We Love Soaps: What led to your leaving GENERAL HOSPITAL?
Wendy Riche: I was fired. But it was time for me to leave. I knew it, and ABC knew it. I knew personally it was time to move on. But I would have stayed there forever, I loved it so much. I guess I needed a push in another direction.
We Love Soaps: Do you think things changed once Disney bought ABC in 1995?
Wendy Riche: No, I don’t think so. Maybe there were more budgetary issues that we would deal with. But the team at GENERAL HOSPITAL could address anything. If I said we had to cut the budget, then everyone would roll up their sleeves, and you wouldn’t know it by watching the show. They had to cut some costs but they did not interfere in any creative way. We had Pat Fili Krushel and Angela Shapiro and they were very supportive creatively.
We Love Soaps: It seemed like all ABC shows changed their focus in the mid to late 1990s away from telling stories about people over 40, and trying desperately to get that elusive 18-34 female demographic.
Wendy Riche: We were always challenged with that, to bring in an 18-34 audience. That's why, when I first got there, we did the Karen/Jagger/Jason/Brenda storyline. But I don’t ever recall being told not to do a love story for people over 40. Not in the time I was there. We did the love story with Bobbie with Jerry. The ABC Executives were never narrow in their thinking. We always thought of a broader canvas of how to make the show multi-layered. We all knew, and ABC knew, that some of the most memorable scenes were between Tony Geary (Luke) and Genie Francis (Laura), Jackie Zeman (Bobbie) and Brad Maule (Tony), Anna Lee (Lila) and Amber Tamblyn ( Emily). Regardless of age the audience wants to see the human condition, human communication, love stories of all ages, and mentoring. I always think of those scenes, as well as those with John Ingle (Edward) and Wally Kurth (Ned).
We Love Soaps: And Mary Mae!
Wendy Riche: Yes, those scenes with Rena Sofer (Lois) and Rosalind Cash were some of the best moments in the show and they moved Rena and Roz deeply. How wonderful was Rena? She brought such a positive energy to the show. Her portrayal of Lois was unique and Claire wrote it beautifully, giving Rena the material to explore and stretch her comedic as well as dramatic chops. She deservedly received an Emmy award for her portrayal of Lois.
We Love Soaps: It has been 10 years since your time on GENERAL HOSPITAL. Our We Love Soaps readers are constantly asking us, “Where is she? What is she doing?” So Wendy, where are you and what are you doing?
Wendy Riche: That is so nice. I really appreciate that. It feels good to hear that people appreciated that time. I hear that from fans when I meet them and I always tell Shelley [Curtis] and Julie [Hanan Carruthers] so they can feel as good as I do hearing how much the fans appreciated the work we did together. I am so flattered the readers remember me, and remember the stories our team told. That’s very important to all of us, to know that we did reach so many people, and some so deeply, so I thank them.
I have been working and developing prime time series, feature films, some reality shows. I did the first year of LAGUNA BEACH, which was a terrific experience. I had never done a reality show. It was a year of innocence, the kids were innocent about the process of filming and very natural. Docusoap was a new form to me and I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the first show of that kind of storytelling. I also have been writing. I have been developing and creating my own shows. Rena and I created a half hour comedy and wrote the pilot script together. It was a phenomenally creative experience. Plus Rena and I had so much fun working together, we have become really good friends. I have several features in development with my husband and his partner, our son Peter, at Riche Productions.
We Love Soaps: This is good news!
Wendy Riche: Thank you! We're in the process of making a series deal with a network on a book we optioned. And I have a deal with Mark Burnett (SURVIVOR, ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER?) where I've developed and pitched a couple of shows, and we have interest in both. I have been very busy. I have also had some wonderful time to spend with my family... time that I didn't have in the nine years I was doing GENERAL HOSPITAL. We have a new grandson who is a joy. Our older grandchildren are growing up, and I get to spend more time with them.
We Love Soaps: There were rumors earlier this year swirling every where. Do you know what I’m going to ask?
Wendy Riche: That I was going to ALL MY CHILDREN?
We Love Soaps: Yes. There were many people talking about this, and hoping it would be true. What would you like to say about that?
Wendy Riche: That was pure rumor. Julie [Hanan Carruthers] and I loved it, because we thought if we could work together again that would be ideal. But no, there was nothing there. But it was nice to be thought of.
We Love Soaps: That just shows how much you are missed by fans.
Wendy Riche: Thank You. My time in daytime was so significant to me, not only my creative growth, but my personal growth. I miss the talent, the writers, the directors, the actors. I do miss going into the booth and watching the actors bring the characters to life. I miss the wonderful crew who worked tirelessly. We all worked so hard and the rewards were profound, especially when we touched the audience's heart. It was a fabulous experience.
We Love Soaps: After September there will be six shows left on the air. What do you think needs to happen to keep these six shows alive?
Wendy Riche: First of all, whatever I say, I'm sure they're all doing it. They have to step back, look at it, and shake it up. They have to see how they can do it differently. Julie has done this by having (ALL MY CHILDREN) look different with the style of the show, the cameras she has been using. And I imagine they're all looking how they tell their stories, what the stories are they tell. You know, I have been removed from the world of daytime drama for so long, and I don’t watch the shows, so I really don't know. I keep in contact with Julie, she’s my good friend, but she’s so busy and I’m so busy that when we get together we talk about our personal stuff. So I don’t know that I'm really in a position to say anything about this. I know that when I turn on the television, if I can see something new, fresh, unique, and unusual, that’s what draws me to it. It's what draws an audience to it.
Daytime is a very tricky area. Everyone is working so hard, the audience has diminished so much. So how do you get the audience back, and how do you get a new fresh audience? You have them interface with the Internet, you have them interface on mobile. And I think they are doing this. They have many teams at all the networks discussing how to do this. They have more of the answers than I do.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for the final part of our interview in which Wendy Riche discusses the future of soaps on the web, insights into her career, and reflections upon why soap viewers and actors still clamor for her work. ;
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve."