Highlight Reel: John McCook

The Eric/Brooke/Ridge Love Triangle, 1990-93

What do you remember about playing your first father/son love triangle? “This was powerful stuff. You have to think back to where Eric was coming from when we started BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL. He and Stephanie were in this malaise, referring to that as the state of their marriage. Stephanie and Eric were great partners. He was the artist and she was the pragmatist and that was very successful for them for 20 years. They built a business. They built a family and that relationship stayed the same for all those years and all of a sudden, when Ridge dumped Brooke for Caroline, I think Eric saw how needy that made Brooke, and how destroyed she was by that and how she needed some tenderness and support from someone. She wasn’t getting it from Ridge, and he was drawn to her because she needed something from Eric that Stephanie did not. That drew him away from Stephanie and toward her, and that was such a shock to Stephanie and a big shock to Ridge, too, that Eric was on Brooke’s side and in her bed. It freaked them out. It was the first time Eric was drawn away from that marriage.”

Do you recall the fan reaction? “I think the fans loved it and that was a [then-Executive Producer/Head Writer] Bill Bell thing. It’s a story twist that affects everybody. We were such a small show at that point and that was a big change and I loved it. It was great for me to be so romantic, with the honeymoon in Palm Springs and the baby coming, and then the whole idea of whose baby was it was a great way to perpetuate that story.”

Bridget’s paternity story lasted for years. Did you have any idea that Eric would turn out to be the father? “No, I was not in on that. [Bill] did not let us in on those things. I’m an avaricious fan of the show when I have a new script to read. I read them right away because I can’t stand to wait to see what’s going to happen next and how it executes.”

How was it working with a young Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke)? Thirty-four years later, you’re both still standing. “We are. I have a cane or a walker at every door but I’m still standing, by God [laughs]. I actually did her screen test after I signed on to do the show. Bill asked me to help with testing some girls for the part of Brooke, and so I did. Her skill and her innate talent showed through. I think we tested four-to-five girls that day and it was obvious she was the best one. She fit the bill perfectly.’’


The Marriages of Eric And Stephanie, 1987-2012

Stephanie and Eric were such a big part of B&B, but it’s difficult to pick just one story for them. “Here’s my thing about Stephanie and Eric. Every scene I ever played with Susan Flannery [ex-Stephanie] was a conflict. Even if it wasn’t, there was conflict in it because of Susan’s skill. We would sit and read a scene together and she’d go, ‘Where’s the conflict?’ If there wasn’t conflict in a scene, then she didn’t see why we were doing it. For our characters, there always needed to be some kind of push and pull. When you ask, ‘Is there a highlight with Susan?’ There are 50 to 60 over the years. I remember throwing a crystal bowl at the mirror above the fireplace, which is where her portrait was all those years. It was a mirror for a while and I remember throwing that, being so angry. She and Eric had conflict with a capital C for all the years that Susan was on the show, and that is the highlight of my scenes with Susan Flannery.”

What did you think of Stephanie’s obsession with Ridge? “I don’t know if she ever said it in the press but the love of Stephanie’s life was Ridge, and Eric was aware of that. Eric actually said that to Ridge in a couple of moments, not in anger but just saying, ‘She loved you more than anything in the world, including me.’ ”

What were your thoughts when Brad (Bell, executive producer/head writer) killed off Stephanie, leaving Eric a widower? “When Ronn Moss [ex-Ridge] and Susan decided to leave the show at the same time, they discussed it with each other, and Susan and Ronn invited Kelly and me to go to dinner one night after work. They said, ‘We’re leaving the show,’ and Kelly and I were like, ‘What?!’ I was alarmed at first because I thought, ‘What are we going to do?’ Ronn said he was leaving and he gave us a date two weeks from [then] and Susan said, ‘I’m going to stay for a while. I talked to Brad about it and we’re going to do a cancer storyline,’ and that was a generosity on her part because she was, by contract, allowed to leave the following Thursday, but she added a few months to it so she could play that storyline. She wasn’t going to just leave the show in a lurch and so they created a wonderful story.”

What was it like to play Eric without Stephanie? “I was energized by the change. It wasn’t like, ‘Susan’s not here anymore. What am I going to do?’ It was energizing because I knew there was some creativity going on and some inventiveness had to happen. It wasn’t about him getting a new woman right away. It was about, ‘How is he going to get though this mourning period?’ ”



The Sheila Era, 1993-95

What stands out to you about Eric and Sheila? “The fans had more information than Eric did about Sheila [laughs]. He fell in love with her. He didn’t know about her past, obviously. For a while, I was like, ‘Why is Eric so dumb? Everyone else knows she’s an evil character and she’s lying though her teeth,’ but once again, Eric found a woman who exhibited a need for him. She needed love from him, and he’s a sucker for that. He went a long time without Stephanie needing that from him, so when a woman demonstrates that she needs affection, he falls for her.”

