Then And Now: Hertford in 1989 and today.

For Brighton Hertford, who began playing the late B.J. Jones on GENERAL HOSPITAL when she was just a few months old and remained with the show until the character’s tragic death in 1994, her recent return to the Port Charles universe to take part in the episodes memorializing her former alter ego’s mother, Bobbie, was an emotional homecoming.

Now working in tech and a Utah resident, Hertford has many happy and vivid childhood memories of life on the GH set. “It was so fun, when I was talking with people like Lynn [Herring, Lucy] and Kristina [Wagner, Felicia], to get to kind of regale them with those memories,” Hertford says. “I was so young, but one of the scenes that sticks out to me because we’ve been telling stories about it forever was when Lucy was supposed to be watching B.J., and B.J. drank nail polish remover. I had to pretend like I was dying and choking, but it was really apple juice that was in the nail polish remover bottle. And of course, I remember so much about the family I created there. As you can imagine, being there for the better part of a decade in my formative years had a big impact on me, Brad [Maule, ex-Tony, her on-screen father] and Jackie [Zeman, ex-Bobbie, who passed away last May] being the biggest influences because I spent the most time with them on set. I just remember just how kind everybody was. I mean, I was a little go-getter. I was a high-octane kid with a lot of energy and everybody was really patient and really sweet with me. And, of course, [I remember] the green room with the doughnuts and the bagels; that was a big win for me as well! I loved hanging out in the hair and makeup room, which is where I could sit and talk to the adults and and be treated like one of them. It was just honestly a dream anytime I went there. Really, really good memories. When you are age zero through eight, that’s your second family. Those people are so important to me and always will be. I called Jackie my other mommy or my second mom, you know? Both Jackie and Brad were very, very special to me.”

Hertford, Maule


Daddy’s Girl: On-screen father Brad Maule (ex-Tony) was a major influence on Hertford as a child.

After B.J.’s death prompted Hertford’s exit from GH, she continued to act, doing prime-time episodic work (DAWSON’S CREEK, NYPD BLUE) and film (The Parent Trap), but her life took a big turn in her teenage years. “I was 16 years old and my mom told me, ‘We are leaving California and we are moving to Utah.’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, is that real?!’ So, I moved to Utah and went to Brighton High School — I am not kidding you — and graduated and got a B.S.A. in theater, fell in love with theater, did quite a bit of theater and started teaching at a performing arts high school. After a couple of years of doing that, I landed a job in education technology, and I’ve spent the better part of the last decade building a career for myself in tech. So, very stable, very 9-to-5-ish, and totally different from the entertainment industry. But it’s really been a blessing, especially in the last few years, with the [actors’] strike and Covid, to have that stability. I have a house, I built my own sauna in my backyard because I’m really into health and wellness and fitness and stuff like that, and I made a little home for myself here [in Utah]. But I’m 50% here and then 50% of the time I’m in L.A. because my partner lives out there.” She has kept her toes in show business, as well. “I’ve done a couple of things here and there; I had an indie film go to the Cannes Film Festival a couple of years ago and I was in some little commercials and a couple of films, but nothing within the last couple of years. It’s been pretty heads-down on the tech career!”

In light of her career pivot, GH reaching out to her with an invitation to return was the last thing she was expecting. “Getting that outreach from Mr. Mark Teschner [GH’s casting director] was pretty out of left field,” she marvels. “And very exciting. The initial outreach was [him saying], ‘Hey, just making sure I’ve got the right Brighton here. Is this the Brighton that played B.J. Jones? Because this is Mark Teschner. I don’t know if you remember me.’ And I was like, ‘Mark, of course I remember you. How could I forget you? And to what do I owe this pleasure?’ He said, ‘We’re not 100 percent sure yet, but we’re batting around some ideas about the tribute that we want to pay to Jackie,’ ” who passed away in May 2023. “He told me, ‘Your name has been thrown in the ring and we wanted to see if you’re available. Are you even in the area? I looked you up and it seems like you’re in Utah, and I don’t know if you would be free.’ I was like, ‘Well, this is very serendipitous.’ I already had a flight scheduled and was going to be out in Los Angeles at the time of the projected filming date! I was like, ‘It really seems like this is supposed to happen.’ ”

Hertford candidly admits that her “yes” would not always have been so automatic. “I will be super-honest with you: There were times in my life where I was like, ‘You know, I don’t know if I’m exactly interested in going back into film and TV.’ I had some internal work that I needed to do about that. And, you know, over the last couple of years, I have gotten to be in a really good place where I feel like I could handle it [and] the criticism that comes along with film and television. I was maybe in a little bit more of a fragile place where I was like, ‘I don’t know if I’m ready for that.’ And [at this time] I found myself in a really good place and felt really ready for it. All those things just kind of lined up for the perfect equation, I guess you could say, of me being available, willing, ready and happy to be a part of it.”

Which is not to say that she was completely free of butterflies at the prospect of setting foot back on the GH set. “I was a little nervous in the week before it and then the few days leading up to it,” she says. “But I tried to approach it from a place of really understanding the situation that I was walking into. I didn’t anticipate that I was going to walk in and everyone was going to be like, ‘Huzzah, B.J.! Hello!’ I was not there to be grabby and, you know, ‘the artist formally known as B.J.’ It was a somber occasion and I had reverence for that. I don’t think I had any big expectations about how I would be received. It wasn’t for me, you know what I mean? I felt blessed that I had the opportunity, but it wasn’t about me, it was about Jackie, and I was happy to be there in service of that.” And when it came to getting back into the memorization groove, she chuckles, “I think I was bordering on the verge of being annoying, where I would kept emailing, ‘And when are we going to get the script? Do we have the script? Ready when you’re ready!’ But I know how it goes; they only release them maybe five days before shooting. And I will tell you, probably born out of necessity, being in the entertainment industry from a very young age, I have a real knack for memorizing things quickly. So that [aspect] was okay. But I was also really, really grateful that I talked to Maurice [Benard, Sonny], and he was like, ‘When was the last time you were on a soap set?’ I said, ‘Well, it’s been about 29 years, my friend! It’s been a while!’ He was like, ‘Here’s the drill. If you think you’re prepared, go prepare more. You might get one shot, you might get one take.’ He was giving me all of this really awesome, straight-up advice and I really appreciated him for that.”


