The 2017 Daytime Emmy Awards will be handed out on April 30, but the winners in the soap opera acting categories have already been decided by blue ribbon panels that viewed sample performance reels. In the race for Best Actress, Nancy Lee Grahn (“General Hospital”) is nominated for the seventh time for playing Alexis Davis, a role she originated in 1996. She won Best Supporting Actress for this role in 2012, and she also won that category back in 1989 for “Santa Barbara.” But she’s still aiming for her first win in the lead category. She’s hoping to check that achievement off her bucket list with scenes involving alcoholism and the betrayals of her husband. Watch her reel above.
Grahn’s submission begins with an angry confrontation: she spent 24 hours in jail for a crime she didn’t commit — what’s more, it was a crime her husband Julian (William deVry) set her up for. Furious at his betrayal, she vows to keep him away from his unborn child.
Afterwards we see the effects of Julian’s actions. Alexis has been driven to drink, and she wakes up in a room after a reckless binge, unsure of whether or not she went home with a stranger she met at a bar. She’s visited by her friend Jax (Ingo Rademacher), who tries to convince her that she needs help.
Then we find Alexis alone in another bar, drinking secretly but found by her loutish husband Julian, who also encourages her to get help and to tell her oldest daughter Sam about her struggles. But Julian is the last person Alexis wants to hear advice from. Before he can call Sam, Alexis takes his phone and throws it against the wall.
The final scene on Grahn’s reel depicts another confrontation between Alexis and Julian. This time she has uncovered a grave truth: that he has killed two men who could have sent him to prison. He claims he did it to protect their marriage, which makes Alexis even more furious. And when he says he still wants to fix their relationship she can only laugh.
Will Grahn win Best Actress with this performance against Gina Tognoni (“The Young and the Restless”), Heather Tom (“The Bold and the Beautiful”), Jess Walton (“Y&R”) and Laura Wright (“GH”)? Let’s consider the pros and cons.
Grahn cycles through a wide range of emotions, from anger to shame, to defiance, to quiet disbelief. She’s even funny at times, particularly during her confrontations with Julian, but she delivers the humor while maintaining the dramatic tension instead of just adding comic relief. That balance is tough to pull off, and it makes Grahn’s performance unique as well as powerful.
Awards voters often love substance abuse storylines, and Grahn is the only nominee in this category who submitted that kind of subject matter, so she may stand out among other reels full of loss and betrayal.
Grahn has been a soap opera veteran for more than 30 years, and this is her ninth overall nomination, so voters may feel she’s due to finally win for the first time as a leading lady.
There are a number of plot details that may be challenging for voters to untangle, from Julian’s various crimes to Alexis’s pregnancy and subsequent alcoholism. The complications in the story may distract from the characters.
The scenes involving Alexis’s alcoholism depict her as in denial of her addiction, so we don’t get the catharsis of an intervention or recovery arc from these scenes, and those are the kinds of moments that often appeal to awards voters.
“GH” is one of the most awarded soaps in Daytime Emmy history, but it has rarely won Best Actress. Only three women from the ABC serial have ever prevailed before, and one of them happens to be Grahn’s current rival Laura Wright.
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