The longest-running scripted American TV daytime drama in production, “General Hospital,” has regaled the American audience with engaging storylines for about 60 years. The well-loved soap opera hasn’t only entertained the viewers, but also raised awareness on controversial medical topics including HIV/AIDS, types of cancers, and bipolar disorders. The show also pioneered narratives that tackled sensitive social issues, such as gender orientation, sexual child abuse, family dysfunction, and various addictions. Numerous actors have appeared in the daytime series over the decades, either as a guest, supporting cast, or playing a main character. A few of them said goodbye permanently to their characters for various reasons in 2021.
- 1 Interesting facts about General Hospital
- 1.1 Impressive longevity with six decades on TV
- 1.2 Received the highest number of Outstanding Daytime Drama Series Emmy Awards
- 1.3 It was supposed to be a primetime series
- 1.4 Running time changed three times
- 1.5 Two spin-off series were made from the soap opera
- 1.6 Famous celebrities who appeared in the daytime series
- 2 Actors who left “General Hospital” in 2021
- 3 Former actors in “General Hospital” who passed away in 2021
Interesting facts about General Hospital
There have only been a handful of drama series that managed to stay relevant in the ever-changing entertainment industry, may it be on daytime or primetime TV, and this soap opera topped that list in America. Here are some fascinating stories about it:
Impressive longevity with six decades on TV
“General Hospital” is awarded by the Guinness World Records the longest-running American daytime series still airing. It was second only in the US drama TV history after “Guiding Light”, and the third in the world after a couple of British series called “The Coronation Street” and “The Archers.” It made its television debut on the ABC network on 1 April 1963, and will celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2023.
Received the highest number of Outstanding Daytime Drama Series Emmy Awards
Every single soap opera would dream of winning an Emmy Award from the esteemed members of the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The prestigious award-giving body initially bestowed trophies for primetime TV, but in 1974 they expanded, and created a separate one exclusively for daytime series. “General Hospital” was immediately nominated for six categories, but the show failed to take home any award that night. It was only in 1981 that they bagged their first Outstanding Drama Series trophy, and then eventually 15 times, the most for a single show in that category.
— Daytime Emmys (@DaytimeEmmys) June 25, 2022
It was supposed to be a primetime series
The ABC network at that time wasn’t keen on creating a daytime drama, and when they started conceptualizing the series, it was called “Emergency Hospital” slated to air in a primetime slot. They planned that it would feature a different emergency case each episode, with only four main characters. However, when they were informed that the rival network, NBC, would be launching a series that was quite similar to what they were planning, called “The Doctors”, on the same day in 1963, they scrapped their original idea. One of the network executives, Armand Grant, hired Doris and Frank Hursley to create a daytime drama, but still with the hospital as its central focus. NBC’s “The Doctors” also made the switch to daytime drama by the end of their debut year.
Running time changed three times
Fans of “General Hospital” were surprised to learn that their beloved soap opera wasn’t originally aired hourly. Due to many reasons including the public’s viewing habits, competition, the influx of commercials, and changes in the forms of storytelling, they added more minutes for each episode through the years. It initially ran for 30 minutes, and it took the ABC executive producers 13 years from when it was launched up to 1976, before they added another 15 minutes to its running time. A major shift in the dynamics of the soap opera happened mid-1978, when the network finally realized the benefits for them and the viewers to extend each episode to an hour. Fans were happy with the changes, as it remained one of the most-viewed series on ABC.
Two spin-off series were made from the soap opera
Creating spin-offs derived from successful drama series wasn’t something new in the entertainment industry. It happened way back in 1941, when a supporting actor in a program was given his own show, which carried the same narrative but was shown from a different perspective. “General Hospital” became a franchise series when they created two spin-offs – “Port Charles” in 1997, and “General Hospital: Night Shift” in 2007. The former focused on the lives of the hospital’s interns and ran for seven years, while the latter centered more on the younger characters of the first spin-off, but only lasted for two seasons, with 27 episodes aired.
