In Part One of my interview with longtime GENERAL HOSPITAL star Jacklyn Zeman, the actress shared reflections on her early career and Bobbie Spencer’s backstory before coming to Port Charles. In Part Two, she looked back on two groundbreaking storylines, how Bobbie Spencer helped women [and men], and her process of portraying grief after B.J.’s death. In Part Three, Zeman shared her experience of being back-burnered on GENERAL HOSPITAL, coping with ageism on the show, and the power of transformation and change in her life. In Part Four, she discussed changes on screen and off screen. Plus, what she would have done differently knowing what she knows now.
In the final part of the interview, Zeman recalls her favorite stories, her least favorite moments, and how she really feels about the creation of Carly.
We Love Soaps: Favorite stories?
Jacklyn Zeman: I really have been so lucky. Because [co-stars] like Tony Geary, Kin Shriner, Genie [Francis], they’re like family to me. We’ve been up, down, we know each other emotionally as well as we know our immediate family. That means a lot to me. The love interests I got to work with: Kin, David Groh, Sam Behrens, the whole Bobbie and Tony thing with Brad Maule, Julian Stone. Oh my God, Julian, that was the last good storyline that Bobbie ever had. The Bobbie/Jerry story. I’m so glad we got to do that storyline.
We Love Soaps: Least favorite story?
Jacklyn Zeman: The least favorite story, this has nothing to do with the actor, I love Leigh McCloskey, I think he’s awesome, he has been a personal friend, but the Damian, Lucy, Bobbie [story]. Lucy and Damian made a bet to make Bobbie a joke. He was going to pretend to pursue her just to humiliate her. And Lucy just wanted to humiliate Bobbie. I did not like that story. I felt it was demeaning to all women. I felt that it was not what women wanted to see. I played it, of course. You’re asked to do a part as an actress. You show up, you get your script, you do your lines. But I remember going in and saying, “What is the point of this? Why are we doing this? You think this is funny, to humiliate a character that’s been on the show for all these years? To personally and emotionally and sexually humiliate this person? And to have Bobbie be stupid enough to fall for it? This is a character that pulled herself up by her bootstraps by understanding the strengths and the wonderful parts of human nature and you’re going to do this story? I don’t understand where it’s coming from, where it’s going, and why we’re doing it.” And I got no answers, so we played it, but I never liked it.
That was the one story that I kind of block out of my mind. It’s like, “Well there’s no point, it’s just something I had to do because they pay me and I had to show up and I had a contract.” But I didn’t feel that it raised the level of any of the characters, the show, or the genre of daytime, at all. And people don’t even talk about it. People watched it, [then] it was forgotten. And I’m glad.
We Love Soaps: The one redeeming part of that story for me was that it was written by Claire Labine, and Bobbie’s motivations for going forward [with Damian] were psychologically based. She was pulled between feeling settled and comfortable with Tony versus this part of her that was wild and self-destructive. It wasn't so much about Damian, but the parts of herself that Bobbie recognized in him. I liked that part, but I hated to see Bobbie being played the fool.
Jacklyn Zeman: Yes, because I don’t think you do that foolishly. I personally have not had those feelings, that someone could put all that at stake and disrupt their family’s and their children’s lives for that. I understand the pain someone must go through when they have a family, a husband, kids, love, and there is still a part of them that is not satisfied. But to make her the butt of the joke while it was happening was the wrong way. I would have liked to have seen it written a little differently. It wouldn’t have been hard to make an adjustment. By making it silly, by joking about it on the side, it was really demeaning.
We Love Soaps: Did you feel comfortable with the whole retcon of Bobbie having given birth to Carly many years before, and never talking about it with any of her husbands? No one except Ruby or Luke knew about this child.
Jacklyn Zeman: That I liked. I thought it was good, I thought it was well written. I thought when Sarah [Brown] came in and played Carly, oh my God, what an actress, so complex! There was a lot of depth to that story. I thought that was a great idea. I’m glad they wrote that. It was fun, it was exciting and I think it was very symbolic to a lot of people. We all have things in our past, some that we are willing to own up to and other things that we would rather block out or stay separate from, things we don’t want to take responsibility for. There was always that interesting question of how much responsibility Bobbie is going to take for all that, for Carly, for having forgotten. They say that in therapy people sometimes discover things they completely blocked out when they were young just as a self-protective thing. This is really hard for some people to believe if it’s never happened to them.
We Love Soaps: Anything you’d like to say to people who read our column, listen to our podcast, who really miss Bobbie and miss seeing you on their TV screens every day?
Jacklyn Zeman: Just thank you so much! I am very well aware that there are so many really great actors that want to work and that want to get on daytime and want that kind of material, steady employment, and that kind of connection with the audience. To have had the opportunity to be on the ABC network for 35 years, I am so grateful, I am so thrilled that the audience still is interested in hearing about what I’m doing now.
People write me and have mutual memories of things that happened to Bobbie on the show, things that happened to me personally over the years, people that would come down to Disney [fan events] and do the autographs, the people that made baby blankets for my children when they were born! These are the people that are family for me and a lot of them I’ve gotten to know over the years. It’s a human connection, and it makes you realize how much we really are connected. It’s the ripple effect. Because of how much we’re connected, everything we do, every interaction that happens, affects someone else. With all those mutual memories, and all the things we’ve shared in the past, I believe that there will also be a future.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." He blogs regularly at www.shouldless.com.