One of the most polarizing storylines in recent soap opera history reached its denouement Wednesday on ABC Daytime's General Hospital. On the sudser's 52nd anniversary, beloved antihero Luke Spencer (Anthony Geary) recalled killing his parents.
Five decades after this horrific event, Luke's personality splintered causing him to finance a ruthless crime family and to begin terrorizing his friends and family members. Even on a daytime soap where tumors and microchips routinely explain vile behavior, how does this iconic character come back from what he's done?
In Part 2 of my exclusive #GH52 post mortem interview with head writer Ron Carlivati, I ask that and more. What about all the crimes viewers watched Luke commit over the years, seemingly in his right mind, such as raping his beloved Laura (Genie Francis) and accidentally killing toddler Jake Spencer? Is Luke still responsible for those crimes? How did a mental patient build a mob empire? Was it Luke or Fluke who first approached Julian Jerome (William deVry)? Keep reading if you want to know the answers from the man who wrote the storyline.
Daytime Confidential: At the beginning of the Fluke story, fans assumed Fake Luke was Bill Eckert, Luke's identical cousin, back from the dead. What made you opt for a decidedly darker route in revealing Luke was actually responsible for so many heinous crimes?
Ron Carlivati: When you decide to have an Evil Luke character on the canvas, the most logical way to go is Bill Eckert. It's something the audience is already familiar with. They already expect it. They knew this cousin looked exactly like Luke. It's a classic soap trope to have someone come back from the dead. We explored what Bill's motivations would be if he had been Fluke. What would set up that final confrontation between Luke and Bill? What I realized, the more we went down that road, was it became a story about Bill and not a story about Luke, which is what we were wanting to tell. When the idea came along of, "What if it is actually Luke himself?", we realized, "Wow, now this story takes on a whole other dimension." It's not just about this out-of-control villain who wants revenge, somebody from the past, it's actually about the origin of Luke Spencer. That just suddenly seemed to make sense to me and to the rest of the writers. We could delve into the childhood. We started looking up everything that has been said about [Luke's childhood], which was not that much. There were things the character of Luke had said over the years. Everybody now knows there had been a mention or two of Pat (Dee Wallace), but we never saw her. That lets you take those tiny kernels from the history book and turn them into a story. That's what we were ultimately able to do. That said, we made such a point when we took the audience down the red herring path of it being Bill. Luke went so far as to dig his cousin up and argue with him in the basement! [Laughs] We felt Bill had to play an important role in the story in the past, or it wouldn't really add up. We decided Bill had to have been part of what happened that night.
DC: There's been concern that the revelation of what made Luke split into Fluke would whitewash or explain away some of the darker points in his history. From the writer's standpoint, does Luke having committed patricide and accidental matricide explain such things as him raping Laura (Genie Francis) and killing Jake while driving drunk?
RC: While I think it helps explain it, I don't think we were trying to change what happened at all. A lot of people jumped on this bandwagon. "It's a split personality! It's DID [Dissociative Identity Disorder]!", or that we were trying to say Luke is not responsible for the rape of Laura, or the killing of Jake. We didn't want that. We were very clear about not going down the DID path. This really was Luke giving in to the darker impulses he has. What we were going for was that this dark Luke has always existed inside of him, not completely separate. The catalyst of the Fluke story was when Luke was imprisoned by Heather (Robin Mattson) and subjected to electroshock and drugging. The memories came back to him and caused that dark side to take over, so that Luke didn't have to face what he'd done. What we're trying to say... I need a psychiatrist to come and help me explain this! [Laughs] What we were going for was that there's always been this sort of guy inside of Luke. I think it makes sense if you look at him over the years on the show. When he would feel that darkness coming over him, he would go on one of his adventures, so he didn't have to unleash that on his family. He'd run around the world and probably act a lot more like Fluke than like Luke. Then, he would get that out of his system and he would come home.
DC: While he was off running around the world in Fluke mode, he amassed enough of a fortune to front the Jerome crime family! Going forward, how will all of that be addressed? Luke's actions have set off a mob war in Port Charles. Now that this painful chapter from his past has been revealed, how will his role in unleashing the Jeromes play into the future?
RC: Now having acknowledged what he did, all of this is coming home for Luke, the scope of what his actions have caused. He was in business with Julian (William deVry)... That was something that people had a hard time with... some people had a hard time with! [Laughs] What we're saying is, as I said, there was this other part of him, this dark side of Luke that needed to act out. It was that side that left town and tracked down Julian Jerome and made a pitch to him to go into business together and take over Port Charles. There was this side of Luke that wanted what Sonny (Maurice Benard) had. He did it as a separate person. He could not approach Julian Jerome and say, "Guess what? I'm Luke Spencer and I'm totally evil now. Wanna run Port Charles together?" [Laughs] He couldn't risk being outed. He went in as this anonymous person who claimed to Julian to just look like Luke Spencer. Julian didn't know who he really was. He saw it as an opportunity to take back Port Charles. Luke has left a wake of destruction in his path. He had Lucas (Ryan Carnes) shot, his own nephew! He has a lot he has to answer for, not necessarily to the law, but to the people he purports to love and care about. Can Bobbie (Jackie Zeman) accept this is her brother, albeit sick in the head? Can Tracy (Jane Elliot) accept the guy that treated her so badly was really Luke? Can Lulu (Emme Rylan) accept this man is the father she loves? Luke's journey going forward will be seeking forgiveness and redemption.