It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for General Hospital’s new executive producer Frank Valentini. He wrapped filming on One Life to Live where he’d been EP for nine years on Nov. 18, found out that the plans to take the show online were not happening on Nov. 23, and he signed on as the new GH showrunner over the last two days. “It happened really fast and I’m excited,” says Valentini.
ABC announced today that as of Jan. 9, Valentini is taking over the reins from Jill Farren Phelps, who’d been GH exec producer for 10 years. Also, Ron Carlivati, OLTL’s former head writer, is taking over as GH’s head writer the same day, replacing Garin Wolf. Wolf, who is staying on the writing team along with Shelley Altman, replaced Robert Guza, Jr. back in May.
Valentini had been with OLTL for 26 years, working his way up from assistant to the executive producer. He has a history with Phelps, having worked on OLTL at the same time. She was the exec producer from 1997-2001 while he was a producer.
“Jill Phelps is a fantastic producer. She taught me so much when we worked together She was so generous and so kind. And I can’t say enough good things about her. Jill called me this morning and congratulated me.,” says Valentini, who acknowledged the bittersweet moment. “It’s always tough when someone loses their job. But at the end of the day everyone understands that there are business decisions that get made.”
With ABC canceling both All My Children and One Life to Live this year in favor of shows like The Chew and Revolution, and Katie Couric signed on for a talk show starting Sept. 12, there’s speculation that Valentini’s hiring is an attempt to “save” General Hospital from possible cancellation.
“Any exec producer always has the weight of the world on their shoulders. I’ve always felt a tremendous responsibility. You have the fate of a lot of people’s futures in your hand. I’m the type of person who takes that very seriously,” he says, while schloughing off cancellation fears. “If I spent any energy worrying about whether we were getting cancelled, it would take away from making the show the best that it could possibly could be. When you’re running, don’t look behind you.”
He’s coming in with a gameplan for the show, which has heard criticism from longtime fans about the emphasis mob-related story lines and violence. “But I don’t think it will change dramatically,” he says. “I have to come in and assess what’s working and see what can be made better.”
It’s too early to know if that means any Llanview residents might be taking a trip to Port Charles but Valentini, who says he’s been a fan of GH, isn’t looking to upset the balance right away. “It’s an incredible group of actors and a great crew [at GH]. One Life is it’s own book.” The final episode of OLTL airs Jan. 13.
His message to GH fans? “At this point, during the transition, I ask the audience to be patient. Come along for the ride, and enjoy and love their show.”