''General Hospital'' head writer Bob Guza Jr. talks about the soap's decision to have 12-year-old Michael take a bullet as a result of all the mob violence that's infected Port Charles in recent years

By Abby West
April 09, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT
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On last Friday?s (April 4) General Hospital Michael Corinthos III, the 12-year-old son of local mob kingpin Sonny, was accidentally shot in the head, stunning even hardened GH fans, who are no strangers to gunplay on the ABC soap. Mobsters have fought over the apparently perfectly-positioned territory in the show’s fictional town of Port Charles, NY for years. Still, even on a show known for violence, the shooting of a child is a risky move. But head writer Bob Guza Jr. says it plays into a larger theme he wants to promote.

”We’ve been accused before of glorifying violence,” Guza says. ”But we always try to show the consequences. We do deal with mobsters. We can’t just have them importing illegal tchatchkes from the Far East and getting a slap on the wrist. You’ve got to deal with the fact that they kill people and people are killed all around them.”

Violence is nothing new in Michael’s life. Just recently, the boy (played by Dylan Cash since 2002) bought a gun and bullets off of street peddlers and accidentally shot his father’s girlfriend. He ran away without calling 911, only to return later and have everyone, including the victim, forgive him. He was never made to admit his guilt to the authorities or get therapy.

That storyline was actually written and played out while Guza participated in the 100-day writers’ strike, but when the scribe returned, he decided that the best way to address the fans’ unhappiness about the lack of real repercussions for Michael’s act of violence was to have Michael take a bullet himself. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s all in time for May sweeps.

”I like it from an emotional standpoint. I also like it from a responsible standpoint,” Guza says. ”Twelve-year-olds shouldn’t be picking up guns; I don’t care if your father is a gangster. And if they do, there’s got to be a consequence. We make directly culpable the people who love him most.”

Not only will this make his parents, Sonny and Carly, stop and look at the consequences of their actions, but it will also ripple out to his stepfather, Jax, mob enforcer Jason, who’s been a constant in Michael’s life, and a myriad of ancillary characters who bear some responsibility or connection to Michael: Max, Dianne, Patrick, Robin, Rick, the Zacharas (who are indirectly behind the hit). As Johnny Zaccharra said on Monday’s episode, the blame rests on all of them ”who kill each other for power and money and turn around and lie and say that we have honor, that we protect family, that women and children are safe.”

”It will play out for months. It’s a major, major thing. And the ripple effect to the emotional lives of the characters is going to go on for maybe years,” said Guza. ”You’re going to see relationships shatter, new relationships forged out of grief and a need to understand the un-understandable. That’s the only way you can justify doing it. The way it would happen in real life, it would have that kind of ripple effect. We tried, in our way, to duplicate it on the show.”

Will the show use the shooting as an opportunity to age up Michael and replace 13-year-old Cash?
Guza (who is keeping mum on Michael’s fate) doesn’t believe he’s necessarily locked into keeping Cash playing Michael forever, but he does say that having the same actor play a character straight through from childhood raises the dramatic potential (just look at Kimberly McCollough’s Robin).

Does this mean the end of the mob violence? Is this the start of kinder, gentler GH?
”We’re not going to make them all go in the garment business. That is not what this story is about,” Guza says. ”The show is about romance during wartime, for lack of a better term. We have the highest stakes possible because people can be killed. We’re not going to ignore that. We’re not going to go away from that. But we’re going to make them very, very aware of the consequences and make them try to deal in nonviolent ways.”

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