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All My Children's Vincent Irizarry

The Veteran Soap Actor Celebrates 28 Years in Soaps

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All My Children's Vincent Irizarry

"I’ve loved playing David," says Irizarry. "Without question, it’s one of my favorite parts."

Yolanda Perez/ABC

In November of 1983, a 24-year old soap newcomer named Vincent Irizarry hit Guiding Light’s Springfield as a troubled gang member named Lujack. He was only hired for a three-day stint, but soon impressed the powers-that-be so much he landed a two-year contract with the show. Irizarry became a bona fide soap star and even achieved supercouple status as “Lujack and Beth,” became one of the show’s most popular love stories. The rest, as they say, is history.

In honor of Irizarry's upcoming 28th year in Daytime, I got the actor's take on everything from Lujack, the role that started it all, to the end of a soap era as All My Children finishes its run on ABC next week.

This is Vincent Irizarry On…

How he feels about the Project Orpheus storyline and David being at the center of it…

I thought it was right they should do that for David, David would think so! (he laughs). David would see to it that everybody in Pine Valley fall to their knees and bow to him and thank him for all the good he’s done. Of course, that’s not gonna happen! Some of the characters have come and thanked him for what he’s done and that’s good. That’s a start in a community where everybody completely turns a blind eye to everything amazing that he’s done and he’s saved enumerable lives in this town, their children, their wives, their husbands He’s moved parts from one person to another and kept them alive, but people always vilify him. They hate him. As an actor I’m very happy they wrote the story they did. I’ve loved working these last few months as intensely as I have. It’s been a great story, very interesting to have all these things come up.

What it’s been like playing a great soap villain like David Hayward…

It’s been an interesting journey with this character for the last twelve years. I’ve loved playing him. Without question, it’s one of my favorite parts. The only one that I would say even rivaled it was, and it was only a two-year role, was when I was on Guiding Light as Lujack.

Whenever you play a villain, I think [David] is more than that, but it’s to get the audience to also empathize with the character and his deeds, what he’s doing and why he’s doing it. I remember working with Finola Hughes [ex-Anna, AMC and General Hospital]. She used to crack up because every time that somebody would challenge what David was doing I was very defensive. ‘He’s doing this because of that…’ and she was like, ‘Oh My god! You’ll defend this guy on anything!’ And it’s true. I will. I have to. I have to know why I’m doing what I’m doing. It has to make logical sense to me. There must be something beyond him just being an ass****. He’s not just being that. There’s a reason for it.

Why the All My Children cast and crew has become a second family…

You do forge relationships with the people you work with. It was hard in New York to leave with the crew there. They were amazing, people that were there 25, 30 years. You say goodbye to them and they’re like a second family. You’re with them more than you’re with your family during the working year. You’re there for so many hours each week. That’s how I feel with the people here. The crew is wonderful. The actors, we’ve gone through something unique by moving together here. In some ways, it’s brought us together as a cast. It’s an unusual experience to go through together.

I said to Julie [Hanan Carruthers; AMC’s executive producer], ‘I’ve never been with a company where every time you guys call a meeting, it’s some groundbreaking, never-been-done before thing.’ First, moving our show to L.A. after 40 years… to come here and the first day of our 40th anniversary we started here with this new crew and we’re taping scenes together and we’re like this is unreal that we’re doing this now. And then there was the meeting [where they tell us] ‘We’re canceling,’ then the next one, ‘Psych! We’re not canceling, here’s the new production company.’ Now we’re all waiting to find out what’s going on.

More than anything, what I take away from it is the memory of the relationships I’ve made in every area. [This is] an incredible group of people we’ve worked with. You can’t qualify that. It’s very special. Every time I hear there’s a meeting, I’m like, ‘What’s going on now?’ It’s like, no more meetings please!

How and why David evolved over the years…

The audience didn’t have any history of David when I first came, there were no family ties. He came here to see one person, Ally, who was with Jake, to get her to come back to Stanford with him. That’s what brought him there. After months of doing that character, I started to feel that all he was going to be was an annoyance to the audience after a while if they didn’t know who he was or why he was the way he was. I went to Angela Shapiro, who was then the head of the network for daytime and Jean Burke who was our executive producer at the time and we talked about it. I said, ‘We need somebody to come on this show who knows David from when he was younger, knows everything about him, why he is the way he is. A best friend, someone he went to medical school with, a parent or whatever.’ That’s when they brought in [David’s mother] Vanessa [played by Marj Dusay, who also played his mother on Guiding Light when she took over the role of Alexandra Spaulding from Beverlee McKinsey in 1994] and that story was a defining moment.

Erica had him down in the basement with his hand in the vice and she wanted to know why he was the man he was. He finally spilled to her and told about his life and his father’s suicide. That gave the audience some empathy for him. He wasn’t just an annoying man, always in everyone’s face giving them a hard time. There was something behind the pathology, a reason why he was the way he was. You also understood why he became a surgeon because of his father’s suicide. Every time he saves a life he feels like he’s bringing his father back, which is the one person he couldn’t bring back. Even with Orpheus, it’s all about that, getting closer and closer to preserving human life.

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