She was dubbed the leading lady of daytime television while portraying the narcissistic, engaging, high-strung, ambitious Erica Kane on the storied soap opera All My Children. Actress Susan Lucci began playing Erica in 1970 and continued until the show was canceled after 41 years in 2011. She seems to gravitate toward longevity, having been married to Helmut Huber for 33 years. They have two children.
After being nominated 18 times for a Daytime Emmy for best actress, she finally won on the 19th try, in 1999. She also took over for Bernadette Peters in the Broadway hit musical Annie get Your Gun to rave reviews. Now she is hosting Deadly Affairs on Investigation Discovery Channel. The new series about real-life soap operas, which airs Saturdays at 10 p.m., explores spouses who make fatal mistakes outside the marriage vows.
Excerpts from an interview:
Q. As a woman who has been married for more than three decades, do you have any idea how you would react if you found your husband was having an affair?
A. (Laughs) It would be a really big deal, and I would feel really terrible and all of that, but I think I would opt to walk away. Divorce is always an option. A lot of carrying on might be an option, but I don’t think I’d pull out a pistol. (Laughs)
Q. You played Erica Kane for 41 years. Was it difficult to protect your privacy?
A. Sometimes it was more difficult than others. I mean, I certainly set out to protect my children’s privacy, to allow them to grow up in a most normal way possible without a spotlight on them. Then when they get to be adults, they could choose what they would like to do. Sometimes it was unavoidable. I was in people’s living rooms five days a week. I can tell you people were so lovely and so positive. It made me happy to know that they were watching, and they were entertained.
Q. When your children were little, did they ever see you playing Erica Kane?
A. Not that often. It was on at 1 o’clock in the afternoon and they were in school, and before they were in school they were playing or taking naps. I do remember one time when my daughter was about 4. It was a summer day. She had just a little bit of hair, and she tossed it like I would as Erica, and she said, Mommy, how do you act like Erica? I thought that was great that she asked because it meant I wasn’t acting like Erica at home.
Q. Did you ever have to suppress the Erica personality from rising up when you were off the set?
A. (Laughs) Well, I think there’s a little bit of Erica in everybody. I think you try to suppress those things as best you can. When I played her, I actually got to have an outlet for that. It’s just a matter of trying to seek the balance, and some days you get luckier than others.
Q. I would guess the character just became second nature to you.
A. Yes, and yet what was a blessing was that, unlike a long run in a Broadway show, which has its own challenges, what I loved about playing Erica is that there was time to develop all the nuance. Every day was a fresh script and a fresh set of other characters to bounce off. I got to play such a range, you know, both drama and comedy. That really made me so happy as an actress.