Deep Soap: ‘All My Children’s Jennifer Bassey On Being The Original Cougar

by | February 3, 2010 at 12:00 PM | Deep Soap

Jennifer Bassey

Jennifer Bassey

Jennifer Bassey has played Marian Colby on ‘All My Children’ for nearly 30 years.  Marian was last seen in an insane asylum, after shooting Marissa.  Now that new headwriters are in charge on the show, she would love to make a return to Pine Valley society. The candid Bassey opened up about why Marian was backburnered, AMC’s glory days and her goal of creating a new supernatural soap opera.

Are you going to come back to All My Children now that it’s taping in Los Angeles?

I don’t know.  I’m in the insane asylum right now.  I just shot somebody.

How did you feel about the way Marian was written off?

They replaced our head writer recently because everything was not the way they thought it should be going.  I think it was the writer. Everything seemed to go like bang bang bang.  Everybody’s gone.

What do you think of the decision to kill Stuart off?

I thought it was very sad because he’s one of the few characters that everybody loves.  He’s kind of like the heart of the show.  I could think of other characters it would have been better to kill off than Stuart.  But, again, it was the headwriter’s choice.  People asked him to please build up Stuart before it happened because Stuart hadn’t been on a lot and neither had I.  You don’t get impact if you haven’t seen anybody for a long time and then suddenly they come out and they’re shot.  So you’re like, [shrug] “Stuart was shot”, rather then really crying and getting emotional about it.

ABC had to sign off on all of this.  Why did they?

I have no idea.  I wasn’t in on any of it.  All I know is I got called, “Stuart’s dead and you’re playing it.”

Stuart and Marian’s original romance was so original and charming.

We were the most popular couple on ABC daytime.  I’ve been told that the new head of ABC daytime came on and said, “I don’t want them to work.  I want to use younger people.”  So that was that… It was beautifully written.  We had great headwriters.  You have to have headwriters who know the characters.  If you don’t, look what happened last year. It’s like chaos, from what I hear.  I don’t really watch the show that much.

The relationship with Stuart transformed Marian from the bad girl to a heroine.

Which I think was a mistake.  I think we should have kept me bad.  I think I should have been a really bad person who did terrible things and he would always forgive me.  I think that would have been perfect.

Marian could come out of the asylum with an axe to grind.

That’s what I talked to some of the people at All My Children about.  I should really be going after Adam.  But nobody’s called me.

Could Marian fall for Tad again, after all these years?

Are you kidding? Of course.  Marian could go for anybody.  Anybody who is attractive and has money.   I think I should have got together with Adam after Stuart died but then he had the other story with the young girl who is after his money.

What do you think of Jamie Luner’s portrayal of Liza?

I really like Jamie.  I like working with her. I hear some of the fans really, really like her a lot.  That’s all I know. I think they’ve accepted her.  Marcy’s [Walker] been off for such a long time.  They didn’t even go with a blond, which I thought was strange.  Again, I think that was Charles Pratt our ex-headwriter’s choice.

You and Marcy truly looked like mother and daughter and seemed to have a close bond off camera.  Are you still in touch with her?

She disappears.  She did some church work down South somewhere with her husband.  I hear she may be back in New York.  I don’t know.

Do you think she’d come back to All My Children if she were asked?

I have no idea.

Do you think there is any way that the show could bring Stuart back from the dead?

Sure.  Anybody can come back from the dead on daytime.  Or [David Canary] can be another twin.  They were triplets.

What was it like being on the show in the 80s when the show was at the height of its popularity?

It was fabulous.  Just wonderful.  We had a wonderful time and the scripts were fabulous.  All the characters were characters and the writers knew all of us.

How did you get cast on the show?

It was very bizarre.  [Former AMC actress and producer] Francesca James and I met at a wedding.  She said, “Do you want to do soaps again?”  I said, “Now that they’re fashionable I’d love to.”  When I did them people frowned on you like you were terrible.  She said, “I’m directing a play.  You’d be right for a role in it.”  I did the role.  Then I got a call from [then producer] Jacqui Babbin’s office.  They said, “We want you to come in to meet with Jacqui Babbin about a character on All My Children.”   So I go in and there’s no script.  I remember I was wearing a skirt.  She said, “I like your skirt.” I said, “I’ll tell you where I got it.”  She said, “Don’t worry about it.  I don’t wear skirts.”  She said, “Would you mind going to be with a 19 year old?”  I said, “If it’s okay with him, it’s okay with me.”  She said, “Look, I’m going to Bali for three weeks. You’re hired.  It’s only going to be a few months.” That was almost 30 years ago.

Marian, Tad and Liza were daytime’s original mother-daughter love triangle.

I was the original cougar.  I was the older woman into the younger guys.  Absolutely.  The writers created the [cougar archetype.]  I just played it.  Everyone thinks I may be submitted for an Emmy this year because I’ve got wonderful footage at the funeral.  If I do win it, I’m going to say it’s a great honor to play a role for almost 30 years.  It’s also more than a great honor to play a nymphomaniac alcoholic murderess.  But to win an award for playing a nymphomaniac alcoholic murderess is the cherry on the sundae.  Even to be nominated.  This character is a hoot to play.  It’s a great gift.  She’s crazy.  She’s delicious.  She’s funny and she’s evil.

When I started watching soaps as a kid, I was more interested in the adult characters than the teens.  Do you think there’s a disconnect between what the network thinks younger viewers want to see and what they actually like?

The number one show on daytime television is The Young & The Restless.  If you turn on The Young & The Restless you will see old people, middle aged people and young people.  You turn on ABC and you see young people, young people and young people.  The difference is that they have kept their core characters for 40 years. People have grown up with those characters and they have bonded with them.  There are more senior citizens in this country than anyone else.  No one is gearing any TV for senior citizens because they say they don’t buy anything.   They’re the only people who have money to buy anything, so it doesn’t make sense to me.

I hear you are shopping a new soap that you wrote.

It’s my idea.  It’s called Night Fall.  It’s about vampires, werewolves, transformational witches and mole people. They are all living under a federation of species in New York city paying taxes and having normal lives.  I wrote it with former AMC writer Charlotte Gibson.  We have a producer who likes it a lot.  He’s finishing up a series he’s doing now.  So we’re going to go back to him and see what happens.   I want this show to be an afterschool soap starting at 4PM for both kids and adults… I love Night Fall because it’s outrageous.  One family’s been looking for another family for 300 years to kill them.  It’s different.  No one has seen it before.  That’s what I think is wrong with daytime.  I’m so tired of seeing babies and love stories.

How did you feel about Passions? That was the last supernatural daytime soap.

I never watched it.