General Hospital star Lisa LoCicero (Olivia) is living the dream. She went from a soap fan to a soap star: in her favorite sudser, no less. LoCicero shared her journey to Port Charles in a chat with Soap Opera Digest...including the three other GH roles she almost occupied.
I started watching as a little girl with my grandma…. I was watching ABC soaps as a very young kid. In the summertime, I guess I must have spent the entire day because I would watch LOVING, I would watch, I believe, RYAN’S HOPE, I would watch THE EDGE OF NIGHT, I would watch ALL MY CHILDREN, I would watch ONE LIFE TO LIVE and then, of course, GENERAL HOSPITAL. I remember very distinctly watching the very first episode of LOVING [and] the very first time I was on television was on LOVING. The first [job] was a day player selling Dinah Lee Mayberry (Jessica Collins) a wedding dress [and] then, of course, my first contract role was on LOVING.
In 2004, LoCicero auditioned to be the recast Lois Cerullo (Rena Sofer) on GH. Instead, she headed to OLTL in a role many weren't a huge fan of. She recalled:
.[The show] made that role recurring, gave it to someone else and then wrote for me the role that I eventually did play, which was Sonia Toledo Santi, which was prob- ably best forgotten in the tomes of soap opera history. I believe that role was voted the worst-written role in the history of daytime television or some damn thing. I think they had to clear the decks on the writing team after the Santi thing! There was a swing for the bleachers and it just didn’t work out for a number of different reasons, maybe not the least of which was me playing Puerto Rican!
After auditioning for the part of Kate Howard (Megan Ward), she ended up getting cast years later as an old friend of Lois's from Bensonhurst: Kate's long-long cousin, Olivia Falconeri. LoCicero shared her journey to becoming Olivia...including wondering if she was going to replace an iconic characer:
I remember leaving [the audition] thinking, 'Well, something good happened in there….' They said to my agent, 'We’re going to go another way with this one but we swear we have something better for her coming up very shortly….' I believe what they had in mind was maybe bringing me back as Brenda, which as we all know would have been literally the biggest disaster. I think even as much as I wanted to be on the show I would have had to say, 'That’s a bad idea. I won’t do it.'
Do you know what I mean? I mean, you would be an absolute idiot to take that on. No one is Vanessa [Marcil, ex-Brenda] and certainly no one is Vanessa and Maurice [Benard, Sonny]. But [then-Head Writer] Bob [Guza, Jr.] created Olivia for me and wanted to do this 'son of Sonny' thing, which I think is what Kate was going to be about originally. They wanted to see more of a rough Brooklyn presence to be the mother of Sonny’s son.
As a big GH fan, she was a bit starstruck at the beginning of her tenure in Port Chuck. She shared:
Well, obviously, Maurice. My first scenes were with Maurice … Certainly walking in that day and going up to that bar set and doing those scenes with Maurice was, like, otherworldly. You can’t not be in it when you’re working with him. You feel what’s coming out of his eyes [and] there’s a reason why he has held people’s attention to the level that he has for this many years in this character. I mean, how many other people can you say that of?
Very, very few…. Finola [Hughes, Anna] now is one of my best friends. But the first time I ran into her there, I was like, 'Oh. My. God.' And, of course, Tristan [Rogers, Robert]. I’ve told this story so many times, but he had been prewarned that I was a super-fan [and] he came walking up to me. In my memory, it’s like slow motion, I’m sitting there with my husband, and I’m just hyperventilating, probably snot coming out of my nose. My husband said, 'What’s wrong with you? Just say hi.' And he couldn’t have been nicer.