Actress Kimberly McCullough recalled a turning point in her young career when she refused to do a “long kiss” in an episode of General Hospital because she was only 14 at the time and the other actor was 22. Inspired by the recent story of the Duffer brothers surprising young actress Sadie Sink with an on-screen kiss in an episode of Stranger Things, McCullough penned a passionate blog post detailing her own experience.
“When I was 14, I had only kissed one boy in real life,” the actress recalled. “So when I read in the GH script that I was to have a ‘long kiss’ with an older boy when he dropped me at home after a date, I became sick to my stomach in anticipation. I showed up to set that day to find out the guy I was supposed to make out with was 22 years old. I was 14! The boy I had kissed in real life was my same age and despite growing up on a soap opera and working with adults my whole childhood, kissing a 22-year-old man felt dangerous and wrong.”
McCullough also related that during rehearsals, the guest actor — who she doesn’t name — joked around with another male actor about having condoms for the date and making other vulgar remarks. “Never mind how disrespectful and inappropriate this conversation was,” she declared, “it wasn’t in the script! This guest actor felt entitled to make crude remarks in rehearsal with no fear of being fired. I, on the other hand, knew that if I made a stink about it, I’d be the one who would be fired. I’m the one who had the contract with GH. I was the minor in the situation. This was my story. And I was afraid of the potential consequences of speaking up.”
However, during the next break, she went to the fifth floor to speak to the producer at the time, Gloria Monty, who unfortunately told the young star that she had to do the kiss because it was in the script and she should be grateful to work opposite such a talented actor. “The actor did go on to do big movies, so she was right about that,” Kimberly admitted. “Gloria mentioned that Genie Francis (Laura) began doing love scenes when she was only a year older than I, and this scenario was very tame in comparison. I found out later that Genie’s character was date raped and she later fell in love with her rapist, so yeah… I would have to agree with Gloria. Very tame compared to that. Either way, I didn’t want to do it.”
Kelly recalled being unable to eat at lunch because her stomach was all tied up in knots, but that her mother had told her not to do the kiss if she didn’t want to, even if it meant being fired from the soap. “When it came time to do the scene, I refused to kiss him,” she revealed. “With the director and the crew watching me, I stood my ground. He kissed me on the cheek instead of the ‘long kiss’ at the end of the scene. Yes, it was a small victory on my part, but I’m sure people called me ‘difficult’ as a result. These are the labels that are often put on young women. If we stand up for ourselves we are called ‘difficult’ or ‘little divas.’ So it’s no surprise to me that to this day, young actresses are still caught up in this same type of dilemma.”
But with more and more women moving into positions of power in show business — Kelly is now a director herself — and speaking up about sexual harassment, hopefully these situations will not be as frequent as they once were. “The tide is rising and this isn’t right,” she declared. “Its behavior is part of a culture that must die.”
This story originally appeared on our sister site, ABC Soaps in Depth.