Famous celebrities who appeared in the daytime series
The massive success of “General Hospital” lured many celebrities into making guest appearances, including actor/director James Franco, who played a creepy villain named Franco; Chandra Wilson from “Grey’s Anatomy,” who portrayed a patient named Tina with mental health issues; Stephen A. Smith from ESPN’s “First Take” played Brick, a mob king’s right-hand man in 2016; and Elizabeth Taylor, who originally played the villainess Helena Cassadine in the 1980s for three episodes before Constance Towers took over the role. Some appeared in the soap long before they became household names such as the now Duchess of Sussex Megan Markle, portraying the role of one of the nurses in the hospital, but with only two speaking lines.
Actors who left “General Hospital” in 2021
Daytime or primetime TV series often have a revolving door when it came to the selection of their cast members. “General Hospital” has seen many actors go through that door in the span of six decades. Some actors sought meatier roles in other TV projects, or jumped at the chance to star in a movie. Some of them were fired due to artistic differences, or personal issues. Here are some of the actors who haven’t been seen again after their last episode was aired in 2021.
Briana Nicole Henry
On 13 September 2021, fans of “General Hospital” saw a tearful Jordan Ashford saying goodbye to her family and friends, while being wheeled away after surviving a kidnapping. Briana Nicole Henry, the actress who had played the character since 2018, said that the tears she shed on that episode were quite real. At that time, no one knew that it was her final moment in the show, until she announced it on her Instagram account. She posted, ‘I decided it was time for me to move on from @generalhospitalabc ,and I got nothing but love and support from everyone involved.’ She was thankful to the crew, her co-actors, and the staff of the daytime series for giving her the space to grow for the three years she spent with them. She also addressed the fans and told them that it took her a while before she won them over, and she hoped that she’d brought happiness to them via the beloved character that she portrayed.
In February 2022, Briana gave birth to her first child with American pianist and composer, Kris Bowers. They named their daughter Coda and shared a series of photos of her and the baby on Instagram. Most of her former co-actors from the soap opera were also her friends, who left messages on her post.
Her character as the Police Commissioner was written out, with the possibility of another actress taking over the role. She was sent to a medical clinic in Albany, New York, so one of her failing kidneys could be treated. Briana wasn’t the first one to portray the role of Jordan. It was originally given to Canadian actress Vinessa Antoine, who stayed in the series from 2014 to 2018. Tiffany Daniels temporarily took over the role when Briana left, and then by March 2022, Tanisha Harper appeared in the series as the new Jordan Ashford.
In December 2021, it was reported that the ABC network was sued by Ingo Rademacher, one of the longtime actors in “General Hospital,” a month after he was fired from the show. He refused to have the Covid-19 vaccine, claiming religious exemption from the mandate. A few months before his termination, he directly emailed the Human Resources Department of Disney, which acquired the ABC TV network in 1996, writing, ‘I am entitled to a religious exemption against mandatory vaccination for COVID-19, on the basis of my deeply and sincerely held moral belief that my body is endowed by my creator.’ The network executives rejected his reasons, and continued to uphold the Covid-19 vaccination mandate for all of its active actors participating in any TV show in production. He argued that ABC’s questioning of his sincerity with his religious beliefs could be considered religious discrimination, and that the mandate was a violation of his rights. Ingo was represented by John W. Howard and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the lawsuit.
Ingo portrayed the role of Jasper Jacks for 25 years, first appearing in the daytime series in January 1996; he was eventually married to and divorced six in the show women. The actor was last seen on an episode aired in November 2021. His character was written out by his leaving Port Charles. One of his last lines in the show depicted his real situation with his other co-stars, ‘I’m kind of on the outs with everyone in Port Charles right now.’ It was even mentioned that he had no plans of returning, even for holidays. Nancy Lee Grahn, one of the stars in the series, said that she had been working with unmasked actors as if they knew more than the infectious disease world experts.
Later on, Ingo reposted a controversial comment calling Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary of Health, a “Dude.” It irked a lot of people, especially those in the LGBTQ community, because the assistant secretary was the first transgender four-star admiral in the history of the US Public Health Office. His former co-stars Nancy and Cassandra James shared their disgust over Ingo’s comment on social media, Cassandra commenting, ‘Mercifully no longer a part of the #gh cast. Transphobia & misgendering are disgusting & should be unacceptable in any industry, including soaps/acting.’
Another longtime actor from the soap opera, Steve Burton, announced that he was let go just a day after Ingo’s final episode was aired. He refused to be vaccinated too, and applied for medical and religious exemptions from the Covid-19 mandate; the ABC network denied his request. The termination of his services was rumored already for weeks before the official announcement, because he was vocal that he wasn’t keen on getting the vaccination. ABC required that all of the actors and crew present in Zone A be vaccinated; it was where unmasked people would be sharing a production set. The mandate went into effect on the first day of November, and those who continued to defy the mandate were fired.
Steve posted on Instagram, ‘I wanted you to hear it from me personally. Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate.’ He further said that while it pained him to be out of the TV show, it was also some sort of personal freedom for him. He was part of the daytime series for 25 years, playing the character of Jason Morgan, one of the mobsters. He appeared in the series from 1991 up to 2012, took a break from the role for five years, and went back to reprise his role in 2017. The actor appeared in more than 2,200 episodes, and was told that his October 2021 filming was his last appearance in the show. His character was last seen trapped in a mountain cave and was presumed dead. Steve didn’t burn any bridges with the network and wasn’t part of any litigation. He said that if ever the mandate would be lifted, he hoped he would be given the chance to return, because he would be honored to finish his TV career in the series.
Former actors in “General Hospital” who passed away in 2021
Fans of “General Hospital” bid farewell to some of the actors who died and were best known for a character they portrayed in their favorite soap opera.
In January 2021, social influencer and TikTok star Caitlyn Reilly announced that her father, John Reilly, had passed away. John was part of “General Hospital” for 11 years, playing the role of Sean Donely, a World Security Bureau (WSB) agent. The cast and crew who worked with him remembered him fondly, and the producers created a tribute episode for the late actor. Fans were ecstatic to see John’s colleagues returning as guest stars to the show, as the creators wrote a special episode that involved all of them, including his real daughter. Caitlyn was given the role of Annie, Sean’s daughter in the series. Fans expected his former screen partner, Sharon Wyatt, who played Tiffany Hill Donely to be part of the tribute, but it was reported that she couldn’t because she had an illness called osteonecrosis. When the episode was aired in May 2021, she was the surprise guest whom the executive producers were talking about during the promotion. However, it was only her voice that was heard via a telephone conversation, but that was enough for long-time fans of the soap. It was revealed at the end of the episode that Sean’s ashes were scattered by Tiffany and Connor in a village in Ireland that held a special place in his heart.
It was a sad year for the loyal fans of the soap opera as another actor, Stuart Damon, known for playing the character, Dr. Alan Quartermaine, died in June 2021 from kidney failure. Stuart was a longtime actor in the drama series, first appearing in the show on 13 May 1977 until he was fired in late 2006 when his character died of a heart attack. His co-actors still couldn’t believe up to this day that a veteran actor like him was treated that way, because no reason was given by the executive producers. His co-star at that time, Rebecca Herbst, who played the role of Elizabeth Webber, said in an interview with Soap Opera Digest, ‘This does hurt. I’ve only been here 10 years, he’s been here almost 30, and that’s really hard to swallow.’
— Soap Opera Digest (@SoapDigest) June 29, 2021
Fans were outraged, and so from time to time, the producers would get Stuart back to reprise his role as a ghost who haunted his sister. The late actor agreed to be part of the show, even if he was questionably fired, because of his love for the drama series. His son, ABC’s entertainment reporter, George Pennachio said, ‘It was absolutely his favorite place to be. He loved playing Alan, and was always so appreciative of that role and that job. It was his passion.’ There was an ongoing rumor that it was the show’s head writer, Robert Guza Jr., who decided to axe him, but Val Jean, who was one of the writers during that time, vehemently denied it. She said that she was in the room when the decision was made, and in fact, the head writer didn’t want the character to die. Some of the other actors in the show agreed, and said that he wasn’t the showrunner so he didn’t have any say on who went in and out of the show. The executive producers paid him a tribute, but instead of creating a special episode just as they did for John Reilly, they opted to give an on-air tribute to the life and career of Stuart Damon.
Stay by for more enthralling life and death stories – some in real life – from the longest running daytime drama in US TV history!