Interviews, The Young and the Restless

Y&R’s Eileen Davidson Looks Back On 40 Years Of Ashley Abbott

Eileen Davidson made her debut on The Young and the Restless 40 years ago this month. The Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress sat down with Soap…

The Young and the Restless Eileen DavidsonThe Young and the Restless Eileen Davidson

Eileen Davidson made her debut on The Young and the Restless 40 years ago this month. The Daytime Emmy Award-winning actress sat down with Soap Hub to look back on the life of the Genoa City heroine.

Eileen Davidson Started Playing Ashley 40 Years Ago

As veteran Y&R viewers recall, Davidson’s run on Y&R hasn’t been continuous. She took a 10-year hiatus from the show and returned in 1999 — just in time for the Abbotts to reclaim controlling interest in Jabot Cosmetics. Read on as the actress talks about what brought her back to the show and so much more in the first of a two-part Q&A. Also, don’t miss a special Ashley/Traci-themed episode later this week.

Soap Hub: Don Diamont has done such a great job of creating a whole new character in Bill Spencer on The Bold and the Beautiful but he’ll always be Brad Carlton, too. What did it mean to have him at the on-set celebration that honored both you and Beth Maitland (Traci)?
Eileen Davidson:
It was great. Don came on the show after I first started. It was pivotal that he was there. He had a lot to do with my coming back to the show in 1999. He kind of helped orchestrate that.

Soap Hub: Who else attended the on-set celebration of honoring the 40th years since you and Beth joined Y&R.
Eileen Davidson:
Peter [Bergman, Jack Abbott] had wonderful things to say. Tony [Morina], our executive producer. Eric [Braeden, Victor Newman]. So did Jason [Thompson, Billy Abbott] and Melissa [Ordway, Abby Chancellor]. Beth and I were really overwhelmed. I don’t think we had any idea how wonderful it was going to be but it was thanks to [show publicist] Matt Kane, who put it all together. Peter said he wanted us to both know that whether we’re here or not, we are so important to the show.

Soap Hub: Beth told us that the actors playing the Abbott family used to get together off-screen to create a family bond that would display on-camera.
Eileen Davidson:
We had so much fun. We’d gather around the piano and sing. We’d cook. We would get together at Terry Lester’s [ex-Jack Abbott] place in Beachwood Canyon and at Jerry Douglas’s [ex-John Abbott] house. I think we all got dressed up and got together one year for Halloween.

Soap Hub: In the 80s, Y&R told the epic love triangle with you, Eric Braeden, and Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Reed Newman). It’s rare for a third character to be the foil in a supercouple so successfully.
Eileen Davidson:
It was an important storyline for sure. Bill Bell [Y&R’s late creator/senior executive producer/head writer] was just a genius and he wrote the character of Ashley in that viewers were cheering for Victor and Ashley, too. It was iconic for the show. It’s important to have strong triangles on shows. It made the cover of TV Guide so that was kind of cool.

Soap Hub: In 1988, you exited the show after Ashley’s husband Steven Lassiter [the late Rod Arrants] was killed off.
Eileen Davidson:
I was ready. I wanted to try other things. I’d been on the show for six years. I was ready to go out and see what else was out there.

Soap Hub: Another time you left Y&R was in 2007; B&B hired you to bring Ashley to Los Angeles. What memories do you have of that time?
Eileen Davidson:
I was actually fired from the Y&R [that time] [Laughs] Let’s not soft-pedal it! Brad [Bell, executive producer/head writer] put me on ice over there for a year or so waiting for the ‘winds to change,’ so to speak, over at Y&R. I got to work with a whole bunch of actors. I really enjoyed it.

I have to say one thing about Ashley and 40 years. I don’t think it’s really been broached. I was gone from Y&R for 10 years. In the interim, Brenda [Epperson Doumani] played her for six years and Shari [Shattuck] played her for three. I really consider this Ashley’s birthday not my 40th anniversary. That’s not really quite fair. Other actors took over the role, played her beautifully, making sure she was always still front-burner and an important part of the canvas.

Soap Hub: Ashley’s had many love interests. Do you think she has, as they say, an ‘OTP’ — a One True Pairing?
Eileen Davidson:
I don’t think she does. I really don’t. Looking back on it, I don’t know…Ashley and Brad together were terrific. The whole Victor thing [is up there]. [Jokingly] But there was that whole annoying Nikki thing in the background. So, I don’t really think so. Unless, I’m missing someone.

Soap Hub: What memories do you have of the breast cancer storyline?
Eileen Davidson:
There was talk of me shaving my head and I said I don’t have a problem doing that as long as you’re going to keep writing the story. If you pivot off of the story next week and I don’t have any hair, I’m going to be mad! I did cut my hair extremely short. It was a difficult storyline. And an important one. It helped save lives.

Soap Hub: Jack believed for a short time that he also wasn’t John Abbott’s son and it was revealed that Ashley had orchestrated that to get even with him. Thoughts on that storyline?
Eileen Davidson:
If you play the same thing all the time, it’s going to get boring. I really liked fleshing that out. It might not have been her most enlightened chapter but she felt he deserved it.

Soap Hub: What was it like when Marla Adams returned as Ashley, Jack, and Traci’s mother Dina Mergeron? It was such a painful story watching Dina’s battle with Alzheimer’s.
Eileen Davidson:
It had been so long since I’d worked with Marla. I think it was nice closure for the characters. There was some kind of healing. It’d been such an ugly relationship with her children. It worked out for [Marla]. What was supposed to be a short-term storyline had gone on for a few years. We learned that Dina was a scoundrel and got around!

Check back with Soap Hub for part two of our insightful discussion with Davidson soon! The Young and the Restless (YR) airs weekdays on CBS. Check your local listings for airtimes. For more about what’s coming up in Genoa City, check out all the latest that’s been posted on Y&R spoilers, and for an in-depth look at the show’s history, click here.



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