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Suddenly Susan

After almost three decades portraying Erica Kane, Susan Lucci has—finally—won that elusive Emmy. But the actress still has other roles to conquer.
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
Susan Lucci, Sep/Oct 99

(continued from page 2)

Unlike the movies, in which each scene is broken into individual shots and each shot can be redone many times, a scene in a soap opera, because of the time constraints, is usually taped in one long take--unless an actor forgets his or her lines or something goes wrong technically--with three cameras shooting from various angles.

There is, Lucci says, a lot of pressure to get things right the first time. "But a lot of it is good pressure," she says, "like the pressure you feel standing backstage in a theater waiting to go on. Because you do get the feeling the show is being done live, because the goal is one take, and the whole process is geared to that. We do a scene from beginning to end, and it can be a six-page scene or a twelve-page scene, so it's a lot like doing a play. On the other hand, it's like doing a new play every day, because there's a new script every day. So it's very much flying by the seat of your pants. But I enjoy the pace. And I enjoy working spontaneously and feeling the kind of electricity that comes with that."

Lucci has certainly provided more than her share of electricity as Erica, so much so that an observer might think the two have much in common. But with a few exceptions, Lucci and her television persona are as different as the sun and the moon. For instance, unlike Erica Kane, Lucci has been happily married to the same man, Helmut Huber, for nearly 29 years.

"Erica and I are both very ambitious," Lucci says. "We both love men, and we both love clothes. But I was very lucky to meet my husband. I met him when I was very young, and now that I'm grown I still think I made a great choice. He's a lot of wonderful things that make me very happy. But I think that probably the greatest difference between Erica and myself is that I had a great relationship with my father. He used to take me out with him after blizzards and hurricanes. He's the kind of man who would go out in the community to see if a tree had fallen down and if somebody needed help, because he really knew what to do. He would take me with him, when I was maybe seven or eight years old, and I would sit in the front seat of the car and I'd feel so proud that he took me with him.

"We used to watch bullfights on television together. He loved bullfights. I remember reading Hemingway when I was 12 or 13 years old just to find out about these men's men. My father always made me feel like I was important and that I could do anything I wanted to do. He would always tell me that. He would introduce me as the brains of the family. He made me feel very proud of myself.

"Erica had a father who left when she was nine years old and who did some terrible things. He allowed his best friend, who had a crush on Erica when she was fourteen, to be alone in a room with her, and turned his back when his friend raped her. He was a horrible monster. She has a lot of issues she has to get over that stem from that bad relationship. And I have a great relationship with my father."

Susan Lucci was born in Scarsdale, New York, a suburb of New York City, on December 23. She is reluctant to reveal her age. "I must come from a different time," she says, "because I really believe in mystery and I think that in any other profession no one would ask anybody, men or women, how old they are."

She says that all previous published reports of her year of birth are incorrect. She grew up in Garden City. Her father, Victor, was a construction contractor and her mother, Jeanette, a nurse; Lucci has an older brother, Jimmy, who is a business management consultant.

Her love of acting began at an early age. "I had a very happy childhood. My father would take me ice skating and horseback riding. We would sing together. He was a wonderful artist. He taught me to draw, to use pastels and charcoals. My parents were always in the audience for me. From the first play I was ever in--a Girl Scout play based on 'Cinderella' in which I got to play Cinderella--they've always been in the audience for me. They've always rooted for me. They've always encouraged me to dream my dreams. Even though they didn't want to part with me, they let me go to Norway when I was 16 as an exchange student. They didn't want me to be an actress, but they let me try for that, too. I know that was difficult for them, but what they did was very good. Because I was very headstrong, and I was going to do it anyway.

At Garden City High School, she was a cheerleader and an honors student, and she acted in all the plays, among them The King and I. She went on to major in drama at Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, where, she says, she was lucky because "the drama faculty was from the Yale School of Drama and the Royal Shakespeare Company of London and the Martha Graham Dance Company."

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