07/01/2013 07:45 am ET Updated Aug 31, 2013

Susan Lucci: Devious And Delicious

Bob Mahoney

Susan Lucci is never at a loss for words. Not as the sexy, sassy, spoiled, rich diva, Erica Kane, (whom she played for 41 years on the ABC soap opera All My Children); not as the sweet, promiscuous, rich, multi-divorced Beverly Hills semi-diva, Genevieve Delatour, on Lifetime's Devious Maids; and not in real life. The question is: Who is she, really? Read on.

It must be noted that creator Marc Cherry is a genius for casting Lucci in Lifetime's new delicious dramedy Devious Maids. Here's the teaser (wish I had written this!):

"In Devious Maids, murder and mayhem collide in the mansions of Beverly Hills' wealthiest and most powerful families. Class warfare has never been as fun and dirty as it is in the tony enclave where the staff is as clever, witty, outrageous and downright devilish as their employers. Whoever holds the dirt holds the power, and before the season is over, illicit affairs will be revealed and deep, dark secrets exposed as we learn the sordid details behind the shocking murder of a beloved housemaid."

Whew! After watching the first two episodes (which air Sunday nights on Lifetime), no doubt about it, this show is a keeper!

Now we pause for a commercial break. And this is a big break -- for all of us! Susan Lucci spent some time with The Huffington Post to talk shop... and personal stuff. You're going to love her all over again.

Susan called from New York on her way to a location where she shoots her Destination Discovery show Deadly Affairs.

I love Devious Maids. It's my new favorite show. How would you describe your character -- Genevieve?

I would describe her as very romantic, hopeful. There's a freshness to her, almost an innocence to her. She is vulnerable, and as Marc described her, she's a woman who has attracted one rich-and-powerful man after the next and has been married to five of them. At the moment, she doesn't have any such man in her life, and she's feeling like maybe she's not very attractive anymore. And she feels like maybe she's losing her mojo, and it's driving her a little bit wild. She has big mood swings and sometimes self medicates.

You've brought humor to this character.

(Laughs) Oh, I'm glad, thank you. I think sometimes in life we don't see the humor when we're in the middle of something, but if somebody steps back, you could see the humor.

Please tell me this is an on-going role for you. You never know in this business. I hope Marc Cherry plans to have you on for the long haul.

Thank you, yes, that's my understanding, absolutely. I am so thrilled to be playing this part. Working with Marc Cherry, I've been a long-time fan of his and that has only increased since I've been working with him. What a brilliant writer. I will tell you the scripts read like page turners. It's a large ensemble cast. I'm so proud to be a part of this show. It's an amazing cast.

Do you have a sense of how Devious Maids might win over a fickle audience?

I did a screening for some friends who were about five couples at a friend's house who had a screening place in her house. When we all sat down, the women all sat in the chairs close to the screen. The guys kind of sat in the back. I'm not even sure they thought that they would want to watch. I thought they would talk about sports and politics like they do, and the minute the pilot went on, you could hear a pin drop. You could hear from the back of the room -- the guys saying, 'Wow, this is really good!' That made me happy.

How is Susan Lucci like Genevieve and Erica?

For myself whenever I play a character, I dig really deep. I think Erica and Genevieve and I all want a man in our life. I mean that's just at the core of all of these characters and of me. I love something about Genevieve. How she deals with things may be different than somebody else, but I think there's a relevance in Genevieve. I think there's not a woman -- or maybe not a man alive -- who from time to time doesn't feel like maybe they're losing their mojo... maybe struggles with getting older, struggles with not feeling so attractive, struggles with loneliness. These are very relevant characteristics.

Have you struggled with all of those things?


After playing Erica Kane for 41 years, was it hard for you to let go of her -- in your head -- as an actress?

[It was hard to let her go] in my heart. I love this character, Erica. Being cast as Genevieve has certainly helped me to move on. I had to move on, and certainly wanted to move on. But the character Erica Kane is with me forever. People stop me and tell me still how much they love Erica Kane and that lets me know she's still alive and well. I may not be playing her at the moment but she is alive and well.

