Nancy Lee Grahn talks ‘General Hospital,’ Alexis, and Uniting Daytime Stars Around Fighting ALS

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With much change afoot on General Hospital, it looks like Alexis Davis is finally going to get back to doing what she does best – and no, we don’t mean picking the wrong men! Four years after the legal eagle’s disbarment, Diane is hustling to get her bestie reinstated as a lawyer. FIRST for Women caught up with Daytime Emmy-winner Nancy Lee Grahn, who cheers her character Alexis’ future and reflects on her 45 years on Daytime TV.

Plus, Grahn dishes about calling together soap pals like Jane Elliot, Jason Thompson, Scott Clifton, Stephen Nichols, and more for Daytime Unites To Help End ALS – a soap-wide, in-person May 4 fundraising event in Los Angeles that will feature favorites from General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and Days of Our Lives.

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‘General Hospital’ vet Nancy Lee Grahn cheers Alexis getting her (legal) groove back

Since Nancy Lee Grahn joined General Hospital in 1996 as illegitimate Cassadine princess Alexis, she’s battled with Helena, beat lung cancer, and shared steamy romances with the hottest – and sometimes shadiest! – men in Port Charles. The Davis girls’ dedicated mom has made questionable decisions along the way, but even after she disguised herself as a man, the one-time D.A. resumed her reign as one of the town’s most respected legal eagles… until Julian Jerome came along!

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Nancy Lee Grahn and William Derry (2024)
Nancy Lee Grahn, via Facebook

After Alexis’ tumultuous relationship with the former mob pushed her to the bottle, she spiraled all the way to disbarment in 2020.

Now, she’s sober and running The Invader, but with Emmy-winning soap veterans Patrick Mulcahey and Elizabeth Korte on board as General Hospital’s new head writers, the canvas is shifting. Amid a flurry of character and story resets, it appears Alexis will return to practicing law.

“Not only am I excited, but I asked about it on social media and got 1000s of ‘Yes, please make her a damned lawyer, again!” Grahn shares. “And it was unanimous. Nobody said, ‘Let's keep her working for the newspaper.’”

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‘General Hospital’ Nancy Lee Grahn talks law and activism

Nancy Lee Grahn activism
Nancy Lee Grahn (2022)
Via @Nancyleegrahn Instagram

While Grahn is certainly looking forward to getting into legal hijinks with Carolyn Hennesy’s Diane, again, she reveals she also appreciates getting to live vicariously through Alexis, professionally.

“Playing a lawyer, which I've done for 38 years, is right up my alley,” says Grahn, who earned her first Daytime Emmy for playing attorney Julia Wainwright Capwell on Santa Barbara. “If I’d wanted to memorize torts and take tests, I might have become one, in real life. Because I guess it's no secret after all these years that I do advocate for things that I think are important and try to give voice to people who don't have the megaphone I have.”

Over the years, Grahn united the soap community for Daytime for Choice in 1988, took part in the NOH8 Campaign in support of the LGBTI community, and has used her birthdays as fundraising opportunities. And when her 2015 Primetime Emmy tweet led to cries of racism, she educated herself and then shared her experience at The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Nancy Lee Grahn talks ALS story with Gregory Hamilton
Nancy Lee Grahn and Gregory Hamilton
ABC/Craig Sjodin

Now, Grahn is calling the entire soap community together again to fight ALS – the progressive, debilitating disease also called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's that her show has been tackling via Gregory Harrison’s character, Gregory Chase.

“I appreciate that General Hospital has brought this to the attention of viewers,” Grahn says. “Of course, I want to honor that storyline, because Gregory is a very important person to me and I am crazy about him. He's just one of the most lovely men I've met. And because this is a cause that needs attention and care and money.”

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Actress opens up about ‘GH’ fan who inspired her to fight ALS

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Nancy Grahn (2019)

Grahn’s Daytime Unites to Help End ALS campaign is tied to Gregory’s storyline, but it turns out, she was first moved to action by Michelle Chard Strojny – a General Hospital fan she met via the Zoom events she started hosting during COVID lockdown.

