“General Hospital” actress Rebecca Herbst lends her support to Smile Train this holiday season. Smile Train is the international charity dedicated to providing surgery and care to children around the globe with a cleft lip or palate. The organization offers unique opportunities for giving that will grant every child born with a cleft – anywhere in the world – the opportunity to live a full, happy, and productive life.
Rebecca talked to Daytime TV Examiner about the project and her time as Elizabeth Webber on ABC’s long running soap.
Phyllis: Hello Rebecca. It’s nice to talk you. I’ve been watching “General Hospital” since way before you first started.
Rebecca: Thank you. This summer it’ll be my sixteenth year…
Phyllis: When you started, did you have any idea that you would still be around today?
Rebecca: Oh my goodness, no. When I got there and heard people had been there for like over a decade, I thought, “What…what? Why would you stay your whole life? Who would you stay that long?” That’s crazy to me, because acting jobs are straight forward, they come and go so fast. I didn’t realize you could make a home or a family out of one.
Phyllis: You support Smile Train. Tell me how you got involved with the organization.
Rebecca: I’ve been involved for many years. I received a pamphlet years ago about the Smile Train and afterwards my mother, who received a pamphlet and said “You might want to take a look at this.” Over the years we’ll do fan events and we like to raise lots of money and it’s for charity. She said you might want to take a look at this one. I was so impressed with the way that the Smile Train is run. The people are really amazing and the fact that it only costs $250 dollars to change a child’s life. That’s remarkable. That’s how I got involved.
Phyllis: Do you ever find yourself getting too attached to the kids or too involved with it?
Rebecca: I try to focus my energy and efforts on solely raising money, to make people aware of the Smile Train and what it is, but also really stressing the fact that its just $250 dollars. I know its lot of money but it’s not a lot when it comes to changing a life. I have three kids of my own, I’m not travelling a lot but I see how meeting these children, if I was there one- on- one, I would be very attached.
Phyllis: How do you spread the word about Smile Train?
Rebecca: Over the past year, I have become very familiar with Twitter. I was never one of those social media outlet. Facebooker…I’m not on the computer, I said I’ve got three kids that I got to put my energy into, but I recently become a great fan of Twitter. That is the best way for me and the easiest way to reach thousands upon thousands of people and let them know about Smile Train.
Phyllis: You’re busy working, raising your children, lending your support to charities, how are you juggling everything?
Rebecca: I have an incredible husband [Michael Saucedo who played Juan on GH] who works from home. Basically he keeps my head from falling off my shoulders. He really is… he can multi-task. We make a great team and I am able to do it with his help.
Phyllis: With you starting in the business so young and with yours and Michael’s acting genes, are your children getting the acting bug?
Rebecca: They’re mentioned it here and there but nothing too serious. They’ve grown up with it… they’ve grown up at the studio and see what we do. But really, the acting game, that’s a tough one to be in. It’s hard, its’ hard to find a job, so I’m not jumping for them to get into the business.
Phyllis: How do you feel about the changes in daytime over the past few years?
Rebecca: I’m saddened by it. This is a financial issue. It’s all about money and how we can produce cheaper shows and networks being able to replace our shows with cheaper ones. That makes me incredibly sad because I know the viewers are still out there. They stayed around for a really long time. I feel bad for them. “General Hospital” is doing its best to keep our feet on the ground and keep plugging away and hopefully we’ll be around for years to come.
Phyllis: How did you feel about the big changes to your show last year? I know Jill Farrin Phelps was there for a long time…
Rebecca: Jill and I had a great relationship. I loved her as the executive producer and now with Frank [Valentini] in her position… they’re very different people, so it’s run completely different. When you’ve been somewhere for so long and then you have someone new, it’s kind of like having a new principal come into the school and all of a sudden all the rules change. You feel like you’re on shaky ground but Frank is doing a good job at keeping things running.
Phyllis: I feel like the cast and crew, you’re all doing a great job with promotion as well. The 50th anniversary is coming up… With all the characters coming back from the dead or from wherever, is there any character you wish would come back but hasn’t?
Rebecca: I would take having Juan come back, the character my husband played. It would be nice to have him around. Maybe he could come back for The Nurse’s Ball and sing a song or two.
