The show may not be so young anymore -as its 40th anniversary indicates — but it’s still restless, proved by the plot twists it keeps handing its longtime characters.
That’s what has kept so many stars of “The Young and the Restless” on board, and they’ll be present as the CBS daytime drama hits the four-decade mark Tuesday, March 26. Though the milestone will be noted in certain ways, it’ll also be just another day in fictional Genoa City, according to three-time Daytime Emmy winner Peter Bergman, who has played Jack Abbott on the soap since 1989.
“It’s a giant chunk of my life,” he tells Zap2it. “Because I can remember clearly my first day, it seems it was yesterday. My daughter was 4 weeks old when I started the show, and she graduated from college last year. When you put it in terms of someone else’s life, that’s a really long time.”
Still, previous “All My Children” co-star Bergman reminds that he didn’t originate his role on the serial created by the late William J. Bell and wife Lee Phillip Bell (parents of actress Lauralee Bell, the show’s Christine “Cricket” Blair). The late Terry Lester was the first Jack, the womanizer whose life has been marked by everything from sexual harassment suits to political bids.
“Actors get frustrated with writers, but I’ve never been one of those people,” Bergman says. “They’ve written so many things for me, and my kickoff was spectacular. Terry Lester had left of his own accord, and I think Bill Bell took it kind of personally, so Bill was determined to force Peter Bergman down the world’s throat. And that was both good and bad.
“Of course, a lot of people loved Terry and missed him terribly, but what Bill did for me storywise was kind of neat. Jack came back determined to get Jabot (the Abbott family’s cosmetics firm) back, and his plan was to get Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott’s character, of the rival Newman family) to fall in love with him. And he went about it in a very clever, planned way.”
Nikki and Jack ultimately wed, then divorced, just one of Jack’s many stops on the road of romancing and scheming — one of his latest being with Phyllis Summers (Michelle Stafford). “He absolutely has had his moments,” Bergman muses, adding that he also has stayed mindful of his alter ego’s more redeeming qualities.
“Jack had his father, but John (the Abbott patriarch played by Jerry Douglas) died … then they told me, ‘We’re going to bring him back, less as a ghost and more Jack’s conscience.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, great. I’ve gotta do the ghost storyline.’ Who knew it would be such a gift? At his most devious, Jack still has to sit with his father and say, ‘I miss you, and I wish you could help me.’ “
Eric Braeden, Jeanne Cooper, Doug Davidson, Tracey E. Bregman, Sharon Case and Kristoff St. John are among other actors who have had lengthy runs on “The Young and the Restless,” which has won 113 Daytime Emmy Awards – seven for outstanding daytime drama. It also has an ongoing spinoff in “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and while the number of daytime soaps has dwindled, Bergman is pleased and grateful to remain with one of the survivors.
“So many things have hit at us,” he acknowledges, “and have threatened the survival of the genre and the show, and we still generate an audience of 4 million-plus people a day. I’m hopeful this thing will go on for a while.”