Daytime fans are in for a major treat: veteran soap opera actor Peter Bergman was a guest on Alec Baldwin's podcast, Here's the Thing, and he opened up with a treasure trove of memories from his time as All My Children's Cliff Warner and his start as The Young and the Restless' Jack Abbott. The conversation was made all the richer by the fact that Baldwin -- famous for roles in The Departed, It's Complicated, and Saturday Night Live -- knows a thing or two about soaps, having gotten his start on NBC's The Doctors, playing Billy Aldrich, in 1982.
The conversation gets off to a fun start when Baldwin mentions that David O'Brien, who played his father, Dr. Steve Aldrich, on The Doctors, once told him, "Don't mock the material, don't make fun of it. That's not going to help you."
Bergman agrees, adding, "Or, if you're going to do it, do it first thing in the morning. Let's get all our laughs out early and play the absurdity of it all, and then let's all get together and see how good we can make this."
The conversation then segues into Bergam's early days as an actor, when a crush on a girl and competition with a fellow acting student spurred him on to pursue performing as a career in New York City. While waiting tables and auditioning for commercials, Bergman landed an audition at All My Children -- which he recalls came at the end of a terrible day.
"I had three auditions that day," he remembers. "I had a commercial audition in the morning, where everybody looked just like I did, and I walked in there and had to wear a suit, and it was summertime, and it was vile, and I went from that back to the York Theater where I had been yesterday, reading a new Tennessee Williams play... and the moment that I stepped out on the stage, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was just horrible. I lost my place, and a very sweet voice from the audience said, 'Thank you.' And I left, and I went back to my apartment SO disconsolate. I was having growing concerns that I was not cut out for this."
His defeated attitude led him to regret agreeing to the AMC audition, but he showed up anyway -- with his bad mood still intact.
"I went there, and I didn't know anything about any of it, but I didn't care. I just didn't care," he recalls. "And I went in, and everything that could go right went right."
His subsequent ten years of experience on AMC remains one of Bergman's greatest career highlights, especially as they made him realize that the world of soap operas wasn't as shallow as he had previously assumed, with the stars of the show being talented, intelligent, and serious actors.
"New York soaps were a great thing because all of these Broadway actors were [coming in]... and I was around the David Cararys (Adam Chandler) and the James Mitchells (Palmer Cortlandt)," he says. "And I'm telling you, what these guys did on these shows, oh, my God, it was fantastic. It was absolutely [fantastic]. I would watch with wonder at what these actors could do."
Bergman played the role of AMC's Cliff for a decade, and he admits that he got pretty damn comfortable in the role. So much so, that when he was unexpectedly fired, he was completely hammered by the devastating news.
"That job came to an end before I was ready for it to come to an end," he reveals. "I had found a home and had made myself a member of that family in a big way... They let me know in late January and I worked until September 6. It was a long time. It was nasty, and I would love to tell you that I was strong enough to pick myself up and dust myself off and get on to the next thing... but I was thunderstruck by it."
Luckily, Y&R came calling not too much later -- though Bergman reveals that signing on to play Jack Abbott was the last thing he wanted to do at the time.
"[There were] three things I was not going to do after leaving All My Children: I was not going to replace anybody, because replacements kind of didn't work on All My Children when characters left; I was not going to do another soap right away... and I was not moving to L.A.," he shares. "But I moved to L.A., and replaced somebody [on a soap opera]!"
Funny enough, Bergman once again found himself surprised by the soap opera world. The daytime environment in California was very different than it had been in New York, with Bergman explaining his surprise over the fact that all the actors were in their own little self-obsessed bubbles, and there were cue cards used on set. (Baldwin jokes that Y&R even had the nickname "The Hung and the Breastless" because word on the street was that L.A. soaps were filled with beautiful people who didn't have much else to offer.)
"But here's the cool thing," Bergman says about what made him say yes to the Y&R role. "After ten years of watching a couple guys have those roles, the role, I've got the role on this show. It's about me. This is a mercurial character. One day, the nicest brother anybody could ever have, and the next day, a despotic boss, a dreadful, manipulative, venal, self-centered idiot. The next day, a careful, kind lover. It was one of the roles, I got one of the roles in daytime."
To hear Bergman's entire conversation with Baldwin, which includes the way the actor would love to see Jack's story come to an end, click here.
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