When Digest sat down to interview Walt Willey (Jack) on the occasion of his 20th anniversary on AMC, he shared memories of many of the colleagues past and present who’ve shaped his Pine Valley experience. Here’s his candid take on 18 co-stars — not from A to Z, but from B (as in Julia Barr, ex-Brooke) to W (Ruth Warrick, ex-Phoebe).
Julia Barr (ex-Brooke): “Best kisser. That little overbite of hers worked to her advantage. I love Julia Barr. We laughed so much when we worked together. She’s so good and she’s so goofy.”
Jeff Branson (Jonathan): “Love Jeff Branson. I was so excited to get my schedule today and see we have the same three days off; maybe we’ll finally get to go camping, which we’ve been talking about. He and I were thrown together in the Lily storyline and he was one of the only people who was willing to help me with that because Jack had a valid point: Why would any decent father let his girl run off with a murderer? But of course, if you let that comment go, there’s no story. They just kind of made me a crazy person and I would go to Jeff and say, ‘I don’t know what to do with this stuff. Every fiber of my being is saying, ‘I can’t say this line.’ He would gladly give up lines — ‘Then let’s kill them, then’ — and we really, I think, made it work, so that everybody could keep their head up.”Rebecca Budig (ex-Greenlee): “When you get into this era of people, I tend not to know them as well because the being here all day stuff stopped and you don’t get a chance to know people that well. Rebecca was always prepared, always ready to go, and that’s a big thing for me; she was demanding in what she wanted from a scene and I think she often was right.”David Canary (Adam/Stuart): “I think he was the guy I actually worked with first on the show. David Canary is, first of all, the strongest man in the world — bar none, the strongest guy on this show. The man is a bull. I don’t think he likes it when I say this, but he is so strong. I don’t think he even knows how strong he is. His center of gravity is down around his ankles; he played football for Ohio State! He’s in better shape than three quarters of the guys on this show and he is so strong. And the greatest face in the world as far as I’m concerned. I remember going up to Colin Egglesfield [Josh] and saying, ‘Hey, Colin, you’ve got a scene coming up with David where you shove each other. Dig in, ‘cuz the guy’s really strong.’ He goes, ‘Sure, yeah.’ I said, ‘Colin, listen to me. He’s really strong!’ ‘Okay, thanks.’ ‘Okay, I’ve said enough, let him go find out.’ And David had him across the room so fast, he just [skidded] across the floor. David’s hands are bigger than mine, his fingers are thicker — he’s deceptively small. Colin came up, ‘Holy s—! Wow!’ I said, ‘Now you know what I was trying to say!’ Because Jack and Adam banged around for a long time. I was scared to death he was going to have a Ponderosa moment and hog-tie my ass.”Thorsten Kaye (Zach): “I have indeed become fond of Thorsten Kaye. He’s the closest thing I have to a friend in this studio, him and Jeff and Cameron [Mathison, Ryan]. I love Thorsten. I’ve said it before, but Thorsten’s the kind of guy who’ll take a bullet for you and failing that, he’ll raise your kids for you. He’s funny without being goofy. He’s almost as funny as I am; maybe in 10 years he’ll be as funny as I am. Nah, he’ll never be as funny as I am. There’s nothing I don’t like about him, there really isn’t.”James Kiberd (ex-Trevor): “Truly strange in a wonderful way. James, to me, always seemed like he had a foot out the door, something else he wanted to do. I remember going into his room and he’d be painting and drawing while memorizing his lines. I haven’t seen James in a long time, but I remember his ties, 400 ties drying on the windowsill so he could raise money for his charity. Good man, incredibly talented. He turned me on to Ben Franklin. James was a huge fan of Ben Franklin and I became one, as well. It’s strange to say a ‘fan,’ but I started reading incessantly about Franklin and my son, when he was young, got very into Franklin, too, and I remembered the things Kiberd had told me and books he’d referred me to. So I was Chance’s source for all things Ben Franklin, thanks to James Kiberd.”Susan Pratt [ex-Barbara]: “I always call her ‘Pratt’, never Susan, maybe it was because I had two Susans, three when Susan Keith [ex-Shana, LOVING, who is married to James Kiberd] would come over. We flirt all the time. If one of us actually would go to the mat I think we’d freak the other one out; I think that’s why we feel safe with each other, because we know we’ll never, ever, ever do anything about it. It was great to have her back.”
Michael Knight (Tad): “M to the K. Michael Knight and I got to be good buddies pretty quickly. I remember us going down to Disney to do a remote long before Disney had anything to do with ABC and running around with Michael like a couple of kids. He’s like the world’s largest 10-year-old and I’m the world’s largest 11-year-old and it’s all about quoting THE HONEYMOONERS and, ‘Remember that bit?’ He’s a good friend and a great guy.”
