The Faison/Obrecht Connection: A Recipe for Horror
Imagine being married to Cesar Faison. Imagine, if you can, being in love with him. That is the situation in which Dr. Liesl Obrecht, aka Leisl Westbourne, finds herself. Cold and domineering, she lost her medical license for operating on live patients. Ouch!
With parents like Faison and Obrecht, it's no wonder that their daughter, Dr. Britt Westbourne, is a total mess. When pregnant with Dante and Lulu's child, she claimed the baby belonged to Patrick Drake. She was part of her mother's diabolical scheme to destroy her nemesis, Anna Devane, with whom Faison has been in love for years. Gati jokes, "My husband says, 'That Dr. Obrecht, she's scary!'"
The woman who plays the evil Dr. Obrecht is Kathleen Gati. In real life, she doesn't have a European accent, though it's so authentic on the show, it's hard to believe. The actress tells Media Nite radio: "I love playing characters that have different accents. I grew up making fun of my parents' [Hungarian] accents my whole life. I have a good ear, so I can do many."
As for playing Dr. Obrecht: "I love this character. Ron Carlivati and the writing staff are geniuses. I'm always so excited when I get a script. She speaks with a certain style, intelligent and harsh. ...This is a German character, but Swiss German, bright and sharp. It's fun to climb into a character and do things I would never do. She's dark and terrorizing; I'm low key and easy going. She's a powerhouse. Faison is her everything. I have admired him, loved him -- he's her god, her genius."
Kathleen Gati: Lady Be Good
Classy and sophisticated, the 56-year-old Gati was raised in Canada by Hungarian immigrants: Her father, a symphony conductor, and her mother, an opera singer. She talks with Media Nite radio about how she sees herself:
"We weren't brought up as little Hungarians," she says. "...Montreal is a melting pot. There were kids from everywhere. Yes, we spoke Hungarian at home and occasionally had amazing Hungarian food. I was brought up as a citizen as a world, and that's how I see myself. I wish everyone felt that way. I'm proud of my heritage, I love that I was born in Canada. I have a Canadian heart, an American mind, and a Hungarian soul. We had amazing soloists in our house that came to work with my father from Russia, France - people like Van Cliburn, Yehudi Menuhin, many artists in music and theater."
Gati made her acting debut at the age of three, as a rat in a school production of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. When she was eight, she wrote a play and asked her teacher if she could do it for the school. She gathered some students and did it. "I think it's being inspired," she says to Media Nite. "When you're a kid it just comes out of you. It's intrinsic who I am as a person. My mother said, 'You have kids and they come out of you as a personality.' I would see theater, I'd want to act, I'd see dance, and I wanted to dance."
And her love of soap operas -- let's just say it came early on. "I used to stand at my window, and make up all this soap dialogue. "Harry, don't leave me." "No, Alice, I must." My sister would hear it through the vent and quote it at dinner."
Becoming a Professional Actress
A commitment to acting carried into her teen years and adulthood. After studying acting and ballet until she was 18, Gati headed for New York to study. Her hard word paid off; she appeared in many plays. Her major work, however, has been in television and film, worldwide. In 1992, she won a Hungarian Best Supporting Actress Award for her work in Goldberg variacok [Variations]. She won a Best Actress Award at the Los Angeles Hungarian Film Festival November, 2011, for her lead role in Retrace.
She is popular and well known in Eastern Europe for television and film work, having lived and worked in Hungary for five years in the '90s.
In the United States, she has appeared on dozens of television series, including NYPD Blue, Cold Case, ER, Strong Medicine, Las Vegas, Commander in Chief, Bones, Desperate Housewives, 24, Me, Eloise, Ghost Whisperer, NCIS, The Mentalist, Fairly Legal, and Weeds, to name a few. There have been a few soap operas along the way, too: Young and the Restless and a stint as Taffy Winslow from 1989-90 on All My Children.
Due to the fact that she can sport just about any accent and looks great as a blond, Gati is one of those chameleon actresses, like Toni Collette, that is often not recognized.
Liesl Obrecht Will Never Be Mother of the Year
Back to her current role, Gati explains that Obrecht's feelings toward daughter Britt (or Schatze, meaning "darling" or "treasure") are "challenging." "Her affection for her daughter is there but it's minimal at best. There is some warmth. She tries. The writers open the window a tiny bit - I reach through and then bang, so it's very carefully contrived. There's an attempt, but she's not successful."
Dr. Obrecht will undoubtedly continue to go after Anna Devane, the woman she hates above all others. To this end, she worked very hard to get Duke Lavery and Robin Scorpio into her clutches. She also did a number on poor Robert Scorpio, who was in a coma for a long time after running into her.
Since Faison was involved, we expected the denoument of this particular story arc to be hair-raising, and it was, with Faison handled by Anna and Duke. We don't know what happened -- is he dead or alive? No clue, but Dr. Obrecht is very much alive. Because of a deal with the WSB, she is now head of General Hospital and interrupted the Nurses' Ball with her performance of "Wilkommen" from Cabaret. She has also been revealed as the mother of a new police officer, Nathan West (Ryan Paevey), and the sister of Nina Clay's mother, played by Donna Mills. So Obrecht is now "connected" and here to stay. That's a tribute to the actress because this was probably a short-term role.
Obviously the writers agree -- there's something about Gati as Dr. Obrecht -- we just love having her around.