Walt Willey Speaks His MindBy Michael Karol Posted: Mar 30, 2010
I recently spoke with Walt Willey (Jack, ALL MY CHILDREN) about the formerly sorry state of his character (who was MIA in Europe) and why it was so frustrating to him as an actor. He also weighed in on what makes Jack and Erica so great.
Soap Opera Weekly: Jack and Erica belong together. That's why so many fans were upset at what the previous regime had done in terms of going where they'd never been before with those characters — and where nobody wanted them!
Walt Willey: Yeah, and without a journey to get there. I mean, I thought them putting Jack and Carmen together could have been very interesting...if they had told me to make eyes at her through the bars for six months when she was Erica's cellmate. But they didn't. And then [Carmen] got out [of jail], and all of a sudden...honestly, I like to think of myself as a pretty good actor, and certainly one that can take a curveball, but I just didn't know what to do with that, and I don't think anybody else did, either. I said, "Well, at least there's gonna be a journey on this, right?" And they said, "Oh, yeah, we're gonna take our time." And the very next script, I was taking her to bed. In the house I built for Erica, in our bedroom!
Weekly: They just didn't know Jack!
Willey: All of a sudden, I was playing a character that I didn't know. And when you've been doing the same character for 22 years, you know [that character]. That's kind of your fallback position: You have all this experience with this character, and you kind of know what he would and wouldn't do. And sure, you need to freshen things up and maybe go a different way, but it was jarringly rapid, and I don't think anybody could get there that quick.
Weekly: It's a problem when soaps ignore history.
Willey: As a writer, I can only imagine that carrying luggage of 40 years around and trying to write with that burden across your shoulders. At the same time, this is a genre that is imbued with tradition, legacy and history and...sorry! You have to drag that luggage with you. You [can] check it somewhere for a while, but you can't just leave it on the street corner!
Weekly: And you have to acknowledge the fans, since this is such a fan-based medium.
Willey: Yeah, it is, and those fans know what happened in the past 30 or 40 years. A character [can't] act so far outside the role that has been established for [him or her].
Weekly: What makes Jack and Erica such a fabulous couple?
Willey: He really loves her, and she loves him the best she can. What makes them unique is [that] they've both accepted her. And I don't mean that in any kind of bad way. Erica's hugely larger than life, and Jack is kind of an everyman. I think there's something extremely charming about both of them loving her. When Erica's [happy with] herself, she's gonna be able to love him — so he's all about helping her do that.
Weekly: Another great thing about them is the humor that's behind their love.
Willey: Absolutely. People love that stuff, and as you and I both know, if you're constantly wringing your hands, it doesn't mean anything after a while.