Susan Lucci urges women ‘to act when you feel those symptoms,’ talks iconic Erica Kane

Susan Lucci urges women ‘to act when you feel those symptoms,’ talks iconic Erica Kane

USA News

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Nearly three months ago, soap star Susan Lucci experienced a familiar episode. 

Lucci suffered “shortness of breath and a discomfort, tightness that would radiate around my rib cage to my back,” just as the “All My Children” star did in 2018 when she underwent emergency heart surgery. At the time, her heart’s main artery was 90% blocked, and she had two stents put in. According to the Mayo Clinic, a stent “helps prop the artery open, decreasing its chance of narrowing again.”

In January, Lucci, 75, received an additional stent, which she thought of keeping quiet because she felt “embarrassed” by her response to her symptoms. “Having been through this, (and) telling women to listen to your bodies, listen to your symptoms and act on them, I didn’t right away,” she says. “Just like last time, I thought, ‘Oh it’ll go away. Oh, it’s nothing.'”

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At the insistence of her husband, producer Helmut Huber, who died on March 28 at 84, she made a call to her doctor at 10:30 p.m.

“As women, we just don’t want to bother the doctor,” Lucci explains. “My doctor has said, ‘No one needs to die of a heart attack.’ You just need to act when you feel those symptoms.”

Lucci says she feels great and continues to search for her next role. She followed “All My Children” with parts on TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” and “Devious Maids.” 

In a wide-ranging chat, Lucci opens up about her love for acting, the moment she finally won an Emmy and why she’s staying tight-lipped about that potential “All My Children” spinoff, “Pine Valley,” first reported in December 2020. Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, who met while working on the soap, are  developing a prime-time version of the long-running ABC soap, which was briefly revived online in 2013. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: How did you know that you wanted to be an actress?

Susan Lucci: If I was just at home, (playing) in the house, which was my preference (as a young girl) because I was very shy, I would (make up stories and) play all the parts. But if I went out to play, I would assign parts to all the other kids. It’s just who I was. 

Q: How would you describe your relationship with acting?

Lucci: It feeds me, it nurtures me. It’s my natural outlet for creativity. It’s what I love to do. It’s where I feel the least shy and the most fulfilled. I’m very happy on stage, whether it’s a TV studio or a soundstage, or an actual stage, a theater.

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Q: When you think about your time playing Erica Kane on “All My Children” (1970-2011), are there storylines or fan interactions that stand out to you?

Lucci: The fans around the Emmys (18-time losing streak), people sending me their awards. There was a man who sent me his Oscar. (Randy Stone, who won for the 1994 short film “Trevor.”) I said, “Oh, you can’t do this.” I said, “I can’t keep your Oscar.” We finally made a deal that if I won he would come to New York, we would have dinner, and I’d give him back his Oscar and we did.

I also remember two little girls from Pennsylvania sending me their ballet trophies, and I called their mother and told them, “This is the sweetest thing in the world, but I have to give you back your little girls’ ballet trophies.”

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Q: You finally won a Daytime Emmy in 1999, after your 19th nomination. What do you remember about that moment? 

Lucci:  (Presenter Shemar Moore) made this great announcement… I thought that he was announcing playoff scores because it was May and we were in (Madison Square Garden) and I thought, “Oh, that’s great. He’s telling people how the (basketball) playoffs are going.”

And he said who the winner was. After the ninth time (losing), I never heard a name, and my big fear was that I would just go up thinking I heard my name. I knew I won because everybody was looking at me, and Rosie O’Donnell reached over and took my evening bag from me. My husband picked me up by the elbow, and I whispered in his ear, “Are you sure?” And he said, “Yes,” and then escorted me up there to the stage.

Q: What can you tell me about the “All My Children” spinoff “Pine Valley?”

Lucci: I wish I could tell you something concrete about it, but it was unfortunately leaked early on in the process. I can’t talk about it yet. And also for myself, I’m somebody who doesn’t like or want to talk about anything I’m doing until I’m on set doing it.

Q: Where do you think Erica Kane is today? What would you like to see her doing?

Lucci: The leopard doesn’t change her spots. Maybe she’s a little less self-serving. I’m sure she’s trying to find her way still, and I’m thinking she is still in search of real love… She’s still out there in pursuit of having it all and having it all with a lot of style and a lot of flash.

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