In the Grahn Scheme of Things
Soap Opera Digest
April 27, 1999
By Kristin Gallagher


General Hospital's Nancy Lee Grahn Talks Motherhood, Monica,
Marriage ... And The Many Merits of Women

JUST THE FACTS:

  • Birthday: April 28
  • Family Ties: Daughter Kate is 14 months
  • Must-See TV: "My two favorite TV shows are the only ones I really watch now: TELETUBBIES, and - I can't explain this one, but my daughter loves it - [VH-1's] POP-UP VIDEO [laughs]."
  • Moon-Struck: "It's really quite hysterical, but the last book I read was [the children's book] "Goodnight Moon" . . . and I'm not kidding."
  • Talking 'Bout My Generation: "I think my generation was certainly as much of a pioneer in women's growth as the suffragettes were in their way."

"I'm not a radical feminist. I'm an optimistic one," smiles GENERAL HOSPITAL's Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis), who, in honor of March's National Women's History Month, sat down with Digest to share her thoughts on what has, for her, become a "lifelong research project": women's rights issues. Here, the outspoken actress discusses a wide range of topical issues, including what she really thinks of the female players in the recent presidential scandal . . .

Digest: How did you become interested in women's issues?

Nancy Lee Grahn: Well, when I was about 11 or 12, I said to my mother, "I don't understand why women have to change their names when they get married." And my mother just looked at me and said, "I worry for you [laughs]."

Digest: Maybe you were born with it.

Grahn: Growing up, I saw a lot of co-parenting. What I noticed in terms of roles was that men and women were different, but equal. Plus, I had the good fortune of being surrounded by amazing women, from my grandmothers, to my mother and sisters, and my incredible girlfriends. I just think women are amazing beings.

Digest: What did you think you would be when you grew up?

Grahn: I knew I'd be doing something that wasn't mainstream. I've never been a mainstream kind of gal. I contorted myself a lot trying to fit into that, but I had too many strong opinions.

Digest: And your convictions changed as you matured?

Grahn: Totally. I mean, I contorted myself in my 20s. My God, I was in such agony over men! I always picked the men who were the most challenging or who would make me cry. But you know what? That absolutely forced me into self-growth, and I thank them for it now.

Digest: How did this translate into your view on relationships now?

Grahn: This is personal, but I'll say it, because maybe somebody will read this and say, "That's how I feel." I started therapy when I was 26, and I remember my therapist asking, "What would happen if you never get married?" I looked at him and said, "I'd rather die." Now, I said that, mind you, being a bit of a drama queen, but I just felt like I couldn't accept such a possibility. Well, cut to now: I'm not married, I had a child on my own . . . and it is such a non-issue to me. My child fills my life. And, she also sleeps in bed with me. At this point, there's no man on earth who I would kick my daughter out of bed for. It's not the right time now. Do I want to find my perfect compliment? You betcha. Do I expect that person will come along? You betcha. But I'm not looking for Prince Charming anymore. I'm looking for a king, because I feel like a queen now.

Digest: Do you see yourself marrying?

Grahn: I don't need a piece of paper to say, "Now you're joined," but I certainly expect to have a substantial relationship.

Digest: Switching gears, what were your feelings on the presidential scandal?

Grahn: That it was none of our business. The majority of the country said, "I don't even want to know about this. Who am I to judge this man or this situation?" The fact that people showed such sensibility really gives me great faith.

Digest: Then why did people turn out in droves to watch the Monica interview?

Grahn: It's a bit of the car wreck syndrome: You can't take your eyes off of it. This whole thing is also an educational opportunity. They should take interviews done by Monica and Linda Tripp and [literary agent] Lucianne Goldberg, edit them together and make them a mandatory high school class called, "Why You Aren't Born A Woman, You Become One."

Digest: Why is that?

Grahn: I have such high standards for women because of the women I've been surrounded by and the standards I've set for myself that I work hard to live by. I see the potential in these women, so my expectation is that they can get to that point.

Digest: Did soaps appeal to you because it's a largely female-based medium?

Grahn: I think it did. It's not an accident that I'm working in a medium geared toward women. And, it's a medium run mainly by women, so I'm certainly comfortable in it. But I've also worked with men and gotten along well with them, too.

Digest: So having a female executive producer also appeals to you, I'm sure.

Grahn: Sure. When [Executive Producer] Wendy [Riche] wants to talk to me about something, I can have a rapport with her and be myself. I end up having a conversation as if I'm talking to a friend, and I don't think that's as likely to happen with a male boss. Also, the thing I like about the women that I work with is that many of them are mothers. There's an innate nurturance there, and that's how the studio is run. I have a mixture of respect and comfortableness with the women I work with, and I'm very, very happy to be working with them.

Digest: Where do you see your future?

Grahn: Hopefully, still working. I could stay on GH, grow old and die, and be very happy, because this medium suits me. Also, I have a good part that I think has longevity. There's a lot to untangle with Alexis. So careerwise, do I have an ambition to do other things? Truthfully, at the moment, not really. I'm very content and challenged. Most important, I'm Kate's mother. Everything else is what I do in order to be Kate's mother.

Digest: Do you want more kids?

Grahn: Yea, I would like to meet my king . . . maybe have a prince [laughs]. If that doesn't happen, though, I'll still be very happy. I need to be Kate's best example. That means I become a better actress, I help more people, and I do more research on becoming a woman so Kate will become one hopefully by looking at a good example. That's what my future is.

MOMMY'S GIRL

Here, Grahn discusses her decision to become a single mom . . .

Digest: Were you surprised at how interested people were in your personal life when you became pregnant?

Grahn: Yes, well, everybody's first response was, "Is she gay? Why isn't she married? Did she go to a sperm bank?"

Digest: Did that bother you?

Grahn: No, not at all. First of all, Kate has a father who loves her very much and she will certainly have that relationship in her life. I never once felt the need to defend myself about this. People have a very loving reaction to it and I think a lot of that is because I do. You know what isn't really accepted anymore? Stupidity. Stupidity meaning prejudices or moral judgments on anybody. I mean, the country has spoken, and boy, they've spoken loud and clear.