It's a good week for fans of All My Children's supercouple Jack (Walt Willey) and Erica (Susan Lucci). Not only did Willey surprise Lucci during her week of co-hosting several episodes of Hallmark's Home & Family, but Soap Central got to chat with Willey to get the scoop on his new series, Tainted Dreams, which is currently streaming on Amazon. And while we were at it, we got the Illinois native to dish on the strange way his on-screen relationship with Lucci affected his career, if he'd be open to bringing Jackson to General Hospital's Port Charles, and much, much more.
...On smearing himself in poop (?!) for Tainted Dreams
Anyone who had a crush on AMC's gentlemanly Jack will want to drop what they're doing and check out Tainted Dreams, the Amazon series that gives viewers a first-hand glimpse into the insane things that happen behind the scenes on soap operas. Willey's TD character, Gregory Ashford, is a far cry from his AMC character, but Pine Valley fans are sure to get a kick out of seeing the actor in the shoes of a man he says "isn't the sharpest tool in the shed."
In fact, Willey says pretty much any soap fan is guaranteed to be entertained by the show created by longtime soap opera producer Sonia Blangiardo and starring daytime favorites like AMC's Alicia Minshew (ex-Kendall Hart) and the late Larkin Malloy (ex-Travis Montgomery).
"It is really a cream of the crop collection of daytime actors, and I think for that reason alone, and because it's edgy... it might have an audience," he shares. "I am so happy for Sonia, I'm really so happy for her. She put her heart and soul into this and collected a great bunch of people, some people I hadn't worked with in twenty years! It was just wonderful. A great experience."
Despite the online format not being entirely familiar to many soap opera fans, Willey says he was more than happy to sign on to the project.
"I never expected to be cast in anything that didn't involve Susan Lucci after All My Children went off the air, and I love Sonia. If she asked me to dress as a clown, smear myself with feces, and run in traffic, I might give that a moment's pause, but after a final analysis, I'd do it," he says with a laugh. "I've known her forever, and she's just a doll. And I think she's good at what she does, on top of all that. I was more than happy to sign on, and when I saw the roster of people, 'Wait a minute, I'll be working with them? Okay, absolutely!' I didn't need any convincing at all. I was thrilled to do it. Plus, I love Alicia Minshew. Alicia and I have been good friends almost since the instant she stepped onto AMC. With her as a core-focus character, I was thrilled to be a part of it."
...On not always liking AMC's Jack and whether or not he'd bring the character to GH
Like many other AMC and One Life to Live actors, Willey is curious to know ABC's plans now that the network has regained the rights to the soaps they cancelled in 2011. He's fairly certain the series won't be brought back to the air, but he does think there's potential to satiate fans outside of bringing former AMC and OLTL characters to General Hospital.
"I always wondered why they didn't do some kind of a boxed set, like The Men of Erica Kane or The Life and Times of Phoebe Wallingford, or something like that," he says. "There's all that content, and they have it, and I can't believe they couldn't whittle it down to some tremendous highlight reels that people would go crazy for. And I would guess that's something they'll probably do."
While many of his former AMC costars admit to missing their Pine Valley alter egos when the topic of a possible show revival comes up, Willey admits he didn't have too difficult a time saying goodbye to Jack and hasn't shed many tears since the end of AMC.
"Honestly, I found the way they saw Jack to be extremely restrictive," he shares. "I'm glad he was a white knight, pretty much the only decent character with a moral compass on the entire show [laughs], but I think the way they viewed him was awfully restricted, both what they would allow in consideration of what the character was doing and also even the playing of it. He started out a bad boy, he was rehabilitated in about three weeks, and that was that. We never really revisited the whole bad boy thing again. And it's kind of too bad, but every show needs its white knight, and I was honored to be ours."
Though playing "good guy" Jack sometimes left him feeling frustrated, Willey says he'd be more than happy to revive the character on General Hospital, similar to how One Life to Live's Hillary B. Smith is bringing Nora Buchanan to Port Charles.
"I would love to do that. I used to give Maurice Benard [Sonny Corinthos] a ride to work when he first started [AMC as Nico Kelly]. I've got a lot of old friends on that show, so sure, of course I would do it," he enthuses.
But he's not so sure the powers at GH will come calling, given his supercouple status with Lucci.
"I had some people explain to me, and I won't say who because it was very nice of them, but they called me and said 'You're just too tied with Lucci. Maybe some time down the road, but right now, you're the supercouple, outside of GH's Genie [Francis, Laura Spencer] and Tony [Geary, ex-Luke Spencer], and we just can't do it. You're the peanut butter, she's the jelly, and we'd need both,'" Willey explains. "I had two different casting directors tell me that, and they were really telling me something that I already knew."
That, of course, doesn't mean Willey doesn't adore Lucci. In fact, he surprised the actress this week during an episode of Hallmark's Home & Family, which she is co-hosting until Friday, February 3. (See the surprise video below.)
Perhaps enough time has passed for fans to accept Willey sans Lucci, and if so, the actor says he's finally ready to jump back into the world of daytime after a period in which he never imagined he would.
"I was done [playing Jack] probably about eight years before the show actually folded, but I just couldn't quit a job like that with two young kids; I would never do that," he shares. "But I was quite ready to do something else, so if somebody had asked me to jump right into another daytime show [after the cancellation of AMC], I honestly think I would have said no."
He continues: "I was in the middle of writing [my one-man show] Wild Bill, which has been a tremendous success for me, and there were so many other things I wanted to do because I couldn't get the time off to do them, or I wasn't in the right place to do it, or the schedule wasn't flexible enough for me to do it, that kind of thing. I started a children's theater in my hometown, this is our third or fourth year, and some of these kids have been in here with me for every session. I'm actually getting to grow actors, and of all the things I've gotten to do in my life, this is the one that makes me the happiest and proudest. I haven't had a lot of sleepless nights going, 'God, I wonder if I'll ever work on a soap again?' It was a great three decades, don't get me wrong. There's no bitterness or anything else, but it was time to try something new. But I have and it's been, what, at least five years since AMC went off the air? So, yeah, I'd go back to daytime, maybe as an elder statesman! [laughs]"
Tainted Dreams stars soap favorites Willey, Minshew, Terri Ivens (ex-Simone Torres, AMC), Michael Lowry (ex-Jake Martin, AMC), Larkin Malloy (ex-Travis Montgomery, AMC, and ex-Sky Whitney, Edge of Night), Grant Aleksander (ex-Phillip Spaulding, Guiding Light), Kelley Menighan Hensley (ex-Emily Stewart, As the World Turns), Marnie Schulenburg (ex-Alison Stewart, ATWT), Colleen Zenk (ex-Barbara Ryan, ATWT), Natalia Livingston (ex-Emily Quartermaine and ex-Rebecca Shaw, GH; ex-Taylor Walker, Days of our Lives), and Austin Peck (ex-Rick Powers, OLTL; ex-Brad Snyder, ATWT; and Austin Reed, DAYS).
Anyone can watch the series for free on Amazon, and Amazon Prime members will be able to watch without ads. If you are not an Amazon Prime member, click here for a free 30-day trial.
What do you think about our interview with Walt Willey? Have you or will you tune in to see him on Tainted Dreams? Do you think his on-screen connection to Susan Lucci really affected his career? Would you love to see Jackson on GH? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.