Often in the daytime genre because of its enduring art form we celebrate show anniversaries, or cast member milestones, all so richly deserved for a job well-done and for continuing to bring the drama year after year.
However, yesterday was one of the most heartfelt and special On-Air On-Soaps has ever attended in our decades of covering this genre. That was because it was honoring Daytime Emmy winner, class act, talented and professional actor extraordinaire, Peter Bergman. For this time it was Bergman’s turn to be celebrated, as he made it to his silver anniversary playing Jack Abbott on the number one soap opera, The Young and the Restless!
The afternoon was spent on the soundstage at Y&R honoring this iconic daytime actor. There were beautiful speeches abound from current and former cast members which included: Eileen Davidson (Ashley), Jerry Douglas, (John) Joshua Morrow (Nick), Eric Braeden (Victor) and former Y&R star and current B&B cast member and Peter’s dear friend, Don Diamont (Bill). Y&R’s executive producer Jill Farren Phelps kicked-off the proceedings with a speech, as well. Peter’s wife Mariellen and his children (who surprised dad!) were also on hand. Following the testimonials in which many, including us, reached for the hankies, a cake cutting and photos were all of a part of the festivities. While on the set, we chatted with some of Peter’s co-stars to get their thoughts on the man of the hour, and then with Peter himself.
First up: here is what Eileen Davidson, Joshua Morrow, and Eric Braeden shared with and about Peter, and the adoring crowd at the studio, when they stepped up to the podium to make their speech.
EILEEN DAVIDSON: (To Peter) I want to tell you how much I completely adore you. You are really like a big brother to me. And on my way here I am thinking to myself, “What am I going to say about Peter?” I thought of his amazing talent as an actor. Then I was thinking about the fact that I have never seen you in a bad mood. Honestly, how supportive you are, and how incredible you are, and always present, and always accessible, and always willing to talk about love, and life, and work, and all of the above. I just don’t think I have known anybody like that. I mean that from the bottom of my heart and that’s so exceptional. Your enthusiasm and passion after all these years is so exceptional, and that you are care so deeply for making the scenes better. You always want to make them shine, and you care so much for who you are working with. I feel so blessed (I am going to cry) to have been working with you off and on for all these years. I’m honored to be able to continue to work with you. CBS and The Young and the Restless congratulations to you for having the intelligence to hire this man, and finally congratulations to you, your wife, and your kids, for kicking ass for 25 years!
JOSHUA MORROW: The dude oozes class and poise, and symbolizes everything that is right to being an actor and more importantly, a man. His professionalism is off the charts. The adjectives used to describe this guy are the “who’s who” of signs of respect: humble, prepared, professional, talented, strong, caring, and generous. You are also one the smartest men I have ever known. I have asked for your advice for several personal things in my own life, and your advice is always spot on with wisdom and intelligence. You are always quick to know about my own family, and I know you truly care. Dudes come on the show now and I try to give them advice on how to do this job and to be successful at it, but I only have one rule and that is … to watch Peter. It is no coincidence that in every round up or article when people ask us, “Who would we call when and if we ever got in trouble?”, it seems like everyone always said you, Peter, and it’s true. If I ever got in trouble and my own family wasn’t around, I would call you. I can tell what a great a dad you are by listening to you talk about your children. Your eyes glisten with pride and love. I always think Connor and Claire are so lucky to have such a great dad. They do say behind every great man was an even greater woman … Mariellen is certainly that. You are a great man, and you are a true leader around here. I can tell you how greatly honored I am to truly call you my friend. I have had you as a role model now for 20 years, and to put it in the ultimate compliment that matter’s to me most (sports), it is that I would pick you to be on my team any day. Thank you for your friendship, and congratulations on all your success in this industry, but most importantly in life, because you have truly won, brother!
ERIC BRAEDEN: You know Peter, you and I didn’t start of on the friendliest of terms, in fact, we had a very rough time until the great Bill Bell (Y&R creator) got us together, and then you and I met afterwards and I said, “We may not like each other and be friends, but together we can make this a successful show.” I have learned to respect you, and learned to like you. You are one of the few people around here who reads a newspaper! I can discuss politics and sports with you. We can gossip about the other cast members (laughs) and I have always been enormously envious of your hairdo. The only time I found a strand askew was when you threw the chair through the window in Victor’s office, and this gust of wind came in and suddenly there was this stand of hair, but you in your inimitable fashion put it back in place and it was perfect again! I have often wondered when you learn your dialog, and then I heard you have a boat in the Newport Harbor and you sail it in alone. I have some friends there who said there is an actor who on the weekends sails in this harbor and he mouths all these things (laughs) and the last they heard was, “She was my daughter, not Nicholas’ daughter!” (Laughs) You shouted it at the top of your lungs. (Laughs) Anyway, I think Bill Bell knew years ago, as he so often did, that he was good at writing about personal relationships. I think our enmity has worked enormously well for this show. I respect you for that, and I have developed an affection for you for that.
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with a few of Peter’s co-stars and asked them to share their thoughts on this talented man for all seasons including: Gina Tognoni (Phyllis), Burgess Jenkins (Billy), Eric Braeden (Victor), Cady McClain ( Kelly), and Y&R EP Jill Farren Phelps!
