yr jack mashup
Credit: CBS, Sean Smith/JPI, Aaron Montgomery/JPI

The Daytime Emmy winner’s most challenging material may be ahead of him.

By the time Peter Bergman first aired as The Young and the Restless playboy Jack Abbott on November 27, 1989, he’d already overcome a big hurdle: Terry Lester, his popular predecessor in the role. (That’s him below with his former on-screen family.)

Bergman came to the CBS soap an established soap star and, in fact, half of a supercouple, owing to his decade-long stint as All My Children’s Dr. Nice Guy, Cliff Warner. And he’d been suggested as the new Jack by no less than future Young & Restless leading lady Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki). Yet he still had… concerns. “I was replacing a terrific actor, one people felt was” the character, Bergman told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1991. “I suspected that for several months, I would be directed to play scenes like Terry did. I promised myself I would not become angry with those suggestions and that, eventually, I could add my own stamp to the character.”

THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, clockwise from top: Jerry Douglas, Eileen Davidson, Terry Lester, Beth Maitland, (cbs ec)

But it turned out that CBS hadn’t hired him to play Lester’s Jack but his own. “My first scene… was with Jess Walton (Jill),” he recalled. After a take, “Edward Scott, who was directing that day, came out to give notes, and I thought, ‘Uh-oh, here it comes!’

“Instead,” he continued, “Ed looked at me, smiled, went over to Jess, gave her a note or two and didn’t say anything to me. From that moment on, I knew they had hired me for what I could bring to the character of Jack.”

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Decades later, Bergman would recall that he relocated to Genoa City in need of an attitude adjustment. As he put it to USA Today in 2019, “I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the best thing that ever happened to me. Looking back, if I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t immediately embrace [Young & Restless] for the wonderful opportunity it was.” (That’s Bergman on All My Children below, with Taylor Miller as Cliff’s bride, Nina.)

ALL MY CHILDREN, AMC Cliff Nina wedding: Taylor Miller, Peter Bergman, 1994, 1970-2011. /ph: Steve Fenn/© American Broadcasting Company /Courtesy Everett Collection

Whether Bergman at first appreciated the chance that he’d been given, at least both the audience and his peers appreciated him. Almost immediately, he, for lack of a better word, became Jack. And just two years after he tackled the part, he won the first of two back-to-back Emmys. (He picked up a third in 2002… ya know, just for good measure.)

More: Our master plan for Jack’s forgotten child

In recent years, Bergman’s on-screen alter ego has been written more and more like father John Abbott, which on one hand makes sense… and on the other, doesn’t. That Jack would want to emulate the man he esteems more than anyone is only logical. But such a trajectory ignores the fact that John, for his many virtues, was an indefatigable bad-decision generator, one who fell for one strumpet (Gloria) after another (Jill). To deny that key component of Jack’s legacy — of his DNA, for Pete’s sake — is akin to asking a guitar player to strum with one hand tied behind his back.

Peter Bergman and Jerry DouglasYoung and Restless Set CBS Television City 7/26/01 © Aaron Montgomery/JPI 310-657-9661 Episode #7207

Were Jack’s future up to us, we’d do two things in short order: First, we’d have him truly step up in the Abbott family and step into what he perceives to have been John’s role, that of the faultless, stalwart patriarch. Then we’d hook him up with a new love interest, one played by an actress of Bergman’s stature. We’re talking fellow All My Children alum Eva LaRue (Maria) as Celeste (below) or, dare we hope, Days of Our Lives’ iconic Kristian Alfonso (ex-Hope) as… someone new?

Peter Bergman, Eva LaRue"The Young and the Restless" Set Wedding CBS television City Los Angeles 07/17/19 © Howard Wise/jpistudios.com 310-657-9661

Then we’d challenge Jack’s resolve to emulate the beacon as which he thinks of his dad. We’d have Victor, unscrupulous as ever, take advantage of his archenemy’s determination to walk the straight and narrow, and make another play for Jabot Cosmetics. Jack would want to fight fair. Take the high road. Prove his mettle to his new squeeze, make his sisters proud and set an example for son Kyle. But…

Oh, it’s a big ol’ “but.”

More: Jack’s next love interest [PHOTOS]

Jack would be faced with the most epic of quandaries. “Do I wage war like a good man and lose? Or do I march into battle like a shrewd man and hit as far below the belt as my enemy — but in so doing proving to everyone I love that I’m not and never could be anything but a pale imitation of my idol?”

yr jack victor Peter Bergman, Eric Braeden"The Young and the Restless" Set CBS television CityLos Angeles07/17/15© Jill Johnson/jpistudios.com310-657-9661Episode # 10735U.S. Airdate 08/19/15

We’d watch the hell out of that, rooting with every beat for Jack to find a way to safeguard his best intentions while still putting the great Victor Newman in his place. What about you? What would you like to see happen next to Jack? On your way to the comments, stop off at the photo gallery below, which runs through a feels-filled series of photos of the 11,999 episodes of Young & Restless that preceded its momentous 12,000th one.