Were you surprised that fans liked them together? “Well, yeah. It was one of those stories where people love to throw something at the TV. They get very emotional and conflicted by what’s happening. I enjoyed very much being a part of that story.”

How was it working with Kimberlin Brown (ex-Sheila)? “What Kimberlin brought to that character from across the hall [at Y&R] and across the country to L.A. was amazing. Fans screamed when they saw her at Forrester. That move was very good for our show. We still had fun when she came back [in 2017-18], too.”


Eric Is Not Ridge’s Father, 2001-03

What was your initial reaction to learning this major plot point? “Once again, it was opening the page and not knowing. We didn’t know this stuff, and you open the page, read it and you go, ‘Oh, my God!’ That’s when you know you’re a fan of the show. What was great about it for me was that it released complex feelings for Ridge and Eric to play with each other, because they love each other.”

How was working with the late, great Joseph Mascolo (ex-Massimo; ex-Stefano, DAYS)? “He was great. We had things in common we didn’t even know until he’d been there for a while. He was a clarinet player. Did you know that? When I was in New York, when I was a singer in West Side Story, Joe lived in New York and he played clarinet in the pit at the Met, for God’s sake. Isn’t that cool?”


The Donna Years And Eric’s Mid-Life Crisis, 2007-10

What was your reaction to Eric dumping Stephanie for his trophy wife, Donna, who he really did love? “I was proud of my boy [laughs]. That was so much fun, playing all of that with Jennifer [Gareis, Donna]. They indulged in a lot of comedy with her. I had wonderful scenes with Donna about her needing Eric. She needed his tenderness. She needed how affectionate he could be and once again, it was something that Stephanie did not need from him. That’s what attracted him. It was a mutual need thing that he didn’t get at home with Stephanie.”

Do you miss that spiky hair you sported? “No, not really, although I think it was okay [laughs].”

And you had your first nude scene when Eric went out on the ledge so Stephanie wouldn’t catch him with Donna. “Once again, I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ It was funny and it was fun. Thankfully, I was just about five feet off the studio floor, but they hired some Hollywood pigeons to be on the ledge with me, and people don’t know this about me, but I don’t like people touching my feet. I’m very ticklish on my feet and that’s all the pigeons cared about, so they were pecking on my feet. I’ve got a nude Speedo on and holding my clothes and these birds are walking over my feet.”



Eric and Quinn’s Love Story, 2016-present

Thoughts on Eric’s latest romance? “Yeah, the reveal of Eric and Quinn in bed together, that was a turn-the-page moment, for the fans and everybody.”

Would you say that romance reinvigorated Eric? “The beginning was spectacularly conflicted for everyone except for Eric. He found her sexy but he also found her a challenge. She was interesting, and the fact that she was forbidden to him and that she wanted to keep it quiet, too, made it very exciting for them for a while, to have this clandestine thing going on. Then, they actually fell in love. It wasn’t just a sexual thing. They really loved each other. They had Monte Carlo and all of these wonderful love story strokes, and then the wedding that nobody came to and she said, ‘We don’t have to do this,’ and that just made him love her even more.”

Once she fell for Ridge and Eric found out, he disowned his son. That was a powerful moment. “Yes. They found each other fascinating and, to their credit, resisted each other, as difficult as it was. That was a good story for them, too.”

Were you happy they didn’t consummate their relationship? “Yes. It saved the characters, which is why I think it was such a good thing. The two of them resisted crossing that line because they both loved Eric so much in their own way. They knew how much that would hurt him and when our favorite, Sheila, lied to Eric and exposed how close they had gotten and implied they were lovers, it hurt Eric so badly and he disowned Ridge because of it, for one day, anyway [laughs]. It was really powerful stuff for all of us to play.”

Speaking of powerful, the scene where Eric disowns Ridge must have been difficult. “For both of us. Thorsten [Kaye, Ridge] and I, we saw that scene and thought, ‘This is great!’ The day of, we played it, we talked about it, we massaged it. We didn’t write the scene but we worked it so it was some powerful stuff between a man and his adult son. I’m very proud of that story and those scenes.”

Eric and Quinn recently reconciled. Are you happy they’re still a couple? “Yes. It’s a strong relationship. It’s based on love, and when they are alone together, they are wonderful. I give huge amounts of credit for that to Rena [Sofer, Quinn], because she’s able to play such vulnerability. She is a manipulator and a strong, focused lady, but she can play vulnerability, and that’s what keeps Eric in love with her.”