As fans, castmates, and colleagues learned earlier this week of the passing of five-time Daytime Emmy-winning All My Children star, David Canary, people immediately went on social media sharing their sentiments and grief over the death of this icon. Canary, for over 26 years played the incomparable Chandler twins: Adam and Stuart. It’s a performance that will be remembered and never-to-be-seen again in the annals of the soap genre. Canary died at age 77 at his home in Connecticut on November 16th.
One of Canary’s longtime cast members deeply affected by his passing is The Young and the Restless‘ Michael E. Knight (Simon Neville). For it was Knight, who entered Pine Valley as Tad Martin, right around the same time as Canary. David had just left his role of Steven Frame on Another World to take on the leading roles of Adam and Stuart on AMC.
In an exclusive conversation with On-Air On-Soaps, Knight shared his thoughts on: his beloved co-star, what David meant to daytime, their final tape day together on the set of ABC’s All My Children, the profound moment when Canary made an acting choice that would forever change the way Stuart Chandler would be played for the next 26 years, and more. A retrospective, emotional, and candid Knight gave us a special inside glimpse into what made the actor and the man, David Canary, the most respected in his field. Here’s what Michael expressed:
Michael on David’s immeausurable talent: “David was one of the guys I felt very fondly towards. He was definitely one of the family. I think he and I started on All My Children at exactly the same time. He was the best of us. First of all, he was a known actor. I remember watching David on Bonanza, when I was a kid. He was unbelievably talented and at the same time, humble and generous. I remember his Emmy reel one year with scenes between Stuart and Adam, when Stuart’s wife on the show died of AIDS. There was a scene at the chapel of the hospital. I remember he was acting his heart out, and my mouth was agape.”
Michael on David Canary’s status among his peers: “I don’t think there is anybody who dreams of being an actor who doesn’t have moments of doubt when you spend your entire life on daytime television, because we are so easy to mock. And anybody who isn’t into what we do can take shots at us. The fact is: there is so much about the industry that is deemed silly, and rightly so – how many times can you be married to the same person, have your kids stolen, or have amnesia, etc? But there are certain people in this business that if I look across the room and see them, I become so proud of what I am doing, and where I am: Tony Geary (Ex-Luke, GH), Peter Bergman (Jack, Y&R), Eileen Davidson (Ashley, Y&R), Louis Edmonds (Ex-Langley AMC), James Mitchell (Ex-Palmer, AMC), Bob Woods (Ex-Bo, OLTL), Maurice Benard (Sonny, GH), Steve Burton (Dylan, Y&R), and David Canary was first on that list. These are people that are good no matter where they are. David was a beautiful guy inside and out. He was professional, and he was the quintessential gentlemen. David and Susan Lucci (Ex-Erica) set the tone for us at All My Children. It’s a hard job. It would be very easy to behave like a diva. I’ve done it, but David was not one of those guys. He set a very, very high mark for me, and everybody else.”
Michael recalls a touching moment with David on the final tape day of AMC: “On the day we wrapped All My Children, there was a scene we did where everyone got to say speeches, and Agnes Nixon (Creator, AMC) wrote this speech I gave as Tad. I call it ‘The friends, neighbors, family speech.’ It was the wrap-up speech, and David was there. While on the set, we were talking about life on the soap, and how we put in a lot of miles in between us … and now we are looking in the rearview mirror together … and that who knew that when we met back in 1982 that we would be here now. I was making a joke saying, ‘Who knew that I would turn into …?’ David cut me off and said, ‘… a good f**ing actor.’ When David Canary tells you that, it’s something. When he gives you a compliment, I would like to go home and hang that on the wall! David made all of us feel good, welcomed, and he inspired all of us. He was always on time. He was never late to work. David was a powerhouse of a guy, and you better have known your lines when you worked with him … that’s for sure!” (Laughs)
Michael on David’s first AMC storyline, where his acting choice was a game-changer: Adam’s first story was that he had a twin, and his twin was dangerous. He had a housekeeper, and all of a sudden she would show up beaten up, etc. The whole idea was Adam must be psychotic. He is having a psychotic break, because he is doing very dangerous things: the windows are broken in the house, the housekeeper, all of these things were happening. The reveal is that Adam has a twin. Now initially, Stuart was supposed to be dangerous when they created the story. However, there was a scene that was constructed like the famous black and white scene from Frankenstein, where the audience became aware that this is the twin. This is Stuart. He is in a room with somebody, who thinks he is Adam. But Stuart walks in eating a cookie, and he offers the cookie to the person saying, ‘You want some cookie?’ It was in that moment where David made a choice that blew me away. He chose to always imitate his then four-year-old son, Chris. That is why Stuart would have that child-like ruffled hair, and that is when Stuart became this very simple soul. All of the compassion and all of the love is within Stuart. Adam is the ultra- male dangerous one who is out conquering the world. The better half of his soul resides in his brother. So, that is the moment that David discovered that Stuart, as a character, was in effect his son Chris at four. That would live on for the next twenty plus years. From that moment everything changed, and the writers backed him up.”
Michael on how David’s death made the news and people’s reaction to it: “When the news broke of David’s passing it hit all over the country. He is the type of guy where when you learned this, you just sit there for awhile with it very quietly. David’s passing should be a big deal and written about. He was huge in pop culture for decades. If you knew anything about soaps, you certainly knew who David Canary was. And people who don’t know soaps knew who he was! David was a big deal. He still is. Everybody should be lucky enough to know somebody like him. I can’t say it any better than that.”
So, what did you think of the sentiments, reactions, and stories shared by Michael E. Knight on his beloved former All My Children castmate, David Canary? What were you most intrigued to find out? What are your thoughts on the passing of David Canary, and what he meant to the soap industry, All My Children, and his colleagues, such as Michael? What was your favorite performance/storyline of David’s as Adam or Stuart Chandler? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!