Peter Bergman has played Jack Abbott on ‘The Young and the Restless‘ for over twenty years. The Emmy winning actor and self-described student of daytime is not shy about sharing his opinions, be they about his co-stars, or the show’s storylines. He was in a particularly candid mood when I interviewed him at a Sony sponsored cocktail party during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday. Bergman sounded off on Jack’s unending war with Victor, the decimation and resurrection of the Abbott family and why he actually likes the pressure to tape scenes in one take.
The Abbott family finally has a story again, with Jack aiding Abby in her battle with Ashley and Victor to get her trust fund.
The Abby thing is great fun because she’s a connection to Victor. So through Abby, Jack has access to some amusement. The Billy thing is as good as it gets. Billy Miller is terrific. That connection has been wonderful. He’s kind of what Jack used to be and Jack can’t seem to stop his free fall. Tomorrow I go to work with Eileen Davidson (Ashley) and only Eileen Davidson.
For a while it seemed like the Abbott’s were on the verge of being declared an endangered species.
Oh my God. [Former headwriter and Executive Producer] Lynn Latham, God bless her. She’s a lovely person. She clearly liked me very much, and, during her tenure there, almost killed me, [and] killed the Abbott family. John died, Eileen Davidson was sent away, no mention of Beth Maitland. For Jack, who I’d been playing all these years, family is everything to him. Suddenly, Jack was the Abbott family. It wasn’t the Abbott house. It was Jack’s house.
How do you like working with the new Abby, Marcy Rylan?
Marcy is so wonderful, this little spitfire. I’m one of those three people in daytime who actually watches daytime television. So I was well aware of what she did on ‘Guiding Light.’ The day she showed up I said, ‘Great.’ But even still, she walks in this door she’s got a bag of tricks. She is fantastic and ballsy. I love to watch her go up against Eric Braeden. Eric Braeden is clearly not quite sure what to do with somebody who has a line for every ad lib he ever gives her.
Is Jack going to be allowed a victory? He’s suffered a lot of defeats the past couple years.
I’ve been doing this twenty years now and I’ve been wondering if that was ever going to happen, too. And I’ve stopped wondering. For the audience, I would think they’d say, ‘Oh, Jack’s going up against Victor. We can see this coming down Broadway.’ It’s the same thing all over again. I’m waiting for the next group of writers to come in and say, ‘What if Jack actually won?’ It hasn’t happened in twenty years. I don’t know.
Watch a clip from today’s ‘Y&R’:
It would make Victor more interesting, too. A character who wins fifty percent of the time and loses fifty percent of the time is the most fascinating.
That’s been my argument all the time. What’s fascinating about Muhammad Ali is not that he won every single bout. What’s fascinating about Muhammad Ali is he hit bottom two different times. He had to fight his way back to be the champion three different times. I don’t know who is driving this, but to me it’s so predictable and boring.
Jack’s losing his girlfriend, Emily, since Stacy Haiduk is leaving the show.
Jack has been unlucky at love. That has actually only served me.
Who is going to be the next woman in his life?
If I had to guess, Phyllis. I don’t know. I can never quite make out priorities and what’s important to whom. Frankly, I show up in my dressing room, there’s a script there, I look at it, [and] I figure out how I’m going to make it better than it is.
Though the Patty storyline was polarizing, you and Stacy Haiduk worked well together.
Listen, that was not my favorite storyline: people who look like each other, plastic surgery. That girl is fantastic. That girl put out. That was unbelievable, what Stacy Haiduk made out of not my favorite kind of story.
Those were a strange few months for viewers. Some people liked it, others felt like the show was turning into ‘Passions.‘
When they doubled Lauren, I think the audience said, ‘Enough already.’ But given what she was up against, Stacy Haiduk was spectacular.
Over the past few weeks it seems like the show is returning to form. Are you happy with the scripts and where ‘Y&R’ is headed?
I am happy for several reasons. For a number of years we had young actors where I thought, ‘These people are not good.’ [Now] we have a number of young actors that are very, very good between Billy Miller and Elizabeth Hendrickson and Jeff Branson and Eden Riegel.
‘Y&R’ lost its moral voice when John Abbott died. Do you think any other characters have the potential to fill that role?
Chance. And look what they’re doing with him.
Rumor is he may not be long for Genoa City.
Here’s the problem: We lose sight of the moral center of the show. Every time Beth Maitland shows up I think, ‘This is what’s missing.’ Cricket used to be that. Adam is reprehensible. Let’s find things in him that are redeemable, things that are human. I want him to be a redeemable character.
Are any of Jack’s children going to come back?
The Kyle thing’s a real possibility. Keemo, that was one writer’s side thing. That was such a strange detour. I don’t want to go there again. In a perfect world, Kyle and Diane would show up again.
Speaking of Diane – Susan Walters, who played her, has a major role on ‘Vampire Diaries.’ Do you ever consider pursuing primetime or movies?
No. I learned very early on that doors open, you walk through them, and sometimes another door opens over there and sometimes it doesn’t. Bryan Cranston [star of ‘Breaking Bad‘] is the perfect example. He has so much respect for what I do because I’ve been employed for the 28 years that we’ve known each other. Now Bryan Cranston’s rocketed but he knows I haven’t stopped working and he’s had fifty different jobs.
Is it tough to do quality work with the pressure to do scenes in one take?
I’ve always tried to do things in one take. Now everybody else is. While other actors are complaining that their artistry is being threatened, Peter Bergman tries to hide his glee. Everyone has to come in really prepared. If everybody’s on the same page, you can do it in one take. Everybody was, ‘Whatever. You mean I have to show up on time and know my lines?’ Those are the days of yore.
Would you like to see Jack go back to his caddish ways?
Sure. Whenever Jack is being a really good, solid, nice dependable guy I get really nervous.
Can you reveal any spoilers?
Jack knows more about Abby’s life than anyone on earth. Jack knows more about Abby’s future and financial success than anyone on earth.