On April 1, GH will mark its 55th year on the air, a milestone it will celebrate in grand style, according to Executive Producer Frank Valentini.

“Fifty-five is historic,” Valentini declares. “We’re the longest-running scripted show on the air right now and going strong, and I think it’s very exciting for the audience to have something like that, whether they’ve watched for 55 or 5 or 15 or 35 [years]. We work tirelessly to make sure that it’s the best that it can possibly be at any given moment.”

While he is coy about specifics where the anniversary is concerned (“You know I don’t like to give anything away”), the return of familiar faces is high on his agenda. “We’re always trying to honor the history and unfortunately, sometimes people are just not available, so that can be really challenging,” he notes. “But in the case of someone like Robin, we try and work with Kimberly’s [McCullough] directing schedule, and there are some really fun fan returns in the winter, and the spring, coming up. I think people’s heads will explode a little bit.”

The show continues to benefit from the positive buzz generated by Steve Burton’s return last year to the role of Jason. “I think it’s been great,” he enthuses. “The fans are excited to see how this story is going to play out. It’s great having Steve back. He’s a terrific actor and Jason is such a fascinating character. It’s been great to see the fans buzzing about it. When the fans are talking about the show, that means they’re watching the show, and that’s what we want.”

Tamara Braun’s comeback, albeit in a new role, Kim, and not her original GH persona, Carly, has also been successful, but Valentini has no plans to make similar casting moves with other past stars. “I don’t think it’s a trend, per se,” he offers. “I think Tamara is an extraordinary actress and she’s kind of a unicorn out there. She’s someone who could pull it off. I’m not saying other people couldn’t, but I think she’s pretty spectacular. I always try and add additional great actors to GENERAL HOSPITAL because the cast is so stellar as it is, you simply can’t mix in someone who’s not good. You just need to have someone who is up to their level and Tamara is more than up to the task.”

More pop-ins by alumni of ONE LIFE TO LIVE and ALL MY CHILDREN are a possibility. “If it makes sense and it works, we’re definitely open to it. We just brought [OLTL’s] Nora [Hillary B. Smith] back again. That was really fun and I think it was great for the audience. I think it has to work within not only the GENERAL HOSPITAL universe but also the ABC Daytime universe, as well, so that we honor the other shows. We would never want to do something that didn’t honor those two shows.”

The EP has been pleased with the tenure thus far of Chris Van Etten, who was named co-head writer alongside Shelly Altman when Jean Passanante retired last summer. “Chris was my assistant at ONE LIFE [where Valentini also served as EP] and he was always incredibly bright and insightful. I think that Jean and Shelly did such an amazing job — and, of course, Ron [Carlivati, former head writer, who is now at DAYS] when we first started on this show — did such a brilliant job. I think they all, just one person after the next, have just been taking what the previous person has written and doing such a good job with it, and Chris and Shelly are continuing that tradition. Chris is very unique in his storytelling and he complements Shelly in a way that I knew was going to work, but even I’m thrilled at the outcome.”

Van Etten and Altman are currently penning perhaps daytime’s most-discussed love triangle, Drew/Sam/Jason. “To do [triangles] in a way that’s unique and refreshing isn’t always easy, but it’s something that Shelly and Chris really wanted to do and I think it has worked like gangbusters,” Valentini praises. “Of course, credit to the actors — Kelly [Monaco, Sam] and Billy [Miller, Drew] and Steve — for doing such a great job. How that triangle affects the rest of the canvas has been done really well by the writers and I think that’s very important because it also affects Michael and Sonny and Carly and Bobbie and Alexis, all the kids. It also affects Liz and Franco, so that’s fun, too.”

As for highlights of his own time at the helm of the show — he just hit the fiveyear mark — Valentini says, “I feel like the anniversary show with Luke in 2015 was a big deal. That was really great. Winning the Emmy [for Outstanding Daytime Drama] two years in a row; that was pretty fun. That was very special to me personally.”

His message to fans on the eve of GH’s big anniversary is simple. “I would say thank you, first of all, and you have great taste! And please keep us going for 55 more. Let’s start by getting to 70. That’s our next goal.”