It’s been nearly 30 years but Rena Sofer still remembers her line from a classic scene on ABC’s “General Hospital” in 1994 when her character jumped out of a cake to surprise her husband and his other wife.
“She said, ‘Happy birthday, Mrs. Ned Ashton, from me, the other Mrs. Ned Ashton!’ And then she turns and she goes, ‘Help me out, boys,’” Sofer recalled in a recent interview.
The scene was memorable (and even parodied in the 1996 movie “ The Great White Hype ”), but Sofer’s portrayal of Lois Cerullo — a fast-talking Brooklyn girl, with long nails and a thick accent, who wears her heart on her sleeve — made her a fan favorite. Sofer reprises the role for a limited run on Wednesday. The episode was originally slated to air Tuesday.
“My husband and I are planning a move to the East Coast and, you know, I just thought, when I moved here, one of my first big jobs was ‘General Hospital,’ and it just felt very full circle for one of my last jobs in Los Angeles while I live here to be ‘General Hospital’ and doing this character that I love so much.”
Sofer recognizes how special it is for an actor’s work to resonate with people.
“I played Lois for just under three years and I still have people walking up to me saying, ‘Lois is my favorite.’ I’m proud of who she is. I’m proud to have played her. I just love Lois,” she said of the character she began playing in 1993. “If Lois were a real human being, I would hope she’d want to be my friend.”
Returning to set after more than 25 years away was “really weird,” an odd mix of familiarity with essentially being new.
“Just walking around the halls, I’m looking at the names on the dressing rooms and so many I remembered and so many I had no idea. I felt like a fish out of water. But it was also the same building. So it was a little discomforting, but it was also a little deja vu,” she recounted.
One name she obviously is very familiar with is Wally Kurth, who still plays Ned on the show. Sofer and Kurth were married for a short time after meeting on “General Hospital.”
There was this moment of, ‘Is it going to be OK? Am I treading on his space?’ Because this is his home. This is not my home. I’m being allowed to be here as a guest,” Sofer said.
“But, you know, Wally is so open-hearted and so kind and decent and I think he’s so excited to have Lois be part of his storyline in the same way that I’m so excited to be part of the show again,” she added.
Their daughter Rosabel even wants to come home from college to see her parents on set together (as of last week, Sofer was still filming).
“Any children of divorce who get to see their parents actually enjoy being in the same space with each other, I think it’s like a celebration, you know?” Sofer said. “I’m like, ‘If that’s what it takes for you to come home — because she never comes home — then we are both in for it. We will both pay for your flight to come home.'”
All it took to slip into the character was to pick out Lois’ signature nails: “I put the nails on, I was done. The nails are such a part of who she is.”
Executive producer Frank Valentini brought in a nail artist to work with Sofer to create nail designs to match Lois’ outfits.
“We sat for like three-and-a-half hours and we designed nails and it was a blast. And then you put on the outfit with the matching nails and it was like, ‘Oh my God, here she is,’” Sofer said. “It was perfect.”