Shari Belafonte on ‘GH’ Debut: “They Threw Me into the Fire”

Shari Belafonte
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Shari Belafonte may have looked cool, calm and collected during her “General Hospital” debut as Janice Lomax, mayor of Port Charles, on Tuesday, January 19, but inside she was “a wreck,” the actress admitted to Soap Opera Digest. “They threw me into the fire the first day, shooting two shows.”

And, to top it off, Belafonte didn’t get her scripts for the episodes until three days before going to work. So it meant less time to study and get the material down. Fortunately, her husband Sam Behrens, who played Jake Meyers on the show from 1983 to 1987, was there to keep her from panicking, settle her nerves, and offer lots of encouragement.

“Sam just kept going, ‘You can do this, honey,'” recounted Belafonte, noting that she actually did make it through her work day “pretty unscathed. They didn’t kill Mayor Lomax right away on the first day and they did give me more lines after that, so that’s a good sign.”

Belafonte, who has amassed a career on primetime television, was used to a much different kind of work pace. In fact, when she first started dating Behrens, she remembers running lines with him and marveling at the amount of dialogue he had to learn — in one day.

I was used to my lines on “Hotel,” which usually were, ‘Good morning, Mr. Smith, how can I help you?'” noted Belafonte, who portrayed Julie Gillette in the 1983-1998 series. “And that was it for the week.”

Those days are over, now that Belafonte has delved into the fast paced world of daytime television. Thankfully, she’s adjusting and having a good time doing it, because as a recurring player on General Hospital, she’s going to have to get used to lots of wordy prose.