James Franco will appear in more than 10 episodes of General Hospital, executive producer Jill Farren Phelps told EW exclusively. On Franco’s first day of taping Oct. 30, the Milk co-star filmed 65 pages – “pretty Herculean in terms of memorization,” Phelps said. He’ll return to the set two more times in preparation for his Nov. 20 debut as a mystery guy who comes to Port Charles. Here’s an exclusive shot of Franco with guest star Marsha Thomason (Las Vegas) from his first day on the set. His role will play out over a two-month period.

“When we first talked to James, we asked him if he really knew what he was getting into,” Phelps told EW. “But he was dazzling in terms of being able to memorize his lines. He has a remarkable process. He never forgot his lines.”

Phelps said conversations with Franco began more than six months ago when he indicated through his manager that he wanted to act in a daytime drama (the Golden Globe-winning actor shares the same manager as GH’s Steve Burton). “I was like, really? Are you kidding?” recalls Phelps. “He had heard it was hard and thought it would be fun.”

Franco’s only request was that he’d play an artist who was “a little off,” said Phelps, who declined to reveal more about his mystery character. The groundwork’s already been laid, though, for his much-anticipated arrival: graffiti that reads “CO77X” has popped up around Port Charles. “We’re getting the audience to anticipate something,” Phelps adds. As for Franco’s decision to do the soap, “It takes a lot of humility on the part of an actor to not judge it. He’s really living his life with a lot of curiosity. It’s so nice to have a shot in the arm like this where we get a lot of attention. It’s good for daytime and who knows? Hopefully it’ll open the door for more film stars.”

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/ABC