On March 26, 2021, THE YOUNG & THE RESTLESS celebrated its 48th anniversary, and Peter Bergman has been around for 31 of those years, playing the legendary Jack Abbott. “Isn’t that wild?” the actor marveled to Soaps In Depth of the impressive accomplishment. “It kind of sneaks up on you, you know? You just feel like a member of the cast and then one day you look around and there are only a small handful of people who have been around as long as you have.”
Bergman — who made his daytime debut playing Cliff Warner on ALL MY CHILDREN from 1979-1989 — believes that it’s those actors and their characters who are the secret to Y&R’s success and longevity. “I meet people who say, ‘I hadn’t watched the show in a really long time and I turned it on the other day and I caught up pretty quick,’” he related. “And I largely attribute that to their ability to see Nikki and Victor and Jack and Jill and Lauren and people who’ve been around for a while. They feel a sense of familiarity that is comforting.
“Writers come and go, but characters, the audience feels like they grew up with some of these people. And indeed they did,” Bergman added. “When I first started playing Jack Abbott, he was a rakish cad of a fellow, lacking empathy, a bit self-absorbed, terribly manipulative… and he’s grown a lot in the time I’ve played him. That, too, sneaks up on you. Suddenly you realize, ‘Oh wait, I’m the head of the Abbott Family! How did that happen?’ And it only happens with time.”
When Bergman arrived at the Y&R studio back in October 1989 to take over the role of Jack Abbott from the departing Terry Lester, he wasn’t sure how long the gig was going to last. “My first day on Y&R,” he recalled. “You must understand that I left my wife with our three-week-old daughter in New York City to come out here, live at her parents’ house in Encino for a few days before I raced back to New York.
“I had scenes with Jess Walton (Jill) and Jerry Douglas (ex-John),” the actor continued. “Jess was this wonderfully eccentric actress and character. I was reminded of my life in the theater dealing with Jess. And Jerry is a sweetheart of a guy. Jack’s arrival was something that benefitted him if it worked out well, so he was cheering me on. But he was also cheering me on because I was an actor. Because I was a person who came in to replace somebody who had been there for a while. And he knew that was a hard thing. So he was very, very generous and very sweet with me on my first day.”
And while Bergman didn’t expect this new role to last a year, he has now been in Genoa City for over three decades! Which means that he’s enjoyed plenty of fantastic material that has earned him 21 Daytime Emmy Award nominations for Lead Actor and three wins. But when asked to pick a standout storyline from those years, he actually found it easy to choose. “I have a couple of favorite storylines,” Bergman confided. “When I first came on the show, [creator] Bill Bell wisely thought that if you’re bringing in a new guy to replace one of the major characters on the show, you’d better give him storyline.
“Jack came back to get Jabot back for his father,” he continued. “And he was determined! His plan was he would get Nikki to fall for him and once he succeeded, he would go to Victor and say, ‘You want Nikki back?’ And just before Jack put together the deal that Jack would get Jabot back and he would get Nikki back, Jack fell for her. Oh God — ruined the entire plan. And before it was over, he was left with nothing. It was just a good storyline.”
Bergman’s other pick is a more recent tale that stretched over some time. “My other favorite storyline, no two people could be more different than Jack and Phyllis,” he smiled. “To have Jack and Phyllis falling for each other was great fun to play because they were just polar opposites in many ways. This girl was nothing like any of the girls Jack grew up with at the country club. She was unapologetic about who she was and she was in your face and all these things Jack found completely winning. There have been a few other stories along the way, but that was a fun one.”
It’s those kinds of storylines featuring talented actors portraying characters the viewers have gotten to know like members of their own family that have kept Y&R on the air for nearly five decades now. And Bergman is happy to be a part of that enduring legacy. “I feel very grateful to be part of the handful of people who’ve been here for 30 years or more,” he admitted. And here’s to 30 more!