We Love Soaps: As a viewer it has been hard to watch ALL MY CHILDREN in recent years, and witness much of the passion and integrity that made it so special get erased.
Jean LeClerc: Well, look at Julia Barr, Debbi Morgan, Kate Collins. They are beautiful actors. [The show] was so blessed to have people like that. So pamper them, write beautifully for people like them, because they will deliver it with gusto.
We Love Soaps: Unfortunately they have done the opposite. Julia Barr has not been treated well by this show.
Jean LeClerc: I have heard that. I had always wanted Jeremy and Brooke to pair up. I always wanted to work more with Julia Barr. She is always a plus. Like the work I did with Kate Collins in our story, I was the one that did her screen test as they were looking for Natalie. I remember seeing this girl with hardly any make-up, long hair, jeans and a sweater, and all the other girls came very made-up. She was a very simple actor, and very focused. When the audition was done I said, “That is Natalie, that is her.” We became very close friends, and still are.
We Love Soaps: At the height of your own popularity, in November 1989, you did a magazine cover for a very popular magazine. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Jean LeClerc: No.
We Love Soaps: You were on the cover of Playgirl Magazine!
Jean LeClerc: Oh yeah [laughs]. It was my publicist then who came to me and said, “We have an offer for you to Playgirl Magazine,” to which I replied, “What is that?” I had no idea. They explained it to me and I said, “Uh, I don’t do nudity.” They said, “No, no, you won’t do that. The most you will do is take off your shirt.” I wanted to check with ABC. I asked if it would help, was this the kind of promotion they would endorse? They said, “Yes, absolutely.”
We Love Soaps: How did it feel to you that they wanted to use your body to sell magazines?
Jean LeClerc: It was very flattering. I didn’t think of myself as so sexy to get a cover. But I will tell you the truth. They came to my apartment in New York to take these pictures. They sent two people—one to hold the camera, and one to hold the lighting. Now I also had a persian cat. He was an extraordinarily beautiful cat. One of those cat food companies had chosen him to be on the cover of their calendar. And for my cat, there were nine people who came in to take care of him! The camera, the lighting, the food, one to calm him down, there was an army of people in my apartment to photograph my cat. But for me, there were only two [laughs]!
We Love Soaps: At any time did Playgirl ask you to do completely naked?
Jean LeClerc: No. And I would not have done that anyway. But it was never mentioned. My publicist had taken care of all that.
We Love Soaps: You have made a career out of playing two dichotomous characters. One is the heroic Jeremy figure, the other the villainous Gilbert figure, much like the doctor you are now portraying in "The Madonna Painter." Which one of these is more like you?
Jean LeClerc: All of these people like Dracula, the doctor, even Jeremy, they are all larger than life. It is impossible to meet someone like Jeremy Hunter in real life, an ex-Tibetan monk who can levitate, and who is also an ex-fighter, who knows all the martial arts, and has special powers of the mind...someone like that doesn’t exist. But what I liked about playing Jeremy was the amount of fan letters I received. Because in extremely delicate situations in family problems or human relationships, Jeremy was coming up with solutions that were new and different. People wrote to me and said, “Thank you, I had a similar problem in my life, and I had never thought of it by looking at that angle.” I liked this social work that Jeremy was doing through the network based on the writing of a character who was highly spiritual. I thought that was a gift from the writers, coming down from Agnes Nixon.
We Love Soaps: Do you have more in common with Jeremy or Gilbert?
Jean LeClerc: I’m more like Jeremy than Gilbert. I wish I had his powers, but I have his heart.
We Love Soaps: What do you have in common with the antagonists you portray so well?
Jean LeClerc: Their passion. It’s really about setting your goal on something, and going for it. I’m a bit like that in life. I’m a lot like that in life. I remember prior to coming to the United States I would dream of coming to the United States. At that time I didn’t speak very much English. I said, “Across the border there is another country called the United States. I would like to know what it’s like to be a star in the Unites States. I would like to know what it is to work in another language, to be understood, to be welcomed. And it happened.
I believe you first plant it in your head, and in your heart, and you believe it 300%, and then it happens. Because if you think about it, it’s pure magic that I would be doing a movie-of-the-week in another country [Divine Sarah], and circumstances make it possible that this film is airing on PBS at a time that they are looking at millions of actors to star in their Broadway show called "Dracula." Timing is impeccable. They see me, I’m available, I go to New York, and I won it. It’s magic. But first you have to have the passion in your heart. To say, “This is what I want in my life, this is what I want more than anything else.” Then life takes care of making it happen.
We Love Soaps: And what are you passionate about now? What do you want to make happen now?
Jean LeClerc: I want to do the best show possible every night until the end of the run. It’s extremely important.
We Love Soaps: You mentioned starting on THE DOCTORS, and that you and Alec Baldwin were full of hopes and dreams. If you could go back to 1982, and look at Jean LeClerc with all his hopes and dreams, what would you say to him?
Jean LeClerc: Believe in yourself. Believe it can happen.
We Love Soaps: Have your dreams happened?
Jean LeClerc: Yes.
We Love Soaps: Is there anything else that you would like the readers of We Love Soaps to know about you?
Jean LeClerc: I had a splendid ten years on ALL MY CHILDREN. I have great memories of a time in which soaps were an art form at their best. I am not watching enough to know now, and I’m not inside of the soaps to understand the misery or commiseration of what goes on. I’m sadly hearing that it is an art form that is fading. I am sad about that. But life goes on.
So many people were telling me then that what we were doing on daytime television was filling a great gap of love that the viewers did not have at home. How many times people have said to me, “You are there. You are faithful. My husband is not faithful to me but you are there. In my living room, in my kitchen, in my bedroom. We love you for that.” It is so beautiful to hear things like that! The minimum you can do is to be humble and do your job well.
We Love Soaps: And this is exactly why I love watching and writing about soaps. I have always believed in the power of daytime drama to spiritually and psychologically uplift it’s audience in a way that no other art form can. I believe this as a fan, and as a therapist.
Jean LeClerc: And in a very subtle way, they can propose solutions to the pain of humanity. It has sometimes been sabotaged by bad writing, or by expediting story lines. People are incredibly faithful, and they will listen, but don’t fuck with their brains. Believe that they are following you. They are hungry for knowledge, and there are many ways of finding and getting knowledge. Some people read, some people travel, but some people can not do that. But they can watch television, and they look and listen. We propose a better way of living. ALL MY CHILDREN was about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. It’s asking “What will they do?” That was the beauty of ALL MY CHILDREN.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here to learn more about Mr. LeClerc's new play "The Madonna Painter" in Montreal. And extra special thanks to We Love Soaps friend Will Clark for making this interview possible.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City at Mental Health Counseling & Marriage And Family Therapy Of New York. He is also the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve".