Temple of Vanessa
Behind The Scene -- Fear Of Flying
SOD May 98
Talk about your life being thrown in a tailspin. In episodes that aired May 4-5, GH's Brenda and Jason crashed into a lake aboard the ELQ jet. To film the scenes, Vanessa Marcil and Steve Burton were strapped into their seats while the set rocked back and forth, and three hand-held cameras captured the action. As the "plane" creaked and groaned, Assistant Art Director Jim Jones explained the action. "Our special effects crew put together an under-carriage that was built on steel I-beams and attached to hydraulic footings." Translation? Turn a knob and your main characters will shake, rattle and roll.
Add to that Vanessa's hollers, which were worthy of the leading role in Scream 3, and you've got a bona fide plane crash. According to Steve, the experience "felt like the earthquake ride at Universal Studios -- even though that ride doesnt feel like a real earthquake." Post-crash, the actors took a short break while crew members swarmed the set to gleefully "destroy" it. The next scenes were the aftermath of the crash, as the wreckage sank into the lake. Wires were frayed, furniture overturned, water effects checked and double-checked. Once the look was established, the actors took their places.
Steve lay prone on the floor and slipped his leg underneath a prop, pinning himself down. "I'm going to wake up as Jason Quartermaine," he cracked. As the actors prepared, Jones detailed how the crew created the effect of the plane sinking. "All this water came pouring out of the sealed, airtight door, but in reality, it was surprisingly very little. Our crew rigged four seperate hoses so that the water sprayed out, but it's all about pressure, not volume," he noted. "To make it appear the plane is sinking, there was a Plexiglas box built outside the window that filled up with the spray."
Brenda and Jason cheated death and escaped the sinking wreckage, and were left clinging to floating debris. To create the effect, said Jones, a regular backyard swimming pool was used. "It was a standard 24-foot diameter pool, 4 feet deep, set up on another stage. We filled it, heated it to about 85 degrees, then chlorinated it. To make the pool 'go away', the liner was painted black, and we draped the edges in black, so it appeared seamless -- like they could be floating anywhere."
What about the piece of the plane floating with Brenda and Jason in the "lake"? "We anchored a piece of wreckage in the center of the pool so the actors would have a reference point," recounted Jones. "It was a piece of painted styrofoam that we tied to a string."
As for the water: "We had to act like we were drowning," quipped Steve, "but it was cold, so we didnt have to act cold."
"I have such sympathy for the actors in Titanic," Vanessa chimed in, reflecting on a hard day's work. "I was freezing. I think I'm getting sick now. But you know what? There's a big joke on our show that I'm the character who's been wet more than anyone else. I was shot at in the shower. When we were in Puerto Rico, I was in the water constantly -- falling out of boats, swimming through the water. I'm always getting wet."
The Men In Brenda's Life
Having had the good fortune to work with two of daytime's hottest leading men, Vanessa Marcil is the envy of her peers -- and dont think she doesnt know it. "It's not hard to look at either one of them in a scene and truly feel like you're in love with them," she says. "They're both extraordinary." But, the guys note, it takes two to tango.
Maurice Benard (ex-Sonny): "Vanessa has become such a wonderful actress. She's always been a star in her own right, but she's a wonderful actress and works hard at it. She's feisty, and we're similar in a lot of ways, especially as far as that's concerned. So there was always tension between us, and that tension made for good acting."
Ingo Rademacher (Jax): "No matter what the material is like, no matter how you look, if you're not a good actor, you cant pull it off. People are not going to be interested because you're not believable. So you have to bring that to the plate when you're an actor, and Vanessa does that. She knows her stuff. Whatever they put in front of her, people are just drawn to her. Some actors you're drawn to, others you're not. You've got to be able to capture an audience, and Vanessa does that."
Timing Is Everything
As Gh's Jax Accepts Brenda's Proposal, Sonny Heads Back To Port Charles
Sure, GH's Jax swore up and down that he'd never take Brenda back after she chose Sonny over him. But after almost losing her in the plane crash last week, we noticed that Jax's resolve was crumbling fast. What we also noticed was a room in a tropical locale, with a dog-eared photo of Brenda lying on the nightstand. And we all know what that means, no? Now, as Jax and Brenda go off to forge a new path in their relationship, Sonny is making his way back to Port Charles. Will their paths cross?
"Brenda starts off the week in the hospital," begins head writer Robert Guza, Jr. "Having survived the plane crash -- thanks to Jax -- she's now recovering nicely in GH, with Jax by her side."
"She's been through a lot of experiences like this lately," shrugs Vanessa Marcil with a smile. "I think everything she's gone through -- Sonny leaving her at the altar, her breakdown and all that -- is what really changed her. The plane crash also changed her, but it made her see even more that what she was realizing previously was the truth: Life is too short, be with someone you love, someone you feel safe with. The crash is just another thing that clarifies that for her."
While Brenda's feelings for Jax were further reinforced by her wilderness ordeal, Vanessa is quick to note that her character wont be putting any pressure on Jax to take their relationship to a new level. "She's thinking in very simple terms," Vanessa allows. "She loves him. She knows he's the one she can rely on. I think Brenda's doing a great thing, and that is, she let him know exactly how she felt about him and then she let it go. She's not thinking in terms of, 'Will this get him to come around?'"
Even when Jax suggests that he and Brenda head to Malibu for R&R -- the place where Jax proposed a few years back -- Brenda remains patient. Says Vanessa, "I think she's excited about going to Malibu because maybe they'll get romantic. But I dont think she's suspecting anything else."
