Inside The Bubble
Odds are good that if Megan Ward is nowhere to be found on set to portray the refined, respectable and revered fashion maven, Kate Howard, the General Hospital headliner is off chauffeuring children, Oliver (7) and Audrey (2), to a different kind of Los Angeles hotspot: Summer camp and pre-school. A taste of this Hawaiian's daily routine forces the theme song to "Speed Racer" to suddenly fall past our parted lips and into the unfiltered atmosphere. It's true! This woman moves with the distinction of Speed Racer and yet manages to stay within the speed limit. It's not such a stretch when you consider Ward, whose been married to Michael Shore for thirteen years, mastered the balancing act of happy homemaker and decadent celebrity long ago and who once chatted up the most eligible bachelor not just in Hollywood, but the entire world, at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion.
"I only went to six or seven (parties) at the Mansion and this was only because one of my best friends's Mom worked for Hef (Hugh Hefner) and was once a former Playboy Bunny...and I guess I was enough of a celebrity to get on the list. I saw George (Clooney) on a Saturday night," recalls Ward, ending any suggestion of smut. "Two days later, I read for this pilot that he (Clooney) was directing. The pilot never went anywhere, but I got to tease him about the party."
Her career might have not gone anywhere from the meeting but Ward did receive a nice parting gift. She giggles and laughs, still not sure if what she is about to reveal is truth or lore: "My manager had a very close friend and producer (present at audition) who claims after I left the room; George pointed at the door and said ‘That's a good actress.'"
By this time, Ward was known on the Hollywood circuit for her many guest appearances on a number of top-rated series; critically-acclaimed series that were pulled too quickly by networks for the American public to make a decision for themselves. The game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is ubiquitous, however, for all the work she's done Megan Ward should take ownership of the female version. Think carefully and you may just remember the actress from the following: 7th Heaven, ER (after George), CSI: Miami, Boston Legal, Boomtown, Without A Trace, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, The West Wing, Friends, Melrose Place, Dark Skies, the flicks Joe's Apartment and Encino Man, Party of Five and Class of '96.
The above is a lot to get through without tripping over a word or two, and yet, Ward, for all of her hitting the payment, was as recognizable as Louis Ferdinand, the baker from Bay Ridge. In short, she worked hard as an actress minus the top billing. This was fine with Ward for the most part; after all, she happily spoiled her brood at home and earned enough to pay the bills. She knew little of what would await her when in 2007 she signed to take on the character Kate Howard…only there was a twist: The woman known as Kate owned a hidden past as Connie Falconeri from Bensonhurst and the very first love of Port Charles' mob kingpin Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard).
Before long, Ward's friendly smile and vulnerable eyes could be seen in print on a daily basis; not to mention the fact that Kate/Connie's pairing with Sonny turned out to be one of the hottest couplings GH has seen in some time – its fan base refers to itself as Skate- and with her stylish blunt bob she created the type of hair phenomenon last held by Jennifer Aniston and the "Rachel" do. This recipe for Ward's wave of success finally found the perfect ingredients exact in measurement and design.
Ward's faux alter-ego never fooled Sonny who instantly recognized the new lady in town and called her bluff. It wasn't long before the "real" Connie came to the forefront carrying her easy embarrassment, tidy tenderness, dreamer's eye and years of Bensonhurst grit. The rest of Port Charles denizens could only see Kate – a fashion maven with a haughty temperament and a sense of nobility that would even make Queen Elizabeth blush. More layers have been revealed over the past year, but there are some, ahem Carly, who refuse to notice the clues.
"The whole trick to Kate whether you sign on to liking her or not is about whether you want to take that journey with a person who has created an identity for herself and who now thinks maybe she can be a better person," sorts out Ward. A more detailed sketch leads the actress to form an even deeper insight: "Kate is a good person. She can be a bitch. Fundamentally, she knows the difference between right and wrong. She chooses when to play the game with fire. Kate is more calm, cool and collected when it comes to confrontation and she's been forced over the past year when those opportunities presented themselves to take the higher road."
As for an analysis on Kate and Sonny's dalliance, Ward confesses that Kate and Sonny have endured more bumpy moments than smooth, but Kate's reappearance in this man's life is not to blame for his every waking decision." There is his pride, ego, heartbreak all mixed into one that Sonny and Kate deal with as a couple on a daily basis," she points out.
