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Y&R’s Peter Bergman Talks 30 Years Of Jack Abbott, His Co-Stars, And His Gratitude

Photo: CBS

When you think of the world of daytime drama, you can’t get any better than this man.  And, this week, three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Peter Bergman celebrates his 30th anniversary in the pivotal and now iconic role of Jack Abbott on CBS’ The Young and the Restless.

To mark the occasion, viewers are in for an emotional standalone episode on Monday, November 25th, when Jack’s sister, Traci (Beth Maitland) hands him the completed manuscript of the memoir she has been working on about the Abbott clan, and lets Jack be the first to read it.  As he goes through it, Jack recalls the ups and the downs of his life.  Get ready for some flashbacks and have the hankies ready!

Throughout the years, we have witnessed Jack do anything possible to keep control of the family business (Jabot Cosmetics).  We have watched his longstanding feud with Victor Newman (Eric Braeden), and how Jack spiraled out of control to a pain pill addiction.  As for Jack’s love life, well, that has not always been too successful.  There have been many wives and many divorces through the years.  But for Jack, it’s all about family … from his sons, to his siblings … to his mother and father, and while there has been often rivalry, there has also been deep love and affection.  All of this and more has offered 21-time Emmy nominee and soap vet, Bergman a palette to bring his honed acting skills and passion for the genre to each and every episode in which he appears.

Many a soap fan also knows that Peter got his soap star in New York as Dr. Cliff Warner on ABC’s All My Children, but who knew back then that a career-defining role was eventually going to be waiting for him in Hollywood.

Michael Fairman TV chatted with Peter as he reflects on his time in Genoa City from:  his beginnings on Y&R replacing another talented actor, Terry Lester, to his Abbott family co-stars; to what this milestone means to him, to how he felt about taping the episode in his honor, and what life lessons he has learned along the way.

While we have had the good fortune to interview Peter many times over the years, this was an extra special conversation that we hope you will enjoy as we salute the one and only Mr. Bergman.

Photo: JPI

How have you liked all of the attention that has come your way surrounding your 30th anniversary on Y&R?  I know you well enough to know you don’t often like all the pomp and circumstance.  However, it’s been great to see you get the acknowledgements through: your own upcoming special Y&R standalone episode that airs Monday, your visit to The Talk recently, the satellite media tour you just did with CBS affiliate markets around the country, interviews with the press, and that very cool photo shoot spread in CBS Watch!

PETER:  (Laughs) You know, it’s so funny.  My wife, Mariellen said to me more than once in the last couple of weeks, “All of this stuff  keeps coming up, and you’ve not made a big deal of this at home,” and it’s true.  I feel like we just celebrated 25.  That seems like just 2 years ago.  But, here we are again.  Approaching all of this, CBS, Matt Kane (publicist, Y&R) and Melissa Burton (publicist, CBS) said, “So, what do we want to do?  A cake and a party?”  I said, “No, no, no.  I feel like we just did that.  Let’s just go low-key.”  So, their version of low-key is somewhat different than my version of low-key. (Laughs)  I have my own episode, and have been on talk shows galore, and have done interviews with the likes of you, and everything over 30 years.  Actually, I have to be honest, it has been great fun.  It’s surprising how much fun I’ve had.  Some of the conversations are just about wonderful memories that I have been forced to look at and cherish.  So here are a couple insights from that. I was asked, “What did you see in 30 years of tape?”  I saw a lot of storypoints that we could talk about, but I also saw all of these friendships that I have made and that I value so much.  I remember when I first got to the job.  I was this New York snob thinking, “What am I doing in this God-forsaken, cultural vacuum of a town (referring to Hollywood)?”  Oh, if only I had just embraced it from the moment I got here.  People were probably being exceedingly friendly and welcoming to me, and I didn’t even see it.  I was so busy being at malcontent.  It lasted for a long time.  I kept our apartment for 7 years in New York.  It was so clear though, that Y&R was becoming one of those gigs.  But, I still held on to that apartment, just in case, because once this thing is over, I am out of here! (Laughs)

Photo: JPI

Truth be told, when I moved out to L.A, from New York I felt the same way.  I was ready to hightail it back the first chance I could.  I also should have embraced it earlier. Looking back on it now, what would you have done differently?

