All My Children’s Angie and Jesse: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing!

By Marlena De LacroixDebbi Morgan

All My Children‘s newly revived characters Angie and Jesse are causing me pain.  At the end of every scene they are in, I start to hurt, because I have to watch so many scenes of the rest of the storylines on AMC until I see them in their next scene.  These characters (and actors Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams) are so good and so real and so what soap opera used to be all about — love, romance, authentic human beings experiencing authentic human emotions — that they blot out the rest the show.

Did you see Jesse and Angie’s  actual reunion clinch during the reunion episode?  Specially shot outdoors trackside near a train station, with some very interesting camera angles by guest director Andrew Lee, the sequence was really terrific! 

Jesse A moment full of joy, full of the release of years of buried pain, full of love.  Marlena was blubbering so much, I finally stopped shouting, “It’s modeled after Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton’s famous trackside reunion embrace in the film Reds!”  (It takes a lot of shut Marlena up in the middle of making a movie reference during a soap.)

Since there is little magic these days happening on daytime soaps, you can bet the PTB upstairs are analyzing what has made the Angie and Jesse character return so special.  Is it the actors? Certainly, that’s the huge part of it.  Morgan and Williams, Emmy winners both, have always been extraordinary actors and AMC should thank its very lucky stars that they were available.  Both are seasoned by years of movies, TV movies, series and theater, and their ripe maturity as human beings is glowingly evident, making Angie and Jesse as long separated lovers all the more layered and all the more poignant to us.   Finally on a daytime soap opera, a couple that has been allowed to age as much and as richly as we viewers have over the years!

Twenty-one years — that’s how long Angie and Jesse were separated.  Do you even remember who you were going out with in 1987?  I don’t!  That was a long, long time ago.

And so, the characters have thankfully been reunited in scenes that thankfully bespeak who they are, not with the titillation that sweeps months are supposed require nowadays.  Today’s sex scenes on soaps are usually a jumble of lingerie and pecs.  Jesse and Angie’s sexual reunion was beautifully staged in a cabin (how soapy! I love it!) and the last thing we saw before the camera went to black was Jesse’s outstretched hand beckoning Angie towards him.  Angie followed.

For the first time in a long time, someone backstage at ABC Daytime or at AMC is not asleep at the wheel.   The writing for Jesse and Angie so far has been very classic soap opera and very good.  Due to the Writer’s Strike, I have no idea who’s doing it.  In my fantasy — let me reiterate, Marlena’s fantasy — this is all being written by Agnes Nixon (who is now 80 and retired.)   Agnes created Jesse and Angie more than two decades ago from her progressive mind and her loving heart.  No one was ever  better at writing classic soap opera with a contemporary edge than she.  She is the other ingredient which made the characters of Angie and Jesse such a success.  Agnes is what is missing from the funny, sophisticated always intelligent, multi-layered   All My Children we fell in love with decades ago.   Forgive moi if I enjoy my fantasy that Agnes  has returned to Pine Valley along with Jesse and Angie.Angie and Jessie

And this is only the beginning for the newly returned Angie and Jesse.  It seems that a tortured  Jesse has been on the run for all these years from some evil source.   Note to AMC:  Please don’t make Jesse and Angie’s pain continue in improbable gimmicks and empty plot twists — that is to say, in the awful manner in which the show has been written of late by writers with little heart, who only know how to stage shallow imitation soap opera.  This old and once very ardent All My Children fan  really can’t stand the pain of all that.

Comments

  1. James says:

    It’s amazing how much my enjoyment of AMC has increased in the past month.

    For ages and ages, watching AMC was painful. A distressing experience since the show they were airing beared so little resemblance to the show I first fell in love with in 1975. Save for beloved familiar faces like Tad, Joe, and Erica,

    But the moment Debbi Morgan appeared on screen, my mood improved. And it improved everytime she was there. Just felt so reassuring to see her back in Pine Valley, where she’s supposed to be.

    And then when Darnell started appearing on screen, well, my happiness doubled again. Oh how i’ve missed seeing Jesse.

    I agree the writing is top notch. I read that they consulted with Agnes Nixon about how to bring Jesse back. I find myself wondering if Agnes didn’t also write a detailed outline for how to do this properly.