JILL FARREN PHELPS: This was beautiful, and so well-deserved. Peter is everything that ever single person that spoke said. He is the most professional, gracious, and most extraordinarily talented and phenomenal man. He means a lot to me. If I can make his life as easy as he makes all of ours, than I would consider it a good day, but I am very fond of him. Peter is a very good man, and you can see that by how many people were here, and what they think of him.
GINA TOGNONI: From the day we met each other we had been ships passing in the nights – and being on One Life to Live and Guiding Light – I would only see Peter at the Emmys. We would have quick conversations like “Congratulations on your nomination.” That is just the kind of guy he is, and he would also extend that congratulations to all the winners. I always admired Peter from afar thinking, ‘What a nice gentlemen!’ I know what a gentlemen is. My husband is a gentlemen and I appreciate them. I was just saying to Burgess Jenkins a moment ago that they don’t make people like Peter Bergman anymore. He has a real old-school charm and quality about him. In addition, Peter never stopped caring and giving me insight into Phyllis that only Peter would know. He also was the first person to call me and welcome me on to the show, and I have kept that message on my phone.
BURGESS JENKINS: I knew bits and pieces of what I had been told as it was approaching my time to start at Y&R, but I didn’t know the full-on version of Peter until I got to meet him. As I have said before, he was the first person to call me, before anyone called me at all! I still have his voice mail. It is a keepsake. I played it for my mother, and she said that is a keeper! But it was about so much more than that. It was the sincerity of which he was inviting me to the show to let me know what a great thing it was going to be, and what a great relationship we were going to be developing together, and it has all come to fruition.
ERIC BRAEDEN: Everything that was said by me, and Jill, and Eileen was true. I have never known an actor so on time, so prepared, and so professional, and so invested in the scenes. As I remarked, he is the only one who in the morning doesn’t have a script. He knows the material from the night before. I heard he was seen jogging in his suit at 4 in the morning while learning his lines! (Laughs)! That’s when he has his script in hand. He never brings it on the set, he just knows it, and it’s a joy to work with him. Peter and I didn’t get along at first at all. Bill Bell, which was part of his genius, instead of panicking got together with us, and we shook hands and had a few beers, and the rest is history. This notion of having friends you work with is b*s. You need to respect each other. That is what is important. I respect Peter enormously. I think the respect is mutual. Obviously, the storylines between us have been a cornerstone of this show, and we both in that sense have truly invested in our parts.
CADY MCCLAIN: Peter is a wonderful man. I feel very lucky to have been able to work with him for this period of time. Peter has been gracious, and truly considerate, and thoughtful. I am thrilled that he has had such a wonderful support system here and at this moment of time and can celebrate his body of work. That happens very rarely for people. He must have been like a monk in a past life (laughs). He has been richly rewarded, and I am glad.
Finally, we got a few moments to chat with Mr. Bergman and get his reaction to this overwhelming show of love, and gratitude, and for all that came together to celebrate his achievements.
What did you think of these magnificent and heartfelt speeches today?
PETER: So powerful! Wow! It was crazy flattering.
Does it feel like 25 years have past since you first came on to the show as Jack Abbott?
PETER: It feels like four or five years … and like no time at all, seriously.
And think of the journey that led you here! When you think back, did you want to leave AMC as Cliff Warner which ultimately ended up being the best thing that could have happened to your career?
PETER: I did not want to get out of playing Cliff Warner and All My Children at all. It ended before I was ready for it to. So, I treat it like the same thing is going to happen here at Y&R. So I always say, “Enjoy, and be as committed to it as you can, while you can.”
Your wife, Mariellen has always been this magnificent touchstone for you and throughout your iconic career. What can you say about Mariellen?
PETER: This is a very hard business for wives. We go to the Emmys and all of these actresses are dressed by a wardrobe department, and they put them in high heels, and fancy bras, and everything. And there is Mariellen standing at Nordstrom’s going through the racks trying to find something nice to wear to the Emmys. That is her life. People ask her to step out of the way so they can take a picture of me. They ask her to take a picture of them and me, all the time. It’s not an easy gig. She rises above it, always.
Burgess Jenkins (Billy) and Gina Tognoni (Phyllis) just told me you were the first person to call them and welcome them to the show. I have heard that also from many others over the years. Why are you the guy who is the first person to call?
PETER: I have been here for awhile, and they are both replacements. I get behind replacements! They have a real ally in me.
Eileen Davidson (Ashley) has such an affinity for you, and she shed some very tears in her speech today too!
PETER: What a cool thing! I have with different companies and different producers been fighting for Eileen Davidson for 20 years to be here at Y&R. I am so glad she is here with me.
Eric Braeden (Victor) commented in his speech on the once contentious relationship you had with each other. But now, he talked about your mutual respect for one another. Did his speech ring true and real to you?
PETER: It was very real to me and delightful! I am delighted to earn anyone’s respect.
So, what did you think of the Peter’s co-stars speeches? The thoughts and sentiments shared by his cast members … and what he shared in our chat? What has been your favorite Peter Bergman performance as Jack Abbott over the past 25 years? Share your thoughts and congrats below!