Monday, July 5, 2010

Lisa LoCicero Revealed: From GENERAL HOSPITAL Fan to Star


By Roger Newcomb

Michigan native Lisa LoCicero joined the cast of GENERAL HOSPITAL in 2008 as Olivia Falconeri, a woman who had a secret love child with Sonny Corinthos. She quickly won the hearts of the fans with her toughness and fierce devotion to her family. Olivia's pairing with Johnny Zacchara (dubbed “Jolivia” by fans) also created a buzz. The talented actress had many talents as a child but had to narrow her focus: “I grew up in a very pro-art household so my start was in music and dance,” she remembers. “I started out probably like every other little girl in the Midwest in the '70s wanting to be a ballerina. Which then moved into singing, and playing the piano, violin and the harp. Along about the age of 13, it occurred to me that I had to narrow it down and focus on one thing. Of all the things I was involved in, something about acting really spoke to me as the thing I felt I could put more of myself into.”

"My relationship with performing music was always a bit nerve-wracking," LoCicero adds. "Acting feels a little more free form most of the time. It's like playing improvisational jazz, whereas if you're playing Chopin's 'Prelude in C-Sharp Minor' and screw up a note, everybody knows." But recently music and dance have re-entered her life. "It's only now that I've started to get back into music and realized I missed that in my life tremendously," she explains. "And dance as well. I just got back into studying Argentine tango and ballet combination. It's really beautiful."

LoCicero's parents were supportive of her acting dreams. "They sent me to acting school pretty much the day after I graduated high school," she says. "They drove me out to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I was eighteen years old. I thought I was very mature, and I look at those pictures now, and I was a baby. I remember them dropping me off, unloading the family station wagon, and then driving away crying. I was crying. I went into my little room and cried for about 10 minutes, then went out on my own, got a copy of the Village Voice, and went to see some punk rock show my first night. I will never forget that."

LoCicero rose to soap stardom pretty quickly after school but did have a few odd jobs on the road to success. She was a cigarette girl, and worked as a store mannequin. "I had a lot of fun actually," she explains. "You can stand really, really still, and the crowd gathers and wonders if it's real or not, then you move and look at them. It was easy to entertain myself."

Her first soap role was Jocelyn on LOVING. She describes the experience as "heaven." But she was still young and didn't understand the concept of failure yet. "I didn't know to be as appreciative as I should have been, to be an actor making a nice salary at that age in the city of Manhattan at that time. And they just wrote like crazy for me on that show. Plus Randolph Mantooth was my first TV crush as a little girl [on EMERGENCY]. For him to be my first love interest was kind of like a fairy tale in a way. But honestly I was too young to be nervous about stuff."

After her run on LOVING/THE CITY ended, she worked in Los Angeles on several projects including STAR TREK: VOYAGER. In 2004, she returned to New York to play the character of Sonia on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. Moving back East was not her first choice at the time having just had a baby and completed a home renovation. "That part came about based on the test that I did to play Lois on GENERAL HOSPITAL," she reveals. "They really liked me and wrote that part for me. Then as I'm reading it I realized, 'I'm the head of the Puerto Rican mafia.' I think we can all agree that storyline was a bit of a lead balloon." But as usual, LoCicero turned it into a positive. "Being back in New York, and being in New York as a mother, was a very different experience. We had a great time. The experience overall I wouldn't trade for the world."

Following ONE LIFE TO LIVE, LoCicero did some films and episodic work and starred on RENO 911. "When I was working on RENO 911, all the ladies said we were going to get together and take the poll dancing class," she says. Those classes were hot at the time. "So I went the next day and signed up. Then one by one everyone else sort of dropped out, so I was the one left holding the bag. But I went all the way through so I'm sort of a black belt pole dancer now."

LoCicero has been playing Olivia on GENERAL HOSPITAL for the past two years and has been involved in many emotional and intense storylines. With some acting jobs you can detach yourself from your characters emotions, but it is harder on a daytime drama. “On a soap opera, where you don't have a hiatus, and you put yourself into this character for a long time, you don't really get to decompress from that connection,” she reveals. “There definitely have been times when I've been sitting eating dinner with my family and I burst into tears.”

Dominic Zamprogna joined the GH cast Olivia's son Dante last year. LoCicero also has a son in real life. Has she learned anything from playing Dante's mother than she could apply in her own life? “I think that it would be more the other way around,” she says. “My real motherhood has allowed me to play this character in a way I definitely couldn't have otherwise. I couldn't have understood the depth of care for another person you're in charge of.”

What would she like to see happen for Olivia in the future? “[Brandon Barash and I] want a 'Jolivia' love child,” she laughs. “We would love to do some fantasy music numbers. I would also like to explore Olivia being a bit of a maternal character to Sonny (Maurice Benard) as well. He's come to her in the past thinking that what he wants from her is sex. I think what he wants is to be seen and to be understood for what he was before. She's one of few people that can give that to him.”

Was her onscreen chemistry with Brandon Barash's Johnny instant? "Pretty much. We laugh because I have the same birthday as his mother, he has the same birthday and my son, and we just found out our fathers have the same birthday as well. We were just kind of acting soulmates ever since we met. We were supposed to be a one night stand, but the fan response was really tremendous. Lately we've been so angsty that it may be hard for people to keep rooting for us, but we really hope they take it back in that direction. We feel like we bring the best out in each other."

James Franco recently returned to GENERAL HOSPITAL for another run. His mother, Betsy, is playing his mother on the show. LoCicero had a chance to bond with her behind the scenes. “She's so delightful,” she gushes. “Betsy and I had a really nice chat in my dressing room one day. She seems to have been bred in a lab to nurture happy, well-rounded artists. And, of course, she's very much an artist in her own right as well. We spoke about raising boys and acting and taking acting home with you and her passion for sketch comedy. She just couldn't have been sweeter. I stopped back into the set to see some of her scenes with James the other day. You really could tell it was most definitely mother and son. It really was touching to watch an actual mother and son working together.”

Outside the soap, she connects with fans on Twitter, where she has over 12,000 followers. “I wonder sometimes if it's sort of breaking the fourth wall in a sense,” she ponders. “If people are seeing you as you, it's detrimental to them being able to see you as this other thing. It may be why we feel personally about the characters we play because people have some sort of amalgam of me as Lisa and Olivia projected onto their screens.” LoCicero relates to her fans because she began watching GENERAL HOSPITAL as a child with her Grandma Jean whose chair she now has in her dressing room. One of the characters she loved as a child was Bobbie Spencer. “God knows if I was 10 years old and I could have had a conversation with Jackie Zeman [who played Bobbie], I would not have been able to contain my glee.”

If LoCicero could go back to the early 1990s when she first started her professional acting career and give herself one piece of advice, what would it be? “I would have been more proactive at that time in terms of putting stuff together and not waiting to be cast in other people's things,” she says. “I would have gotten more comfortable with realizing my own ideas instead of being a piece in someone else's puzzle.”

- WE LOVE SOAPS TV #42 Daytime Creative Emmys, Part 2

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