Have you ever had an Erica Kane tantrum in real life?

Oh, I've been known to. (Laughs) They are few and far between thank heavens but I think there's a little Erica in all of us. That's the beauty of these characters when they're so well written as Erica was and Genevieve. There is a relevance. I touched on it a little bit earlier. I think the characteristics of Genevieve... and Erica wants what she wants when she wants it. And I think at the heart of us, don't we all? (Laughs)

How devastated were you when you were told AMC was being cancelled and did you cry?

Yes, I did cry. I did not see it coming. I was shocked. I went through a bunch of emotions that day that we were told and also over the course of the year I would say I went through a real mourning period. It was a loss. A loss of a show that I loved, a loss of people that I was close to, the loss of a character I loved playing and had such a wonderful response from the American viewing audience. So, yes, there was a lot to feel devastated about.

Will you return to AMC on the web from time to time or do you not see that happening at all?

We are all trying to make that happen. When they went into production, I was already in production on Devious Maids in Atlanta, and they shoot in Stamford, Ct. Now I'm back in New York shooting the show that I do for Investigation Discovery. They are on hiatus, but I'm trying to arrange a meeting so that we can sit down in a room together and try to work it out. They also shoot five weeks on and five weeks off so their schedule is a very complicated shooting schedule. And mine has been as well. We're just trying. We're all trying.

As Erica you were married about 11 times. This is a loaded question. Which one was your favorite husband?

(Laughs) You know Erica always wanted what she couldn't have and was never satisfied with what she did have. So that was part of her nature even though she wasn't aware of it and kept on looking for love. Certainly the one I think Mona (Erica's mother on AMC) would have wanted her to stay with was Tom Cudahy but Erica sometimes loved the men who got away. I think Mike Roy was a huge love for Erica. Tom was such a great guy but Erica didn't recognize it. But he also wanted different things. Erica was very young and she wanted to model and he didn't get that at all. He wanted her to be home and have babies. She wasn't ready for that. That's a real life situation that happens too, when people are attracted and get married but have different goals. I think Dimitri was wildly romantic when Erica and Dimitri were together. And also, heaven knows she had a hard time walking away from Jack Montgomery. He was a rock.

Which husband were you glad to be rid of?

I would have to count myself as a very lucky actress. I suppose that Erica was very happy to be rid of Adam Chandler, the control freak. (Laughs) But for myself, as Susan, I adore David Canary, and I had such a good time working with him.

I suffered with you through 18 losses on your Emmy nominations. Of course you won on the 19th try, but tell me your thoughts when you lost after your first year, then year five and year 10, 13 and 18?

(Laughs) I was very flattered and very honored to be in such company [with the other nominated actresses]. As it went along, I was being nominated quite a few times. After the ninth time that I didn't win, frankly I was so numb, every time they would say who won -- their names -- I never heard their names. I would never hear the name. They would be playing somebody else's theme song and no one was looking at me, so I knew I didn't win. (Laughs)

What happened too as time went along, the fans were so amazing. Little girls from Pennsylvania sent me their ballet trophies. Their phone number was there so I called their mother to let her know what a lovely thing her little girls did but I was very happy to give her back her little girls' trophies. She and the little girls actually came to the set one day to visit me in my dressing room and we sat down and talked for awhile. They were just the loveliest little girls.

A man who won an Oscar for Best Short Film -- Randy Stone, who has since passed away unfortunately, but Randy sent me his Oscar. I had never met him. He said to keep it until I won. I don't remember what year that was. Maybe two or three years before I won, but I said to him, 'Randy, I could be on a walker by the time I ever win an Emmy, and I can't keep your Oscar.' Well, he insisted. I said, 'Ok, the deal is, if I win, you have to let me give you back your Oscar.' So he came to New York and we had dinner, and I gave him back his Oscar. He was just delightful.

All those years, that you did not win, did you ever go home and throw things?

(Laughs) Probably. Only one time I remember that. I think after that I would go numb.

