Carolyn Hennesy Interview: There’s Always Room at the Top!

Photo by Charlie Nunn

Carolyn Hennesy subscribes to the belief that, “There is always room for everyone at the top.”  The Emmy award winning actress, producer, and New York Times best-selling author would know because, while she is certainly at the top of her game, she is also a flying trapeze artist and spends a lot of time up in the air!  

Hennesy, a Los Angeles native, has a long list of credits including True Blood, Cougar Town, Revenge, Disney Channel’s Jessie, NCIS, and Adam Ruins Everything, while also appearing in many feature films.  She currently portrays Diane Miller on the ABC daytime drama, General Hospital and Gloria Winton on Amazon Prime’s Studio City. She’s the author of the popular Pandora book series, as well as the New York Times best seller, The Secret Life of Damian Spinelli, and is also an avid animal advocate and Hoodoo practitioner, along with her aforementioned trapeze artistry.  

  • Did you always want to be an actress?

My father was a motion picture production designer and fine artist, and I remember as early as four years old just being at home on set.  I felt a distinct comfort and sense of belonging there and particularly amidst the myriad of people behind the scenes that go into making a film.  I can even remember the scent of it all. Most people only see the glamorous side of television and film.  A tremendous amount of tedious and cumbersome work and effort by countless hardworking individuals go into each production. My father won an Academy Award in 1966 for the film Fantastic Voyage.  I literally grew up rehearsing my own acceptance speech holding a real Oscar.  I have never forgotten my dad’s advice when he realized that this was truly the path I wanted to pursue: “Don’t be a phony.  Don’t look down on anyone else.  Respect everyone that is a part of the process.”  It was very much a sort of “All hail the crew.”  He was, as most fathers are, incredibly wise.  

Photos courtesy of Carolyn Hennesy
  • How did the role of Diane Miller on General Hospital come about?

About 14 or 15 years ago, Mark Teschner, who is a dear friend and champion of mine, as well as the casting director for General Hospital, called me about obtaining a copy of my acting reel to submit for a two-day stint as Sonny’s lawyer.  I remember thinking, “That’s great! Who is Sonny?”  I laugh now, looking back!  I did my homework and soon learned all the wonder that is Maurice Bernard and what he brings to the character of Sonny Corinthos.  I did my initial scene with Bradford Anderson, who portrays Damian Spinelli, and he unexpectedly threw his arms around me and, in his quirky manner, called me the “Brusque Lady of Justice.”  I was honestly stunned, and I think the higher-ups and everyone else saw something there in my response and how I worked with that simple action. I have such respect for my GH co-stars.  They’re some of the finest talents working on the small screen.  Period.  These actors behave and react; the truly great ones don’t merely recite lines from the script.  The producers kept calling me back and I was always so surprised.  It took me a long time to learn everyone’s name as I remember thinking that I wasn’t going to be there long enough to need to know!  General Hospital was truly blessed with an amazing hair and makeup artist, Donna Messina, who recently passed away.  If Donna cared about you, she’d give you a nickname after awhile.  I remember once returning to GH after being off filming other projects, she started to call me, “movie star”.  That just floored me in the best way.  Donna had seen it all.  She had seen people come and go, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that a nickname from Donna was something quite special.  

  • You genuinely seem to have such chemistry with the other characters on General Hospital.  Do you have fun at work and who are some of your favorites to work with?

I try to make things fun for me (because if I’m having fun that will come through onscreen and usually everyone else has fun as well.)  All joking aside, I consider it my job to make everyone else’s job easier.  That truly is my mantra on set and in life. I’ll do my job well; my goal is to generally, by word and deed, make it easier for the actors I work with, the producer, the prop people, the script person…everyone.  I have so many wonderful and talented co-stars and adore working with all of them.  Many of my scenes are with Steve Burton (Jason Morgan), Maurice Bernard (Sonny), and Nancy Lee Grahn (Alexis Davis), and they just give you a banquet of nuanced emotions to work with.

Photo by Charlie Nunn
  • What can you share with us about your role and experiences on Amazon Prime’s Studio City?

Sean Kanan (former A.J. Quartermaine, GH) has created something extremely special in Studio City.  What began years ago as a sort of “love letter” to soaps, has morphed into quite a tour de force.  Sean has put together an exceptionally talented cast and crew of people working at the apex of their game.  It’s a series about a soap kinda within a soap and portrays a somewhat heightened version of daytime television.  The show deftly blends serious dramatic issues with comedic overtones.  Studio City highlights relevant, behind the scenes issues such as aging, gender, and family issues.  

My character, Gloria Winton, is the executive producer of Hearts on Fire, the fictitious soap at the heart of the story of Studio City, and she seems to somewhat enjoy pointing out that Sean’s character, Sam Stevens, is perhaps aging out of the soap genre.  Ageism is alive and well everywhere, not just in Hollywood, and not just in soaps, but what star doesn’t worry that perhaps their fan base will move on to greener pastures with younger grass!  Gloria is smart and sassy and a delightful, exaggerated amalgamation of the giants in the soap industry such as a Gloria Monty or an Agnes Nixon.  Timothy Woodward, Jr. is an incredible director and he has been open to my pitching thoughts on Gloria’s dialogue.  There is a scene where Gloria gives a serious tongue lashing to a young, beautiful blonde actress who was complaining that she deserved a bigger part as she’d been, “working hard.”  I was able to incorporate some of my father’s lessons to me in my sharp response to her by explaining that she didn’t work hard, but how the entire crew around her did!  I think Studio City is really something wonderfully unique and au courant  and I look forward to seeing what’s in the future for this gem.

