'General Hosptial' Pays Tribute to Late Sean Donelly Actor John Reilly

General Hospital will be airing a special stand-alone episode in honor of late actor John Reilly, [...]

General Hospital will be airing a special stand-alone episode in honor of late actor John Reilly, who portrayed the famous Sean Donelly on the show for 11 years. Reilly died in January of a heart attack, his daughter Catelin Reilly said. The actor was 86 years old.

Executive producer Frank Valentini claims there was no question as to if the show would honor the long-time actor –– only a matter of how. He says he and the team began planning the special shortly after the news was announced earlier this year. "When we heard that John Reilly had passed away, the writers and I were discussing a way that we could honor him. We thought maybe we could dedicate an episode [to his memory], and I said, 'It feels like it's something that could be a little bit bigger. Why don't you guys take some time about it?' And then they came up with the idea to do a whole show around it, with all of our fan favorites being involved — Felicia, Scorpio, Mac, Anna — and we just thought that could be kind of interesting," Valentini said, per Soap Opera Digest. "They put together the entire idea for the show, and when we were talking about casting it, I knew that Caitlin Reilly was an actress and we just reached out and asked if she wanted to be part of it. She was really flattered and so eager to do it. She was just amazing to work with; very, very touched by what we were doing to honor her dad. I think it was also important because it's also a way for the people who still work on the show who knew John and were very fond of John to sort of mourn the loss of his life. People got to tell stories and it was a lovely day. Everybody worked really hard on it and we put a lot of muscle and a lot of money behind this episode, so I'm excited for the audience."

The episode will focus largely on Reilly's daughter Catelin, who will step into the role of his on-screen child Annie –– whom he shares with Tiffany. The younger Reilly was eager to take on the task when producers approached her, co-head writer Chris Van Etten explains. "When we were so fortunate to find out that Caitlin was game for this, it seemed like we had a great opportunity to give the audience a glimpse of a greater General Hospital universe, so that John Reilly and Sean may be gone, but his character lives on in another character, and that she is able to help give his legacy new life, new breath, going into the future of General Hospital."

The writer goes on to promise that fans will certainly see aspects of both of her fictional parents in the upcoming episode. Reilly apparently greatly enjoyed the experience and playing her character as well. "She is super-fascinating and cool and I'm not going to give away her story or what's going on, [but] it's super-interesting," she gushed. "It's definitely the beginning of something for her, which is really cool. She's developing this very interesting relationship with Finola's [Hughes] character, Anna, who she is named after, and so that could go somewhere. Who knows? We'll see! But she's definitely wanting to follow in her father's footsteps."