InSESSION: Kathleen Gati Dishes on Taking Over Port Charles!
Viewers may have been stunned with the reveal that “General Hospital’s” new Chief of Staff was going to be none other than villainess Dr. Liesl Obrecht, but the devilish doc’s portrayer, Kathleen Gati, was equally surprised upon hearing the unexpected news!
“I was in the parking lot heading home after [my later ego was] being sad, singing [her] poor little song in the prison, and [executive producer] Frank [Valentini] came up to me, and I’m heading home, and he goes, ‘Do you want to know what’s happening next?’ And every time I get script, I go, ‘Oh, am I going left? Am I going right? Am I funny? Am I sad? Am I tragic? Am I campy?’ So I’m like, ‘Sure. He never tells me, and I never know, and I’m like, he wants to tell me? Ok.’ He said, ‘Well, are you ready for this?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ And he said, ‘You’re going to be the Chief of Staff of General Hospital.”
The unexpected news nearly made the actress double over in surprise. “I was just dumbfounded,” she recalls. “It was just incredible. I was like, seriously? And I thought, how fabulous. What a great concept. The impossible, worst, most awful, evilest, meanest person being the Chief of Staff of General Hospital, which is the name of the show, which is the show, and I’m going, ‘Oh, that’s brilliant!’”
For those fans who scratched their heads over how an ex-con could possibly slide into such a prestigious position and why the WSB would help her do so, Gati assures the full story will eventually be explained. “I think that it’s going to slowly unfold, the story of how that happened, so the audience isn’t left going, ‘Yeah, right,” she assures. “Because I know [there was] initial shock on Twitter and Facebook, and I’m like, ‘Agh! Be gentle! It’s just a character!’”
Yes it’s true that that actress has gotten a bit of hate via the online world, but she takes it all in stride — especially because the majority of comments are positive. “I’m honored and I’m thrilled, because I figured most people would hate me,” she explains. “I was on ‘All My Children’ back in 89-90 for a stint, and I worked with Maurice [Bernard, Sonny Corinthos, “GH;” ex-Nico Kelly, “AMC”]… and I was playing this role called Taffy Winslow. I was this really evil, nasty woman, and people would stop me in the street and say, ‘You’re on ‘All My Children,’ and I was like, ‘Aagghhhh!’ because it was my first big success, and I was like, ‘Yes!’ And they’re like, ‘You’re an evil bitch!!’ And I wasn’t prepared for that. Now I’m like, ‘Psh. People get a life! You can hate me, we’re just entertaining you, it’s for fun! But don’t hate me, just hate me on the show!’ But that [“AMC” experience] was really daunting and sad. But now, most of the stuff is fun, it’s playful. People are like, ‘We love to hate you!’ And that’s great.”
However, she hopes that the writers move quick on addressing every detail of how Dr. Obrecht became Chief of Staff — before the audience loses patience. “Some people are like, ‘That’s crazy!’ And I agree. I’m thrilled, but I agree,” she explains. “It seriously is crazy, so [the backstory] needs to come out so the audience can say, ‘Ok.’”
Speaking of unraveling mysteries, Gati has a perfect explanation for why her alter ego has been so head over heels in love with Faison (Anders Hove). “That’s probably been the biggest question, why Cesar Faison?” she asks. “There are a lot of reasons… that are significant, but first of all, they were young, it was exciting, hormones, they were working together, doing conniving things, and she’s fallen for his fabulousness, for his genius. I have done that before: I have fallen in love with genius — and lived to regret it!! But I think we do that, whether you fall in love with someone physically, emotionally, sexually, whatever, it happens. And it takes five seconds to a hundred years to get over that. Some people never get over it.”
But she truly hopes that Obrecht gets over him, and sooner rather than later! “I love Anders; it’s a joy to work with him, and we might work and fight it out later, who knows, but… I think my role as an actress, I’ve always believed, is to show strong strength,” she explains. “I have grown up with it and been there myself, where they say sometimes you’re the hydrant, and sometimes you’re the dog. We’ve all been the hydrant a lot, and I don’t want that! I want to show that yes, maybe we’ve been the hydrant, but it’s time to be the dog. It’s time to get out there, and I love that my character gets to have this strength. Yes, oops, the baby [storyline with Lulu (Emme Rylan) and Britt (Kelly Thiebaud)]. Mistake. Stabbed the wrong guy [Robert Scorpio, Tristan Rogers], oops! You know, ok. But no one is perfect! I get bopped on the head, I deserve it, I’m okay with that, its fine. But the fact that she’s fixing up the hospital, the fact that she’s got this strength, and ‘Ok, I won’t take crap from this person,’ this is for the audience.
“They’re watching,” she continues. “They’re moved by what we do. It’s important what we do. They get upset. I mean, they hate me for what I’ve done, but maybe they also see there’s some strength. Maybe in not that particular thing with Britt, that is hard to justify. But the other side, being strong and demanding respect. Everyone should have respect, and I think I get to portray that in Dr. Obrecht, and that’s probably the most important part of this job for me. And then everything else is a bonus. I’m just so honored and privileged to have that responsibility. A lot of roles I play, I’m the victim, like my child has been murdered and this and that, but the fact that I get to be strong and I get to show people that yes, you can be strong, and yes, demand that respect, that means everything.”
But, as Gati explains, there is softness underneath her alter ego’s tough exterior, despite what viewers might think! “She’s a horrible person, but she’s also loving,” she says. “Underneath all of those layers of toughness, there’s definitely love in there. I think she struggles with that, however. She doesn’t let it in, she brushes her hands off, wipes off the dust, and off she goes. You fall down, scrape your knee, put a bandage on and move on. And I think a lot of that, that’s a survival mechanism she’s learned from very young.”
As more and more layers of Dr. Obrecht are peeled away, and she gains more importance in Port Charles, and fans’ love for the character continues to grow, some have wondered if the powers that be will offer the actress a contract. That remains to be seen, but Gati says she’s happy either way. “I’m already married to everybody here,” she says. “It’s one big family. It’s my children, my grandchild. In a sense, I work quite regularly, and you’ll be seeing lots of me!”