In Part One of our interview with Jean LeClerc, the multifaceted actor discussed his current role in the fascinating play "The Madonna Painter" playing in Montreal, his history of performing on Broadway, his early history on soaps, and how the beloved role of Jeremy Hunter on ALL MY CHILDREN came to him. In Part Two below, he shares the highs and lows of Jeremy's travels to Corinth on LOVING, the current state of ALL MY CHILDREN, and remembers working with the late James Mitchell.
We Love Soaps: About five years into your run as Jeremy, Genie Francis was brought on as Ceara. How was that for you?
Jean LeClerc: She was a darling. By then I understood she was famous for Laura on GENERAL HOSPITAL. I adored her. Her dressing room door was always open. She was a hard worker. She was new in New York, and she had a huge following. I became fast friends with her and her husband Jonathan [Frakes]. And they paired us, and I married her.
We Love Soaps: Then both your characters were shipped to LOVING.
Jean LeClerc: They wanted to help the show. For six months I was back and forth between LOVING and ALL MY CHILDREN. Then ABC made me an offer, they proposed a “golden bridge” to cross over. They said, “It would be helpful for us if you do this, and by doing so we will create your evil twin brother Gilbert.”
We Love Soaps: So it was with your consent that Jeremy moved to Corinth?
Jean LeClerc: Yes. Because they said there will always be a door open for his return. Even today, it’s been a little confused as to who died at the end of LOVING, was it Jeremy or Gilbert? If they wanted to play with that they could. Or Gilbert was in prison, he could get out. He could have gone through therapy, he could redeem himself, he could become the good guy. Jeremy was immensely rich, I think his father left him like half of Canada. I believe his gallery and all his money remain in Pine Valley. It could be a good story if they needed one. I leave that up to their capable hands.
We Love Soaps: The way we were led to believe Jeremy died was quite unique. And still to this day, as far as I know, is the only way a soap character has ever died.
Jean LeClerc: [Laughs] They dropped gallons of plaster on him, they made a statue out of him.
We Love Soaps: How was it conveyed to you that after ten years of playing Jeremy that he was going to be killed off?
Jean LeClerc: It was a shock. They didn’t tell me. I found out because of the indiscretion of a person at ABC. I knew they were eliminating most of the characters because they had to finish the show. I had understood that the character would be spared. [Jeremy's death] was a major secret so nobody would know and people would stay tuned. I think it was a bit cheap to do that. I did not appreciate learning it at the indiscretion of someone at ABC. I said, “Oh well, that’s the way it is.” I knew one character would go, the other would not, I did not know which it would be. I said, “It’s up to them. I guess the marriage is over for now.” My heart was with ABC, who had been having problems with ratings at LOVING for awhile. Someone at ABC told me, “Well you know the other character is always there, and we will always be thankful for the work you did for us.”
We Love Soaps: “The other character” meaning Gilbert?
Jean LeClerc: Gilbert, or Jeremy, if it was Gilbert who was in the plaster.
We Love Soaps: But you had understood before going to LOVING that there would be an open door back to ALL MY CHILDREN.
Jean LeClerc: Yes, they always made that clear.
Jean LeClerc: [Pause] At one point, I was at LOVING, and I realized the producer of that show was new, the President of ABC Daytime was new. Everyone was new. It was like deck chairs on the Titanic. I don’t mean that in a bad way. Things change. And in order to be creative they bring new people who have new ideas and they do the best they can. They are sometimes in a panic mode asking, “What can we do fast?” When you sign a contract you accept you will be a character named Jeremy or Gilbert, but it is up to the creators to decide what is best for them, what is best for the show, what is best for the network. Actors don’t have clout, I think the fans have more clout. And it also has to do with how ABC will promote their “stars,” or rather, who they think can make a difference. It is complex.
We Love Soaps: Yes, and it’s been made more complex by diminishing ratings, and decisions made from panic and fear. From a viewers point-of-view, it seems to they often shoot themselves in the foot by taking power away from the writers and letting network execs make important creative decisions. However, on the internet we are seeing a plethora of new stories in which the writers have more creative control.
Jean LeClerc: I think that if they are smart that they will let the people who know do their job. Writers are there to create. They have visions, imagination. They should be given the tools to embellish storylines and trust that what they are writing is right for the show.
We Love Soaps: Given the state of daytime as it is, if you were given the opportunity to bring back Jeremy or Gilbert, would you be interested?
Jean LeClerc: It depends. I’m busy in the theater now. Would I consider it? I certainly would consider it, depending on what it is. Ideally it would be short-term. Would I go back on a regular basis? It would depend on the conditions, it depends on what they would want to do with it.
We Love Soaps: Would you ever consider working on an Indie Soap?
Jean LeClerc: I never say no to good work. But I’m careful of what I’m saying because I really have no idea what it is. Are they popular?
We Love Soaps: I would say they have become quite popular. Even just in the past nine months there has been quite a plethora in wonderful shows and in in viewers. The big question mark is how to make this creative platform financially viable.
Jean LeClerc: Are the normal soaps still making money for the networks?
We Love Soaps: My understanding is that some are bleeding money, and some are doing okay. None are producing advertising revenue as they did twenty or even ten years ago.
Jean LeClerc: I remember ABC telling me, “The money that ALL MY CHILDREN makes during the day permits us to create DYNASTY at night.” That’s how big the money was. How is ALL MY CHILDREN doing now?
We Love Soaps: Not well. They had a writer this past year named Charles Pratt who had done quite well in primetime, but found that primetime elements of storytelling tanked in daytime. You know better than anyone that they are two completely separate creative entities. Lorraine Broderick has temporarily stepped in.
Jean LeClerc: Was that a plus?
We Love Soaps: In my opinion that was a definite plus. She seems to have a much better idea of pacing and storytelling. The next writer has yet to step in.
Jean LeClerc: I just learned she wrote a salute to Palmer Cortlandt. I’m sure it will be moving.
We Love Soaps: Tell me about working with James Mitchell.
Jean LeClerc: He was a man who had a great sense of humor. He was a gentleman. He was a very serious actor. I got to know him outside of ALL MY CHILDREN. I was amazed by the career he had had before he joined. This man created Oklahoma! Some of us were invited to his home in L.A. He was the most generous host who got us all in his home to play and laugh and drink and celebrate life. He was a life lover. I was so sad when I heard he passed away.
We Love Soaps: David Canary recently retired from the show. What are your memories of him?
Jean LeClerc: David and his wife were friends. David welcomed me with the most warmest welcome of anyone in the cast. I was a foreigner, I was new in the daytime world. I had no idea who Susan Lucci was. My first scenes were with David. I watched him work. I saw how easy he made it look, but how precise he was in the preparation and delivery of playing twins. I think in the first or second year on the show he got his first nomination as Best Actor. Just to show you his kindness: I went to congratulate him and he said, “I’m pretty sure with the work you are delivering that you will get a nomination very soon. How nice! How generous of this man! He loved the character of Jeremy.
This is what I mean by what ALL MY CHILDREN was about. You had this level of support among us, on the inside. I got to follow David’s career outside of the studio. When he was doing a play I would always make an effort to go and see him work. He was amazing. He liked to act. He liked the craft. I asked him if he was going to keep doing theater? He said, “Oh yes, we need to reinforce our craft by going and doing other characters so we can come back and be fresh.” He is such a kind kind man. And funny. He and his wife are friends like I wish everyone could have. I’m very sorry ALL MY CHILDREN will lose him.
Editor's Note: Press here for the final part of our interview in which Mr. LeClerc discusses which female lead he wished Jeremy had gotten together with, as well as insights about the potential of the daytime soap genre.
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".