The dynamic Suzanne Stanwyck on General Hospital is played by a familiar face to film and TV viewers, Adrienne Barbeau. Fans know her from a variety of performances: as Maude’s (Bea Arthur) daughter on the TV series Maude from 1972-1978, as a horror film cult figure, as an author, and now part of soapland. “I just had my first sighting,” the actress says. “I was in a department store, and a woman came up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, can you tell me where General Hospital films?’” It's official: Barbeau has arrived to daytime television!
Barbeau Goes to Broadway and Then High-Profile Television
Though she doesn't look it, Barbeau’s career goes back to the ‘60s, when she appeared on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof. After becoming the original Rizzo in the Broadway production of Grease in 1972, Barbeau was on her way.
Major fame arrived in 1972 for Barbeau in the form of Bea Arthur’s sexy daughter Carol in Maude from 1972-1978. Then, while married to director John Carpenter, she found a different kind of fame in films such as The Fog, Escape from New York, Swamp Thing, Creepshow - you get the idea -- these films sandwiched in between dozens upon dozens of TV and other film appearances.
Twins Enter the Picture
Somewhere along the line, this busy performer, at the age of 52, found the energy to give birth to twin boys William and Walker Van Zandt. (Barbeau's husband is producer/writer/actor Billy Van Zandt). “It’s fantastic,” the vivacious Barbeau says. “Now my entire life is driving them to the mall and driving them to the soccer games. They're the joy of my life.” Her boys are now 13, and Barbeau also has an older son, Cody Carpenter, whom she finds time (somehow) to visit in Japan, where he currently lives. “I had no imagination," Barbeau admits. "It never crossed my mind at a time when all my friends were retiring and running off to Europe, that I was going to be driving to soccer fields in Riverside and San Bernadino.” But she thrives on it. “It certainly keeps me in touch with what's going on,” she adds. “I know every rap song that's been recorded and those godawful movies that I wouldn't see by myself. I only established a Facebook page to keep track of what was going on with the teenagers. It keeps you current.”
General Hospital and Suzanne Stanwyck
How did her role on General Hospital come about? “I got a call on a Friday night saying, 'General Hospital would like you to come and do a role.' I said, 'Why not?'” Barbeau loves the character of Suzanne, who, she says, “sounds just like me. Suzanne was a journalist, someone like Christiane Amanpour, but in print primarily. She is not well known. She was so disheartened by what she was seeing in her travels as a journalist that she decided to start this charity organization to help exploited children. Suzanne needed somebody who could draw attention to the work and that's Brenda, the Angelina Jolie of the organization.”
As for how long Barbeau will be with the show, it's open-ended. “When they first made the offer, it was supposed to be four or five weeks for this story arc while Vanessa's character is in Rome,” she explains. “Once I got there, they said ‘Well, if you're happy being here, we're happy having you.’ So I’ll be in Port Charles, too.”
As for working with Vanessa Marcil-Giovinazzo, Barbeau says,"She's delightful. She's very giving and very sweet. The first day I arrived, she came to find me, we introduced ourselves, and we both said, ‘Are you up for running lines?’ There's a lot of dialogue. It's been a joy. I've worked with Vanessa, Steve Burton, and Brad Rowe, but everyone has been so welcoming. Bob Guza took me around and introduced me to the writers and casting people. They've all been together for a long time and you can tell they respect one another. I’m having a ball. I'm looking forward to each day.”
Experience Pays Off
Has she found the pages and pages of dialogue difficult? “Actually, no, it's not,” Barbeau says. “I've done myriads of low budget films where we've shot a lot more than is done normally. Granted, General Hospital is shooting 100 pages a day, but they're not all one character. I did a TV movie in Canada and we shot 17 pages that one day, which is unheard of. I’m used to working fast, though maybe not quite this fast. I guess the only difference is that oftentimes with a low budget film, you're doing one or two takes, but then we're doing another setup and getting the scene from a different angle, so you have more takes. On this show, if you get it right, that's all they need. Maude was not dissimilar - we rehearsed and then we shot four cameras. We did it straight through like a play.” The kind of fast work she was used to led to a funny incident. “I was hired to do Houdini with Paul Michael Glaser, and it was my first film. I had only done tape and stage. We finished the master shot, and I went to my dressing room and changed clothes for the next scene. The stage manager came and got me. We weren't done. We were shooting the scene from different angles! I was so embarrassed.”
Vampyres of Hollywood
But Barbeau’s life is not all soaps, horror films, and soccer games. Like Carolyn Hennesy, who plays Diane Miller, Barbeau is also an author, and a darned good one. In 2006, her autobiography, There Are Worst Things I Could Do, was published. If you want the definition of rave reviews, just take a look at the page for this book on amazon.com. Her writing didn’t stop with non-fiction. In 2008, Vampyres of Hollywood was released, described by Publishers Weekly, the bible of the publishing industry, as “compulsively readable.” Leave it to Barbeau to get a jump on the current vampire craze.
The follow-up, Love Bites (Vampyres of Hollywood), the continuing saga of the 450-year-old vampire Ovsanna Moore, was just released and has again gotten Publishers Weekly’s blessing with “"The fast and furious final pages will leave fans hoping for a third installment.”