Phyllis: Does Michael have any desire to return to acting? I know he was doing clubs and returning to school, am I correct in that?
Rebecca: He went to law school for a couple of years but our lives are so hectic, it just became…our family time was suffering so we had to make some changes, But he doesn’t really have a desire to go back to acting. He writes music and stuff, that’s his passion and he can do that from home and it works. Our family works.
Phyllis: You in particular and Elizabeth, have the most loyal and passionate fans I have ever seen. They go to bat for her and for you. How do you respond to that? Are you overwhelmed at how passionate they can be sometimes?
Rebecca: I’m so overwhelmed. That’s the word I always use, that I am truly overwhelmed by they’re loyalty. They have stuck with Elizabeth and stayed with me through the great times on the show and the times when I was just serving coffee or filing charts. They’ve never gone away and I know that the fans are the reason why I still have my job. When I was let go a year or so ago, well the fans are the reason why I’m still there because they let their opinions be heard. I’m forever grateful. Forever grateful to them.
Phyllis: Any plans for fan events after the holidays?
Rebecca: My husband and I are such homebodies that when we don’t have concrete plans, we are happy campers. We like being at home. We actually, just a couple months ago, moved and we are still setting up the house and figuring out where things are going to go, so it’s fun. We feel like we’re starting all over. Where’re giving a lot of things away and just beginning this new phase in our life. We’re really looking forward to it. We’re having a good time.
Phyllis: Any holiday traditions that you had as a kid that you’re extending to your family now?
Rebecca: Really the only tradition is that on Christmas Eve, I let the kids open one present before they go to bed. They get to open one present and then they have to wait for Santa to come in the morning.
Phyllis: What do you do for downtime, not that you have time to find any?
Rebecca: We have a couple of weeks off for Christmas and I just plan on being home really . I do want to take the kids ice skating. That’s one plan that we have, so that’s exciting and maybe I would take them to Disneyland. We’re not been for several years and my baby, he’s never been.
Phyllis: Speaking of skating, I know that you ice skate. Would you ever consider going on a celebrity reality competition show like “Skating With The Stars,” or “Dancing With The Stars?”
Rebecca: Kind of. I really enjoying watching those shows, especially because I have friends on them. This past season with “Dancing With The Stars,” my kids and I went to several shows to support [General Hospital co-star] Kelly Monaco. We had such a good time going and so much fun seeing her. I think it would be a lot of fun to be on one of those shows but I also know that’s its lot of time away from home and it’s a lot of work. You have to be three months away from home and I’d have to reevaluate things at home if they asked me. I don’t have any plans to do it.
Phyllis: On the show, Elizabeth has lost both Jason and Lucky. What impact do you think those losses have on her character?
Rebecca: They definitely have made her stronger and that’s one good thing about Elizabeth losing all the people she’s loved in her life. You know, you can either dwell on it and end you up in the what’s it called the psych ward…you know the one I’m talking about…
Phyllis: Where Laura was? Shadybrook?
Rebecca: [laughs] Where all us crazy people go. So we figured she could either do that or she could choose to be strong for her children and be an independent working mother. That’s what she has done. She loved Jason; she loved Lucky. They have created more layers for her character. She’s moving on with her life for the sake of her kids.
Phyllis: You’ve designed some the gowns you wore to the Emmys and other events. Are you still active in that?
Rebecca: No.[Laughs] I’ve not. The past two Emmys, I actually borrowed dresses. Once I had this third baby, you just don’t have a whole lot of time for sewing. The only sewing that I do nowadays are curtains for my house. I have not been doing anything lately, but I do have my sewing machine up and I’d like to pick it back up. My kids like to sew. They enjoy it.
Phyllis: With New Year’s coming up, do make resolutions at all and if so, do you have one for 2013?
Rebecca: I don’t I don’t make them. I make resolutions all throughout the year. No the beginning of the new year to me is not ..I don’t make them.
For more information on Smile Train, visit the website at Smile Train.org.
Catch Rebecca as Elizabeth Webber on “General Hospital” weekdays on ABC
For the latest in television news, follow me on Twitter @Phyllis_Thomas