James Franco’s guest stint — or metaphysical investigation into the hall-of-mirrors recursion of celebrity, take your pick — on General Hospital was one of the few times in recent history that daytime television broke out into mainstream discussion, and it’s hard to argue that the spotlight wasn’t a boon for the genre.
Soap operas, like regular operas and (thanks to John Carter) space operas, aren’t doing so well these days. Dwindling down one by one thanks to network attrition, some of these cancelled shows had been on the air long enough to almost qualify for AARP membership. So it can only be good news to fans of the format that Franco will be returning for another run, and soon. The actor’s already-announced arc on the new primetime soap Hollywood Heights has gotten a date: Franco’s first episode will debut June 29, less than two weeks after the show’s official June 18 premiere on Nick at Nite. (A preview of the first episode debuts tonight.) “James’ manager Miles Levy contacted us and asked if we had a role for him,” says producer Jill Farren Phelps, who previously worked with Franco on General Hospital. “We thought he was joking at first, but he really wanted to come back.” The role they ended up concocting was that of Osborne “Oz” Silver, an outrageous Hollywood movie producer, which will certainly give him thematic room to continue his odd micro-experiments in fame. “We wanted to give him a character he could have fun with,” says Phelps.
As for whether or not we could see additional episode runs from Franco on Hollywood Heights as we did on General Hospital, she says they plan on keeping his seat warm. “Are you kidding me? There’s always a spot for James here.”