  • How do you tackle a setback?

Give me a problem and I will focus on finding a solution.  When faced with adversity, I prefer to stare it straight in the eye and say, “Next!”  

  • What is something that you wish you could tell your younger self?

I would tell myself, “Relax!  You know you are on the right path.  You aren’t going to be someone to make it quickly and burn out fast.  You’re in it for the long haul.”

Photos courtesy of Carolyn Hennesy
  • If you could know one thing about your future, what would you like to know?

I would want to know exactly when I should start considering designers for the dress that I am going to wear for my Oscar acceptance speech!

  • You are clearly in amazing shape, what does your workout routine consist of?

Approximately 20 years ago, I had been cast in a production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, and the director wanted a circus theme where the characters of Adriana, my character, and Luciana, were up on a static trapeze.  Much like when I was on set with my father when I was a child, I had a revelation or a sense of being “at home,” only this time I was high up in the air hanging from my feet!  I fell in love with the aerial arts and continued with it ever since.  I have a static trapeze at the end of my driveway so that I can practice at least three times a week.  It is an amazing workout that strengthens everything:  upper body, hands, core, feet…literally head to toe!  I also practice the flying trapeze as well, and while less aerobic, you are literally hurling yourself towards God and the heavens!  It is so exhilarating to incorporate the skills you have been taught and the faith you have in your catcher that he will catch you and work you in his hands to get you back to the platform.  I enjoy cycling on occasion as well, but it is my time of flying through the air with “the greatest of ease” (well, I try!) that truly brings me joy (and a fit body!)

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Hennesy
  • What does the rest of your diet and wellness routine look like?

I think it is important to find what works for you in terms of nutrition.  With enough diligence and effort, you will find what naturally works best for you.  For the most part, I do a form of intermittent fasting and try to have all my meals between noon and 6:00 p.m.  I find that this gives my body all the time it needs to process the intake.  But I have also found, like so many others, that necessary, quality sleep and true rest can be elusive.  This challenge was one of the things that led me to study Hoodoo, a spiritual practice that incorporates botanical knowledge and helps create a deeper connection with the Universe.  My studies led me to share what I found so helpful for myself with others and I created a line of spiritual oils, sachet powders and candles called Queen’s Curios.  One of my favorites is the “Queen’s Slumber,” and while it’s the only oil that isn’t considered spiritual, it helps knock you out for a fabulous night’s sleep!

Photo courtesy of Carolyn Hennesy
  • Among your many talents, you are also a New York Times Best Selling author.  Where did the inspiration come from to become an author?

I am always trying to expand my horizons and tend to willingly delve into new experiences.  I enrolled in a writing workshop and chose to write a series of short stories  about misunderstood women in fiction.  The focus of one particular short story was a teenage Pandora.  Serendipitously, a visiting author heard me read my work and pulled me aside to say that my short story needed to be a novel.  I decided to not only make one novel, but a series of books incorporating the seven great Evils in Pandora’s world (roughly, the seven deadly sins.)  The books tap into the still smarting 13-year-old inside all of us and acts as a catalyst for serenity…to show that no one ever gets it exactly right, but you can mitigate life’s effects on your psyche.  Like Pandora, it’s our unique set of gifts, our determination, and the bonds of our friends that help our moral compass point north.  Pandora thinks fast and steps up to the plate, and I think the takeaway from the Pandora stories is to be yourself, learn from life’s difficult lessons…no, no REALLY learn…and grow from them.  And for my soap enthusiast fans, there is also my book, The Secret Life of Damian Spinelli, which came about when Jill Phelps, then Executive Producer of General Hospital, approached me about writing a book based on all of the main characters on the canvass of the show, but from the single viewpoint of one particular character: Damian Spinelli.  She felt that, based on the Pandora series’ book sales, I could write something that at least had the potential of doing well.  Fortunately, with Diane Miller having worked so closely with Spinelli, I… as both actress and author… was in the best position possible as I knew so much about his endearingly odd traits and idiosyncrasies.  What resulted was a number of stories from “The Jackal’s” point of view and his special take on everyone the fans know and love.  So, we learn things about everyone… some hilarious facts, some poignant, some ruthless, some magical.  And we come to absolutely love, love, love Damian Spinelli in all his tech-nerd, Dashiell Hammett glory!  And the book debuted at #10 on the NYT bestseller list… so there’s that!

Photos courtesy of Carolyn Hennesy
  • You obviously have many varied interests; did you try anything new during the quarantine?

I spent a great deal of time baking shortbreads.  I must have experimented with at least ten different recipes!  I also wrote a screenplay with a friend and started reading War and Peace.  Seriously.

  • If you could instantly be an expert in any area, what would you choose?

I would want to know everything I could about astrophysics.  I am fascinated by what is out there in the universe and am kinda desperate to go into space!

You can follow Carolyn Hennesy on Twitter at @carolynhennesy and on Instagram at @carolynhennesy

About the author:  Charlene Bazarian is a fitness and weight loss success story after losing 100 pounds. She mixes her no-nonsense style of fitness advice with humor on her blog at and on Facebook at FBJ Fit.