When Susan Lucci finally won that elusive Daytime Emmy in 1999, she thanked the “All My Children” casting director for plucking an ethnic type for the role.
For 41 years, Lucci has played the mercurial Erica Kane. More husbands than Elizabeth Taylor. Feistier than any of the women on the “Real Housewives” franchise. With her dark hair, dark eyes and olive complexion, a young Lucci heard from agents who said she would not have a good chance in television. After all, she didn’t possess acceptable marks of beauty – namely blond hair or blue eyes.
Growing up, her mother made a point to buy brunette dolls and point out the chestnut-haired Miss America contestants.
“I looked different than most everybody in town at the time. And it seems so silly since we’ve come so far. But those were the times,” Lucci said in a recent interview in Chicago. She’s plugging her new book “All My Life: A Memoir.”
Today, “La Lucci” is in the pantheon of pop culture. People who’ve never watched soap operas have some inkling of Erica Kane’s antics. It took Lucci 19 nominations to win her Emmy. That stretch made Lucci a playful punch line – one that she embraced.
“I find her delightful to play. There’s a reality to her, but she’s larger than life.” Lucci said of her alter ego. “We very much have the same taste [in clothing] but I would wear to the cocktail party and Erica would wear it to the Starbucks. “
Lucci’s been with “All My Children” since its inception in 1970. She played a conniving teenager and morphed into a conniving adult in typical soap opera fashion. But Erica Kane’s spunk and spirit made her the villainous vixen viewers loved to hate. And over the decades, Lucci has braved pioneering storylines that are the hallmark of daytime dramas.
Erica Kane was the first television character to receive an abortion after Roe v. Wade. Her daughter had a same sex marriage in 2009.
Lucci’s credits “All My Children” creator and writer, Agnes Nixon.
“I’ve heard Agnes always talk about always feeling a mandate with so many successful hours of network television on the air to entertain and secondly to inform where she could. And I feel so lucky to have been part of these groundbreaking storylines,” Lucci said.
Erica Kane has also been raped and battled prescription drugs. Lucci said advocacy groups routinely praise their storylines for sensitivity and progressiveness in entertainment. She said her hardest storyline wasn’t a social issue at all – it was when Erica Kane married a man who wanted her to dwell in domesticity bliss. Of course, that ended in divorce.
Soap operas have faced cancellation in recent years amid changing television patterns. There’s been gossip swirling that “All My Children” is headed for the same cancellation fate. Lucci dismissed that rumor as false.
“It’s a horrible, nasty, ugly rumor,” Lucci said.
“I just was handed a storyline that’s very juicy … and a schedule that takes me into next year.”
Lucci couldn’t give any hints, but she said it’s a story she’s never done before.
Hard to imagine.