, I had GH, which I love. So I [re-signed] like five minutes before I tested for the pilot. It was a crazy day...stressful."

In the end, Brown was not cast in the prospective series. But she's not crying in her mocha grande. On the contrary..."[Staying on GH] turned out to be a really great thing for me in my life at this time," says the most valuable player, who would not disclose the length of the new pact (the buzz is, it's for a year). "I'm very happy to be here."

 

The Royal Treatment

Surely, ABC had to pony up more than goodwill to entice Brown to stick around. After all, a lot has changed since March 1996, when the relative unknown - having little more than a stint as a superhero on the action series VR TROOPERS under her utility belt - joined GH as Nurse Bobbie Jones' vengeful long-lost offspring. While Carly initially was little more than a plot device to split up Mommie Dearest and hubby Tony, Brown fought hard to reveal her human nature. "I spent so many hundreds of hours figuring out Carly in my head," she previously told this magazine.

Brown's persistence paid off: Four years and two Emmy victories later, she is a bona fide star, showered with the kind of acclaim that's usually reserved for industry veterans like co-star Anthony Geary (Luke) and Erika Slezak (Viki, ONE LIFE TO LIVE). "Sarah's a wonderful actress," gushes ABC crossover queen Linda Dano (Rae). "I finally had the great opportunity to tell her that at the [1999] Emmys. I went up to her and said, 'There's no reason for you to believe me, but I have to tell you, I'm your biggest fan. You're so good."

Fellow GH regular Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis) - who will compete against Brown this year for the Supporting Actress Emmy - adds: "She's brilliant."

And the adoration felt towards Brown within the industry has finally spilled over to John and Mary Soap Viewer. In fact, lately she has ranked as ABC's most popular actress in Soaps In Depth's Reader's Poll.

Thus, Brown was coming from a position of strength at the negotiating table. What kind of package did ABC have to put together to retain its heavy hitter? "They made me an offer I couldn't refuse," she admits. "ABC has made me feel very wanted. And [ABC Daytime's President] Angela Shapiro is just the ballsiest woman ever to run daytime. She and [GH Executive Producer] Wendy Riche have been great."

 

Princess Of the City

Whatever fringe benefits the network bestowed upon Brown, she clearly is a worthwhile investment. As it is, her popularity has proven to be money in the bank for GH, and in recent months, the soap has been collecting on its down payment, big time. Which brings to mind what likely was Brown's chief selling point - not to mention her chief reason for staying. Her exit would have forced the show to cut short what could well become its hottest storyline in years: the explosive pairing of Carly and Mob kingpin Sonny Corinthos. The duo's unplanned parenthood - the result of a shocking one-night stand - has helped reinvigorate the soap, leading ratings to rise and people to talk. "And we haven't even gotten into [the big part of the story] yet," she says. "We've just sort of encroached on the sidelines."

Having made no secret of the fact that she wanted to work with Maurice Benard (Sonny), Brown admits that the plot was a "huge" factor in her decision to stay. "Working with Maurice is a dream come true," she says. "As long as I have been on GH, I have wanted to work side-by-side with him. He is just phenomenal.

"I think part of the reason why I wanted to branch out from GH in the first place was that I wasn't being challenged to my full capacity. And at this point, with Maurice, I just know that if I'm not 100 percent there, he'd call me on it, and how embarrassing would that be!"

 

A Happy Ending

Ironically, last August, Brown was reeling from GH's apparent decision not to pair Sonny and Carly, despite the fact that, as she then noted, "I was under the impression that it was a possibility." Instead the soap stayed committed to the coupling of Carly with Sonny's right-hand man, Jason. But in the course of six months, Steve Burton shed his role of Jason, Sonny shed new love Hannah, and, Brown explains, everybody came to their senses. "You can't deny chemistry. You can try and try and try, and you can come up with all kinds of ways to avoid it, but the bottom line is, sometimes things happen on the set that spontaneously combust, and the audience gets involved in it...network people see it.

"I think Maurice had a lot to do with it. I think I had a lot to do with it. I think the writers and the powers that be [realized that they] had a very volatile, explosive chemistry at hand between these two actors and they could certainly capitalize on it if they were willing to invest in it."

Still, not everyone was doing cartwheels over the potential love match, she confirms. "But you can't please everyone, and I'm glad that they chose to please us today because I'm really happy."

 

 

FYIFYIFYI

Birthplace: Eureka, CA

Family matters: Brown is one of five children born to writer Pamela Brown and graphic designer David Brown

Acting is a hard knock life: Little Sarah knew that she wanted to be a performer after playing orphan Pepper in a sixth-grade production of Annie

Snip, Snip: Prior to GH, the actress had a small role in the Winona Ryder flick Reality Bites - but her scenes were left on the cutting room floor.

Good buzz: In 1996, TV Guide called the newcomer one of daytime television's greats finds of the year

The reel story: Brown, who this year is up for the Supporting Actress Emmy, hasn't decided on which episodes she will submit to the Blue Ribbon Panel. "But I have a few ideas," she teases.

 

Breakfast of Champions

As is tradition, once the Daytime Emmy nominations are read in New York at 8:30 AM - that's 5:30 AM in Los Angeles - GENERAL HOSPITAL publicist Michelle Gross calls those actors nominated from her show to break the news to them. "It's so early [in LA] that she's not sure whether to call people or not," explains Sarah Brown, an old pro at this, having been nominated every year since she joined the show. "So, I said, 'Call me. That would be great." If only it were that simple. Here is the chain of events the morning of March 15 that led up to Gross uttering to Brown those fateful words: "You were nominated - now go back to sleep!"

5:59 AM - Brown awakens and retrieves her daughter, 20-month-old Jordan Alexandra Judith. "We came into the kitchen, and I picked up the phone and there were no messages. I was a little bummed."

6:00 AM - Brown attempts to put things in perspective. "I thought, 'Oh well, that's life,' and, 'You just have to adjust.' and, 'You can't always win...'" But there's still hope.

6:05 AM - "I ran outside in the front yard to grab the newspaper to see if there was anything in there..."

6:06 AM - Brown realizes that there's no way that the nominations could have made it into even the early edition. So...

6:07 AM - She races inside to turn on GOOD MORNING AMERICA. And then it hits her: GMA may not even be on yet. "I didn't know what time it started; I figured it would be on."

6:09 AM - At this point, "I'm going, 'Oh my God!' I can't call anybody. It's too early!' And then it occured to me that Michelle probably just found out. So I was like, 'Okay, calm down.'"


6:10 AM - The phone rings. "I knew nobody else was calling me at that ungodly hour. So I answer the phone and it was Michelle. I waited for her to say it because I thought she might be calling just to tell me, 'You didn't get nominated, honey.' So then she told me that I was, and it was really, really exciting. I was hootin' and hollerin' - lovin' it!"

6:13 AM - the LAPD investigates a disturbance....(Just kidding!)


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