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Exclusive Interview with General Hospital’s Brytni Sarpy

IMG_0589Brytni Sarpy arrived on General Hospital in March as Valerie Spencer, the daughter of Luke Spencer’s older sister Patricia.

The talented actress hit the ground running as part of the Luke Spencer storyline and hasn’t slowed down since.

I recently spoke with Brytni about her time in Port Charles. Here’s what she had to say about the show and Valerie.

When did you decide that you wanted to be an actress?

“It was in high school.  I’ve always been a fan of the arts and always tied to performance art. It was never really a matter of whether I would go into the arts in general,  just a matter of where exactly I would go.

I have a background in dance as well. Jazz, hip hop, modern and ballet, so part of me thought I might go that way. Singing is also a passion of mine.  Acting was the one thing I hadn’t done as a kid. It was something I started in high school.  

The first play I did was Macbeth. I played a witch (laughs). I kind of fell in love with theatre and what it meant to dissect a character and understand human relations. I really haven’t turned back since.”

Tell us about your audition process for the character of Valerie?

“It was pretty quick, typically with soaps it’s a longer process. It can go anywhere from a couple of months to like five or six months because it’s writing that character into the storyline.  It’s a waiting game. But this one went relatively quick. I think I had my first audition with Mark and it was fine. Within the next couple of days, I had a callback with a couple of the producers and Frank Valenti, the Executive Producer. Then I screen tested the next Monday. It all happened in like a week and a half.”

What was your first day on set like?

“It was a little scary, a little jarring. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was lucky enough to have a lot of scenes with Emme Rylan. She actually took me under her wing and guided me through the process of what everything meant, how everything breaks down, and what to do on set. She helped me with the ins and outs. She eased my worries! I’m definitely thankful and grateful for her.”

You shared some of your first scenes with Tony Geary. What was it like working with an amazing and iconic actor?

“It was very humbling, actually. He helped to make me a better actor. He definitely is an actor’s actor, he makes the people around him better at what they do. He’s so giving as an actor. We really bonded.  

He understood that I had a theater background. He does too. We understood each other right off the bat, so we were able to play off of each other. He’s very loose with his words. I loved acting with someone who doesn’t look for the end of a line. He just goes with the punches, it’s not improv, but Tony listens. You can follow him through the scene. It was a lot of fun.”

What do you enjoy most about working on General Hospital?

“Relationships are always a big thing for me. I made some great ones with the people there. It’s an amazing cast and crew. Everyone, from the producers, to the hair and makeup team, the directors and the actors, everyone there is a great team player and it’s so like a family. Feeling that kind of connection is really important when you have a soap job. You’re there every day and seeing these people daily. You want to love the work that you do and the people who you work with.”

What is a typical day like for you working on General Hospital?

“Typically you start with blocking the scene, which means you go up on set, you have your lines and you kind of see where you’re going to be during the scene as per the director’s direction. You either start there or you start in hair and makeup. From there, I’m a studier, I work on my lines until I’m up. I run my lines. I run them with whoever my scene partner is. Then, we go on set and make magic happen! That’s kind of it. (laughs).”

You and the rest of the cast definitely make magic happen!

What surprised you most about working on such an iconic soap like General Hospital?

“I think again, because relationships are really important to me, meeting some of the icons and legends on the show was a surprise. Seeing how down to earth they are and their work ethic is really awesome. Maura West is so fun to watch. Her, Tony Geary and Jane Elliott are just amazing people to learn, watch, grow from and work with.”

Okay, this is the question that every fan wants to know about. What are your feelings about the Dante/Valerie storyline?

“(laughs). I knew there was going to be a Dante/Valerie storyline because that’s who I screen tested with.  For me it’s been exciting! It’s been a cool built up for everything. I think we got a little apprehensive about the way things started. I think we ended up taking the material really seriously. I think we made it very believable and understandable that these characters would be in this position. 

