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LYNDA HIRSCH ON TELEVISION -- Q AND A
Q: I have watched "Young and Restless" from the day it came on the air. I always wondered what happened to the actor who originally played Jack Abbott. Can you give me some information? — Anita S. of Portland, Ore.
A: Sadly, Terry Lester, who played smiling Jack Abbott from 1980 to 1989, died in 2003 after suffering a heart attack at home.
Lester was one heck of a guy. He always said what he thought. Sometimes that was a good thing; sometimes not. During his final year at "Y&R," he felt that teen actors were getting more on-air time than the more seasoned actors. At the time, he said: "Half of these kinds cannot act. They take screen time from those who can." One of those teens was Bill Bell's daughter.
Lester was originally approached by Bill Bell, creator, executive producer and head writer of "Y&R," who offered him a chance to replace an existing actor. Lester turned the offer down. He wanted to play a new character. Bell was so intrigued by Lester that he was given the role of n'er-do-well Jack Abbott. His character was so popular that Bell created the Abbott family around him. That family is still a major part of the "Y&R" canvas.
Lester was always a step ahead of the game. He was one of the first people to have a Filofax — those little books that carried every bit of information needed in planning one's life. My disorganization made him so crazy he gave one to me. Sorry, Terry, great idea, but using it would have meant writing down things.
Lester was almost a child prodigy. At the age of 3, he was reading newspapers; by 5, he was playing the piano for choral groups.
Although he was nominated numerous times for best actor on a daytime series for his work as Jack Abbott, he never won. He admitted that his continual slamming of the awards process did not help.
One Daytime Emmy nominations year, Terry knew he was not going to win. Prior to the awards, he told me all the winners. He knew because he was giving an interview at the "Daily News," and he spotted a list of the winners. Remember, he was reading newspapers at 3, so reading the winning list upside-down was easy. He left the newspaper office and bought himself a solid gold Dunhill cigarette lighter. It cost over $5,000. "I am awarding this to myself," he said.
After he decided to leave "Y&R," Paul Rauch talked him into taking over the role of Mason Capwell on "Santa Barbara" when Lane Davies left the role. Rauch made a campy move. He had Lane Davies as Mason in the first half of the show, and in the second half Terry played Mason.
After leaving "Santa Barbara," he moved to New York and took a role on "As the World Turns." The character of Royce, who had multiple personalities, was created by Doug Marland. Marland died suddenly, and Lester's character was put so far back on the burner that he wasn't even on the stove.
Following that, Lester had some bit parts in prime time. He spent much of his time doing stage work and composing music.
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