After the All My Children TCA panel, I joined a group of reporters who surrounded Susan Lucci. Daytime’s most famous actress generously took the time to discuss her close bond with series creator Agnes Nixon, Erica’s relationship with Ryan, and why she feels AMC needs to bring Jack back. Her diplomatic allusions to the audience’s hatred of the Ryan and Erica romance suggest that if she ever tires of acting, she’d have great success in public relations.
Can you talk about the bond between you and Agnes?
I was just so lucky to have Agnes in my life. I knew whoever wrote that audition scene was brilliant. I knew I was in good hands. I didn’t know who Agnes Nixon was at the time. I was just out of school. She was the first career woman: bright, dynamic, raising children, that I’d met personally. I would observe her. She doesn’t know it, but she really mentored me… We didn’t have a lot of contact for many, many years. Sometimes we’d both be invited to speak at events. Sometimes we’d ride the train together. I just found her to be a fascinating person and a woman who was willing to share her life experience with me. She’s fantastic. Her sense of humor is intact.
When you prepared to perform that scene with Agnes 40 years after it aired, did you remember it?
I had to memorize it [again], but I remembered it as being a scene from the first couple weeks I was on the show. Agnes sent that scene to me several months ago before we knew that the show would be moving, before we knew there would be any kind of a symposium here or for the New York Times. In two short pages Agnes wrote and expressed that character of Erica Kane, the Mona character and the relationship between them. The fact that Agnes 40 years later had sent it to me, and put a little post-it on top… I had planned at that time, to frame it. Well, I’m still going to frame it. But in the mean time I was asked if I would perform it as her playing Mona. You can’t imagine what a thrill that is for me.
How will Thorsten Kaye’s departure impact All My Children?
Oh, I miss Thorsten myself already. I’m sure the audience is going to miss him. I do hope somehow they could find a way [for him to return.]
How much fun has it been to play the cougar?
They didn’t write it as a cougar. They wrote [Ryan and Erica] as more of a romantic love. That was an interesting take on things. I think in the beginning the press thought it would be a cougar story. I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think the audience believes in it as a long term relationship. But I don’t think the characters necessarily do either. But it’s a genuine feeling for each other… Erica’s at a place where she’s reclaiming herself. Going to Ryan came out of a lot of vulnerability for her. Ryan going to Erica came out of a lot of vulnerability for him. Erica’s cleaning house. I think it started with Erica and Jack. I think Africa opened her eyes tremendously to many things, one of them being to remember who she is and to grab life by the horns and go for it. I think we’re going to see the Erica that the audience loves. Erica’s always been very active and not reactive.
Has your own growth cycle been concurrent with Erica’s?
I think there is something to that. I grew up with her. I think it’s been very fortunate for me to grow up in such a way.
At this point in your career, what validates the work for you?
I value the opinions of the very talented people that I work with. When our directors our happy. When the crew applauds or laughs at the jokes, then you know. I almost never see my work because we’re going on to the next one.
Are there any past relationships of Erica’s that you’d like to see the show revisit?
I believe they’re going to explore more with Jack and Erica because that was just dropped. A lot was left unfinished. The audience is very invested in that. I don’t really know what will happen but I think there has to be more explored between them. Whether or not it works for Erica and Jack, I think Jack’s been missing from the canvas.