December 7th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

The Peter Bergman Interview- The Young and the Restless

Peter-Bergman-main

© JPI Studios

Ten days ago on November 27th, 2009, Peter Bergman celebrated his 20th anniversary on the number one daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. The actor, who has won three Daytime Emmy Awards for his portrayal of bad boy Jack Abbott, is one of the most respected actors of the soap genre.  Bergman first came into prominence as one half of Pine Valley‘s “super couple”, Cliff and Nina (Taylor Miller) on All My Children.  After a twist of fate that had the actor being let-go by the soap, Bergman came kicking and screaming to Y&R where this stalwart performer set up new digs to take over the coveted role of Jack, played originally by the late Terry Lester.

Bergman met the love of his life Mariellen on a blind date, set up by his former AMC cast mate Michael Minor (Ex-Brandon) who happened to be going out with her cousin at the time, and she has been with Peter every step of the way during his soap career.   In this revealing interview with On-Air On-Soaps, Peter discusses his beginnings on Y&R, favorite moments, favorite leading ladies, and the heart and soul of a veteran actor in daytime, who has been through and seen it all… including the notorious real life fight with his co-star Eric Braeden (Victor Newman).  But it is Victor and Jack’s on-screen rivalry that has lit up the television screen for decades, thanks to the amazing performances by Bergman and Braeden.  And as we head into 2010, Jack may be getting a new lady love and Victor will be on his way back to town to reignite the feud.  Here’s Peter on his journey to Genoa City and much more!

Listen to the audio:

Play

MICHAEL:

Peter, you just celebrated your 20th anniversary as Jack Abbott. Do you feel old?  I feel old knowing this! (Laughs)

PETER:

It’s funny.  The first time anyone mentioned this 20th year thing, I thought, “Geez, it felt like yesterday.”  Then when I thought about it, when I started on this show, my daughter was four weeks old.  My daughter is now a sophmore in college.  So, I guess 20 years is a long time.

MICHAEL:

Peter-and-Mary-Ellen

© JPI Studios

What did your wife, Mariellen, have to say about this accomplishment?  We all have watched Mariellen’s reactions on-camera during your Emmy wins, which have been so touching.

PETER:

It kind of went unnoticed in our home, and what I think is interesting again is; Mariellen and I were only married five years when I started on Y&R.  We had new kids. We were just starting our lives together and it will be 25 years together this coming March.  So, I have been here along time.

MICHAEL:

When you took over the role from the former Jack Abbott, actor Terry Lester, were you familiar with his work?

PETER:

No.  I had seen so little of Terry Lester’s performances.  The Young and the Restless was opposite All My Children in New York.  So, I never really got to see what he did.  He certainly was a prominent member of the daytime community.  We knew who he was, but I did not know his work that well, and that probably was to my benefit.

MICHAEL:

Right. So you could make this your own.   Do you remember the events that got you to this coveted role in Genoa City?

PETER:

Melody--Thomas-Scott

© JPI Studios

My job at All My Children came to a sudden end.  I think everyone was as surprised as I was.  The best monitor of that is the fact that every soap magazine had me on the cover that week saying, “OMG! OMG! All My Children let Peter Bergman go!”   Now, Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki, Y&R) was traveling with her husband Ed Scott, who was our executive producer at the time, in Canada.  She pulled out an issue of Soap Opera Digest with me on the cover of it saying, “We let Peter Bergman go,” and she thought, “We have been looking for a Jack Abbott. This is Jack Abbott,” she said to Ed.  So Ed came back home and the first I heard of it was through my agent.  He said, “We just heard from Y&R and they wanted to know how tall you are.”  And I said, “That is insane!  Don’t even return that call. What do you mean how tall I am?  They can figure that out.”  It really bothered me.  Then they called another time and asked if I would be OK replacing someone.  I was on All My Children and replacing someone was shear death, and it never worked on All My Children. We have never had a recast that really sustained and frankly, I was just finishing a soap and my wife was eight months pregnant.  I thought, “No, I do not want to do this!”  Y&R called a third time and it kind of coincided with some bad financial news I got.  I thought I should at least go out to LA and audition for this thing.  So, leaving my wife behind, her due date was a week away, I thought, it would be just my luck.  I will be in Los Angeles where I don’t want to live, and replacing somebody which I don’t want to do, and it’s on a soap, and I don’t know if I want to do another one.  So, I audition on a Friday, and they said they were going to get back to me within the next two weeks. On Monday, Ed Scott called to say I got the job.  Then Maryellen and I sat there and literally wept.  We loved New York!  We just bought the apartment next door. We were going to adjoin the two as we were expecting a baby any minute and this was going to be cataclysmic in our lives.  It was all the wrong things.  So the answer to your question is; I was dragged out kicking and screaming to the best thing that ever happened to me.

