In true soap fashion look, when we recently visited the new All My Children studios in Connecticut, we were in for the shock of our soap life, when we saw none other than Matthew Cowles (A.K.A. Billy Clyde Tuggle) looking the same as when we saw him decades ago strolling in the hallways! We came to find out that Matthew is set for a stunning return to the new AMC in all new streaming episodes starting on Thursday May 16th on Hulu and iTunes.
So, just how will Billy Clyde be a critical part of the story arc? Well, from what we can tell, the former pimp turned born-again-Christian is back to cause trouble including a face-to-face encounter with Dixie Martin (there is no love lost in that department) and look for Tuggle to be instrumental with long time foes, Jesse and Angie, who are trying to find their missing daughter Cassandra, who is now embroiled in a horrific sex-trafficking scheme and scandal!
In this exclusive, and in his first interview back to All My Children, we sat down with the oh-so-talented Cowles to talk about the heyday of AMC (where Billy Clyde was the town pariah), how he managed to make the character one of the most memorable of all-time, and what we can expect in upcoming episodes! Here now is what Matthew had to share!
How did this shocking return come about? How did you end up back here on All My Children so many decades later?
MATTHEW: My manager called and asked me if would consider doing Billy Clyde Tuggle on All My Children. I said, “I certainly would!” I didn’t know this format, the Internet format, nor do I have the capability of watching it myself. I am not much of a techie, but I love to play this part! And so I said to my manager, “Yes, I would be interested.” So, I signed the contract and here I am.
Billy Clyde Tuggle is one of the most delicious and quirky roles in the history of soaps! He perpetrated horrible things on the poor citizens of Pine Valley! I so remember the scenes between Billy Clyde and Estelle, played by the amazing Kate Dezina!
MATTHEW: Oh boy, do I remember Kate Dezina! I remember those days, and I can almost remember the dialog of every scene we played. Now that is an exaggeration, but not too far off the moolah. (Laughs)
In your opinion, why is Billy Clyde such a great character?
MATTHEW: That is because the initial AMC producer, a man called Bud Kloss said, “We would like you, Matthew, to be in charge of the development of this character. If you want to oodle with the lines and tweak them, that’s OK. You are not going to write storyline, but the dialog in your scenes is pretty much in your department.” When you can use the words to prompt the action to get where the character wants to go, it is memorable, and that is for anyone. I was very fortunate.
Now Billy Clyde is back, and from everything we have read from the teasers thus far, he is once again going to be a real troublemaker!
MATTHEW: A “troublemaker”? (Laughs) I suppose that is a good way to describe him as a troublemaker, but he doesn’t perceive it as that, necessarily. But, he takes himself, and is out for himself … first.
When they asked you to come back was it just for a short-term story arc?
MATTHEW: I have no idea what their plan was. I said, “Let’s just do it.” They threw a bunch of numbers at me, but really the numbers are not what’s important.
Long time fans also remember your scenes with Benny Sago, then played by Vasili Bogazianos! They were so tension-filled!
MATTHEW: This is true! And people do remember him. My wife said to me, “You’re the star.” And my wife, Christine Baranski, is a very successful actress! I don’t make any comparisons. She does The Good Wife, and she is terrific! Oh my goodness, my wife is a good actress. And … she makes beautiful babies!
Prior to landing back on All My Children, what was the most recent acting role you had?
MATTHEW: I did Taming of The Shrew last year and I loved that, with a terrific director, Arin Arbus.
Who have you gotten the opportunity to work with on All My Children? I know for sure your old buds, Debbi Morgan (Angie) and Darnell Williams (Jesse)!
MATTHEW: They are so wonderful. I am supposed to be the archenemy of Jesse, but Jesse was the one who called me “Billy Clyde” the other day, and I could almost throw my arms around his neck and kiss him for that. But that was not in the script, and that would have been very misunderstood, because in the script I was referred to as “Rob Gardner”. That was the code name to keep my return to AMC a secret from everybody. This new style of shooting here is not shot episode-to-episode; the way this is shot is like a jigsaw puzzle! You will have to watch the story. It’s been exciting to do!
Why did Billy Clyde and Jesse become enemies in the first place?
MATTHEW: They operated on the other side of the fence. He has an ax to grind for Jesse. I am working with some great actors. I worked with an actor by the name of “Thorsten” the other day. Holy Cow! I’m impressed with his strength and humanity, and he is an “actor”! And so too is Darnell and Debbi! You know, I still see a lot of Mark Lamura (Ex-Mark Dalton, AMC) too, and he is doing great.
Matthew, you were part of the heyday of All My Children! What is it like now being back to see the revival of the show?
MATTHEW: Well, I am waiting for Susan Lucci (Erica, AMC) to come back! I enjoyed working with her. She hit me with a bottle once in a scene, a bottle is made of sugar, but there is one hard seam part to it. Susan hit me with the hard part …. she hit me with the seam! (Laughs)
Fans used to be very vocal in their venom towards Billy Clyde! Did you have trouble walking down the street, as some soap stars have encountered in the past, when there is no separation for some fans between reality and fantasy?
MATTHEW: I think only one or two people that took it seriously would say, “That’s a bad man.” Most people thought that is a funny guy doing unexpected stuff.
What is it about you that makes you so good at playing a type of character like Billy Clyde?
MATTHEW: Every human being has their own strengths that are unique to them. And I just was blessed enough to find out what I was good at. Then, blessed enough to get hired to do something I find great joy in doing.
So AMC fans, what do you think will happen when Billy Clyde arrives on the scene in Pine Valley? Will he be up to no good? Will he turn a new leaf? What did you think of Matthew’s comments on working with Darnell and Debbi again? And getting to step into the shoes again of one of the all-time villains in soaps? Let us know your thoughts!