It isn’t a good day to be Nathan Varni. The ABC executive in charge of scripted series, including General Hospital, is in hot water for possibly breaking ABC’s code of silence regarding behind-the-scenes information that should not be leaked to the public.
The debacle began when rumors surfaced via Daytime Confidential that longtime cast member Rebecca Herbst had reached an impasse with ABC during contract negotiations. She has been public about her struggles with the way the storyline for her character, Elizabeth Webber, has been written in the past few years.
It is crucial for studio executives to lock in her contract, because she has a main storyline with Jason Morgan (Billy Miller) regarding their disturbed son. To add more flames to the fire, the website also mentioned that NBC was eager to sign Herbst as a possible replacement for the character of Abby, formerly played by Kate Mansi, on Days of Our Lives.
With the rumors going around about Herbst, all hell broke loose on the journalistic side once it was revealed that Varni had broken network code. He talked in a private message with a fan on Facebook about the actress’s contract negotiations and then @WubsNet, a General Hospital fan account, published that message on Twitter.
"We’ve done everything we possibly can to entice her to say [sic] and now it is Becky’s final decision,” Varni wrote to the unnamed fan. “I would hope the fans of GH would be more mature to stick with us if a certain actor or actress leaves. But at the end of the day I respect people’s decision not to watch and we can all watch GH sail into the sunset.”
The executive goes on to say in the message that the soap needs as much support as possible and encourages the fan to keep watching.
Once that message was made public on Feb. 13, Varni took action by posting a rebuttal on Facebook, claiming his account was hacked. He mentioned that he will no longer be answering private messages.
"Thank you all for your understanding in that ALL private messages will no longer be returned,” he wrote. “As always thank you for your viewership of General Hospital.”
Fans went wild on social media reacting to his faux pas. It was hard to find a Varni supporter in the bunch.
Every actor at #GH should be livid that their Current Series Exec DMs fans & goes on podcasts to discuss their negotiations.— Jamey_Giddens (@Jamey_Giddens) February 13, 2016
Most networks have a strict policy with the media regarding contract negotiations. Most journalists find themselves met with the stereotypical response of “no comment.” So why was Varni allowed to run his loose lips on this matter?
There has been no official word from ABC Daytime, so it is unclear if Varni was punished for his misdeed or the hacked excuse was a plausible one. Fans sit around waiting to hear about Herbst’s next move: will it be back to GH, or over to DOOL to hang with residents of Salem?
Stay tuned — this drama isn’t over yet.
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