Scott D. Pierce: Susan Lucci finds perfect role in ‘Maids’

First Published      Last Updated Jun 12 2014 04:35 pm

For two decades, "All My Children" star Susan Lucci made headlines for being, well, sort of a lovable loser.

From 1978-98, she was nominated for a Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama 19 times. And 19 times she lost.

The amazing thing is not that she didn't win, it's that she got nominated. If you watched the clips of her as Erica Kane in the episodes for which she was nominated — if you watched the prime-time TV movies in which she starred — her performances were often, well, laughable.

That she finally won a Daytime Emmy in 1999 can be attributed to the fact that Lucci is likable. Even lovable. And that the voters took pity on her.

But at 67, Lucci has found a role that's perfect for her. She's Genevieve Delatour, the rich Beverly Hills socialite in "Devious Maids" (Sundays, 8 and 9 p.m., Lifetime), whose best friend is her maid, Zoila Diaz (Judy Reyes, "Scrubs").

Lucci should have been doing comedy years ago.

She said what she loves about "Devious Maids" is that there is "time to rehearse." Lucci said she "adored" working on "All My Children" for four decades, "but just because of the volume we did every day, there was more of a rush to performance." She said actors rehearsed in the hair-and-makeup room, "kind of screaming lines at each other." Or running lines as they ran down the hallways.

Lucci's co-stars say she always knows her lines. Reyes joked, "Susan Lucci is completely off-book every time she comes to set. It's annoying."

"Devious Maids" executive producer Marc Cherry ("Desperate Housewives") recalled when Lucci came in to read for him. And, because Genevieve was under a bed in her first scene, Lucci insisted on doing it under a chair when she (sort of) auditioned.

"And she, in her glamorous outfit, got on the floor," Cherry said. "And Susan doesn't know, but she had the part before she opened her mouth."

"Maids" doesn't get all the press that "Housewives" got, but in a lot of ways it's a better show. Cherry learned much running "Housewives" for eight years — the comedy in "Maids" is equally good; the soap-opera plotting is better.

"The first thing I learned from my experience with 'Desperate' — know what your second season is before you write your first season," he said. "When I did 'Desperate,' I was just trying to get through that first season. And, boy, when I started Season 2, I didn't know what was going on."

There was considerable critical backlash in Season 2 to a show that had been a critical darling in Season 1.

"I'm able to bring that experience to bear dealing with this lovely group of gals," he added — along with doing 13 episodes per season instead of 23 or 24.

And having Lucci in a role that suits her so well.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.