For many, Erica Kane was All My Children. An original character, fans followed her antics, brought to life by Susan Lucci, for 41 years as she worked her way through all the men of Pine Valley. So when the show ended, there were initial feelings of "anger" which led to a period of "mourning" for the soap opera icon.
In a conversation with Yahoo Entertainment ahead of the 2019 Daytime Emmy Awards, which take place Sunday, Lucci — who famously won her Lead Actress Emmy in 1999 after losing 18 times — recalled getting the news in April 2011 that ABC was ending the soap, which was a daytime staple for more than four decades.
"When the announcement was going to be made that All My Children was going to go off the air, [creator] Agnes Nixon actually called me and told me she had heard this was going to happen,” Lucci recalls. She says Nixon didn’t want her to be “blindsided,” as the face of the show — and, arguably, daytime TV.
Lucci says she suspected “something was up” anyway based on the number of executives on set that day. She was then called to the producer’s office, where the head of ABC Daytime, Brian Frons, broke the news.
“I was very surprised,” she remembers, “and I asked him why and he said they were replacing us with a show that [cost] 40 percent less to produce,” referring to The Chew. (Lucci previously ripped Frons in her 2011 memoir All My Life for the seemingly gleeful way he delivered the cancellation news, writing, "An iconic show was losing out to greed. ... I watched Brian Frons’s decisions destroy the production of our show and the lives of people on both sides of the country.” Frons left ABC in January 2012 after a petition demanded he be fired.)
After spending her entire career on the show, Lucci admits that the cancellation left her hurt.
"There was a lot of anger that day — from me and everybody else,” she says. “It was really a period of mourning because we went through all of those stages — the anger, the denial, the sadness, the missing of each other."
However, she adds that the fans and their passion for the show "helped me get through that mourning period.” She says she’s come to realize that despite the show ending, “I do have [Erica] with me,” the soap icon says about her diva counterpart, adding, “There’s a little bit of Erica in all of us. It’s a matter of proportion and the day.”
The final scene of the show, which aired on Sept. 23, 2011, centered around Lucci's character, who was planning to leave Pine Valley to move to Hollywood, causing turbulence with her on-again, off-again love Jack (played by Walt Willey). But it was a cliffhanger with Jacob Young, who played J.R., yielding a gun — where Kane and other popular denizens were gathered — with his target unknown.
The final scene of All My Children:
“The way the show ended was very interesting. Agnes ended it as a champion. She was so great the way she wrote," Lucci says of Nixon, who passed away in 2016. "There was a cliffhanger [and] to this day people will ask me: Who was in the crosshairs? Did Erica live? Did she go get Jack back? Did they get married? After we were canceled, Agnes still had storyline, so [we] both thought the show would come back."
There was hope that it would continue online initially. It was briefly revived through the production company Prospect Park, but the new production was plagued with problems — financial and otherwise. Lucci never officially signed on and it was canceled — again — in 2013.
Lucci says that despite All My Children ending twice, she has never completely ruled out bringing it back.
“There is some conversation about a way to do it," she says with that Erica sparkle in her eye. "We'll see. I mean, we don’t know.”
As for The Chew, which was the replacement for AMC with its lower budget, it debuted about a month after the soap went went dark. The food-centric talk chat show ran for six years before also being canceled in June 2018 — about six months after co-host Mario Batali was fired following sexual misconduct allegations.
This Sunday, the 2019 Daytime Emmys honoring the four remaining soaps and the rest of the daytime programming will take place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif., and will be hosted by Extra TV personality Mario Lopez and Sheryl Underwood from The Talk. However, there will perhaps be no moment quite as great at at the 1999 show — 20 years ago — when Lucci won her first Emmy, for Best Actress, after 19 nominations.
Watch it — with Shemar Moore memorably yelling, “The streak is over!” and Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell and Kelly Ripa cheering La Lucci on — here:
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