Emily McLaughlin was cast as one of the original leading actresses on the series, previously having played Dr. Ellen Seaton on Young Dr. Malone.Registered nurse Jessie Brewer spoke the opening line of the premiere episode, "Seventh floor, nurses station," a phrase that became a staple in the show's early years. The series' original premise centered around the drama of Brewer and Dr. Steve Hardy's personal lives and experiences at General Hospital. When she died on April 26, 1991, the show wrote in the character's off-screen death. Actor and friend John Beradino (Steve Hardy) gave an on-air announcement and moment of silence the week after her death.
In 1976, while McLaughlin was on medical leave for internal bleeding, photographer and actress Aneta Corsaut stepped in to play Brewer for a six-week period. Corsaut felt she had big shoes to fill, as she said to the Ocala Star-Banner, "I know everyone on the show practically worships her, which made it difficult for me at first."
Jessie Brewer is regarded as one of the integral aspects of the early years of General Hospital. Gary Warner, author of General Hospital: The Complete Scrapbook, told the Los Angeles Times in 1995: "A lot of people don't even know how important a character [Jessie] was. Pivotal for exactly 15 years. From 1963 to the late '70s, Jessie was it. She got me into soaps. I just remember being mesmerized by her eyes, those sad eyes. Anything and everything that could possibly go wrong in her life went wrong."