    It was soaps at its finest — filled with cliches everything from the initial meeting in the cemetary to Jesse hiding out at Tad’s whiel Angie visited them. And the eventual reuinion at the train station. Oh, I rewound that again and again and again. So well done. Brought tears to my eyes!

    After it took Dixie almost 4 months to make her presence known in Pine Valley, I was fearful that they’d have Angie and Jesse doing near misses for 6 months. So, I’m especially grateful the only teased us with it for a month before the reunion.

    The thing I find most ironic about Jesse coming back is that it was during the writers strike in 1988 that Jesse was killed off. And now they bring him back during the latest writer”s strike.j

    At least something good came from this strike.

    Marlena says: I read too that Agnes was consulted on Jesse and Angie’s return. However in my column I was very careful to say that Agnes writing scripts for these characters was my fantasy. Someday someone will step forth and take real credit for these scenes. Especially if there are awards involved.

  2. Oakdalian says:

    A part of me is worried that their family reunion is the end of the story. They made love a little too soon for me, to be honest. The scenes at the train station were breathtaking, though. As they’re the only bright spot on soaps right now, it’s hard not to hold them to a high standard.

  3. horselover says:

    I haven’t watched AMC for years. I last watched it back in the 80′s when ABC was THE daytime network. Back then GH was #1, AMC #2 and OLTL #3. Sometimes I would watch all 3. It was amazing.

    But to see Jesse and Angie come back to AMC AND to have it treated RESPECTFULLY. It was mind boggling. After watching the horrible vets returns on GH — I was hesitant to watch AMC. But imagine my delight with Jesse and Angie’s wonderful returns. I guess bioterrorist Holly, Deadbeat Robert, Groupie Anna, ForgetaboutDominque Scotty, Clueless Felicia, and dweeby Laura were NOT Brian Frons’ fault. I guess the fault of the awful GH returns lies with Jill Phelps and Bob Guza.

    Bravo AMC! You’ve given us soap fans hope that we can still have heart, soul, respect for the past and LOVE in the afternoon.

  4. Esther says:

    Oh Marlena, I can’t agree more. But that’s what TiVo is for! So you can FF the horrible Kendall, Ryan, etc. crud that is keeping us from the next AJ scene. I’m getting emails from all sorts of people who I thought stopped watching soaps or were too cynical and all are saying exactly what you’ve said so wonderfully here. They are IT.

    The only bad point which a pal brought up that I thought was a brilliant insight — why is it that when Angie first saw Jesse…why did she think he was her dead husband rather than look-alike Jacob whom she recently split from? Other than THAT, pure gold.

    Marlena says: Esther dear, lots of people have posted the observation about how Angie would think it was lookalike Jacob, instead of her dead husband Jesse. I don’t know— to me, Jacob was a lot more introverted than Jesse, a totally different character as played by Darnell on The City. At least that’s my take on it–even though the two characters certainly looked quite similiar.

  5. Patrick says:

    “A progressive mind and loving heart”

    Marlena, I do believe that’s the best description of Agnes Nixon (and her work) that I’ve ever heard!

    Marlena says: Thanks dear. I was lucky to know her over many years . If you’d like to see a 4 hour video interview I did in 1998 with Agnes about her life and career for the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Archive Program see http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=%22Archive+of+American+Television+Interview+with+Agnes+Nixon%22&page=1&lv=1

  6. DS0816 says:

    Lovely write-up, Marlena, on this “All My Children” reunion of a classic couple. It’s got heart.

    Add Debbi Morgan to next year’s best-actress Emmy contenders — her performance is not only exquisite but quite sublime.

    Marlena says: Thanks DSO! It’s always a pleasure for me to write anything that has to do with the classic days of All My Children. Gosh, how I loved that show, and I was very fortunate to have interviewed many of the people responsible for the entire production of it in the 80′s and early 90′s. What total, classy pros they were and it showed up onscreen! Debbi and Darnell were and are sublime–they were both found by their very talented casting director in that period, a very formidable woman named Joan D’Incecco, who was my first soap opera interview. She knew good acting!

  7. Jonathan says:

    If there’s anyone that Esensten and Brown should clone, it’s Agnes Nixon. What I wouldn’t give to have Agnes Nixon head write the show again. Or how about Wisner Washam? Where is he these days?

  8. EricMontreal22 says:

    Great piece and very well said.

