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GENERAL HOSPITAL

Genie Francis Opens Up About the “Burden” of Playing Laura

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Ask just about anyone who doesn’t watch soap operas to name some daytime characters and they’d probably put GENERAL HOSPITAL’s Luke and Laura at the top of the list. The soap supercouple was a cultural phenomenon in the early 1980s, with a record-breaking 30 million viewers tuning in when the characters got married in 1981 in the most-watched episode of daytime television. And while Luke and Laura led a happy life (for a while), the start of their romance was far from chivalrous courting: It began with Luke raping the much younger Laura after hours at the Campus Disco in 1979.

Laura’s portrayer, Genie Francis, has spoken out about the sexual assault of her character and the controversial pairing many times over the years — as recently as Jan. 11 at the Television Critics Association press tour, reports TV Line. “You know, as a young kid, at 17, I was told to play rape, and I played it,” she explained to reporters during GH’s panel at the press conference. “I didn’t even know what it was. But, at 17, you follow the rules, and you do as you are told, and you aim to please.

At the time, GH was on the fringe of being canceled by ABC. That controversial scene, however, catapulted Luke and Laura to immense popularity with the audience, turning around the soap’s lagging ratings as she fell in love with her attacker. In the years that followed, the soap glossed over the notorious scene, romanticizing it as a “forced seduction.” It wasn’t until Luke and Laura’s son, Lucky, found out nearly 20 years later in 1998 that his father had once raped his mother that the soap addressed the scene for what it was.

GH Luke Laura Wedding
Luke and Laura’s wedding was not just a huge Port Charles event, but a huge television event.Bob D’Amico/ABC via Getty Images

“At 60, I don’t feel the need to defend that anymore,” Francis stated of her character’s violent history. “I think that the story was inappropriate, I don’t condone it, and it’s been a burden that I’ve had to carry to try to justify that story, and so I’m not doing that anymore.

“I think when a woman says ‘No,’ that she should be listened to,” Francis added. “And if you replay that scene, you don’t have Laura just saying ‘No.’ You have her screaming ‘No.’”

The Laura that viewers know today has come a long way since that fateful night in October 1979. “I love who she is in the present day,” Francis confessed. “She was such a victim as a young woman, and to see it flip around and have her be… this powerful woman who is the mayor of the town. She doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s a strong woman. She’s a good role model for other women. I love my Laura today. I loved my Laura then too, but this is where it needed to go.”

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