Agnes Nixon, Genie Francis, Anthony Geary, Susan Lucci, Eric Braeden, Judith Light, Kay Alden, William Bell, and Jeanne Cooper share behind the scenes stories from some of the most beloved soap operas of all time
By John DominisLIFE Photo Collection
CAPTURING TELEVISION HISTORY ONE VOICE AT A TIME
Since 1997, the Television Academy Foundation’s The Interviews: An Oral History of Television (formerly the Archive of American Television) has been conducting in-depth, videotaped oral history interviews with television professionals, including actors, writers, editors, and journalists. These interviews explore the lives and careers of the interviewees, and often touch on important historical moments and movements.
Gathered here are stories from the stars and creators One Life to Live, The Young and the Restless, All My Children, and more.
Agnes Nixon on creating One Life to LiveThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Soap opera creator/writer Agnes Nixon describes her thought process when creating one of her groundbreaking series, One Life to Live, including the differences in the characters on that show versus previous soaps:
"I used to say I was taking the soap out of WASP Valley. We had a blue collar and very low income and of course an integrated cast. Black and white."
Watch Agnes Nixon’s full interview to hear the stories behind her legendary career creating All My Children, One Life to Live, and more.
Anthony Geary and Genie Francis on "Luke" and "Laura's" weddingThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Actors Genie Francis and Anthony Geary recall the wedding of their General Hospital characters “Luke” and “Laura.” Though a pivotal moment in pop culture, they say the actual filming was fairly uncomfortable, as Francis describes:
"I remember being told not to sit down in that dress. They gave me a lean board. But I just remember, this would not be the day to wrinkle my dress."
Watch Genie Francis’ full interview and Anthony Geary’s full interview to hear more stories from their years as “Luke” and “Laura.”
Susan Lucci on auditioning for "Erica Kane" on All My ChildrenThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Actress Susan Lucci describes auditioning for the part of “Erica Kane” on All My Children, including how she guessed she had the part before being officially told:
"Bud Kloss, the producer, just after my screen test walked through that lobby; he was leaving for the day. And he saw me sitting there and he turned around with a smile and kind of a devilish look in his eye and he said, ‘We’ll be talking to your agent in the morning.’ So, I kind of thought I probably got it then.”
Watch Susan Lucci’s full interview to hear the stories behind her legendary career.
Eric Braeden on the character of "Victor Newman" from The Young and the RestlessThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Actor Eric Braeden describes his The Young and the Restless character, “Victor Newman,” including what he thought of the character when show creator William Bell first described him and what he asked of Bell in response:
"I said, ‘Bill, I have played bad guys for so many years, I’m empty. I can’t do it anymore. Can we somehow assign something to the background of this character that explains why he is who he is, that gives me a sociological background that justifies who he is?’”
Watch Eric Braeden’s full interview, which spans his life from growing up in Germany to his film work to his decades on The Young and the Restless.
Judith Light on her most memorable moment on One Life to LiveThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Actress Judith Light tells the story behind her most memorable moment playing “Karen Wolek” on One Life to Live: the courtroom scene where she admits that she has been prostituting herself. Light shares why she believes the audience responded so forcefully to this scene:
"Watching a person end their life as they know it, expose themselves in such a vulnerable and fragile and difficult way, becomes in some form heroic. Because there isn’t a person on this earth that doesn’t have something to come out about."
Watch Judith Light’s full interview, which spans her career from One Life to Live to Who’s the Boss to Transparent.
Kay Alden on The Young and the Restless controversial storylinesThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Writer Kay Alden discusses the ways in which The Young and the Restless has tackled controversial storylines and sparked national conversations about medical issues, societal ills, and changing social norms. She describes the ultimate contribution that soap operas can make:
"Learning to accept the differences among people, and learning to accept people for who they are is, I think, a huge message that we in our genre have the potential to convey."
Watch Kay Alden’s full interview to hear stories from her career writing on The Young and the Restless.
William Bell on writing for show creator Irna Phillips on Guiding LightThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Soap opera creator/writer William Bell describes what it was like to work with legendary soap creator Irna Phillips on her series Guiding Light, including her exacting standards for the writers who worked for her:
"Irna was patient but she was honest. She’s not gonna take any crap, she’s not gonna put anything that shouldn’t be on the air, on the air.”
Watch William Bell’s full interview where he discusses writing for Guiding Light, co-creating The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful with his wife, Lee Phillip Bell, and more.
Jeanne Cooper on Daytime TelevisionThe Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Actress Jeanne Cooper, who starred as “Katherine Chancellor” on The Young and the Restless describes the challenges and the rewards of performing on soap operas:
"It's the most difficult media I have ever done in my life. It is backbreaking. You have to be on your toes. …It's incredible. It's momentary. Your feelings are momentary. They have to be caught. They have to be captured on camera.”
Watch Jeanne Cooper’s full interview, which spans her career from early television appearances to over 30 years on The Young and the Restless.
The Television Academy Foundation's The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
Jenni Matz, Director
Adrienne Faillace, Producer
Jenna Hymes, Manager & Exhibit curator
Nora Bates, Production Coordinator
John Dalton, Cataloguer
Video editing by the Pop Culture Passionistas, sisters Amy and Nancy Harrington, who have made a career based on their love of pop culture.