Lynn Herring, Brighton Hertford


Playing Catch-Up: Hertford was delighted to reunite with Lynn Herring (Lucy) during her GH comeback.

Hertford had many memorable backstage reunions. “Lynn [Herring] was the first person I saw when I came back into those halls as an adult, 29 years later,” she reports. “I actually touched her on the shoulder and I said, ‘I don’t know if you’re going to remember me or if this is gonna be spooky, but hi, it’s Brighton! It’s B.J.’ And that was the beginning of feeling that same belonging there. I mean, when you look at it on paper, I haven’t been in those halls in 29 years and everybody treated me like I still belong there, specifically the women that I have looked up to so much in my life. I mean, I wanted to be just like them, Jackie and Lynn and Genie [Francis, Laura] and Kristina [Wagner]. I thought they were just the coolest and the nicest and the prettiest and just awesome, you know? And they still are that! It was the most beautiful gift, after being away from television for quite some time, to be able to act across the table from these people that I had looked up to so much.”

She also got to walk down memory lane with some of the show’s behind-the-scenes players. “It was really, really wild to be in the green room and have Mark [Teschner] come in and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you remember me,’ ” she recalls. “I said something like, ‘You’ve gotta stop saying that! Of course I remember you! I know who are you!’ ” Hertford adds that she also had “an awesome conversation” with Associate Casting Director Lisa Booth, who was there during a particularly tender time in her life. “We went through a family tragedy when I was three years old and we lost my dad,” she shares. “Lisa remembered when my family went through that tragedy and she remembers having conversations with my mom about coordinating me being on set a couple of days after my dad’s passing. She had some really amazing things to say about my mom and the woman that she is. It was just a wild, fascinating, wholehearted trip of an experience to be talking to these people who remember me in a different way. I mean, I was a little chipmunk! I was tiny! But to be able to talk to them as an adult now, it’s amazing how different those conversations are. They used to be about everything bagels and pink doughnuts and the frilly skirt that I was going to wear for the Christmas episode and now we were talking about what it means to step away from your career for a little while, to have children, to take a pivot in a different direction and we talked about spirituality and all of this stuff. I just felt so full in my heart after those few days of filming and so blessed to have this beautiful experience with all of these people — the people in front of the camera to the people behind the camera, the women running the wardrobe department who still remember measuring my height on the wall [when I was a kid]. It was beautiful and I feel really lucky that everything worked out the way that it did.”

On the performance side of things, “I’d gone through my lines, I’d workshopped the script, I’d gotten it up on its feet and internalized it and felt in a really good place with the acting part of it,” she muses. “I felt really at peace, and when I walked away [after shooting], I didn’t have that nasty inner critic that I remembered having being like, ‘Oh, I should have done this,’ or, ‘That would have been better, you should have done that.’ It was just like when people talk about sports and they’re like, ‘I left it all on the court.’ I gave it everything, you know? I gave it everything that I thought it needed. I think the hardest part about it all was keeping my emotions in check, especially while the cameras were rolling,” given that the character she was playing didn’t outwardly share the same emotions around Bobbie’s passing. “It wouldn’t have made any sense to have this stranger, this reporter, sobbing in the corner during the funeral, so I had to put those personal feelings in a box, kind of. But, of course, it came out in between scenes and when people were talking about missing Jackie and even when I was having a conversation with Finola [Hughes, Anna], who I also remember having had so much love and admiration for. The filming was incredible, and Frank [Valentini, executive producer] was amazing and I had a great conversation with him, but all the moments in between filming, with all those people who were a really big part of my life and people that I had looked up to a lot, were just as amazing.”



Disney/Christine Bartolucci

The Heart Of The Matter: Hertford on the GH set with Kristen Storms, l., whose Maxie received B.J.’s heart in 1994, and Kristina Wagner (Felicia), B.J.’s aunt.

Nostalgia came in other unexpected forms. “The set still smells the same,” Hertford says. “You wanna talk about a sensory mind trip! It must be the combination of the wood and the sets and the lights and whatever else it might be, but it took me right back. The only thing that was different, visually, is that I was bigger and so the sets were smaller!”

The actress completed filming with a full heart. “After I wrapped that second day, my boyfriend picked me up from set and gave me some flowers because he knew how much this meant to me. And I just started weeping,” she says. “I was just like, ‘I can’t believe how complex my feelings are about this,’ because obviously the reason for me being there is horrible and sad and tragic, to lose such a bright light [in Zeman]. At the same time, it was so joyful. And I was just truly so grateful for the experience.”

Hertford appreciates the warm response her comeback got from viewers. “I just want fans of the show to know that whatever it meant for them, it was just as deeply meaningful for me,” she says. “I feel fortunate to share this experience with people that I don’t even know. GH is one of the biggest experiences of my life. I’m just one person, but it means a lot to me and I feel really lucky to have been a part of the GENERAL HOSPITAL family.”