MICHAEL:

Once you finally got here to Y&R, and you were figuring your way through the character of Jack Abbott, was there a point where you knew, “This is such an amazing role”?

PETER:

Everyone told me, but the person who told me the most was Debbi Morgan, who plays Angie on All My Children.  Debbi caught wind that I was auditioning for the role on my last day at AMC, and the following morning I was heading to Los Angeles.  I told her, and only her and I did not know she was a mad Y&R fan.   She said, “OMG!  Peter this is one of those roles.  This is Erica on AMC.  This is Viki on OLTL, and this is a giant role, Peter.”  So she convinced me that, “Well, maybe this will be a good thing.”   I got the job and I was grateful for it, but once I got here, every prop guy, every camera man knew more about Jack Abbott than I did.  It was a lonely first few weeks.  I knew I’ve got to make it my own.  The assumption was we bring all those Cliff Warner fans with us to Y&R, and all the people who were used to Terry Lester would eventually be OK with me in the role. Well, oddly enough the people who were used to Terry Lester got used to me pretty quickly.  It took about six months and they forgot what he looked like. But the people from All My Children, OMG, it was two to three years later!  They were saying, “He used to be so nice….”   It took a long time to bring them around.

MICHAEL:

So, was there any trepidation for you with the success of playing Dr. Cliff Warner, who was the leading man and a goody-goody, with now coming over to Y&R and playing a rather bad and caddish character?  Was there any thought of, “I don’t know if I should play this,” or did you look at it as an actor’s dream to play Jack?

PETER:

Frankly, I have been doing daytime television for 30 years and it has never crossed my mind what the audience likes or what the audience wants of me.  I just want to tell the story like it’s written.  I come to this dressing room as these scripts are sitting here now, and I cannot open them fast enough.  I don’t want to write it.  I want to play what they wrote and it’s worked for thirty years.

MICHAEL:

Eric-and-Peter

© JPI Studios

Ok! So of all the storylines and plot points of Jack, which stick in your mind as some of your most memorable?

PETER:

The ones that really move me….the ones I have trouble watching without getting emotionally upset….Nikki spirals into this alcoholic mess and in his effort to help her Jack cannot do it, and in his frustration he comes that close to punching her.  It was a giant moment and I went to tell my father, John, “Dad, I almost hit her in the face!” Giant moment!   Jack is in Victor’s office and Victor has what appears to be a coronary episode. Victor is left on the floor and Jack has two choices…. call for help or walk out of the room. On his way out of the room, I decided Jack would kick Victor’s hand out of the way. To Eric Braeden’ credit, his body was limp. I kicked his hand and I thought, “The cameras are probably not going to catch this.”  Boy, did they catch this!

MICHAEL:

He did not move his hand…..his hand…..

PETER:

…..his hand flopped.  He looked like a dead guy.  Giant moment!  Nikki and Jack lose a baby and a woman comes to my office one day.  We had donated the baby’s’ organ’s and she wants to introduce me to her son, who would not be alive without my child’s heart. Giant scene to play!  Finding out about Nicholas and Phyllis!  It went on forever and finally Jack finds out.   Frankly, my latest favorite is the day that Sharon finally tells Jack everything that is going on with her and Nicholas, and Jack knew every single thing she is telling him, but she is telling him.  It was a giant moment to play.  I had no words and you could just watch Jack’s face and know what he was thinking.  This is what he has been waiting for: Sharon to tell him and to be this honest with him.