    I have a feeling I’ll get in trouble for saying this but I think, as unimpressed as I am with B&E’s headwriting stint on AMC so far, we have to give them a LOT of the credit for Angie and Jesse returning and at least some for how it’s been handled.

    I largely *loved* B&E’s period as headwriters of Loving and then creators/HWs of The City. Yes, Agnes Nixon was a consultant during that time (and had been the headwriter of Loving for half a year before they came on — to try to fix the show where she turned it into a pretty great hommage/copy of the old town feel of early 80s AMC (with a few wacky but fun stories — remember Dante and his “pet” who turned out to be one of the Aldens in a cage?)

    Anyway it was under B&E that Angie and then “Jacob” (Jesse’s double who, in as much as how he behaved, was basically Jesse) were brought to that show and they became pretty much THE main stable couple of The City. B&E managed to create a modern, soap that combined elements of traditional soaps and the last 6 months of the City were, GREAT soap that I’m glad I saved on tape (the other ABC soaps were still pretty good at that time and I still thought City, once it found its footing was the best). Sadly B&E have never shown such talent at HW a soap since then (and it should be noted Agnes Nixon was listed as “consultant” throughout their run on both shows).

    I have little doubt in my mind that AMC woulda immediately thought to bring the two actors back if B&E hadn’t joined the show and suggested it because they liked writing for it. AMC has basically completely forgotten about Angie since a recast Angie left in the early 90s, and thougth Jesse has been around as a ghost (remember the ridiculous story under Jean Passanante in 2000 where he even saved Tad’s life?), he wasn’t mentioned recently.

    So B&E joinging AMC is IMHO largely responsible for these actors coming on. And despite consulting with Agnes, they already have a history of writing REALLY well for both actors…

    But, that’s not to say I think they deserve any positive credit for much else at the moment…

    And re Jacob -– I stand by thinking him and Jesse were virtually the same character–jacob was maybe more gun shy but it made sense. I didn’t see much of a difference. But I’m glad they at least mentioned for us fans, Jacob, even if I think it’ll be too confusing to bring up him looking identical (and I pray we dont’ have an evil twin story with him coming to town to reclaim Angie…)

    Marlena thanks for the video interview… All her Children, Dan Wakefield’s profile on AMC and Agnes in the mid 70s is one of my most treasured soap related items.

    Marlena says: Eric, your compliments on both pieces of my work mean a lot to me. Your comments on B&E’s s work on The City are also very interesting. But before you come to an assumption that B&E are responsible for bringing Angie and Jesse (Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan) back to AMC it’s imperative that you check your facts with someone official (a public relations person) at ABC or AMC. Solid, correct attribution is a basic rule of journalism. As I said, Jesse and Angie’s return has been such a smashing success for ABC I’m sure someone (Frons, B&E themselves, the show’s current executive producer, perhaps even the actors themselves) will come forward soon to claim original credit for the characters’ return.

  9. ChrisL says:

    Marlena Dear, it’s your ‘ole buddy Chris L. Just have to disagree with you here on one thing: I’m with Eric — I feel it was B&E who brought the Angie/Jesse characters back to AMC. And I’m not a journalist, so I don’t care about solid, correct attribution, lol. Awesome column, as always! :)

    Marlena says: Oh Chrissie! What do you base your conclusions on? Rumors? Estimations? Guesses? Journalism is just the science of finding truth. If you were written about in the media, wouldn’t you want it to tell the absolute truth about you? The way to find facts is to go to the source and ask questions. Get the facts. The truth!

  10. EricMontreal22 says:

    Of course you’re right. (I’ll use as a partial excuse the fact I’ve been sick the past few days with a bad fever.) I’m not a journalist, and it’s true I often say things online that if I were a journalist I’d never submit for print.

    It’s complete conjecture — still I think B&E returning (and even in early interviews I remember them saying they wanted or were working on a major cast return they were excited for) played at least some role in Angie and Jesse returning. I also may give B&E too much credit because I want them to work at AMC so badly and have been disappointed that, this aside, they really haven’t for me. Like I said I was a huge fan of their vision of Loving, and LOVED The City, a show that I think often isn’t remembered by most for how good I thought it truly became. (Harding Lemay was a consultant at ABC at the time, briefly — I think he then briefly did some not notable contributions to OLTL which was ailing without Malone and Griffith — and was asked to watch The City. He told the soap press that it simply didn’t work because there were no core families. I disagree strongly — B&E with help from Nixon set it up perfectly so that a group of friends, living in a big city but in a small community, could and to me DID act in the same way core families do for soaps).

