All My Children Paley Center For Media EventBy Michael Fairman
AFTRA and the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills welcomed to Los Angeles, the cast and the production staff of All My Children with a special evening and tribute for the show, which just turned 40 just a few weeks ago. Braving the elements on a rainy and treacherous night, AMC stars and creators, Julia Barr, Bobbie Eakes, Vincent Irizarry, Debbi Morgan, Susan Lucci, Agnes Nixon, Julie Hanan Carruthers, and Melissa Claire Egan participated in a panel discussion honoring the series. Before the discussion began, a 40th anniversary tribute reel was shown to the delight of AMC longtime aficionados. Then, ABC7’s Entertainment reporter, George Pennachio presided over the panel for the audience and introduced the participants. George reminded those in attendance that he once played the anchorman who covered the funeral of Michael Cambias. He said that his performance “Was so good, that he has yet to be asked back!”
During the hour and a half, AMC creator Agnes Nixon was definitely the most sharp-witted, and provided humorous and insightful responses. When posed the question from Pennachio if AMC was always going to be called, All My Children, Agnes said simply, “Yes”. Living legend, Nixon did not disappoint when asked why Susan Lucci got the coveted role of Erica Kane, and if she recalled the other actresses who auditioned for the part. Agnes remarked, “I don’t even remember the other actresses’ names! They were forgettable. There was no question it was going to be Susan. We lucked out.” In response, Susan Lucci (Erica) said, “Before I auditioned, I met the casting director at the time, Joan D’Incecco, about six months earlier. I never thought she would call me back to audition, and I was surprised and happy of course, but surprised because I was told by several people that I would never work in television because I did not have blonde hair and blue eyes. I had brown eyes, dark skin, and dark hair, and I was thought of as too ethnic. So we have come along way.” Agnes responded, “Yup, All My Ethnics!” Emmy winner, Debbi Morgan (Angie) chimed in, “I have to say because of Agnes Nixon on All My Children, I have spent more hours than any other African-American woman actress on television.” Last year’s Daytime Emmy winner for Supporting Actor, Vince Irizarry (David), saluted Agnes by saying, “That when he attends the Emmys each year and looks out over the crowd of actors most of them are there because of her, or are somehow directly related to her work. It is quite a testament to Agnes and her legacy.”
Fan favorite and two-time Daytime Emmy winner, Julia Barr (Brooke) whose shocking return to All My Children, after being kind of dumped from the canvas several years back, was proud to be back in the fold. Barr somewhat teased her new storyline which kicks into gear in late February, “It’s so good to be back with people who I love as performers, and be back with a story that speaks to viewers who have watched the show for a very long time.” When Pennachio asked Nixon, “I want to know what you were like as a college graduate at twenty-three?” Nixon quipped back, “First of all, I was only twenty-one! I got a job with Irna Phillips three days after I graduated. My father said I would have no chance as a writer. He wanted me to go into his business which was manufacturing burial garments. I got my chance when I went up to Irna Phillips apartment with my half-hour script, and Irna and her assistant read it out loud. I wanted to go down the dumbwaiter I was so terrified. But then Irna put the script down and said, ‘How would you like to work for me?’ It was an amazing moment for me.”
The forum and discussion also provided soap pundits, fans in the audience, and fellow colleagues and actors in attendance, some behind-the-scenes Pine Valley tidbits. Vince Irizarry intimated that recently he felt a bit of a creative difference in the way his character of David Wayward was written. He said he did speak up to Julie Hanan Carruthers (EP, AMC) and the creative team about his concerns. Vince stated since that time, “Things are getting back on track and the re-introduction of Greenlee helped as a corrective measure for the character, because the character had fallen off track a bit.” Debbi Morgan said the medical jargon that Dr. Angie has to say is not always easy for her, in fact, it can be downright difficult. One story had the audience in stitches, “You don’t know how good an actress I am to pull that material off. (Laughs) I remember back in the 8o’s, I think Angie was a nurse, and I remember I had stuffed a thermometer in a little boy’s mouth. I remember him saying, “Don’t you think you should put that in the other way around?” (Laughs) Bobbie Eakes enlightened the audience that she had to push her way in to get an audition for her current role as Krystal! “My manager called and said that AMC was hiring for a character that was a red-neck, and mother of Babe, a major character of the show. I was born and raised in Georgia and I know women like Krystal, and to be honest, All My Children did not see it. I had been playing Macy on B&B for like 12 years and she was quite different and well educated. I said, ‘Just get me that audition,” and I flew to New York and I did it, but I knew this character inside and out, and I was happy to be able to go in and grab it!” Bobbie also discussed the pros and cons of High Def television. She feels it can show everything an actress does not want people to see on their face, but also how it makes color so much more vibrant. Susan Lucci chimed in half- jokingly, “HD is better suited for ESPN!”
Towards the end of the evening, as the duo had previouly performed at the New York Times event, Susan and Agnes re-enacted one of the first scenes between, the Kane women: Mona and Erica. (Lucci playing a fifteen year old Erica) When Susan tried to get ready for the scene entrance, she tried to go between the curtain and the stage wall, and squeeze in a very tight fit, and chuckled out loud. It was cutest moment of the night! After opening up questions for audience, it was current and former cast mates Darnell Williams (Jesse) and Kathleen Noone (Ex-Ellen) that lit up the conversation, especially Darnell. The actor made a comment of how moved he was to see the scene between Agnes Nixon and Susan Lucci. Darnell discussed how his mom loved soaps, and AMC was her show. Agnes shared her remembrances of Darnell’s audition for the show.” He was so excited,” she recalls.
After the panel was over, I attended the reception where many notables from AMC were in attendance including; Adam Mayfield (Scott), Stephanie Gatschet (Madison), Chrishell Stause (Amanda), Brittany Allen (Marissa) and Natalie Hall (Colby). Make sure to check out our video interviews from the arrivals and our photo gallery from the event! And…welcome to Los Angeles, AMC!
Photo credits: JPI Studios and Paley Center for Media L.A.