MICHAEL:

In all the interviews I do with the soap actors, everyone tells me the same thing: “Peter Bergman is so professional!”  How does it feel to be so well regarded by your peers?

PETER:

The-Abbotts

© JPI Studios

It does feel really good.  I would love to be able to tell you I am the consummate professional because I know things and it firms up my powerbase.  But frankly, I have nightmares about coming to work and being unprepared.  I have nightmares that our cameramen get frustrated and are taking their headsets off because Bergman does not know his lines.  I also lost my job and did not expect it to happen and no one expected it to happen.  And, when it came to an end I promised myself, if ever I lost this job at Y&R or any other job, I would never look back and wonder what more I could have done.  So frankly a lot of it is paranoia and it’s not being a bold egalitarian.

MICHAEL:

I think it’s very human and honest of you to say that, because who wouldn’t feel that way given those circumstances.

PETER:

I am amazed that people will come to work and not know their lines for the day and be able to come out on set.  I would be a nervous wreck!  So it’s probably by needs that I have to be really, really professional.

MICHAEL:

Eric Braeden and you had a much-publicized fight many years ago and a stormy relationship.  I was reading recent articles and interviews and people still bring it up.  What do you think about the situation now?  It’s part of the history of your time on Y&R that people tend to focus on.

PETER:

It is part of our history here. Eric and I had a number of problems when I first came here and they climaxed in an ugly situation that Eric wished would never had happened and I certainly could have done without it in my life.  But Eric and I worked together for 20 years, and we have this enmity that the audience clearly loves.  It’s a crazy rivalry and it still has legs, and I am very grateful for It.!  We work together just fine.

MICHAEL:

I loved, True Soap Stories of Mr. Kitty… the cleverest and original video of the year, bar none!   You were the on-camera host of the video parody.  How did that come about where you ended up in that position?

PETER:

Greg Edwards, (content manager, Y&R website) who put the whole thing together, came up to me and said, “Hey, Peter, would you be the anchor on this thing?”  I said, “Sure!”  Anyway, it was an improv thing.  We did it really serious and it was really funny. Everyone in the cast was so great in it. And if people have not seen it on the CBS website, it’s quite, quite funny.

MICHAEL:

Haiduk--Mr,-Kitty

© JPI Studios

How has it been working with Stacy Haiduk, who now plays dual roles as Patty Williams and Emily Peterson?

PETER:

Stacy Haiduk (Patty/Emily) has been one of those wonderful stories, where she is a generally trusting actress.  I have talked to her a lot in all of this. When she got here I said to her, “If you are willing to go there and I know it seems like the audience is not going to like you or deems your character unlikable….”  I said, “Stacy run with it. We can redeem you in two episodes.  I don’t care!  Just don’t kill anybody and we can redeem you.”  Anyway, this actress came in and gave everything and just threw herself at the madness of Patty Williams, and now she is playing Emily, the psychiatrist who has to be very different than Patty Williams.  Stacy brought a whole new bag of tricks and she is terrific.

MICHAEL:

Is Jack truly falling for Emily or using her?

PETER:

Oh no!  Jack is falling for this psychiatrist.  Jack is at a funny place in his life where he is coming to the realization that he is the head of the Abbott family now.  John is gone and he is not coming back.  Somebody has got to anchor this family.  Jack has long aspired to be like his father, and it’s kind of hard to do that without a woman of the house and someone in his life.  Colleen’s death reminded him to do what you want to be doing; be with somebody and share a life.  So Jack is going through a whole new phase, and the moment he is in this searching mode in walks Emily Peterson, this gorgeous woman who he is really quite taken with!

MICHAEL:

I am sure though, there is a twist… on a twist…. on a twist coming!