PETER:  Oh, if I could do it all over again, the first day, I would have sold the New York apartment, bought a surf board, bought a set of golf clubs, joined a tennis club, embraced California, reached out to my cast members, welcomed them into my life.  I didn’t do any of those things, and I am a little embarrassed by that because look at what it tuned into.  I have joked before that I was dragged kicking and screaming to the best thing that has ever happened to me.  These past couple of weeks have been a reminder that that’s actually true.

Photo: JPI

I remember when you first took over the role of Jack Abbott.  You were a recast taking over the part last played by Terry Lester.  What I always loved about all of our conversations, or conversations that I’ve seen you do with others, is that you always say that you feel a connection to those performers who come onto Y&R or any other soap, who have to step into the shoes of a character previously played by another actor.

PETER:  That’s right. I do indeed.  I am their best friend.  I make sure I find anyone who finds themselves in that situation and I have a conversation with them; for instance: Mark Grossman (Adam, Y&R) just the other day.  I said, “Mark, you’ve been here long enough.  You’ve now established Adam.  You don’t have to look back at what anyone else did with this character.  Now we have to tell Mark Grossman’s version of Adam,” and he did welcome that advice because yeah, it’s a hard thing to do.  It’s a hard thing to step into a role that’s been played by someone else before

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Knowing that, was there trepidation on your part once you got the role of Jack?

PETER:  Oh, yeah.  I’m telling you, every prop person, every set decorator, every lighting person knew more about Jack Abbott than I did.  It was daunting.  It was really daunting.  I’d try something, “Eh, I’m going to try this,” and they’d cut it short and go, “No, no,” and they were right!  They were helping to guide me towards making this my own, but we do this in baby steps.  I’m just amazingly grateful.  This has been a time of gratitude, and it has surprised me.

Photo Credit: JPI

When you found out that Y&R was going to air a 30th anniversary episode in honor of you and the character of Jack Abbott, what was your reaction to that?

PETER:  My first reaction was some reluctance, “Is that going to be interesting at all?” and my second reaction was, “Wow!  That’s pretty damn flattering.”  I’m genuinely honored and flattered by that.  That really touched me.

In the anniversary episode that viewers will see on Monday, was there a scene that you did that just either gut-punched you … or made you think about something that transpired over the years differently, or was just so emotional for you?

PETER:  There were several that gut-punched me.  There were a few emotional highlights of stories, and emotional peaks of stories in there.  If I had to pick one thing to take away from it, and this is kind of curious because I was surprised by this. I watched my relationship with so many different people and thought about how they’ve changed or grown.  I watched scenes with Phyllis, and thought, “This is probably Jack’s most painful loss.”  There is something just inherently oil and water with them.  This old money, somewhat straight-laced guy, and this crazy-ass girl from the other side of the tracks, like no woman he ever met at the country club.  I watched those scenes, and I thought, “Wow, that is terrific,” and I thought of it from Jack’s perspective, and I thought, “These two people never got out of love.  It just got too painful between them.”  That really stood out to me.  There were scenes that I saw a lot of Jack exposed in.  He covers himself pretty well with lots of people.  He was pretty exposed for a while.  He doesn’t give it away to just anybody.  I watched those scenes and there was an emotional honestly in there that was kind of startling.

Photo: JPI

Jack has had been married several times, and had five divorces along the way.  Some of the women in his life have included: Sharon, Nikki, Luan, Patty, Jill, and Phyllis.

PETER:  That’s right.  There was Patty.  Nikki a couple of times.  There were a few women, and every one of them changed Jack.  The Jack that I watched in the progression of this show… … the Jack when I first got there … was a pretty selfish guy.  He was out for himself and pretty much through Nikki and then through others, learned compassion.  Jack earned empathy in a way he hadn’t before, and we watched him build a conscience in the progress of telling Jack’s story.

At this point, Jack needs to have a woman in is life that can be one of the great loves and relationships of his lifetime.  Do you think he’d be prepared for that now?

PETER:  Oh yes.  Strangely enough, I think he’s more prepared for that now than ever before.  Part of Jack’s problem always with these women is that all of these women paid for Dina’s sins.  He expected every one of them to leave.  It was almost a foregone conclusion.  The most important woman of his life left when he was 14, and one by one all these other women left him.

Photo: JPI

Is there someone in a primetime series, motion pictures, daytime, the theatre, who would you love to see play your love interest on Y&R?