“They're very intimate events, and I still love doing them,” Grahn shares. “It's become this support group of sorts, where we know each other and share our lives.

“Michelle is in her sixth year with ALS now, and is just an extraordinary spirit,” she continues. “She spends all her time raising her son and helping ALS ONE raise funds. ALS is a very serious, difficult disease, but as Michelle would say, it's not incurable. It's underfunded.”

Inspired, Grahn joined the fight to find a cure by hosting General Hospital fundraising Zooms with a rotation of costars.

Nancy Lee Grahn talks uniting soaps stars and fan in the fight against ALS

GH star nancy lee grahn and stephen nichols DOOL
Nancy Lee Grahn and Stephen Nichols
Nancy Lee Grahn

When Alexis was tied to Gregory’s ALS story on General Hospital, it felt like a message to do something even bigger. So this year, Grahn picked up the phone and started making calls for an in-person event – and every soap star pal who was available to show up in Glendale, CA, on May 4 signed on, without hesitation.

Soap opera fans can expect Q&A and meet & greet fun with General Hospital’s Elliot, Harrison, Kristina Wagner, Jane Laura Wright, Rebecca Herbst, Maura West, and Rena Sofer, The Young and the RestlessPeter Bergman, Jason Thompson, Christian LeBlanc, Trevor St. John, and Melissa Claire Egan, The Bold and the Beautiful’s Scott Clifton and Thorsten Kaye, Days or Our Lives‘ Stephen Nichols, and many more daytime favorites.

There’s also a separate ticket for a concert featuring Grahn’s real-life love Richard Smith, who’s performing with the nine-piece band East Bay Soul, and her daughter Kate Grahn.

“People that haven't had a chance to see her perform won't be disappointed,” promises the proud mom. “So for those who like us soap stars, you got us during the day, and if people just want to come from the concert, we’d love that, too. It’s all going right to charity.

“This year, it’s ALS, and hopefully, next year, we'll do it for something else,” adds Grahn. “I'm expecting to raise between $80 and $100,000. And that's just me throwing it together with my social media platform and my phonebook. Next year, it can be even bigger!”

‘General Hospital’ daytime diva Nancy Lee Grahn reflects on 45 years in soaps

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Nancy Lee Grahn
Nancy Lee Grahn’s Instagram

One reason Grahn has such reach in daytime is that the 67-year-old has spent most of her career on soap operas. A working actress for 50 years and counting, Grahn was on One Life to Live from 1978 to 1982 and won a legion of fans during her 1985 to 1993 run on Santa Barbara before she joined General Hospital 27 years ago.

“I think I've earned diva status,” says Grahn, who has had primetime fun on the likes of Murder, She Wrote, Quincy, M.E., Melrose Place, and 7th Heaven – but has always come back to daytime.

“Because I am smart!” she cries. “Jane Elliot (who plays Tracy) is one of my best friends, and we talk all the time about how lucky we are. Lucky to have been able to raise our children while being in daytime, to have healthcare and beautiful pensions – and to get to be our age and still doing this and still enjoying it!”

‘General Hospital’ diva reveals what’s so great about daytime

While the single mom appreciated having had a ‘day job’ of sorts while she was raising her daughter, Grahn’s love of daytime goes beyond job security.

“This community is like a little repertory company,” raves the General Hospital star. “It’s very satisfying. I have gotten to play all kinds of different scenes and stories – and act!

“Yes, you're limited because of the speed, the time, the lighting, the budget and all those things,” Grahn concedes. “But you can be good putting on a play in the backyard, so there's no excuse for not doing the best you can and finding surprises during your scenes. I am not one bit bored!”

And neither is the General Hospital audience – especially now that it looks like Alexis is headed back to the courtroom! As Alexis gets her groove back onscreen, soap fans can find everything they need to know about how to meet General Hospital, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and Days or Our Lives stars at the Daytime Unites to Help End ALS event on May 4, 2024, and donate to the campaign by visiting the official event page.