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Guest Opinion: In Defense of General Hospital's Franco Baldwin

Roger Howarth

Roger Howarth

If you made it past the headline, you probably have an open mind when it comes to General Hospital's Franco Baldwin (Roger Howarth). Or maybe you're on the fence.

When first introduced, "Franco" came on the scene as a "project" for the real James Franco. Full disclosure: I enjoyed his stint on GH. Not only was it inserted into the canvas with little rhyme or reason, it also had weird quirky details like C077x clues around town, weird art work and of course, the wind-up monkeys. At the time, the real Franco was also involved in the Oz project for Disney, so the monkey thing just made me giggle. Pair that with the character being secretly "in love" with his twin Jason (Steve Burton) and it was just wacky gold.

Fast forward to Ron Carlivati's era as GH head writer. He decided to have One Life to Live favorite Howarth play the character. Howarth arrived and made him his own. I was at an event with Howarth last year where he talked about being offered the role and how he basically told Ron "sure, why not?" At the time, he had reprised his OLTL role as Todd Manning, but the Prospect Park lawsuit ended that. During his 2016 Q&A in Syracuse, Howarth also confessed that he knew "absolutely nothing" about Franco or his storyline. He explained he didn't want to know because it may have affected his portrayal. Howarth later asked Kelly Monaco (Sam) what his character did that was so bad. She told him about the whole fake-rape mind bend. Roger said, "So I was pretty terrible, huh?"

This brings us to the present. Whether we like him or not, Howarth is Franco–warts and all. Attempts to redeem him, like the "Tumor in a Jar" storyline, failed. Haters still hate. I'm here to ask you to give him one more chance.

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Franco's crimes were heinous, but there are a ton of soap characters with similar pasts. If you could forgive Ric Lansing (Rick Hearst) for chaining Carly (Laura Wright) to a wall in the hopes she'd give birth, then I have little sympathy. The list of similar characters goes on and on. Most viewers wish Howarth could revert back to Todd, but remember, Todd masterminded Marty's (Susan Haskell) gang rape on OLTL. If you didn't see that brutal story in real-time you missed one of the most disturbing scenes that has ever aired during daytime hours. Unlike Todd on OLTL, GH's Franco has a legitimate defense. His lawyer Diane (Carolyn Hennesy) put the jarred evidence on the courtroom table.

Roger Howarth, Rebecca Herbst

Roger Howarth, Rebecca Herbst

GH's current writers are trying yet again, to turn the character around. They attempted to soften Franco's edges by pairing him with Elizabeth Webber (Rebecca Herbst). He was instrumental in helping Jake (Hudson West) with his post-traumatic scarecrow incident and even paid for art classes! Then, it was revealed he and Drew (Billy Miller) were raised together and possibly abused by the horrible Jim Harvey (Greg Evigan). Will this finally do the trick? Todd's sins seemed to be forgiven when his past abuse came out. Will Franco crying on Drew's shoulder help matters? Did he perhaps save Drew from a horrible fate? Time will tell.

I'm hoping you give Franco another chance. It's easy to dismiss the character as horrible, but if you take all the complexities added by Howarth's superb portrayal, Franco can be a goldmine of comedy, angst and yes–redemption. Until he gets the Michael Easton treatment of being able to play multiple characters on the show with barely a blink of an eye, it is what it is.

So get out your egg salad painting, wind-up the monkeys, and enjoy.