James asks: Of the several times that you left RYAN'S HOPE, which writer do you think did the best job of following in your footsteps and remaining true to your vision of the show? Why?
Claire Labine: Mary Ryan Munisteri.
Gwynnega asks: I was curious about what your original story plans had been following the death of Frank early in RYAN'S HOPE--for example, Delia's path would have been?
Claire Labine: We would have focused immediately on Pat. There was a story with Faith and Pat and Delia, and Roger interfering in that. Mary and Jack were much more intense. Jack was convinced that Frank was being paid off by someone and he was determined to find out about it. So the initial conflict between Mary and Jack was even more fierce. There was broken hearted Jill and Seneca, but she couldn’t commit to him because she was still in love with poor dead Frank. We brought someone in for her but I can’t remember who it was. It was more out of the Ryans and into the Coleridges. It had the two sisters [Jill and Faith], with one involved with a Ryan, and the other having been involved with a Ryan. That was roughly the structure.
Gwynnega asks: What was your original idea for Mary's exit story? (As I understand it, you wanted to kill off Mary when Kate Mulgrew left.)
Claire Labine: We never really worked it out because the network flatly refused to even to consider it. They said, “Absolutely not, you cannot kill her.” And we said, “Well, it’ll be death by 1000 cuts.” We never had a thoroughly worked out deal because there was never any point. You don’t go around really sweating long story when you know you’re not going to get anywhere with it.
Ryan asks: Any scoop on the revolving parade of Marys?
Claire Labine: We couldn’t find one that suited the audience or us or the network. There were three entities to get past in that role. The network was quite surprised that the audience was having so much difficulty relating to the new Marys. We did the best we could in casting in every case. But it was not to the audience’s liking, or the network’s, or in some cases, ours.
Ryan added: I personally thought Mary Carney (#2) wasn't too bad
Claire Labine: I thought she was wonderful.
Ryan asks: Why on earth did they let Carney go in favor of Tolan?
Claire Labine: That was a network choice. They thought she wasn’t glamorous enough, or whatever. Whatever was their whim of the week.
Ryan asks: More details as to why the network let Sarah Felder go? I also thought she was amazing
Claire Labine: She was so wonderful. You know what that was about? Sarah really did fulfill the character as we saw it. We had beautiful Siobhans and good acting Siobhans. I think they thought she wasn’t glamorous enough, that she wasn’t pretty enough, that she had gained weight. They thought all this dumb stuff. I remember saying to them one time, “Just stop! Will you look at the child act?” Our casting always shook them up a bit until they decided it was all their idea in the first place.
Ryan asks: Did the network decide to send Julia Barr to ALL MY CHILDREN straight from RH? The Reenie storyline just seemed to end so abruptly.
Claire Labine: Yes. Agnes [Nixon] wanted her. I think that’s alright to say, she did want her. Fred Silverman [President of ABC Entertainment] was not particularly interested in Nick Szabo and the criminal element. But the criminal element was right for the neighborhood and right for the time. I don’t know if it that’s how Fred was justifying it for us because Agnes wanted Julia, or what. But that was the heavy influence there.
Jennifer asks: Rosie O'Donnell hinted once in her blog she was trying to bring back Ryan's Hope. Is that still a go?
Claire Labine: No it isn’t. There was a discussion, but there wasn’t a great deal we could do. I love Rosie. She has been so generous to RYAN’S HOPE over the years. She has been a champion, a pal, and a friend. She was extremely supportive.
Sandy asks: Curious about Ms. Labine's comments that Karen Morris Gowdy left for personal reasons. Back then, every magazine said she was let go after new writers took over. Any ideas why the differing reasons?
Claire Labine: No! I think it was much more personal, I think it was Karen’s choice. Was it Millie [Taggert] and Tom [King] then? I don’t think they had anything against her. It might have just been that Faith wasn’t going to be used a lot. It may have been they didn’t have front and center story for her. But I can’t imagine anyone in their right minds wanting to let Karen go.
John asks: In your mind, where are the characters of Ryan's Hope today?
Claire Labine: They’re up there in Riverside. They’re just perkin’ along. Maeve is running the bar. Johnny has died. Frank has gotten out of politics and is teaching. They’ve been very active in politics, everyone was campaigning for Obama. Paul [Avila Mayer] and I would occasionally brush up on the fantasy just for fun. Roger and Delia were married and having a ball. Finally, she was relaxing and having a good time. In spite of the problems with Little John and Owen. They’re fine. Everyone is alive and well and living in Riverside.
We Love Soaps: What about Rae Woodard?
Claire Labine: She’s circling. I don’t think Rae is the kind of character who gives up. Frank and Jill are married, but that does not mean that she has given up ambitions for Frank. And she’s certainly still in the newspaper business.
Elizabeth Kerri Mahon, author of Scandalous Women, said: “How did you know that RYAN'S HOPE is one of the soaps I miss most? Every time I pass Coogan's up near Columbia Presbyterian I think of the show.”
Claire Labine: [Laughs] That’s nice! That was so nice.
Politicaljunkie asks: What would Maeve think of Sarah Palin?
Claire Labine: She’d fall over laughing. Maeve, with her usual tact, would not want to offend whoever asked this question. But she would have a beer while she gathered herself and tried not to get hysterical.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for Part Four in which Claire Labine answers YOUR questions about GENERAL HOSPITAL.
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 is blogging about surviving the holidays at www.shouldless.com.