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ICYMI Eileen Davidson Interview

Eileen Davidson
THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS -- Season:7 -- Pictured: Eileen Davidson -- (Photo by: Richie Knapp/Bravo) Credit: Bravo

When Mal Young took over as Y&R’s executive producer last year, he informed Soap Opera Digest that the show’s long-running heroine, Ashley Abbott, was due for a story. “What a great character, what a great actress portraying her,” Young praised. “She needed attention.”

Of course, those were flattering words to Eileen Davidson, who originated the role in 1982. “It’s nice to get a nod from somebody like Mal,” she affirms. “It sounds like he has a certain amount of respect for me, and that’s always nice to hear.”

With former writer Sally Sussman back on board as head scribe, Young’s vision has come to fruition. Ashley is now high-profile as she asserts herself even more at Jabot, clashes with Jack, nudges closer to a May/December romance with Ravi and, of course, worries about her daughter, Abby. Still, Davidson has learned from past experience that the spotlight can suddenly dim. “I’m really trying to figure out where it’s going, so I’m kind of in a wait-and-see mode,” she hedges. “I think in reference to Sally coming on, it’s obviously another shift, so it’s adjusting to a different style of writing again, but I’ve always enjoyed her whole approach to daytime television.”

Davidson is as in the dark as the audience about what’s brewing between Ashley and Ravi, the 20-something software designer at Jabot. “I’m still not sure where it’s going, but it’s fun for me to play Ashley in this circumstance,” she shares. “I think it brings forth another side of her personality and a different way of being able to play Ashley for me.” The actress is unfazed by the on-air references to the age gap between the characters. “He is a lot younger than Ashley,” she shrugs. “I think it would be weirder if nothing was said. But I love working with Abhi [Sinha, Ravi]. He’s a fantastic actor and he’s nothing like his character, which people would probably not get. He’s just a really great guy to work with.”

A more solid tale is unwinding now that Jack, Ashley and Traci’s estranged mother, Dina, has returned to Genoa City. “It’s wonderful to play that history,” smiles Davidson. “I’ve always worked quite a bit with Peter [Bergman, Jack] and I love when Beth [Maitland, Traci] is here. We definitely work really well together; it’s like putting on a pair of comfy shoes. And with Marla [Adams, Dina] back, it’s been so interesting because there wasn’t even a step missed with us. We just went right back into the same kind of dynamic we had in the ’80s, and I never saw that coming. It’s been really fun for all of us to be able to play these familial relationships, and heartache and pain. I haven’t had a chance to play that kind of stuff in a long time.”

Fortunately, life at home with actor Vincent Van Patten (ex-Christian, Y&R) and their blended brood is a lot less dramatic; at least, when she’s not appearing on THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS. “We’re very busy, but good things are going on,” Davidson reports. “Vinny’s off shooting right now and the eldest one, Duke, has moved back from New York and is kind of shadowing his dad as he tries to break through with his own acting career. The other son, Vinny, graduates in June from college and Jesse will be going into the ninth grade! I can’t believe it. Everything happens so fast and teenagers are tricky. It’s scary to think Jesse will be driving in two years and graduating from high school in four years, but it’s all part of life and you deal with it.”

Rolling with the punches is the approach Davidson brought to her third season as a member of the glamorous cast of RHOBH. In her sophomore year on the show, she processed the heartbreak of losing a sister, and the following season, she dealt with the death of her mother. “I always said when I went on this show that I’m not going to do something that’s not who I am,” Davidson explains. “I said to them, ‘I’m going to need therapy to deal with all this grief.’ And they wanted to come along, so I said, ‘Okay.’ A lot of people responded positively about taking care of your mental health. If that’s what they’re getting out of seeing me on the show, then I’m happy.”