I’m really happy with it. Not to mention Dominic is an amazing person to work with, he’s another awesome actor that is so giving.  He again, highlights the quality of the scene.”

You and Dominic have played the scenes where the viewers are sympathetic to both characters, they aren’t just two people who jumped into an affair for the sake of it. Both Dante and Valerie have morals.

“This is all new terrain for her. She’s in a different city, and she’s putting her focus on relationships and things other than taking care of her mother. That was her life, taking care of her mother and being able to provide for her and her mother. So, this is all new for her. She’s definitely going to make some mistakes. I don’t know, she’s green to a lot of things. I think she’s doing well though.  

I think the most important thing is that thread of understanding that she’s making decisions. She’s a moral character so she cares about what she’s doing. She’s working alongside someone else who does too.  

I don’t think their relationship is over sexualized or that there’s any ill intent. I think it’s more interesting when you see two people who are good people. It actually ends up being four people when you throw Lulu and Dillon in as a part of the mix. But they’re all good people trying to do the right things, but mistakes happen. Situations happen and the emotions are real.”

It’s rare on soaps where all four partners are likeable and it’s not just black and white, there’s shades of gray.

“Exactly! It’s like life. When a character does something with no reason behind it, it’s hard. You can’t relate to a villain who is villain just for the sake of being a villain. A characters who’s doing something that we all may have made the mistake of doing is just so much more believable and likeable.”

What are your thoughts about finding out more about Valerie’s father?

 “I can’t wait to find out more about my character! I can’t wait to expand on her background. It is going to be fun.”

It does help cement her in the fabric of the show. I like how the General Hospital writers are having her interact with people she hadn’t met before. I hoped Valerie would say something to Laura when Genie Francis came back.

“We talked about it. It may still happen, there may still be some Valerie/Laura scenes coming!”

 I know you’ve had some experience handling some unfavorable response to you and your character on Twitter.

” I think it’s important to hold everyone accountable. It’s not only about me because after a while they’re tweeting about artists they don’t like and how horrible their songs are and different actors. For me, I like to let them know ‘ Look, I’m listening, I hear you and it’s not nice.’ I know it will continue to happen though, sadly.”

It’s a testament to how well you’re playing your character. Good or bad comments, a passionate response that means you’re doing something right because you’re actually getting people to express opinions about what you’re playing.

 “That is true (laughs).”

Okay. Jordan and Valerie, I love their scenes together. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who also love their scenes too. How is it working with Vinessa?

She’s awesome! She’s a great woman. I’ve enjoyed working with her since day one. I didn’t know that, it was never expressed to me that we were going to develop this friendship. Having her be my employer, we started getting scenes together. It was a really nice surprise. I think it’s great having two, strong ethnic women in scenes together, especially on a soap. We’re breaking ground here a bit.”

Society is diverse so it’s good General Hospital is showing that.

Plus, the scenes with Valerie and Jordan come across as a more natural work environment. Not to say anything against the Anna Devane type of story lines, but when Valerie shared her feelings with Jordan about Dante and what had happened between them, you can expect to see something like that in a real life work environment.

 “Exactly, they’re a little more grounded.”

When you’re not playing Valerie, what do you like to do to relax outside of work?

“I like to focus on fitness. I know you used the word relax. But for me, going on a hike or working out is actually something that takes away a lot of my anxiety and stress. It’s what I like to do when I have time. I like to start my day with mediating and eating. I like to eat (laughs).  Then get a good workout in and veg out. Getting all the toxic energy out of my body and settling my mind is important.”

What direction would you like to see Valerie’s story line take?

“I would like to see her story line involve more people or different people. I love what’s going on with the Dante/Valerie saga mixing in with Dillon and Lulu, but I would love to develop some new story lines. I really want to touch on the family thing.

I’d love to learn more about her background as far as her father’s side of the family. For me, I love the meaty stuff. The things I can sink my teeth into.  Also, some flashback scenes with Valerie and Patricia and their life together would be nice.”

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