“I’m Erica Kane!”
Fans of ABC’s now-defunct soap opera All My Children know that line well. East Ender Susan Lucci played the larger-than-life Erica for the entirety of the show’s 41-year run (she wasn’t involved in the short-lived, less-than-stellar web continuation). The character—a small-town girl who grows up to become a movie star, model, makeup mogul, mother, grandmother and more—is the quintessential soap diva, with a sharp tongue and calculating personality that’s never satisfied.
Lucci couldn’t be more different from Erica Kane. With self-awareness and graciousness, Lucci is happy to speak candidly about her career and roles, including Celebrity Autobiography at Guild Hall on Friday, August 26.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that Lucci is going to be reading about one of Hollywood’s most famous and mythical love triangles. “I am reading Elizabeth Taylor, while Dayle [Dayle Reyfel, producer/performer] is going to be reading from a Debbie Reynolds’ memoir,” Lucci explains.
In Celebrity Autobiography, celebrities present dramatic readings of other celebrities’ actual memoirs and autobiographies. Lucci and Reyfel will be reading passages detailing the iconic Hollywood star’s love affair with Richard Burton. Eugene Pack, who created the show, will read passages from Burton’s memoir.
“I’m also going to be reading from Ivana Trump’s biography,” Lucci teases. While the autobiographies and memoirs are used for humor, it’s never mean-spirited. “You’re seeing humor that the author didn’t see at the time,” Lucci says. “Mario Cantone once read from mine! It’s gentle poking fun.”
Lucci has kept busy since All My Children wrapped in 2011. She stars as Genevieve Delatour on Lifetime’s Devious Maids, a comedic primetime soap about a group of Latina maids and the wealthy people who employ them. The show often takes aim at the rich characters, but Genevieve is a bit different: Her maid Zoila (Judy Reyes) is also her lifelong best friend. Zoila frequently has to save Genevieve from romance or money-related hijinks, but in last year’s Season 3 finale Genevieve rescued Zoila—who was going into premature labor—from a stalled elevator. Genevieve single handedly climbed up into the elevator shaft and saved the day, but things took a tragic turn when the doctors asked her to choose: Save Zoila, who wouldn’t survive giving birth, or save the baby.
“That decision has driven the story all season,” says Lucci, noting that she’s impressed with the show’s ability to be funny one scene and sad the next. “We all feel like there’s a humanity to the show. Genevieve may sound like a similar character to Erica Kane, but Lucci disagrees. “Genevieve may be a ‘cousin’ to Erica, but Genevieve is not street-smart, she’s not as day-to-day manipulative. There are petty rivalries she has, but there’s a sweetness that we didn’t really see in Erica. The challenge for me was to make sure they were different. I wanted to play her authentically, without any ‘Erica’ there.”
It seems to have worked. Lucci says, “Devious Maids is loved around the world. I get [a lot of mail], though I have to say they still tell me how much they miss Erica Kane. And then there’s a group of girls, around 13 years old, that talk to me about Devious Maids. They all watch on Monday nights. Much like All My Children and Erica Kane, it’s multigenerational. It’s a joy to be involved.”
See Susan Lucci in Celebrity Autobiography on Friday, August 26 at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. For more information call 631-324-0806 and visit guildhall.org. You can also see her Celebrity Autobiography in NYC on Monday, August 29. For more information, visit celebrityautobiography.com.