Genie Francis co-stars in “Notes from the Heart Healer,” the third installment in Hallmark’s popular series about the mid-life romance of an advice columnist named Peyton and a sportswriter named King. It will be on the Hallmark Channel Saturday May 12 8/7c & 10/9c and Sunday May 13 12/11c & 8/7c. Francis became an international phenomenon as Laura on “General Hospital.” The Luke and Laura wedding was the highest rated soap episodes in history with 30 million viewers. I talked with her about her chemistry with co-star Ted McGinley, working with directors, and why audiences feel such a connection to the “Notes” love story.
Was it a big change to move from soap opera to a made-for-TV movie?
Most of my work was in a three camera show, but I’ve also worked on stage and in film, so I am comfortable with one camera films. But it’s not like breathing to me as three camera is—I’m as comfortable as that as I am in my living room sofa.
What makes this story so popular with audiences?
Hallmark has an older audience and a lot of older people would love to believe they could have a second chance at love. It’s a really big and powerful message. It’s a romance that is slowly built. They were working in the same place for five years. They noticed each other right away but didn’t act on it for five years. It’s a sweet love story that’s mid-life and their love for each other makes them young again.
What happens in this third chapter?
Peyton has a baby dropped at her doorstep and it brings up all of her guilt and unresolved issues about the baby she did not raise, even though her daughter did come back in her life. She first thinks she is not worthy and then realizes she can do this and wants to do this and she gets to see King as a father. And they both start to fall in love with the baby. It causes an issue in the marriage.
Ted told me he was very impressed by how well you were able to respond to direction because you have such control over your performance.
I take notes well because I don’t cling to my way. I have an idea of how I want to do something but I come to the set very malleable, not overly investing in doing things my way. That way I can bring what good I’ve brought and they can take me a bit further. I welcome it. The people who have taught me the most about acting were Denise Alexander and Tony Geary on “General Hospital” and my acting teachers, Michael Howard and Bill Esper.
How old were you when you started acting?
I was 14. The first thing I did was “Family,” a two-part episode with Kristy McNichol. Then three months laeter I got “General Hospital.” “Family” came back and wanted me again but by then I was already booked. “General Hospital” told me that they were using me to catch the young audience. We were on at a time when kids could see us after school. They get to live with the character every day for an hour so they get very invested in you. The character gets delved into more deeply because there’s so much time to fill. You are a permanent fixture, on every day. And the character of Laura was really based on my own need to be loved, to find someone to love me, and that was pretty strong for an ingénue. Luke and Laura – the audience really believed that when you put these two people together they were better off than they were before. She wasn’t lonely and sad, he wasn’t in the Mafia. Their union makes each of them whole and better in a new way.
It’s the same thing with Peyton and King – can two older people really have a chance at a happy love life?
How did you like filming in Victoria?
It’s a beautiful part of the world and I really enjoyed being there. My daughter came and we went whale watching. We saw so many whales, many of them jumping out of the water. I ziplined through the forest with my daughter. I am half Canadian and I am seriously considering reclaiming those Canadian roots.
Is your mom a heart healer? Hallmark Channel is looking for inspirational, poignant or funny stories about moms who have healed a heart. Post your tributes to Facebook.com/hallmarkchannel #HeartHealer #HallmarkChannelCountdown