James Franco: Part 2, Star of General Hospital

In the second of my James Franco series, the actor talks about his stint on the American soap opera, General Hospital.

Franco played a multi-media artist/serial killer in the soap.

Blurring the line between fact and fiction, Franco’s TV character held an exhibition at LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

And the filming of that episode at MOCA was turned into “SOAP at MOCA: James Franco on General Hospital”, a piece of performance art by the real-life Franco.

Here’s what Franco had to say about moving from movies to soaps during his recent talk at London’s ICA.

How movie star James Franco became soap character Franco:

It’s an idea I had while talking to an artist friend and collaborator, Carter.

I was going to play a character in a film of his who’d formerly been on a soap opera.

That got us talking about the idea of actually going on a soap opera.

So, I asked my manager if he’d ask General Hospital if I could go on, as he represents their biggest actor.

They were very excited by the idea, and even said I could write episodes.

But I didn’t want to write anything or change anything in their regular process. I wanted to be made over by their aesthetic and their way of doing things.

All I said was that I wanted to be an artist and I wanted to be crazy.

So, they created a character and it was their brilliant idea to call him Franco.

We filmed it very fast… a 21-episode arc over the course of 3 days.

That was 70 to 90 pages in a single day. The length of a normal feature film script is 90 to 100 pages, so we were doing almost a feature-length film’s worth of material on those days.

When the episodes started airing, there was a big reaction partly because there’s a hierarchy in the way people view entertainment.

The general view is that actors start on soaps and maybe graduate to primetime television or film.

Normally you don’t see a film actor going to do soaps. So, people were commenting on that.

I was actually not trying to make a judgement on soaps or go on there and act in such a way that I was winking at the audience.

I thought I would try and fit in as well as I could. But I was standing out because I’d moved from the film world and also they’d called my character Franco. So, I think it was jarring, and it was hard to deny that I was a little bit of an imposter.

And after some episodes aired, they started writing in a way that was aware of the public reaction.

So, my character, who was also a multi-disciplinary artist, brought his own videographer who was taping all of this. And that was something I’d been doing as I knew I wanted to put this together somewhere.

And they started having the character reference movies I’d been in!

Want more James Franco?

  • To read what Franco says about education and his public image, click here.
  • For his work on the movie Deuces Wild with actor Brad Renfro, click here.
  • For his art work inspired by Rebel Without a Cause star James Dean, click here.
  • For his version of the movie My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix, click here.