July 17, 2010 — -- James Franco is an artist working on multiple levels -- movie star, heartthrob and now ... soap star.
"I'm very interested in the structure of soap operas," the actor told ABC News' "Good Morning America," reflecting on his recent role on the daytime soap "General Hospital."
The long list of movie stars who have appeared on soap operas includes Demi Moore, Alec Baldwin, Julianne Moore and even Brad Pitt. But they all did it before they become movie stars.
In Franco's case, he already stars in blockbusters such as the "Spider-Man" films that make him millions and indie films that win him acclaim. He also is an artist who just opened a show two weeks ago in Manhattan.
So Franco's reasons for doing "General Hospital" are anything but conventional.
"It was a different form of entertainment that I had ever worked in," he told "GMA." "There were performances with different levels and intention that can get audiences thinking in a different way than just about a fictional story."
Delve deeper, and he'll explain that the whole thing is a piece of art -- not just the show, not just his performance, but the whole idea of him in a show giving a performance.
His character's name? Franco. Occupation? Artist.
It's so meta one can barely process it -- or as he says, it's "blurring the lines.
"I thought if I went on a soap opera maybe that would add something, maybe that would shake something up," he said about his character, who's also a serial killer.
If it seems like Franco is a deep thinker, he is. He's got a degree from UCLA, studied writing at Columbia University and film at NYU. And the paparazzi don't bust him out late partying. Instead, he's been snapped taking a nap in class.
"I don't get much sleep," he said. "I am very busy. But five or six years ago, I hit this point where I was very grateful for my acting career. But I knew I needed something more and I knew I had other interests, and I thought, 'You know what? You only have one life.'"
James Franco: Artist, Student, Teacher
Soon, the student will become a teacher, though he was vague with the details.
"I am going to teach at Yale," he said. "It's in the works. I have a very special class I will be teaching next January."
But first, Franco will be back in Hollywood starring this summer alongside Julia Roberts in the big-budget film "Eat Pray Love."
And then, in a smaller film this fall, he'll play the beat poet Allen Ginsberg in "Howl," named after the well-known poem written by the poet.
As for his soap career, his character exits this month, but not before Franco got to do some acting alongside his mother, Betsy Franco, an actress who joined the ensemble as her son did.
"She saw me acting, and my brother started acting, and I think she wanted to get in on it," Franco said.
Her character? You guessed it: his mother.