It's been nearly a decade since ABC made the controversial decision to cancel All My Children, but it's still a topic that riles and pains fans of the long-running soap opera. From the perspective of the show's loyal viewers, AMC's tragic fate was unwarranted and avoidable, and it remains to this day one of the biggest blunders made by ABC executives. Much discussion has gone into why the soap was canceled, what could have been done differently, and why it deserves a chance to shine again via a modern reboot, but Vincent Irizarry (ex-David Hayward) recently shed even more light onto what led to AMC's downfall -- and revealed that a script was written for the show's original ABC ending that never aired.
Irizarry opened up about the show's gut-wrenching cancellation in an interview that was part of EW's week-long All My Children reunions. As fans may recall, AMC's ending was a roller coaster for everyone involved: first, ABC moved the soap from New York to Los Angeles; the network canceled the series a year and a half later; Prospect Park swooped in and bought the rights to bring AMC to a digital network; the two entertainment entities were ensnared in legal battles over a variety of behind-the-scenes issues; and AMC was canceled once more after having aired digitally for just over four months.
"It was really painful for all of us, especially because we had all just moved from New York to Los Angeles less than a year and a half before," Irizarry shares of all that happened with the show. "Just understand, we had been retrenched from New York, where we were based for 40 years. The crew that worked with us back then had worked with the show, some of them for a good 25, 30 years, and they were all of a sudden not on the show anymore. Even in that community there, think about all of the people that were working and the businesses surrounding that area that would have been affected, because of all the years that people were going into the stores and restaurants."
He continues, "But for us, we were moved to Los Angeles [and had a] new set, new soundstage. It was beautiful. The sets were gorgeous, everything was great. The storylines were excellent. Lorraine Broderick was writing the show at the time -- they had brought her back on -- and Lorraine knew the show better than anybody, apart from [creator] Agnes Nixon."
Everybody was on a high, and the show was doing well in its new Los Angeles home. But then, as Irizarry explains (though not by name), ABC executive Brian Frons made some egregious business decisions.
"It was the decision of the head of the network to change head writers because he wanted a younger writer staff -- and nothing against the other writers, but they didn't know the show like Lorraine. They didn't write with the same heart that Lorraine had written, and they were also being governed by that executive, the head of the network, of what stories he wanted," the actor shares. "As a result of that, after one year of them writing on the show, we had lost 34% of our audience -- that's what was told to us the day that we were being canceled by this executive. And I attribute that to the decision-making of that exec, without question -- everybody did, everybody does, and it's a reality."
The fact that Frons -- or anyone from the network, for that matter -- got so heavily involved in the day-to-day operations of All My Children is what Irizarry says led to its doom, especially because prior to that, there had been a clear separation between the people in charge at the shows and the people in charge at the networks.
"The major change for us in this medium that I have witnessed in almost 40 years [of being a part of it] is that when I first came on the shows, on Guiding Light [as Lujack Luvonaczek in 1983], it was owned by Procter and Gamble, and there was a very distinct line between the creatives of a show and the executives of a show," the actor explains. "The creatives were the executive producer, the head writer, the writing staff, and the directors. The executives that I call executives would be more the people on the business end of it, the people that are working with the network, and the time slot, and the advertising, and who are overseeing the storylines and approving the storylines But this had changed at that time on the show because that executive decided to cross over and micromanage and become a creative -- and he wasn't a creative."
Irizarry laments the fact that he and many of the other cast, crew, and creatives at AMC were forced to watch one bad decision being made after the other -- without any way to stop it.
"That's a painful thing to watch, when you are literally at the mercy of decisions from a hierarchy that everybody else is looking at and scratching their head and thinking, 'Why would they make this decision? What are they doing?' So, we're watching this happen right before our eyes," he says, adding, "Susan [Lucci, ex-Erica Kane] said it perfectly on one of the talk shows, that this person had inherited a very healthy show. When he came on, the show was under budget all the time, we were getting out early, everything was going great with the show, the ratings were excellent, and [it was] the same thing with One to Life to Live; they were a healthy show, as well, and he made bad decision after bad decision that all of us paid for, and the fans themselves paid the most."
The worst part of it all, says Irizarry, is that due to the strange string of events that happened with ABC's cancellation and Prospect Park coming in and the legal battles and the show's abrupt second cancelation, nobody got closure and the show itself didn't get closure. However, he reveals that closure was supposed to happen. In fact, somewhere out there, the original AMC ending -- approved by show creator Agnes Nixon and all -- is in existence.
"Lorraine did write a final episode for the show when we were leaving ABC," Irizarry reveals. "We were going to have closure then, but then Prospect Park came in, and they licensed the show for online, which was great -- we were all very excited about that... but I feel bad for the audience because [the original ABC ending was changed to accommodate the beginning of the online version], and everything was just left hanging after 42 years."
Irizarry doesn't know what Broderick's original ending was, but he knows that Agnes Nixon had approved it and "was very happy with it."
The world may never know what Lorraine Broderick and Agnes Nixon had in mind for All My Children's original final episode, but maybe that's for the best -- especially as there is still a chance that the beloved soap opera could see a third life. ABC has since regained the rights to the show, and the network's current executives recently teased that an AMC reboot is being discussed and might happen. Irizarry says he would be more than happy to step back into the shoes of Dr. David Hayward if a reboot does happen, and many of the soap's former cast members shared similar sentiments in their EW reunion videos. All we can do is wait and see -- and hope that All My Children eventually gets the justice it deserves!
To watch Irizarry's full EW video chat, click here.
What do you think about Vincent Irizarry's comments on AMC's cancellation and what went on behind-the-scenes that contributed to its tragic fate? What do you think Lorraine Broderick wrote for the show's original final episode? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.