This week, Peter Bergman celebrated playing Jack Abbott on "The Young and the Restless" for 30 years. And I celebrated knowing him for 40 years. He got his daytime start playing Dr. Cliff Warner on "All My Children." That role led to the iconic commercial: "I am not really a doctor; I just play one on TV."
Play it he did. Cliff was the other half of the Nina and Cliff pairing, with Taylor Miller as Nina. Yes, they were part of a romantic triangle. The other third was her "No man is good enough man for my daughter, especially you" daddy, Palmer Cortlandt, played by James Mitchell. Bergman gives much credit to Mitchell for what he knows about acting. Rule No. 1 was to never say something like, "My character would never do that." Mitchell felt that the writers wrote, and the actor has to make it work. He often said, "They write, I act."
The first time I met Bergman, Mitchell had offered him a dime if he would do scenes with this person. It was a joke, but the performer he was working with left the show after a year and began working at a deli. Mitchell was kind to her. He told Bergman that is the other part of the job. "No one wants to do a bad job. Maybe it is the best they can do," said Mitchell.
For Bergman's 30th anniversary, the cast and crew shared how wonderful he was/is to work with.
There are many reasons, but one of the top is how he comes prepared. He is willing to run lines and help newer actors to find their stride. There is only one caveat: When you are in the studio, you better not be looking at your scenes for the first time. You should know them. Spencer Tracy said acting is easy. Just "know your lines, and don't bump into the furniture."
After a decade, "All My Children" sent off Cliff and Nina in a happy farewell. Bergman was certain he would never find another acting gig.
However, over at "The Young and the Restless" the part of Jack needed to be recast. Terry Lester was leaving the show. Lester was a great guy and great actor. He was not a great politician. He went to a soap magazine and slammed the acting talents of the daughter of the show's executive producer.
Bergman auditioned and 30 years and three best acting Emmys later he is still a major player in Genoa City.
He has had lots of wonderful and horrible storylines. If he seemed unhappy with a plot, I would allude to the Keemo storyline. "Thank god it is not Keemo." In that storyline, Jack survived in Vietnam and fell in love with Vietnamese girl, Luan. He did not know they shared a child. Yep, it was Keemo. A dying Luan came to town and revealed to Jack that they had an adult son. Keemo disappeared and was never again mentioned.
If you want to get Bergman to cry, just mention his wife, Mariellen. I did a lot of on-air stuff with him. My videographers knew what was going to happen if you alluded to his wife. Tears would start streaming down his face, and the cameraman had to stop shooting so Bergman could regroup. I thought it was sweet, my camera guy not so much.
While Bergman may only play a doctor on TV, he plays a good guy on and off TV.
To find out more about Lynda Hirsch and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.