Francis popularized the role of Laura Webber opposite Anthony Geary's Luke Spencer in the soap, a supercouple beloved by viewers. While their love story played a major role in the series, it began quite hideously, with Luke raping Laura in a 1979 episode. It was later played off as a seduction and they remained together for years, with their wedding becoming a major TV event when it aired in 1981.
Francis, 60, reflected on the controversial rape scene during the show's panel at the ABC Television Critics Association press conference on Wednesday, calling the storyline inappropriate and stating that she'll no longer carry the burden of defending it. "You know, as a young kid, at 17, I was told to play rape, and I played it," Francis said. "I didn't even know what it was. But, at 17, you follow the rules, and you do as you are told, and you aim to please."
Everett Collection Genie Francis and Anthony Geary as Luke and Laura on 'General Hospital'
Now, "at 60, I don't feel the need to defend that anymore," she said. "I think that the story was inappropriate, I don't condone it, and it's been a burden that I've had to carry to try to justify that story, and so I'm not doing that anymore. When a woman says 'No,' she should be listened to, and if you replay that scene, you don't have Laura just saying 'No,' you have her screaming 'No.'"
Francis joined the daytime drama in 1977 and portrayed Laura on and off for four decades. She initially departed the series in 1984 but reappeared between 1993 to 2002, followed by guest appearances that spanned 2006 and 2013. She returned in 2015 following Geary's retirement from the series and Luke's exit, taking on one of the lead roles by becoming the mayor of Port Charles. Last year, General Hospital killed off Luke, whose character existed largely off-screen following Geary's exit, in a cable car "accident."
Francis looked back on Luke and Laura's storied romance at the TCA panel — namely, that big wedding episode that drew in a whopping 30 million viewers, making it the highest-rated episode in soap history. "It's still sinking in to me how big a deal it was," she said of the episode. "At the time, I knew it was popular, but I never dreamed that we would be celebrating the 60th [anniversary] and still talking about that moment."
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.