PETER:  Who would I love to see play my love interest?  Gosh, I wish I had an answer to that.  I think just bring her on.  I’ll make it work.  I think that’s a side of Jack that we haven’t gotten to see for a while, and I agree with you.  I think now, he actually might be ready for a two-way relationship that isn’t all about him, that is based on some truth, that is based on looking out for someone else as much as he looks out for himself.  I think he is more ready for that now than he has ever been.  We’ll see if they are ready to invest in that, and if that is something they’re ready to see.

You’ve had 21 Daytime Emmy nominations in acting categories, but I want to nominate you for “Best Chair-Throwing in a Daytime Drama Series”.

PETER:  (Laughs)  You can only do it in one take.  They don’t have several sheets of glass, so it had better work when you do it.

Remember; when you did that now classic chair throw in the showdown between Jack and Victor (Eric Braeden)?

PETER:  Yes, The first one was with Eric Braeden.  My favorite part of that story is Mike Denney was directing it, and I pulled Mike aside as we were blocking it.  I said, “Wouldn’t there be just crazy wind at that level, that high up?   Wouldn’t the wind be nuts?” and Mike had like three fans brought in, and I looked over, and Eric Braeden’s hair was everywhere.  Mine had blown from one part of my scalp to the other. (Laughs)  It was this wind storm that made it all the more dramatic.  I loved the finished product of that, and I got to have a little hand in it.

Photo: JPI

And the second was more recent when Jack finds out about Ashley’s duplicity and throws the chair threw the glass at Jabot

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PETER:  The second chair throwing through a window with Ashley was just pure animal, anger, disgust, revulsion, everything black in Jack coming out that way, and that stupid glass shouldn’t have been there in the first place, but we put that in.  (Laughs)

I can’t wait for the next chair throw!

PETER:  I’m practicing just in case!

Photo: JPI

I’m going to name a few cast members of the Abbott clan, and if you could just give me a few words about working with each of them through the years that would be great.  Let’s start with Beth Maitland (Traci).

PETER:  Beth Maitland, the beating heart and soul of the Abbott family, the conscious of the Abbotts, the keeper of the family secrets, she knows everything, and she’s kept it to herself.  A generous, kind, thoughtful, hard-working, and really responsible friend.

Eileen Davidson (Ashley) …

PETER:  Eileen Davidson… exotic, smart as a whip, and a lot funnier than most people know.  She makes me laugh until I cry.  She is at once beautiful and funny, and that is a lethal combination.

Photo: JPI

Jerry Douglas (John) …

PETER:  Jerry Douglas… just a sweet, sweet man who has always had such ease in playing my father that it made it easy to be his son.  He was a generous actor that way.

Jason Thompson (Billy) …

PETER:  Jason Thompson … naturally cool.  There are two things that Jason has that seem to be contradictory.  He is cool and at the same time warm-loving and…. just sweet.  Kind.  That doesn’t happen.  There is a cool about Jason that has always been there.  It just comes totally naturally to him, and at the same time you see this love and warmth and genuine kindness.

Photo:JPI

Marla Adams (Dina) …

PETER:  Marla Adams, that sweetheart of a woman who loves to break into song at a moment’s notice, just makes me smile, and from the moment she came back is a daily reminder to be grateful for work, to be grateful for this job.  She is a walking reminder that we are lucky, lucky actors, and she is a very talented woman.

Photo JPI

Michael Mealor (Kyle) …

PETER:  Michael Mealor, a 28-year-old man with the soul of a 50-year-old man.  He is so evolved.  He is so bright, asks smart questions. Michael is a wise, wise man for his age and experience.  He constantly surprises me.  He constantly amazes me, and all of that with a sense of humor is a cool thing.

Photo: JPI

What do you think your longtime castmate, the late Kristoff St. John (Ex-Neil) would say to you if he were here for your 30th anniversary with Y&R?

PETER:  Oh, Kristoff St. John was always so generous with accolades, with commendations, with compliments.  I think Kristoff would look at this as a great thing for me, and a great thing for him, and a great thing for the show.  He was just that generous.  I miss him on a regular basis.  That was a generous, generous heart, and a tragic end to a vibrant life.

In story, and just in time for your 30th, Jack is back as the CEO of Jabot.  Billy has resigned, and now upon learning Theo (Tyler Johnson) is family, Jack gets Theo to stay in Genoa City and not go to Paris to work with Ashley and become part of the Jabot team.  Will Jack thrive this time as CEO?

PETER:  Yes, Jack is back to taking the reins at Jabot.  I think that is as it should be.  I think it is very hard for the audience or anyone to see, “Wait Jabot without Jack? I’m not sure what that is.”  So, yes, I’m happy to be back and happy to be working regularly with Michael Mealor and Hunter King (Summer) and the whole gang over there, and now Theo.  Tyler Johnson is just fantastic.  What a really neat guy… a young philosopher who is well-read and has this curious, curious mind that makes us all smile.

Photo: JPI

When did you know that the Victor/Jack feud was lightning in a bottle?

PETER:  I think it snuck up on me.  Ten years in, I realized, “Wait a second, this actually is a rivalry for the ages.”  I knew very early on that Victor Newman’s presence in Jack’s life made Jack a more interesting character.  I fully understood that and a great credit to Eric Braeden and what he and I got to establish together (what he established first of all with Terry Lester and what he and I got to continue).  So, this enduring rivalry is a now part of, I think, television history.  I don’t know if there is any rivalry that has lasted this long on one show … ever.

Which of these Jack nicknames is your favorite?  “Jackie”, which his family calls him, “Jackie Boy”, which John Abbott called him, “Jacko”, which Brad Carlton called him, and “Goddamn Jack Abbott” which is what Victor called him! (Laughs)  And, there is of course, “Smiling Jack” as the character has been referred to over time.

PETER:  I hear the name “Jackie”, and it is only used by my on-screen sisters and so that makes me smile.  They call me “Jackie” a lot.  “Smiling Jack”, I never fought that, but “Jackie” always feels good.

Photo: F. Scott Schafer/CBSWatch!

You know when people say, “Peter Bergman” the words associated with that are: “class act”, “respect”, “gracious” and “one helluva an actor”  So in closing, what would you want to say to the fans that have supported you and loved your character for 30 years on this show? 

PETER:  I am so grateful, and genuinely surprised with the way the audience has connected with my friend Jack Abbott.  I am so grateful that they have allowed Jack to grow and change.  I am so grateful that the audience always wants to know Jack’s side of the story, and just those things make it possible for me to do the greatest job that anyone could ever have.  I have the greatest job thanks to all of those qualities in the people who watch the show.

Share your thoughts on 30 years of memorable performances of Peter Bergman and your favorite Jack Abbott moments via the comment section below.  But first, check out the promo for Monday’s standalone episode of Y&R in honor of Bergman, a video shared with international broadcasters and the media of the milestone, and one of Peter’s Daytime Emmy-winning moments.

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Jennifer MartinRichard SignorellimattKayDMRR Recent comment authors
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Su000
Su000

Petter deserves high praise for his Jack role..
30 years WOW half a lifetime, he is very committed.

but– (always a but lol)

His character is so wimpy..
Jack is a sucker
The best word to describe the Jack character is-
…..GULLIBLE …
 
The Abbot family is BLAH in comparison to the rockin’ Newman family..
Anyways..
Jack wouldn’t be Jack without Victor who wouldn’t be Victor without Jack.. (figure that one out lol)

CONGRATULATIONS PETTER !! FOR 30 GREAT YEARS!!
Y&R WOULDN’T BE what it is WITHOUT YOU !!

Gloria
Gloria

He has such a distinctive look & voice & even though he’s played Jack on Y&R for so long I still, every time I see his face I can’t help but think of Cliff & Nina on All My Children. I can hear him on that show! A part of me will always think of him as Cliff who I loved so much as an 18 yr old, ha. Y&R was lucky to get him & he’s been lucky to stay there! ALL GOOD!

Kay
Kay

Gloria most definitely the best chemistry he ever had was with Taylor Miller/Nina !!! They were what in those times they called a Super Couple!

Timmm
Timmm

He is who you think he is, a nice, warm individual who somehow got to shine in the gloom and doom of Hollywood! Peter, I wish you 30 more years of anything you wish for!

Momo
Momo

What a classy guy. Peter is fabulous and Jack. Congratulations on 30 years at Y&R!!!

DMRR
DMRR

I love him; and I loved him as Cliff on AMC.
Congratulations, “Jackie.”

matt
matt

Watching the episode today, the writers missed a perfect potential storyline. Rather than Theo being the son of a dead unseen brother, he should have been the John who received the heart transplant from Jack and Niki’s baby… That would have made the entire Summer connection even more interesting…

Richard Signorelli
Richard Signorelli

great actor and a class act

Jennifer Martin
Jennifer Martin

Congratulations Peter. You took Jack Abbott and made him your own. You are Jack Abbott. May you have many more years on Y&R

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