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IMAGE: Genie Francis
Genie Francis is finding the joy in a darker role on daytime television. The "General Hospital" legend is jumping to a new role on 'The Young  and the Restless."
updated 5/23/2011 9:14:29 PM ET 2011-05-24T01:14:29

Genie Francis is finding the joy in a darker role on daytime television.

On and off since the late 1970s, Francis had played the long-suffering Laura Spencer on "General Hospital," half of the soap super-couple Luke and Laura. But in an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in February, she mentioned she would only return to the show if changes were made to her character.

She said she hoped the "GH" producers would contact her after she made the comment. Instead, she got a call from Maria Bell, the co-executive producer and head writer of "The Young and the Restless."

Bell had in mind a character, Genevieve Atkinson, who is the antithesis of Laura Spencer.

"She spoke about how she was tired of sort of playing a victim and playing that character where things happen to them where they don't really make things happen," Bell said of Francis. "I wanted to create a character that really was much more a mover and a shaker."

Francis liked the idea and signed on to join the show, sending shockwaves among the soap industry. Her first episode will air Friday.

"It's so freeing to let your dark side shine for a minute and when you do a scene when you've been really evil, when the scene ends, you laugh. ... It's just fun," said Francis.

Bell carefully weighed whether to add a new character.

"We already have such an incredibly strong cast — to add a character is a major decision," she said. "A lot of fans really just want to see their favorites. ... I knew it would be an exciting addition to weave her into the canvas among all these other strong people."

Longtime "Y&R" fan Ayala Rosenberg of Bay City, N.Y., says the fact that the show's core characters stay on the front-burner is one reason she loves the show.

"The main characters are still there. They're getting older but getting better," she said. "The acting is superb. I know (of Genie Francis) from many years ago on 'General Hospital.' I'm sure she'll blend in nicely because she's a pro."

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Lisa Lewis of Barrington, Ill., is a fan of both "Young and the Restless" and "General Hospital." She's fine with Francis trying something new.

"I can't wait to see what she does and who she interacts with," she said. "I will not miss seeing her as Laura!"

"The Young and the Restless" has been the No. 1 daytime drama since 1988, according to Nielsen.

Should Francis have stayed on "GH," or is "Y&R" the place for her? Discuss on our Facebook page for The Clicker TV blog.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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