A Day on the Set of 'General Hospital'

Sonny & Carly (Maurice Benard and Laura Wright). ABC, Inc.

What is it like to actually be on the different sets of General Hospital, appearing in scenes with the actors and taking direction?

A young man who has worked on the show, Jack, consented to an interview, asking that only his first name be used. He has had the opportunity to be "background" (an extra) on General Hospital several times.

Jack worked at GH at a time when they were hiring more extras than they are now, several years ago. You will notice the names of characters no longer on the show such as Logan and Trevor.

Getting the Call

Q: How do you get the assignment in the first place?

Jack: I get a call from Gwen's personal assistant. Gwen is the head of background casting.

Q: What time do you need to report?

Jack: I'm called at various times. I like to get there early, though. They have a dressing room for us – all the male extras in one room and females in another. Before coming in, they tell you what clothes they want. If it's a scene in the MetroCourt, a suit and tie; if it's The Floating Rib, jeans and a casual shirt; a party, formal wear.

So the first thing I do is check in with Wardrobe. The people there look at my clothes, and if you don't have quite what they're looking for, they're happy to pull from the wardrobe they have on hand. After that, you check with the stage manager and wait until your call time.

Q: Generally, how many other extras work on the show?

Jack: Depending on what they need, there could be anywhere from 1-5 or even 10 extras.

The Studio

Q: What sets have you been on?

I've basically worked at the MetroCourt Café and Kelly's. The set-up they have there is extremely efficient. All the sets are back to back, on one huge sound stage. It looks like a shopping center – a mall with stores on both sides, and you walk straight down the center.

The rooms are all good sized, approximately 20 x 15 square feet, maybe 25 x 20 square feet each, though they look even bigger on TV. They can move easily from set to set that way.

If they do five scenes at Kelly's, for instance, they do them all at once but chronologically. There's a TV above the set on the rafters where the lights are so you can keep track of what's going on.

Q: So when you first come onto the set, what's going on?

Jack: For the most part, the director is behind the camera talking to actors and setting up shots. They rehearse doing the camera setups on their own, usually book (script) in hand. Then they will block the scene a couple of times.

Q: Are the lines on a prompter?

Jack: Nobody uses a prompter there. Every once in a while, someone forgets his or her lines. But some of them have been on the show for so many years, they get into a rhythm going, and if they lose it because of a line change or forgetting a line, they may need a take or two to get the rhythm back.

Sometimes somebody changes a line because when they act it out, it sounds off. They will shoot ideas back and forth. The actors know their characters so well, they know when something doesn't sound right. There are always scripts on set. Everyone has a script in hand until action is called, and they rehearse up until they call action.

Q: How often do they repeat a scene?

Jack: Sometimes two or three times, four at the most. A lot of times, that's for coverage; they want to give the editor options. They have four cameras going, too. The stage manager speaks over a loudspeaker, kind of a disembodied voice.

The Actors

Q: I've been surprised when I've seen the actors in person; some of them look taller on TV or are even better looking. What are your observations about that sort of thing?

Jack: Most of the women, I can't believe how thin they are. They don't look sick, they all look very healthy, and they keep fit. When they say the camera adds ten pounds, it really does. The show has a weight room on the floor below. The actors use it, and we can use it.

Sarah Brown (Claudia) is even prettier in real life. The woman who plays Elizabeth – Becky? I was blown away when I first saw her. She's so beautiful. I got to see her do a scene, and what an actress! I said that to the stage manager. He agreed. She's so natural, you can't even tell she's acting, and she has so much emotion.

Q: How does the makeup look?

Jack: Quite reasonable. Pretty natural.

Q: Have you spoken with any of the actors?

Jack: I try to stay out of the way. But everyone is very approachable. When I first went to the set, the people in charge were very welcoming. They tell you to go behind the camera and check it out.

I've talked to Stephen Macht (Trevor). He is such a cool guy, a wealth of information. He's real down to earth, and he's had lots of experience in the business. You might be put off by him because he plays such a hard character, but he's one of the boys.

Spinelli (Bradford Anderson) is a nice guy, too, real nice. Do you know why he talks like that? (information by the writer is given about the character of Spinelli).

He (Anderson) doesn't say too much, but even when he's hurrying to his dressing room, he takes time to wave or smile. When you pass people in the hall, they say hello and smile.

Steve Burton (Jason) is a good guy. I've seen him working out at the gym. Sonny and Carly (Maurice Benard and Laura Wright) joke around between takes. They have a great rapport. The few times I've worked around Sonny, he jokes around with everybody, but gets his work done.

Tony (Geary, Luke Spencer) is very friendly. He doesn't get excited about much. He's serious, but he has a dry sense of humor – a very quick humor. I've had a chance to watch Josh Duhon (Logan) and Julie Berman (Lulu) do scenes, and they really work well together.

The Schedule and The Process

Q: Do they tape every day?

Jack: Yes. They start early and end at about 6 o'clock. They don't go too late. They may have to work later once in a while, but not when I've been there. Lunch is about 12. The commissary – mostly the crew goes there. People kind of live in their dressing rooms. I think the cast takes lunch to the dressing room. There's also an area on the set that you can use as a lunchroom.

The green room is very open with windows all around it, nice and comfortable. In the morning, they have bagels, coffee and doughnuts there. The cast goes to the green room and rehearses lines, work out what's going to happen in the scene, and they do some walking around, kind of blocking it themselves. You always see people studying their scripts.

(Note - some of this has changed. The show tapes more pages now and goes dark for a week or two at different times of the year.)

Q: Where is the set from there?

Jack: It's two floors up. The green room is on the same floor as wardrobe, hair and makeup. You can walk through the dressing room section – it's a circle. Everyone has personalized stuff on the dressing room doors. It's really neat. The rooms I've seen are pretty much the same size (small), but it's possible that some are bigger. (They are.)

The Atmosphere

Q: Is there much tension before taping or on the set in general?

Jack: No. Those actors are so familiar with the sets that when they sit or stand on a set, it's like home to them. And they're so used to the pace of taping, too.

Q: How does this compare with other places you've worked?

Jack: It's amazing. A lot of the times, the people there say hello to you first. That includes the crew. They're like a family because they're worked together for a long time. They're wonderful to everyone. The environment is extremely relaxed.

On prime time, you don't even exist. I mean, you walk by someone, they don't even look at you. The General Hospital set is the complete opposite of that.