The Garden City Hotel, where Susan Lucci sat for this interview, holds a lot of significance for the actress most known as the conniving Erica Kane on All My Children. In the summer of 1965, Lucci worked as a waitress at the historic hotel where she met then executive chef, Helmut Huber, her husband of 43 years. They have since celebrated many events at the iconic Long Island landmark, including their daughter Liza’s wedding reception. As someone who also has spent an inordinate amount of time in the fictional well-to-do suburb of Pine Valley on All My Children, Lucci welcomed the comparison to her hometown of Garden City. “Oh there are definite similarities, absolutely. Except during the middle of the day men in suits and ties don’t just drop by our house unannounced,” Lucci said, laughing. “And we don’t circle each other in the living room when having conversations, contrary to what we do on AMC.”
AMC creator Agnes Nixon was known for weaving social issues like the Vietnam War, abortion and AIDS into the entertaining daytime soap’s storyline. After famously being nominated for a Daytime Emmy 18 times without a win, Lucci went on to win the 19th time for episodes involving Erica’s child’s eating disorder. “Those were very socially relevant and important storylines,” Lucci, now 66, recalled. “I also really enjoyed the 13-page food fight when Adam [David Canary] showed up and Erica was expecting Jack, that was a fun one.”
The most famous character in the history of daytime, Erica Kane was married 11 times to eight different men and took part in ladies room brawls, bribery and blackmail in her relentless quest for fame. (This is in stark contrast to Lucci, who was married just once and was on tv by her early 20s.) So what made the self-centered diva so universally appealing? “I don’t know the answer, probably the audience would know it,” Lucci said. “I think Erica would be completely exhausting to be, but she’s really fun to watch.”
The role wasn’t too exhausting for the soap queen because, after 41 years, she’s still interested in playing Erica Kane on the online version of AMC, which Prospect Park launched in April: “If I can play her a little bit more I’d be happy to,” said Lucci who was upset ABC cancelled the soap in 2011. “We are all trying very hard to make that work.” In the meantime, Lucci is busy hosting her second season of Investigation Discovery’s original series, Deadly Affairs. It features true crimes of passion and interviews with family members of the actual victims. Lucci hosts and narrates the show as an Erica Kane-like character with a lot of costume changes. “It’s so creative the way Henry Schleiff has done this show,” Lucci said. “He didn’t just do it by formula. He pushed the envelope.”
While fans await the new Deadly Affairs episodes airing this fall, they can now watch Lucci in the dramedy Devious Maids airing Sunday nights on Lifetime, in which she plays an emotionally unstable wealthy divorcee. From Desperate Housewives’ creator Marc Cherry, Devious Maids centers on five clever, ambitious Latina maids working in Beverly Hills households. “All the characters are so well drawn and complex,” Lucci noted. “It’s unlike anything else that’s on tv, and I believe it’s the first time they’ve had such a leading cast on American television that is Latina.”
The Long Island girl will also be hosting the “Rock the Dock” Benefit Bash for the Bay Street Theatre this month. A regular theater-goer, Lucci always enjoys this event: “I’ve seen so much talent on that stage, and I just love the tradition and the wooden structure. It’s also in one of the most gorgeous places on the planet overlooking Sag Harbor.”
Though she only ever wanted to be an actress and, at the age of six, a trapeze artist, Lucci wears many hats—host, author, entrepreneur, Broadway and tv actress, including guest-starring on Hot in Cleveland. Could feature film be the only thing she hasn’t tackled? “Yes, true,” she said, laughing, “that and sword swallowing.”
Lucci will host Bay Street Theatre’s “Rock the Dock” Gala July 20th in Sag Harbor.