Genie Francis

It’s the comeback that General Hospital fans have been waiting for: the Emmy-winning Genie Francis, who spent a little over a year on The Young and the Restless, will return to the ABC soap that made her a household name, EW has learned exclusively.

Francis just closed a deal to reprise her role as Laura Spencer for the drama’s 50th anniversary this year. She’ll report to the sudser’s Los Angeles, Calif., set sometime later this month for a Feb. 11 debut, which is actually 50 days before the series’ April 1 anniversary.

It’s unclear how long Francis, a.k.a. Laura, will stick around Port Charles this time.

Speculation about Francis returning to GH fired up as soon as she left Y&R in November, where she played Genevieve Atkinson since May of 2011. “Everywhere I was being asked!” Francis tells EW. Turns out executive producer Frank Valentini was definitely interested in staging a comeback for Francis, who worked on GH from 1976 to 2008, but they made the decision to wait for the right time.

“I don’t know what the story is,” she says. “I have no idea, but Frank is very persuasive, energetic, infectious and has a sense of fun, a positive-ness that makes you want to work for the guy. He assured me there was going to be nice stuff to play. I am choosing to believe him!”

Francis had only one caveat — that there be an explanation for why she was gone from Port Charles for so long. In the GH world, Laura has three kids: Lulu and Lucky with Luke Spencer, and Nikolas with Stavros Cassadine. “It’s not for me to tell them how to run their show. But my biggest concern was that there had to be a good reason for me to stay away from my family,” Francis says.

Here’s a clip from the last time GH fans saw her on the sudser: