While many see daytime dramas as a form of escapist fare, complete with outlandish storylines featuring over-the-top characters, there is a history of these shows taking on timely issues and making bold statements about decisions, choices, and consequences.
Following along this path, General Hospital, for the first time ever, is airing a storyline that is exclusively about voting.
“We’ve never done anything about elections, or anything that seemed somewhat political before, but it just felt like this was really the right time” says GH Executive Producer Frank Valentini about the episode.
The storyline follows two of the younger female characters as they travel back in time and experience the suffragette movement firsthand.
Because this installment of the series is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women acquiring the right to vote, the entire cast of the episode is female, the dialogue was written by a woman, and the episode was directed and edited by women as well.
Valentini says the idea came about as his creative team was discussing their plans for upcoming holiday episodes. “We were going through the calendar, and I said, ‘what about Election Day? Is there something we can do about that?’ and the writers came up with this amazing idea.”
He says when they pitched the idea to the network there was no pushback at all. “They loved the idea and told us to run with it, so we did.”
While the storyline is about politics, Valentini insists that viewers won’t be bombarded with specific political party content “This is completely bipartisan. It’s just about celebrating our democracy and the democrat process.”
When Valentini and his team sent the actors the script, he says the response was immediate. “They started coming to me and saying, ‘Oh, my God, I love it. It’s so good. Where did that come from?’ I told them that it was just a fun thing that we thought we would do to showcase the hundredth anniversary of the suffragette movement.”
But, the episode wasn’t without its problems, admits Valentini. “We usually shoot a little more than an episode a day and this one took a day and a half. Things just took longer, mostly because we had a lot of the cast in this episode and because we’re being extremely careful to follow the on-set COVID restrictions. And, really, we just wanted to get everything right and make sure that it was as an exceptional show.”
To that end, Valentini explained that even the smallest details were important to ensure the authenticity of the episode. “All of the costumes are vintage pieces that our team searched to find, and they had to be handled extraordinarily carefully because they’re fragile.”
While he considers himself a history buff, Valentini says that there are some facts presented in the episode that even he didn’t know. “Yeah, there were a couple of things that were a surprise to me, and I liked that.”
Not making the episode a straight history lesson, or to preachy, was paramount, says Valentini. “I think the beauty of it is that while it’s historically accurate, but you see it all through the eyes of our contemporary characters and that gives it context.”
He says that using the younger characters to tell this story was a very specific choice. “One of the main points of the episode was to show young people that their vote makes a difference; that they have a voice and it may feel small, but it’s a voice nonetheless. And, it’s a voice that when joined with others gets stronger.”
Valentini is aware that some diehard GH fans, and those casual viewers who are just weary of political messaging, might scoff at the thought of this episode, but he insists, “This is about freedom and discussion. There’s that old adage that you don’t discuss certain things, and that’s completely outdated. Like, talking about mental health was taboo for a long time and now we discuss it openly. Voting is a topic that everyone needs to have conversations about, and I think we’ve created a way to address what’s going on in the world without sticking our head in the sand, but also without creating a situation where people who watch this will be taking sides.”
This special episode of ‘General Hospital’ airs Monday, November 2nd on ABC. Check your local listings for the exact air time in your area.