Felicity LaFortune (ex-Laurel): “Love Felicity. I see her about every two years or so. She’s unchanged. I was just crazy for her. They had hired another Laurel who didn’t really work out and I was on vacation in a horrible snowstorm and couldn’t get back East, things were virtually closed here anyway and they said, ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re firing Laurel.’ I go up there and watched them test some people and one of them was Felicity. She walked out and I said, ‘Oh, my God, how good to see you!’ We knew each other from RYAN’S HOPE [LaFortune played Leigh; Willey played Joe.] The Laurel they’d had was blonde and I thought, ‘Well, she doesn’t look the part, but she’s so good. She’s so good.’ We became very, very close — maybe too close for some people’s comfort level. I think we fell in love, you know? I don’t mean we were [having romantic interludes] in the dressing room; we just really loved each other and were really good friends, I don’t mean anything but that. She’s so talented and I think she’s just so beautiful; there’s such a vivaciousness and energy and she’s smart and funny.”Eva La Rue (ex-Maria): “There are some people you just have an affinity with; you just like them. And though I don’t think I was ever to her home or she to mine, I just loved Eva, I just wanted to put my arm around here and say, ‘It’s okay, Eva, it’s okay. If I can help in any way, let me know.’ And that was our relationship. We never talked about anything personal; I’m not the type to hear the gossip around here, the flotsam and jetsam and crap and gossip. So I think she felt somewhat safe with me, as the last person to hear anything. To some people, that’s a relief! ‘Let’s go talk to Walt — he won’t know a damn thing!’ “Larkin Malloy (ex-Travis): “Larkin and I were really good friends. We shared a dressing room together in the old studio, we used to go on vacation together. We got into all sorts of trouble, Larkin and I. He’s a great guy. I run into him every so often and I always hear of Larkin spottings. He really showed me the ropes about a lot of things, about the day-in, day-out stuff as opposed to coming in once or twice. We went to Aruba together, where I met a girl that I dated for four or five years afterwards — I probably spent all of five minutes with Larkin on that trip! Larkin helped sophisticate me in a lot of ways.”Cameron Mathison (Ryan): “He’s taken all my jobs away from me. I don’t like Cameron at all! I should have stayed young and good-looking! No, I love Cameron. Cameron, and I don’t know whether he’s going to like this or not, but Cameron is a lot like me, a lot like me — a lot like me in ’90, ’91, when I was at the top of the heap around here and doing everything, going out every weekend, never saying no to anything and then realizing, ‘Well, maybe I can say no to a couple of things, maybe see my kids.’ I’ve watched his meteoric and fantastic rise with a great deal of interest because it was kind of like mine. I think Cameron is one of the best people I know. I think I see him doing things that I don’t think I am man enough or human enough to do. I have a great deal of admiration for him, a great deal of admiration. The way he handles himself, the way he makes the most of an opportunity, I take my hat off to him. He’s a great guy.”Alicia Minshew (Kendall): “We constantly talk about going out, her and [beau] Richie, and we never do it because we’re so busy. But that’s the kind of friendship I evidently like, because that’s the only kind of friendship I have! I don’t have any high-maintenance friends. Alicia, I love her, I would do anything for her. We either laugh or cry when we’re working together. Cry because Jack’s so nice to her — ‘Oh, you’re always so nice to my character’ — or we laugh so hard that we have to stop tape. That happened a few times before we noticed it was always either ‘boo hoo hoo’ or ‘ha ha ha’ and we went, ‘My god, we’re lunatics! Can’t we just have a normal scene?’ I love Alicia.”James Mitchell (Palmer): “James Mitchell … He’s one of the classiest guys I’ve ever known. When you bring up all the things he’s done in the past, he’ll pooh-pooh it: ‘Ah, well, yes, that was a long time ago.’ His hair is whiter now, but he looks exactly the same as he did in the ’50s. Jimmy was another one, like Louis Edmonds (ex-Langley), who was always so glad to see me, always wished me well, hoped I would do well. I played his limo driver for a while so he was always very nasty to me [as Palmer]: ‘That’s fine, get in the door, drive.’ But that was a fairly short-term thing. Again, these are the people I got into this business for and because of. It wasn’t the Michael Knights; I didn’t know who Michael Knight was. But the James Mitchells and the Louis Edmonds….”Michael Nader (ex-Dimitri): “I didn’t really know him. I’m not sure that I could. We worked together some. When I knew Michael, he was having a bad time, so I don’t think I really knew him. I liked Michael but I don’t think I knew him well enough to even comment.”Eden Riegel (ex-Bianca): “Oh, I just want to take that face and squeeze it. I love Eden. She’s this immensely talented young lady who I’ve had the absolute delight of watching them grow up. She had that little bit of baby fat when she started kind of like Kelly Ripa [ex-Hayley] did; they weren’t quite women yet. And then all of a sudden, she just blossomed as a woman and an actress. And of course, on top of it, she sings like a bird. She’s an amazing package.”
Kelly Ripa (ex-Hayley): “Well, I love my Kelly. I think it’s so fabulous what’s happened with her. This is someone who deserves everything she gets. She’s funny and she’s decent and she’s cool and she’s good at what she does. Konica used to have a contract with daytime and I was their spokesperson. They wanted to bring a girl in and I said, ‘It’s gotta be Kelly Ripa, you’re making a big mistake if you don’t go with Kelly Ripa.’ And finally, they did. I don’t know if she got anything out of it beyond a camera and film like I did, and maybe I compliment myself, but I think of her as like a female me, in terms of the dynamic around here — serious about her work, but let’s have a little fun!”
Ruth Warrick (ex-Phoebe): “So many memories of her. One that comes to mind is that I took her to this David Gest party for Whitney Houston, Tom Cruise and Michael Jackson, all of them at one thing. We were staying at the Beverly Hilton and she was already not moving so well by that time, but when we turned the corner to face the row of paparazzi, it was like 40 years fell off her, fell to the floor and she just worked those guys. I’d never seen anything like that. It was wonderful.”