Sarah Brown waved goodbye to daytime three years ago. So how does she really feel about GH? And what really brought her to ATWT?

Sarah Brown is in a New York state of mind. After some apartment mishaps and delays, she and her 6-year-old daughter Jordan are finally getting settled in the Big Apple. “I totally love it,” smiles Brown, who debuted as As The World Turns’ mysterious nurse Julia Larrabee last month. “I don’t want to go home, ever. I like L.A. but this is so much more me.”

The new New Yorker is also getting reacclimated to daytime. She originated the role of Carly on General Hospital in 1996, won three Daytime Emmys, and since leaving daytime has racked up an ever-growing list of prime-time appearances and roles in TV-movies and independent films. Which begs the question: Why come back?

“I didn’t anticipate a return to daytime,” admits Brown. “But when the opportunity presented itself, it made more sense to take on a job at a different show than to go back to my previous show. Not that it wouldn’t be a challenge to step back into a role you’ve been vacant from for three years, but it’s more of a challenge to take on a completely new role in a new working environment in a new city.”

Brown and her daughter relocated to be closer to her former fiance, Shuki Levy, who is Jordan’s father. Levy is working on the musical Masada, which is slated to premiere later this year on Broadway. “We moved here together so that Jordan could be here with both of us,” explains Brown. “When you are in a situation where two parents have joint custody of a child it becomes difficult. I looked into getting a job in New York to have my daughter near her father and myself, and at the same time have the opportunity to explore this great city. I’ve wanted to live here all of my life.”

As for her relationship with Levy, “We are very good friends,” reports Brown. “We’re living in the same building three floors apart. It’s very amicable. We love each other. We had a beautiful baby and she’s the most important thing. It’s okay to admit defeat, but it’s not okay ever to hold on to that stuff when you’ve got a child involved. To hold on to any of the negativity is just not healthy for the kid. Regardless of whatever our personal problems were, he’s a great dad and that’s what matters.”

Getting back into the daytime swing was a challenge, especially since ATWT does things differently than GH. “I was nervous about going back to daytime, to be honest,” she confesses. “My first week of the show I was a mess. I couldn’t get it. I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. This is too fast. Can we rehearse this just for fun?’ And they did. They were really gracious. (Executive producer) Chris Goutman said, ‘Let’s do a dry rehearsal for Sarah’ for the first week. I’m very grateful for that and I’ve definitely got my feet under me now. But it took a couple of days.”

Brown also got help from her new co-star. “Michael Park (Jack) is a blast,” she raves. “He is hysterical. He’s so warm. From day one he took me under his wing and said, ‘Follow me, babe. I’m going to lead you through this.'”

Brown is just as happy with her new alter ego. “I love the character,” she maintains. “I’m very happy with the twists and turns that they’ve developed slowly. I’m finding out who she is and where she has been. When I got the scripts for the third week, I sat home on my bed on a Friday night and just bawled my eyes out all night long because I thought, ‘Wow, this is so touching, and sad, and poignant, and ironic, and really well-written.'”

Looks like Jack and Julia are headed for romance. “We fall madly in love,” previews Brown. “It’s not just a love story, there’s chaos. And in the midst of this chaos there is this blooming romance that is really beautiful.”

This isn’t the first time Brown has created romance on daytime. Her pairing with Maurice Benard’s Sonny on GH became an instant fan favorite. “We worked our butts off,” shares Brown, who still keeps in touch with Benard. “I was grateful that the fans responded and loved the couple.”

Those same fans freaked, however, when Brown left GH in 2001 to pursue other opportunities. “It was a bittersweet parting,” she reflects. “One of my fears was that I wasn’t making a difference with my work because in daytime it’s on and then it’s gone. But even to this day I have people who pay the most incredible and warm compliments by saying, ‘I’ll never forget that scene where blah, blah, blah.’ The fact that they still remember it even though they don’t see it, or they taped it and watch it over and over again, is very fulfilling.”

But Brown has moved on from GH. “I am nostalgic about it now and then, but I don’t miss playing Carly,” she asserts. “What I was looking for when I left was to get into playing different characters, to explore the other aspects of my personality and to be able to put on many hats.”

She admits she was thrown when GH recast the role with Tamara Braun. “It’s hard for me to see somebody in a role that I created,” she relates. “I felt like they were trying to pull the wool over [the viewers’ eyes] as if nobody would notice, changing [Braun’s] hair color, putting her makeup on the same way, and putting the clothes on the same way. I turned the show on after I left and she was wearing one of my dresses. I was like, ‘Oh, my God. This is plagiarism.’ I was offended at first, but I understand the big picture. The show must go on. I hold no grudge against General Hospital and certainly not against Tamara. She’s just doing her job. And yet, they didn’t recast many of the other characters. I had a hard time swallowing it.

“They knew that I wasn’t coming back,” she adds. “It wasn’t a question of, ‘Well, maybe she’ll come back in a little while.’ I made it real clear that I was done. As much as I loved the experience and was grateful for it, for my own personal sanity I needed to get out and do something else. That couple was incredibly successful for the show and for them to have killed it off would have been a little disastrous at the time. It made a lot more sense to do it the way they did it.”

Brown believes the transition could have been better handled. “Tamara had some wonderfully complimentary things to say to me when I met her that instantly opened my heart to her,” reveals Brown, who wishes the two had met much earlier than they did. “When I left I asked them to let me meet with whoever they decided to hire, to help them in their process. I felt like I could give some input that would be helpful. I pride myself on the idea that I’m a better director than I am an actor so I felt like I had something to give, but they did not take me up on the offer unfortunately. When I met with Tamara she said to me, ‘I asked them if I could speak to you and they said no.’ They put a roadblock up there that probably did not behoove them. They might have been better served if they had let us talk to each other.” (GH had no comment.)

After leaving GH, Brown appeared on a number of prime-time series including Without A Trace and Crossing Jordan, and she’s just wrapped the independent film Heart of the Beholder, a true story about a couple who owned a video store and were targeted by a religious group for renting what the group considered to be questionable movies. “They literally lost everything,” notes Brown, who was moved when she read the script. “Howard Stern had just been fined by the FCC and there were so many different cases in the news about censorship. Read more about the story on the Web site (www.beholder.com) to get an idea of what happens. The cast was fantastic. I worked six days a week for a month straight and I was never happier.”

Yet it’s not all work and no play. The actress is single and declares she is ready for love. So what is she looking for? “A nice Jewish boy to win my heart,” she grins. “It’s part of the reason why I wanted to live here. I’ll hopefully find the love of my life because it’s a lot easier to meet a nice Jewish boy in New York than it is in L.A.”

And who knows? Maybe she’ll end up sticking around ATWT and New York. “It’s possible,” she shrugs. “I can’t speculate at this point but nothing is out of the realm of possibility. I certainly love the people that I’m working with and I’m very, very happy.”

Brown on Brown

GH fans might not recognize Brown at first since she’s now sporting a darker hair color. “It’s definitely more me,” she declares. “As soon as I dyed my hair dark brown I worked nonstop. I would book four guest-stars a month and then I booked all these movies. The only thing was I booked the Laci Peterson movie (Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story) as a brunette but they asked that I dye my hair blond because they didn’t want me to look like Laci Peterson. I was pregnant in the movie and I have a really big smile, so they thought that in the previews it might give the audience the idea that I was Laci, and they didn’t want that because she’s not in the movie. So I had to dye my hair blond for that but I immediately went back to brunette as soon as that was done.”

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