Peter Bergman Reflects on the 'Y&R' Episode That Won Him His 2nd Daytime Emmy

Peter Bergman Young and the Restless
Q&A
Sonja Flemming/CBS

In honor of the 47th Annual Daytime Emmys airing Friday, June 26 on CBS, The Young and the Restless is airing award-winning performances from members of the show’s talented cast this week. On Thursday, June 25, viewers will see the Y&R episode that won Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott) his second Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Drama Series.

Here’s what you need to know: Jack had executed a plan to wed Nikki Newman (Melody Thomas Scott) in order to use her as leverage against her ex-husband Victor Newman (Eric Braeden), hoping to regain control of family business Jabot Cosmetics. Alas, Jack wasn’t counting on actually falling in love with the blonde beauty. As Nikki descended into alcoholism, Jack felt powerless to help the woman he loved and he shares that feeling of helplessness with his father, John Abbott (Jerry Douglas), in Thursday's scenes.

TV Insider chatted with Bergman, who has won three Outstanding Lead Actor statuettes, about this episode, glory days of the Daytime Emmys, and how soaps can benefit from COVID-19 restrictions. Read on for the scoop from one of the genre’s most respected actors!

What did you think of Y&R selecting this particular episode to rebroadcast?

Peter Bergman: I’m asked regularly what are my favorite storylines are and this one always ranks among them. Jack had made a deal with the devil – agreeing to trade Nikki for Jabot. In the process, he falls completely in love with Nikki. Her alcoholism makes it clear that Jack’s not the right person to be with her. He’s an enabler. She’s not getting better. The growing frustration is pretty profound to the point where [there’s been] another sloppy night, pouring her into bed and things getting ugly. This is a place that Jack never expected in his life to be.

So, Jack goes to his father [John, played by Jerry Douglas] and talks to him about it. I remember those scenes just falling out of my mouth. It was so natural. Jack, who leaps head strong into everything in life was asking what’s wrong with himself? That was a unique experience.

CBS

How would you describe Jack’s relationship with his father?

It was very easy for me to fall into that relationship that I had on-screen with Jerry Douglas. It was so much a part of who Jack Abbott was. If I had to say to somebody in as few words as possible, who Jack is, I’d say he is someone who spent a lifetime trying to be the man his father was and it’s never worked for him. That’s a critical part of my telling the story of Jack Abbott. Here, Jack is talking to the one person he knows actually isn’t a selfish pig. His father isn’t out to take Jack’s stuff or beat him or best or all the things that happens to Jack, which drive him. For Jack’s entire life, John has represented the best values. Jerry Douglas, in these scenes, is so uncomplicated, clear and forth right. That’s a special change that I think CBS and Sony forget that Jerry had. The ability to be uncomplicated in his clarity and compassions and nobility.

The Daytime Emmys this year are back on broadcast. Will you be watching?

Yes. I’ll be cheering everyone on. Jason [Thompson, Billy, nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series] has done a terrific job and I’d love to see him rewarded.

The Daytime Emmy broadcasts have been held in numerous locations – on a ship in New York Harbor, Radio City Music Hall, Las Vegas, and now, people’s living rooms as the event is virtual. Thoughts?

I would likely have a different conversation if it weren’t for the coronavirus. I remember when it was a powerful evening. I shared many with David Canary (Adam/Stuart, All My Children) and his wife Maureen and Bob Woods (Bo, One Life to Live) with his wife Loyita. We had some powerful evenings. I have many precious memories.

Would you like to see it return to a more intimate luncheon in the afternoon, which it was up until 1990?

I’d love to see that. I remember it being at Rockefeller Center. Here’s a fun fact: the first year I won in 1991, the show was on in prime time. [Editor’s note: that year, the Daytime Emmys telecast ranked No. 2 for the week, earning a 13.5 rating and 18.9 million viewers.] The following year it was Top 5. After I won the first time, Mariellen, my wife, and I were on a bus in New York City the next day. People were coming up to us, congratulating me. It was a different time.

In 1998, all the past Lead Actor and Actors were assembled on stage for a special tribute during the Daytime Emmys telecast. What was that like?

That was great fun. It was pretty cool. I had made it my business to be a part of this community. And I knew pretty much everybody backstage. I introduced a lot of people to each other that night.

 

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Did somebody say it's Throwback Thursday?

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You’ve always been someone who can speak to other shows, other actors, their specific performances. It’s…rare.

I’ve never understood why more actors can’t talk about people on other shows. That’s never made sense to me. It’s worth saying that there are people I love and respect and I’ve stood up and cheer for their wins and they fall into that category.

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How do you keep up?

I’ll turn on my TV in my dressing room. I watch good stuff and I ‘steal’ it.

What would you like to see in terms of classic re-airings?

I’d love to see an entire week of consecutive episodes of Y&R. One of things that have been a part of these reruns are characters like Mamie (Veronica Redd) and Col. Douglas Austin (the late Michael Evans). It’s great seeing characters who are there to bring richness to story. On paper, Col. Austin may seem like a comical character, but what he did was make Victor a very human fellow. That was much needed and it was ably done by Michael [Evans]. Jack’s traipsing all over Genoa City beheading this one, embarrassing that one, and manipulating someone else, doing horrible things. He comes home and Mamie wants to answers. Jack has to come up with some as to why he’s behaved the way he has to someone who has real authority in her life. Mamie could see right through him. She was gentle in her touch. She was smart and subtle.

How have you been handling self-quarantining?

This has been a really wonderful time for me in a lot of ways. I wrote down 26 different names of people I’ve fallen out of regular touch with. One by one, I’ve either typed a letter or sent an email or made a phone call. I’ve talked to people who have been giant in my life whom I’ve lost touch with. It’s been rewarding. That was one project.

CBS

Exercising has been another. That’s been a giant part of my life. I’m reading about 8 or 9 books. I’ve had a lot of reading time. The family is doing well. Everyone is safe and healthy. Both of my children have continued working. [My wife] Mariellen and I have had time together that perhaps we’ve never had in our marriage. This is the longest I’ve gone without working since I was 17 years old. I’ve never had four months of unemployment.

Soaps are figuring out the new normal now in light of COVID-19. We may see more two people scenes and more longing as there may be fewer intimate scenes between characters.

Good news! We may see fewer parties and birthdays and scenes with 30 people. Wow, am I sad.

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We lived in a world of instant gratification; do you think if soaps present to an audience a slower pace, the slow burn, that the audience will respond?

I deeply believe that the slow burn still has giant value. [Mariellen and I] recently got caught up in Downton Abbey. There was a scene where Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) was being courted. Her courtier came up to her in a field outside of the house and said, “I’m leaving. [But] before I leave, I never got to kiss you…” It was stunning. Because they made it important. We can do the same thing. I’m not saying we should go back to antique soap operas at all – not at all. What I am saying is that what happens between two people who are trying hard to trust one another -- once trust has been broken -- is something that I’m going to watch. I think America would, too.

I’d ask you to retweet this story, but…you have no social media presence!

No. I do not. It works for me. I am so happy and lucky that I’ve been doing this long enough that I can let the work speak for me. I don’t have to be a presence in everyone’s lives, letting them know what I eat and where I sunbathe or anything like that. I’m very grateful to the people who watch and I feel it my giant responsibility to give the greatest performance I can give with every single script that I get. That’s my promise to the people who follow Jack Abbott.

Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS

The 47th Annual Daytime Emmys, Friday, June 26, 8/7c, CBS