Why all the miscommunication and stumbles between these two? Could it be that Kate's agenda is to meld Sonny into who she wants him to be?
Ward immediately jumps in, her cheery voice slightly drowned out by a passing ambulance: "Sonny's decision to leave the mob is not entirely due to Kate; it's very circumstantial. We had to deal with Michael's shooting and all of the choices Sonny made, plus the lack of control he owns combined with his desire to be a better man. I think at this point in time Kate's more than proven her devotion as well as her pure honest love; she's in it because she loves Sonny so much."
"I've been with my husband since I was 18 years old. Our struggles and rewards are all based on our lives continually changing together or be it on our own. We deal with it together. That's how we are as a couple," she offers. "However, I believe Sonny and Kate are dealing with making a new relationship with the memory of the old and the baggage of the years in between."
There is not a bigger threat looming than the possible return of Vanessa Marcil as Brenda, Sonny's friend, lover, confidante... the one woman he could never say no to.
Is Ward worried?
"No," she says matter-of-factly. When we mention the power of Sonny and Brenda, the actress recites her own battle cry which makes us wonder that should Brenda return it doesn't appear as if Kate will allow herself to sink; at least not if Ward can help it.
"The truth is I believe that Connie is Sonny's first love and it's all about getting to who that man really was that wanted to be with Brenda. What's interesting is we'll see the duality of the character now as a grown man -- the man who wants to be and the one he wants to become," offers a logical Ward.
The actress will stop at nothing to attempt to understand the allure of Sonny and Brenda. Yes, she's done her homework as any good pupil would.
"I checked out YouTube because I wanted to know what everyone was talking about (with Sonny and Brenda). I noticed very similar qualities between Maurice and Sonny in the Brenda/Sonny scenes as I do between Maurice and Sonny's scenes with Kate."
In truth, Ward takes all of the gossip in stride. "Fans like to speculate because, after all, it wouldn't be a soap if there was no threat involved." The one good development Ward notices from the chatter is how much viewers appreciate Kate's effect on Sonny. "I've had so many people come up to me and say: ‘Not since Brenda have we seen this Sonny and thank you for bringing this Sonny out again," she giggles.
Let's erase all of Sonny's past conquests for a moment and concentrate on Kate's "secret." It has already been a year and only Sonny is aware of Connie/Kate sharing the same face. When will the news be the talk of Port Charles and the global fashion industry alike? Let's face it, this story is way better than that tabloid's snap of Jax (Ingo Rademacher) and Kate caught on film in a compromising position in the back of a limousine?
"I firmly believe in my gut that the world will know about Connie," assures Ward. "The wedding is really the perfect opportunity to ask some pointed questions like where her family is. I don't think people will miss that opportunity. I don't know how expensive the information chain will be in the immediate future, but I do think we will find out a little bit more about her childhood and her family and where they are now."
The hold out is what makes a reveal spectacular and Ward knows this, reminding us, "I've been patient about (the secret) coming out because I want it to be great when it does. I'm not pushing for it; it's too good a secret and they will eventually need to play that card."
Her only trouble at the moment seems to be winning the approval of costar Benard for her ability to mimic a New York accent.
"He (Maurice) mocks me!" she playfully seethes. "People want me to do Connie (Falconeri) and then I do it and I feel like an asshole!"
The most we've heard of Ward sounding like an inhabitant of one of the Big Apple's largest boroughs is when Kate and Sonny revisited their old neighborhood. This writer being a true New Yorker, I feel it's only fair that I pass judgment but before I can offer any criticism at all, Ward chooses to prove her talent goes right to the task and disconnects her Valley voice for a hard New York rebuttal using one of the lines she had to memorize for the aforementioned scenes:"I wasn't suure," she announces, placing extra emphasis on the "u" in "sure" that allows for a curt reminiscence warmly welcomed to the people hanging out on their stoops during the summer.
Two other factors Ward has going for her in the competition is her ability to talk at a rapid speed; this is as common to homegrown New Yorkers as conversations told through hand gestures.
Then, of course, there is the crème de le crème. Ward can repeat the proper way to say coffee after only a few directions. Now, should you hear Kate talk of Sonny's coffee business it'll sound as if it is coming from the real deal.
What does the real deal sound like in New York? Caaaawwwwfffeee.
Ward's got it down. What about you, Mr. Benard?