PETER:

Michelle-and-Peter

© JPI Studios

Well again, sitting in an actress’s dressing room and saying, “If you play this other character really different from Patty, then down the road imagine how fun it would be to play Patty Williams playing who she thinks Emily is.”   It’s a treat most actors would kill to do.  I have never done it and those actors who have done well are legends in daytime television.

MICHAEL:

Let’s talk about a few other former leading ladies… Michelle Stafford (Phyllis) and you!

PETER:

Michelle Stafford…. when they first told me I was going to be working with her she was coming back to the show, and all we had seen of her was crazy Phyllis.  She was Danny Romalatti’s crazy woman with the lying about the birth certificate and all the crazy shenanigans she had done.  So they told me, “We are going to put her with Jack.”   I thought, “Well, this is crazy!”  Well, it was just crazy enough.  These two were perfectly wrong for each other.  These two people cared about each other and wanted this to work in the worst possible way, but just couldn’t make it work. That is not normal for soaps. It was fun to play and for the audience to watch, because these two people were desperately loving each other and they are destructive of each other, and someone is going to hurt someone here. These are two type “A” personalities!

MICHAEL:

How about Sharon Case (Sharon) and you?

PETER:

Bergman-fan-event

© JPI Studios

Sharon Case is my new favorite thing to talk about, because when they put Nick and Phyllis together, I thought it was clever as can be, and hotter than could be.  It was a great hot secret that they had.  I played the cuckold and Sharon played the cuckold fool, and I think the writers perhaps did not have a plan.  So I guess they thought, “Let’s throw Sharon and Jack together.”   Sharon Case and I knew this. So we sat in this dressing room and said, “How about we make it work for them?”  So every opportunity we had to make it as real as possible, we jumped all over it.  We sat in this room and ran lines like crazy.  We tweaked scenes and fixed scenes and changed the pace of scenes; until suddenly it turned into a three-year storyline and was one of the most realistic couples on the show.  I think Sharon changed Jack in a major way.  There was goodness and honesty about Sharon in her general approach to life.  She was not a manipulator.  She challenged Jack to be an honest person, and he wasn’t up for the task.  He has never forgiven himself for that. So honesty now becomes a very important part of Jack Abbott’s life?  It is now, thanks to Sharon!

MICHAEL:

In closing Peter, after 20 years, what do you want people to remember most about your portrayal of Jack Abbott?

PETER:

I would love for people to say, “He was fun to watch and he did not hold back. When a scene called for something, he never phoned it in or dialed it in.  He always was there and always found as much emotional weight as he could find.”

  1. Mandel says:

    Good interview. Really good actor

    Reply

  2. Doe says:

    What a great interview, Michael. Peter was so honest, and you can’t help but like and respect him. He has kept those of us watching his prowess as an actor constantly delivering his character, and we wait for the shoe to drop as to what he will do that is nasty. We wait in anticipation…..

    Reply

  3. Fannie says:

    Peter Bergman is right, it did not take long for us to forget Terry Lester whom I loved very much as Jack Abbott. It’s true that those 20 years went by so fast and thank you Peter Bergman and all the other wonderful characters to have helped me and I guess so many others, to have helped us go through the ups and downs of this wonderful life by being part of our life for those 20 wonderful years. Long live the Y&R and Peter Bergman.

    Reply

  4. cabc says:

    I am so glad to know that Peter loves his character Jack, cause I’ve been a faithful viewer for over 20 years, and I just love, and I mean love me some Jack. He’s sophisticated, and a bad boy, and I love bad boys. Thanks for the wonderful interview it makes me love him more knowing that he has a beautiful wife of 25 years, and has been able to be a loving husband and father in real life while being the bad boy of Y&R for over 20 years. We love you Jack! I love to hate Victor, but you’re the man Jack.

    Reply

  5. Olive Olson says:

    I like Jack. I would have to say that he’s undoubtedly my fav. male actor. He reminds me of someone I dated a long time ago and I think he’s one handsome dude !! : ) It would be fun to meet him for real. I guess I can only hope about that one.

    Reply

  6. LuChera Huntley says:

    Hey Peter Bergman!!
    Good Job!!!

    Reply

Leave a comment