But is Jax? "When Jax says, 'We're going to Malibu,' he is, in a sense, saying that something more serious is going to come up," hints Guza. "That's were he proposed before, so he sort of knows it may come up again..." One problem: how to get from Port Charles, NY, to Malibu, CA, without flying? Smiles Guza, "Jax just tells her, 'We'll take the train.'"
Sounds simple, right? Wrong. "On Wednesday and Thursday, we set them up on the train," grins the scribe. "Only Jax and Brenda quickly find out that they're on a 'divorce' train. It's filled with all these couples who are trying to get divorced, and their therapist sent them all on this last-ditch trip to see if they can reconcile. So Jax and Brenda are sitting on this train while these couples are saying, 'I should have never married this clown' and so forth [laughs]."
Despite some humorous moments, Guza points out that, "The scenes also have a serious side. As it turns out, two of the people on the train have stories very similar to Brenda's. One is a version of her relationship with Sonny, which is essentially about obsessed love. And the other one is a woman who settled for second-best. So Jax has to deal with that."
What Jax also has to deal with is the person responsible for booking them on this pain train: Jerry. "It turns out Jerry set it up," chuckles Guza. "But in his defense, Jax did tell Jerry, 'If you find me starting to get romantic toward Brenda, shoot me.' So when Jax yells at Jerry for booking them on the train, Jerry says, 'Well, you said just shoot me. All I did was put you on a train!'"
Surviving this cross-country trek with their relationship intact, Brenda and Jax head for his beach house. "On Friday, they arrive in Malibu, and it's going to be glorious," assures Guza. Concurs Vanessa, "It's very casual. She says to him, 'Do you want to watch the sunset together?' But there's no ulterior motive. The only ulterior motive she has is that maybe they'll get romantic."
Which they do... although not exactly the way Brenda is thinking. "They're just enjoying the sunset and he accepts the proposal that she had made earlier to him," smiles Vanessa, referring to Brenda's March question-popping. "Brenda had no intention of proposing to him again. She was just giving him space and letting him come to her when he was ready."
Mission accomplished. As the two fold into celebratory lovemaking, Jason and Robin are making a powerful love connection of their own in his Port Charles penthouse. "In the aftermath, they hear a knock on the door," reveals Guza. "Jason's expecting Benny, one of his mob accountants."
But there's no way Jason could have counted on who's standing on the other side of that door: Sonny. "Right now, we have Sonny in Port Charles and Jax and Brenda in Malibu," notes Guza. "But let's not forget that Sonny represents a threat to what Jax and Brenda have basically spent two years building. So, the big questions are: Is Brenda going to choose Sonny one more time? Will Brenda finally choose Jax? And what will that mean for Sonny?"
"I think the way she loves Sonny is evident," adds Vanessa. "She was willing to give up everything for him, but what he did to her is unforgivable. How all of that could change when he's standing there, staring in her eyes? I cant tell you."
The Great Debate
Since the dawn of the Jax/Brenda/Sonny triangle, an ongoing colloquy has raged among GH's fans: Who does Brenda belong with --- Sonny or Jax?
"I love working with both Maurice and Ingo, so it's great for me," smiles Vanessa. "I'm torn. I think that they're both so great together. I think Sonny is the love of Brenda's life, but I also think we change as life goes on. Jax is the love of the next generation of her life. He's her adult love. She was 18 when she first started dating Sonny. I could honestly see her being happy with either one of them, having a happy life. I truly believe there is no 'Which one does she love the most?' She loves both of them equally... she just loves them differently."
Brenda Says Goodbye To Sonny, Then Goes Home To Jax
For the first time since he left her at the altar and disappeared from Port Charles, Sonny and Brenda come face to face this week on GH.
The reunion isnt planned. After hearing about the tragedy at Wyndemere, Brenda calls the penthouse to make sure Robin is ok. Someone answers the phone and remains on the line when Brenda says hello, but doesnt respond. "She just knows it's him; she can feel it," Vanessa Marcil says. "Brenda and Sonny are definitely soul mates. She hangs up the phone right away, because it scares the hell out of her."
Brenda, however, heads over to Jason's to prove to herself that it really was Sonny who answered the phone. She doesnt give a moments thought to what she'll do when she sees him, Vanessa says, knowing only that it's something she has to do. "She walks in the door, sees him, and her heart drops," she says. "Her heart stops beating. I dont think she'll ever see Sonny and that wont happen. But that doesnt mean she loves Sonny more than Jax, ever. Everyone in the world can attest that you can love two people; she truly loves both of them. Sonny was the love of her life as a kid; she was 18 when she fell in love with him. Jax is the love of her life as an adult. So whoever is the love of your life as an adult is going to last longer."
At the penthouse, Sonny finally tells Brenda why he didnt marry her -- he couldnt subject her to a life on the run from the mob -- and that moves their relationship to a new place. "For him to say the truth to her, there is no conflict left," Vanessa says. "Once she can stop hating him, it allows her to have some respect for him again and allows her to love him. And for her to love him is for her to be able to let go of him. She doesnt want to be with him anymore as a lover; she really has moved on from it. She doesnt want to live in fear and uncertainty anymore. Jax gives her the exact opposite -- security and certainty." After saying goodbye and sharing one last kiss, Brenda goes straight to Jax and tells him she was with Sonny -- and why.
"Vanessa simultaneously plays Brenda's love for Jax, the fact that Jax is who she wants to be with, and the incredible pull to Sonny, which will always be there," head writer Robert Guza Jr says. "Just set your VCR -- it will probably melt the tape in your machine."
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