Interview

ICYMI: Peter Bergman Hits The 30-Year Mark On Y&R

30 Rock

Peter Bergman Hits
The 30-Year Mark On Y&R.

The actor, who has won three Outstanding Lead Actor Emmys for the role, spoke to Digest about the milestone, Jack’s evolution, and the current state of the character.

Soap Opera Digest: What was your reaction when you found out that Y&R was doing a stand-alone episode about Jack? Were you flattered?

Peter Bergman: I’ve never done a stand-alone episode before. Frankly, I probably wasn’t in favor of this. Nobody asked me and I didn’t offer my opinion. I thought, “Oh, I don’t want to bore people,” and stuff like that. And I was really wrong. It was a real joy to do. It was a powerful experience for me. It was a reminder of just how lucky I am, a reminder of the friends I’ve made on the show, a reminder of the powerful memories that are with me forever from this show. It was a pretty neat experience.

Digest: Did you have any input into it?

Bergman: I had no input at all. It was put together by one of our producers, Elizabeth LeBrun, and several of our writers. It was a very well-thought-out episode that carefully combed through 30 years. They got a real variety of things [from Jack’s past]. It was pretty cool.

Digest: What did you think when you got the script?

Bergman: Again, my worry was, “Are people gonna find this interesting?” I’m the first to underestimate my value there. The first time I realized, “Oh, this could be a powerful experience for me,” was when they pulled a number of [flashbacks] and sent them my way. I watched and I thought, “God, these are such rich, powerful memories for me.” It was a powerful experience. And then on that day, Jack is finally looking at the finished book that he and Traci have written and as he pages through 30 years of his life, his whole family shows up, and that was very emotionally powerful for me.

Digest: How did you work that day? Did you try to stay in character the whole time?

Bergman: Well, I can go in and out. Unfortunately, the technical aspect of it kind of demanded that I go in and out of it. The directors say, “This next scene is this, and I need you to turn in that direction because this memory happened here in the Abbott living room, and I’d love for you to look in the direction where your father is standing.” So it was technical stuff like that that took me in and out, so I wasn’t Jack all day. I had to be Peter the actor a few times, but certainly the recall of so many of these memories was very powerful.

Digest: Did you get emotional at any point during filming?

Bergman: When the scenes were over, there were people [on set] from ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT who had been waiting all day to talk to me. The minute I was finished, we raced over to ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT and one of the first things they wanted me to do was say, “Later, on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT,” or something like that — and I could not stop crying. I could not pull it together. So there’s a very funny, very bizarre interview on ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT where Peter Bergman is red-eyed and strange.

Digest: I’m sure it was quite a job to find just the right scenes for the flashbacks.

Bergman: Oh, it was no small chore. I felt incredibly grateful that this was important to anyone and that kind of effort went into it. It was a colossal effort to comb through years of tape to find the right things.

Digest: How would you describe the Jack that you first played 30 years ago?

Bergman: The Jack I first played was a carefree cad who didn’t care a lot about other people’s feelings unless he was related to them, and even those people, he was willing to be manipulative with. I think slowly, life and love and loss gave him layers of empathy that he lacked when I first started playing this role. He was short on empathy. “This is what I want and nothing’s going to stop me.” But as he’s become the de facto head of the Abbott family, there is a new understanding in Jack that brings him full circle to the man he always thought he should be.

Digest: Jack coming to a deeper understanding of his mother, Dina, has seemed to play a big part in that.

Bergman: Oh, yeah. That has been a powerful journey. I was really struck by the dueling problems of Jack wanting to throttle that woman for all she put his family through and him wanting to protect her after all she’d been through. Those were complete opposites and each one was as strong as the other. One of them had to kind of win out. Jack going off to have some time by himself and to reflect, he realized, “What are you going to change? Are you going to get even? Are you going to make her pay for this? What’s the point in any of that? She barely knows who you are. She’s trying to hold on to her dignity and this has been a woman of giant dignity for a lot of years.” So Jack just came around. And part of that, of course, is learning more about her life.

Digest: How did you like that Jack took a break from Jabot?

Bergman: You know, I like that Jack has a place to go to work. I always like these little explorations, these little detours, and I like this one just as much as any other. It means I don’t wear a tie for a few days and that’s kind of fun. Jack wears ties so much that it feels like a day off when I’m in casual clothes. To see Jack a bit more casual was fun.

Digest: Jack and Traci collaborating on this book meant you worked a lot with Beth Maitland. How did you enjoy that?

Bergman: I just love working with Beth. She’s a giant actress. She is really good. To have someone that solid next to Jack played by such a good actress is fantastic. I love her.

Digest: How do you like having Tyler Johnson in the mix as the newest member of the Abbott clan, Theo?

Bergman: Tyler is just a lovely man. He’s a terrific actor. He brings a whole new energy, spirit, look, flavor to the show. I love all of that. I love having one more Abbott in our house. He’s an interesting, hardworking, creative guy. He’s a really nice young man with an introspective quality that serves him very well as an actor. He’s a very interesting guy.

Digest: Do you think Jack is ready for a new romance?

Bergman: Jack’s not a whole man or a whole character without a woman in his life. I think we’re gonna get there. I don’t know who that is, but it will be interesting. Jack is now fully available, really honest. Let’s be real clear about this: Most of Jack’s marriages, he blew up because he couldn’t be emotionally accessible and honest. These are hallmarks of who Jack is today. It will be interesting to see how much better he might be at relationships now.

Digest: Speaking of relationships of a different sort, Jack and Victor are in an interesting place right now.

Bergman: Yeah, they’re not sure what they’ve got. Jack has no reason to go after Victor right now; Victor’s got no big reason to go after Jack right now. They’re eyeing each other watchfully. They’re never going to be best friends. They’re never going to go fishing together. They’re never going to be drinking buddies. But maybe they can coexist peacefully. We’ll see.

Digest: What does it mean to you that Jack has been so popular with the fans all through these years?

Bergman: This is the alchemy part of it. This is not anything I can plan or protect or defend or anything else. No one’s more surprised than I am that Jack has resonated with the audience; that they care deeply what happens to him is so flattering to me and a mystery.

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