Viewers also observed Davidson gain a new perspective on co-star and clash-mate Lisa Vanderpump over their shared love for dogs. “Last season was highly emotional and kind of dark, and that’s no place to dwell,” she notes. “It’s not worth it to hold a grudge, and I just made a choice to try to see the whole situation and Lisa in a different light.”


As for the other Lisa (Rinna, ex-Billie, DAYS), Davidson provided season-long support for her pal. “I know Lisa really well, and I also know what other people don’t know,” she points out. “There’s no way I couldn’t come to her defense. Things are not always what they seem, or the whole story isn’t completely told. Let’s put it that way.”

Davidson says she has learned a lot about life and herself from doing the reality series. “It’s been an interesting journey, certainly, and nothing like I expected,” she reflects. “It’s been about finding yourself in unusual situations that you’re not sure how you’re going to handle, so you try your best to be honest and fair. Also, I think I mentioned this on the reunion show, you always assume that people are playing with the same deck of cards as you, but people are different. They come in with their own agendas, their own baggage, their own way of looking at life, and no matter what you say, they’re going to view it the way they do. What seems perfectly logical to one person seems perfectly illogical to the other.”

Although the reality show has wrapped for now, Davidson is plenty busy with Y&R and her movies (see sidebar). “Every week is different,” she marvels. “This week I’m working every day, but next week I only have one show. Just when you think you’re going to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, I need a break,’ then you automatically have one. So, it all works out.” 

New Chapters

Davidson’s Dial Emmy For Murder (below), one of the books she wrote as part of a mystery series featuring a crime-solving soap actress, is being adapted as a TV movie. “It was optioned and we wrote a second draft,” the author reveals. “We’re actually going to start production in the beginning of February with the same production company where I pitched my husband’s script and they want to do both. This all started one day when we were having drinks and we were talking about some crappy movie Vinny had seen and I was like, ‘You know, you’ve got to make a movie of your poker game,’ and that was four years ago. He wrote Walk To Vegas, and now here we are shooting it! That’s pretty cool. We were going to shoot mine first, but because of my work constraints I had to push him in there ahead of me, and now I just hope that mine actually does get done because you never know about these things. But from what I’m hearing, all systems are go. It’ll be a TV movie on either Lifetime, Netflix or Amazon.”

Davidson will serve as executive producer and, not surprisingly, is interested in playing the role of her fictional soap star, Alexis Peterson (“the character was based loosely on myself”). And, of course, she hopes her other three novels (Death in Daytime, Diva Las Vegas and Swingin’ in The Rain) get the movie treatment, too. “Having been in this business for a long time, it’s just amazing that this even got optioned to begin with,” she says. “For now, I’m just enjoying the process.”

Little Known Facts About Ashley Abbott

Her middle name is Suzanne.

She graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Her first position at Jabot was as a chemist, but she called herself Susan Ashley so she wouldn’t be treated differently by her co-workers.

Although they are close sibs, Billy is unaware that he and Ashley are not blood relatives. (He’s in the dark that the late John is not her bio dad.)

Just The Facts

Birthday: June 15

Born In: Artesia, CA

Marital Status: Married to actor Vincent Van Patten (ex-Christian, Y&R) since April 15, 2003.

Yours, Mine And Ours: Davidson is stepmom to Duke, 24, and Vinny, 21, and she and her husband are parents to Jesse, 14.


Veteran Affairs: Her other soap roles are Kelly Capwell, SANTA BARBARA, 1991-93; Kristen Blake DiMera, DAYS, 1993-98, 2012-13, 2014, 2015; Susan Banks, DAYS, 1996-98, 2014; Sister Mary Moira Banks, DAYS, 1997-98; Thomas Banks, DAYS, 1997; and Penelope Banks, DAYS, 1998

9021-Oh! She recently completed her third season on the reality show THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF BEVERLY HILLS.

Does She Get Recognized More As Ashley Or As Herself? “It depends. If I go out of L.A., I get recognized more for soaps. Here in L.A., it’s more for HOUSEWIVES.”