Nabbing film star Dee Wallace to play Luke’s big sister, Patricia, on GENERAL HOSPITAL was casting gold. But just when we had warmed up to her as a loving member of the Spencer family, the soap opera gods snatched her away. Three days was just not enough!
“Gosh, I didn’t think about staying longer because it wasn’t an option, and now I’m dead, so…” Wallace laughs, realizing that daytime television can be flexible where mortality is concerned. “Somebody laughingly said to me that death doesn’t mean anything in soaps.” She got that right! “I would have definitely entertained going back and forth periodically but I’m juggling so many things.”
Although her stay was only a few days, Wallace went all out to get the part down just right. When she got the script that noted that Patricia had Multiple Sclerosis, she did her homework to make sure she conveyed the condition with the utmost accuracy.
“I was researching on YouTube and the Internet, and I called some of my doctor friends,” Wallace notes. “There were so many ways you could have gone with this particular disease. I finally called and they put me on with [GH executive producer] Frank Valentini. I said to him, ‘Frank, I’ve read and have been told that one of the big detriments of this disease is that your words slur… and I can’t say all of these lines if I don’t speak clearly!'” Wallace laughs. “So we focused very much on the physical things.”
And that work paid off in a very dramatic way. “At the end of the shoot,” Wallace confides, “a beautiful young lady on the crew came up and talked to me about the fact that her mother had MS and the physicality I had chosen was very representative of it. We both kind of broke down and cried. I gave her a big hug.
“It’s important to me because I think actors have a responsibility to those who are challenged with these things to represent them as accurately as possible,” she adds. “People can become very bitter and negative or they can rise to the occasion and choose to look at it as a learning lesson and what they can still offer to the world. It was a really, really interesting exploration, and I left unbelievably empowered, as an actor and as a person.”