You know Angela Lansbury has lost 18 or 19 times.

She has?

There are a lot of actors who have never won a primetime Emmy: Andy Griffith, Jackie Gleason, Bob Newhart, Jerry Seinfield, Angela Lansbury, Michael Landon, Henry Winkler.

Oh, my goodness! What good company I was in!!

Exactly! What would you say to Angela if you could concerning all of her losses?

Oh, Angela, that's just not right. You should have won more than one! My goodness, and every one of the actors you mentioned! I can't believe it.

What age was the most traumatic for you when you hit it?

Turning 60 was the hardest. I could not believe it. It seemed like it had to be my mother. That could not possibly be me. What happened to all this time? And I was worried that I would have labels on me. I also became a grandmother on the same day. And that's really what got me through. I said, 'You know what, the reality is spectacular. I have never felt better, I have this beautiful baby in my life, my daughter is so happy. This is spectacular.' The reality was spectacular. It was the labels I found I had to deal with a little bit.

You and your husband have been married 43 years. It's hard to be married. I interviewed an actress once who told me she'd like to throw her husband through a wall... which many of us can relate to! (Laughs) So what's your secret?

Well, I think it's best not to act on that impulse. (Laughs) We all have our moments. Look, I think I got very lucky. My husband is very self-assured and he has, thank heavens, a great great sense of humor! Those things have stayed intact. Those are two things that attracted me to him in the very beginning. I am very lucky in that way. But having said that, I think that sometimes you don't act on that impulse that we all have from time to time. He's probably had that impulse too because there are some days that you are just exhausted or overwhelmed, but if you take it day by day the things that you fell in love with him for, to appreciate those every day and kind of take a breath and step back and say wait a second, let me see what happens tomorrow before I do anything rash here.

When you have an argument, who's more likely to say I'm sorry first?

Probably me... Pat, I am so sorry, I'm at the location now. I have to go in now for hair and makeup.

No problem. I have just a few rapid fire questions. Can I email them to you?

Oh, let's just take five more minutes and go through them.

Do you ever get your feelings hurt?


How do you get over that?

I try to make sense of it and try not to take things personally or I cry. I try to laugh at the end of the trail.

Who was your first celebrity crush?

Tony Curtis.

Do you have a current celebrity crush?

Maybe Blake Shelton.

What do you have under your bed?

You know what? I don't have anything under my bed. I have things under other beds but not under mine. (Laughs)

If you could have a do-over in your life what would it be?

I might have gone to the John Houseman Theater. It became Julliard.

When was the last time you cried?

Oh, last week. I was just feeling overwhelmed but then I got over it.

Who makes you laugh out loud?

My husband.

The last time you did something that was out of your comfort zone?

Definitely Dancing With the Stars. I love to dance but it was out of my comfort zone because I was working in New York at the same time that I was dancing in L.A. and we were dancing in between and we were doing sweeps on AMC at the time so the days got very, very long and the time to learn the dances got very, very short. I would rather have had a leave of absence from AMC so I could really concentrate on the dances.

Have you ever auditioned for a role you didn't get?

There was an audition for The Tempest that I didn't get, and that haunts me to this day. The director was working with me. I was usually always a pretty quick study, and he was trying to get something from me and I wasn't understanding him. I left feeling, 'Oh, why didn't I get what he was trying to say to me?' I was about 22 -- and I was just down the street in a cab two blocks away, it clicked. I was too shy to ask the cab driver to turn around and go back in and ask if I could have another try at it. I was too shy and to this day I regret that.

Do you enjoy tweeting?

I enjoy it. I think it's a terrific thing to do. I like the immediacy and the fans, it's great. It's good training for me to speak more succinctly. (Laughs) It's good for me but it's challenging. People are tweeting that Devious Maids is their new show, it's their Sunday night destination show, and all of that makes me so excited!

The last time you had to say 'I'm sorry' to someone?

To you, for having to cut this interview short. Thank you so much!

My great pleasure!

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Earlier on Huff/Post50:

Susan Lucci