We Love Soaps: You were there quite for several years and then in 1989 you left.
Peggy McCay: They call it “leaving.” I call it “fired.” Somebody there did not like me and made sure I got fired. They lied about me, they told Al Rabin I was ill because I was exhausted. My doctor had told me I needed rest, that’s it. I got the time off. And this person lied and said I was doing another show. And when I found that out I went to Al and said, “I would never do anything like that. Don’t you know that? It’s totally unprofessional, it’s completely wrong.” He said, “That's what so-and-so said.” I said, “Well, it’s not true.” She just kept working on it and finally she got me fired. That’s the way it goes. She kept it up, she persuaded the powers that be that they didn’t need me there.
We Love Soaps: Is that person...
Peggy McCay: I can’t say. I simply can’t. It was unpleasant to say the least.
We Love Soaps: But about nine months later you were back.
Peggy McCay: That’s because the Executive Producer Al Rabin came back. He brought me back. Wherever I was for all that time.
We Love Soaps: For a while Caroline was front and center. She confessed to a murder she didn’t commit and had to serve time in jail. Those courtroom scenes are still burned in my memory.
Peggy McCay: Thank you.
We Love Soaps: Then a few years later you were front and center for probably the most controversial story ever on daytime. I am referring of course to the Marlena Devil possession and exorcism.
Peggy McCay: They rigged the chair so that the devil shook it from one side of the room to the other. I was on it! It was marvelous. When the scene was over I said, “Somebody tell Sears there’s something wrong with this lounger.”
We Love Soaps: What was it like with your experience on daytime to suddenly learn that there was going to be this out-there supernatural story?
Peggy McCay: I thought it was very exciting. It was quite dramatic, upbeat, and we did well in the ratings. I thought it was a good story. A lot of people didn’t like it because it was hard to believe. But still I thought it was involving. Deidre [Hall] was great.
We Love Soaps: It was great to see Caroline in the front and center of the action.
Peggy McCay: Yes, it was nice to be there.
We Love Soaps: Years later we saw the “murder” of Caroline Brady, which was pretty disturbing to long-term viewers.
Peggy McCay: I remember being so upset about James Reynolds being killed. I didn’t even know what to say for three days. I just said, “I can’t believe this.” Little did I know that death was waiting for me down the line. We were gone, that was that.
We Love Soaps: How did you deal with the death of this character?
Peggy McCay: I try to use humor at such times. I wrote the head writer and suggested that an appropriate death for her would be to prepare a huge vat of clam chowder and accidentally fall in it. I never heard from him.
We Love Soaps: You’re right! That would have been fitting! What was it like for you to film those final death scenes in the church?
Peggy McCay: With Peter [Reckell] by my side it was fine. He was there to protect me when I fell because you can hurt yourself when you drop right over like that. He was there to catch me. We did good work together.
We Love Soaps: How was that emotionally for you to say goodbye to Caroline?
Peggy McCay: It’s just...I love the people. I missed the people, not being with that great bunch. Other than that I accepted it as having been part of a great long run.
We Love Soaps: Around that time you gave an interview discussing the ageism around the firings.
Peggy McCay: I think that’s more NBC’s point-of-view than CBS’s. I don’t know if I’m right or wrong about that. The audience that counts to them is the young audience. They believe they buy more products. I’m not sure that’s true but they believe it’s true.
We Love Soaps: Yet even if that were partly true, I think what they get wrong is the idea young people only want to watch stories about young people.
Peggy McCay: They are convinced of that. I don’t know what I can do about that.
We Love Soaps: About six months later...
Peggy McCay: We were all resurrected. Unbelievable! I went into Ken Corday’s office on what happened to be April 1st. He said, “You know, you’re not really dead.” I said, “Ken, this is not a funny April Fool’s Day joke.” He said, “It’s not a joke, I’m not joking. None of you are dead.” Sure enough, that’s what they did.
We Love Soaps: Did you have any qualms about returning after all that?
Peggy McCay: No, I was happy to come back. Very happy.
We Love Soaps: A few years later we saw your phenomenal talent displayed after the death of Shawn Brady.
Peggy McCay: Those were beautiful scripts written by Dena Higley. It was wonderful material. It was powerful. I tried to make it as a real as possible, and use what you know from life to do it.
We Love Soaps: Those funeral scenes and the pub scenes were so well performed by everyone. Peter Reckell was nominated for an Emmy for his scenes with you in the hospital, but you were there too!
Peggy McCay: Well, the Academy did a strange thing. I was nominated and then they decided to run a second vote and I was eliminated, as was Joe Mascolo who did some of the best scenes he has ever done. I thought that was crazy. That happened, it was too bad. For him and for me these were some of the best scenes we had. They had some strange rule they enacted and we got voted out. I never understood that one.
We Love Soaps: I’m sorry to hear that. You have a Primetime Emmy but after five nominations I still want to see you get a Daytime Emmy.
Peggy McCay: I hope I get some good material like that again.
We Love Soaps: As you’ve been playing Caroline, how have you approached her feelings for two different men?
Peggy McCay: I’ve thought about it as as having been madly in love with Victor. As the script explained, her husband was always away, she was alone most of the time. She and Victor grew up in the same town and they fell madly in love. Then he left and went to Europe to earn his fortune. Here she was pregnant, so she decided the best thing for the family was to say nothing about it and stay married.
We Love Soaps: It always seemed to me that Caroline could love two different men. She was devoted to Shawn, yet clearly longed for Victor. Was that conflict intentional on your part?
Peggy McCay: Caroline is very moral. The children and the home were more important than her love. That’s how I saw it.
We Love Soaps: Could you ever imagine Caroline saying, “Okay, now I’m ready to commit to Victor.”?
Peggy McCay: I hope so! I’d like it. I don’t know when they’ll get around to that, if they ever do.
We Love Soaps: A few weeks ago we lost the beautiful Frances Reid.
Peggy McCay: She was remarkable, she really was. She was so feisty and smart. And funny. I loved working with her. She was very present and thought a great deal about what the scene was about, which I always appreciated. She will be missed.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to starting on LOVE OF LIFE and give yourself one piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
Peggy McCay: It’s okay to leave. Take a risk! Go out there and do things. I think I did the right thing.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading! And please watch COLD CASE on CBS, February 21st at 10/9c.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Marriage Family Therapist practicing in New York City, and the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve". He is re-imagining a world without "shoulds" at www.shouldless.com.