EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Denise Alexander Talks Playing THE INN's Mysterious Lola & Returning To GENERAL HOSPITAL (Part 1 of 2)

Denise Alexander stars as Lola on THE INN
Legendary daytime actress Denise Alexander has been acting since she was a child, starring in primetime series in the 1950s and 1960s before taking on several daytime soap opera roles. She starred as Susan Hunter Martin in DAYS OF OUR LIVES before her most famous role, Lesley Webber in GENERAL HOSPITAL.

In recent years she has expanded her horizons even further playing memorable characters in two web series, comedy smash PRETTY and mysterious and spooky THE INN. She stars opposite Crystal Chappell in THE INN, which premiered earlier this year and is returning on October 7th for its third and final season.

We Love Soaps recently caught up with Ms. Alexander to discuss her portrayal of coffee shop owner Lola in THE INN as well as her return to GENERAL HOSPITAL in 2013. Check out our exclusive INNterview below:

WE LOVE SOAPS: We spoke back in 2010 about how you met creator Steve Silverman and how your role in PRETTY came about. Now you're starring as Lola in his new horror web series, THE INN. How did Steve pitch this role to you?
DENISE ALEXANDER: Very cleverly, and I do not know to this day if it is true or not. He started with that thing that is irresistible to an actor: "I wrote this for you." Those may not have been his exact words but that certainly was the pitch. We're all such sluts at heart it's very, very hard to walk away from something like that. I'm not sure, in all honesty, if he told me that before or after he sent me something to read. But I thought, "I love her."

Lola runs the local diner on THE INN.
WE LOVE SOAPS: How would you describe the character of Lola for anyone who hasn't checked into THE INN yet?
DENISE ALEXANDER: It's not that easy for me because even I don't know exactly who she is. She's a gal who owns and runs a diner a very small town which could be described as being out in the middle of nowhere, but it's a kind of pleasant nowhere. The two big things in the town are the inn and the diner.

Lola is no-nonsense and she's very dry in her view of the world and how she deals with people. She's not into glamour. Make-up and hair and wardrobe are not the most important things in her thinking, but she has her own sense of style. She knows a lot but she doesn't talk about it.

The thing that's tricky about her is we don't know if she's a good guy or a bad guy. I hesitate to say motherly because she's a little brusk for motherly. I know what you need better than you is kind of her modus operandi. As we go along you say, "Wait, what just went on there?" But that's the whole show~~ . It's a series of, "What? What's going on?" Lola says things I would not necessarily say like, "For Christ's sake, get over yourself."

WE LOVE SOAPS: People listen to her. At least the sheriff seems to.
DENISE ALEXANDER: I'm not sure what her relationship is with Riggs, the cop. I have my own perspective on it.

WE LOVE SOAPS: The diner scenes have a TWIN PEAKS vibe but at the inn there's a creepy mysterious mood, and some horror elements.
DENISE ALEXANDER: I really do like that. It allows you to go in different directions that don't necessarily follow each other, and that's very enjoyable for an actor. There's a great discipline to it and a great freedom to it at the same time.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Have you worked on any other shows like this with the spooky/horror/mystery elements?
DENISE ALEXANDER: I did iconic episodes of two separate series that were well-known in that genre. In one I played a young girl who had an imaginary friend she called Mink. The storyline is about her connection with him but in the end you find out Mink is really an alien who has been communicating this child as a way to take over the planet. I also did "Third From The Sun" on TWILIGHT ZONE about two families that realize they are on the brink of a world war that is going to blow up the planet. They plan to steal a rocket ship so they can go to another planet to live and save their families. They are more in the science fiction genre than horror.

WE LOVE SOAPS: You returned to GENERAL HOSPITAL this year for some episodes playing Lesley Webber. Were you expecting to come back?
DENISE ALEXANDER: I've been in and out of that show for so long I would never say never but it certainly wasn't anything that was actively going on. For a while it had been very obvious to everybody that watches that the regime running the show wanted it to be the SOPRANOS of daytime so they went in that direction. There were times when I was on as the woman who was the mother or the grandmother but that's not very interesting. When Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati....I keep using their whole names...

WE LOVE SOAPS: Everybody does. [Laughs]
DENISE ALEXANDER: They came up against the 50th anniversary and realized the importance of addressing that. Once that started happening I think anybody who ever did the show was hoping to be called back to be part of it. It not only was quite an extravaganza but it was a milestone you don't often see on television. I thought maybe it would happen.

As the time went on I saw that they were bringing people back for a specific genre of storytelling and weaving them into the story in a way that connects them to people who are the show right now. Most of my people weren't there so I thought it probably wouldn't happen. But then I received this out of the blue email saying they were about to tell a story with Lesley. At that point I was so happy I was not one of the people called back for the Nurses Ball, the actual 50th anniversary celebration. What I was given was this amazing story that was thought out, cared about, worked on, and cherished. It was so rich and so full and so layered, and so much attention was paid to who the characters were, and their relationships, even honoring qualities that the character had which had been ignored or not part of the storytelling forever and ever. I felt honored and so grateful.

When I got the scripts, I tore the package open. I kept going into the other room where my husband was and saying, "Listen to what I get to say!" Then I'd go back and read some more and then go back in and tell him, "I get to say dung beetle!" I got more delight out of that and more fun...it is so layered for me that experience and I've never really said it to Frank or Ron. I have to write those guys a letter!

It was scary, delightful, enchanting, and I had the best time because they brought back a quality of that character that had been there 12 years ago but that nobody remembered or needed or thought about for so long. I didn't even realize what a big deal it was until I got there and was doing it. Then I got to work with the people I loved working with. That I not only had a story but had this character back in the mostly deep richly satisfying way for me was such a gift.

Denise Alexander returned to GENERAL HOSIPTAL
as Lesley Webber earlier this year.
WE LOVE SOAPS: What was that like, working with Frank Valentini and the new team there?
DENISE ALEXANDER: I'd heard Frank was terrific with actors. The actors that I worked with back in our golden era of the show were privileged to work with two extraordinary filmmakers who knew drama and storytelling: Tom Donovan and they justifiably famous Gloria Monty.

People would say to me when trying to describe Frank, "Think Gloria." That was just the shorthand. Gloria was tough and powerful and knew what drama was. Gloria could be charming and funny and oddball in a very delightful way. She was in love with actors who knew what they were doing and worked well and were intelligent. It was the kind of the gift that very few actors get to work with someone like that in a part major enough that there's this amazing richness in what you're given to do. I saw that with Frank.

He could not be more different from Gloria. He's good-looking, tall and charming and you think he has to be the leading man when you first see him. He was beyond lovely to me. He came over to me when I'd finished the first day and said things that were so lovely, I think I fainted with my eyes open. But I could not tell you what he said for the life of me. I had been trying to tell my husband when he gave me a drop-off at the studio the next day. Genie and Kin were outside as I was walking in and they were there when Frank talked to me so I asked them what he said. It's like training puppies to work with actors so to have that ability to make them feel loved and appreciated but knowing there is a good strong hand at the other end of the leash is wonderful. I don't know if he is like this with every single actor but I thought he was terrific.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you haven't checked into THE INN yet, you watch the very first episode below to see Denise Alexander like you've never seen her before, then catch up on the first two seasons at theinntheseries.com. Check back on Friday for the second part of our interview. What would Lesley Webber think of Lola? And vice versa? Ms. Alexander shares her thoughts on this and more.



Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps, worked as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals. He appeared in FRANCOPRHENIA in 2012 and the documentary SOAP LIFE, out on DVD in 2013.

8 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this interview. I. LOVE.HER.

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  2. Denise Alexander as Dr. Lesley Williams Faulkner is what made me a fan of General Hospital as kid in 1975. Thank you Roger.....

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  3. I have had the honor of working with Ms. Alexander for over 20 years now. But I've had the pleasure to call her my friend.

    Steve Silverman
    The Inn/Pretty Guy.

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  4. My German and American friends were quite happy to see "our" Lesley back on GH. We weren't sure it was going to happen, but we still hoped. She is amazing, and we are quite fortunate that she keeps on giving to us! (I am thinking the whole Wiccan Priestess was more Denise than anybody else!) (Hi Steve.)

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  5. When all of my peers were gaga about Luke and Laura I had pictures of Rick and Lesley in my room and locker. I hated the fact that Lesley's return was never addressed properly by Rick and I hate that any and all Rick returns focused on his time with Monica. Lesley and Rick never had a real closure. That has always been very upsetting to me. Even when ghost Rick came back for the 50th...he was with Monica...yet during the show Lesley was the love of his life. Rick and Lesley fans want closure too!

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  6. I never watched General Hospital. I meet Denise (Mary) when she played on Another World. She played Mary McKinnon who was married to Vince McKinnon. There love story was truly amazing. Another World fans were able to have closure when there story came to an end. We were able to watch them ride out in the sunset(so to speak) and live happily ever after. I agree with the GH fans . I hope one day they will get there Sunset. Absolutely Love Denise Alexander!!!!

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