    Sorry — rant. So I guess a part of me liked to try to give B&E as much credit as possible despite admitting all their many non-successes (and I never followed their apparantly largely awful, runs on other shows). BUT — I stand by my hunch (and that’s all it is) that they were largely the ones to bring back this couple, and that they seem to still have a fairly good grasp on writing to the actor’s strengths.

  11. SIPort says:

    I only began watching AMC again because of Jesse and Angie. I haven’t been disappointed. Williams and Morgan are such professionals..it’s like a tornado…you never knew what you were missing until you SEE it for yourself – professionals with genuine chemistry and can pull at me with genuine emotions and not gimmicks….It’s been fabulous. I cried like a baby…A BABY.

    But, it’s not just Jesse and Angie. It’s Jesse and Angie with whomever they come in contact with…it’s astonishing to actually SEE the depth appear on screen, and when they leave, it goes with them.

    Remembering their love story in flashbacks was terrific too. I can’t tell you how much I have loved this….it has warmed this very cynical soap fan’s heart…it took me back…I remember what I was doing in 1987…I was a full-fledged soap opera fanatic. Totally obsessed, and enjoying every minute of my soap opera fandom. To be reminded of that kind of joy…it’s like taking a ride back in time. Back to when this genre was worth defending and didn’t insult you at every turn.

    Marlena says: Those were the days, old friend! Terrific letter!

  12. John says:

    I feel this return is not realistic but that is fine. If they want to bring someone back from the dead even though he died on screen and had a funeral onscreen, fine. But Jesse and Tad were never friends. I remember they couldn’t stand each other back in the day. Yet for some reason neither you or anyone else seems to bring this revisionist history up.

    Personally I hate it when they rewrite history on soaps and AMC has done this with the relationship with Tad and Jesse. Just for once I would like someone to actually acknowledge AMC is rewriting history that did not happen

    Marlena says: Readers, this letter puzzles me and I need your help. To the best of my memory, Jesse and Tad were friends because Tad’s sister Jenny was Jesse’s best friend.

    But John feels differently.

    All you AMC historians write in and tell us what the correct nature of Tad and Jesse’s relationship back in the 80s. Friends? Enemies?

    Mr. Gary Warner, best-selling author of The All My Children Complete Family Scrapbook, the official ABC AMC history book, your dear old friend and book contributor Marlena misses your presence in the soap world terribly! This might be an opportune time for you to check in here. Gary, you were always the ultimate ABC soap authority!

  13. James says:

    When Jesse and Tad came face to face a couple of weeks ago, my first thought was that those two had not been BFF in the 1980s.

    I watched AMC regligously in the early 80s. and during that time, Tad was so busy being Tad the Cad, he didn’t really have time to be friends with Jesse or anyone else for that matter. Jesse always acted like the protective older brother of Jenny, something he felt Tad should be doing and was quite vocal about.. Jesse was always calling Tad out on his antics.

    By 1988 when Jesse died, I was only watching sporadically and really have no idea how Tad and Jesse’s relationship had evolved.

    So, when Tad and Jesse came face to face a few weeks ago and acted like they were best friends, although it seemed off to me, I accepted it.

    So, I guess it is revisionist history. Imagine that on a soap! LOL.

    Along those same lines, Tad was reminiscing with Jesse about their gang — Greg and Jenny, Jesse and Angie and Tad and Dixie. Sorry, but that’s a bit of revisionist history there too.

  14. renewedAMCfan says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. From the moment Debbi Morgan came back on AMC, the show improved tremendously. She is simply riveting, and Darnell Williams has a dynamic presence. Their scenes are so heartfelt, so mature – they are the highlight of the show.

    I was a big AMC fan in the late 70s and early 80s, but just began watching it again in November after a 25-year hiatus. Two things I’ve noticed:

    Although the show has good actors playing strong male characters (Adam, Zach, Tad, Aidan), with the exception of Erica, Greenlee and Krystal, the woman are interchangeable. And the actress playing Kendall needs replaced. She just doesn’t have the chops for such a high-profile role, and she brings the show down. (She was just awful in the scene before her roll in the hay with Aidan). The powers that be need to bite the bullet and recast this central role, in my opinion.

    2. The show underutilizes a lot of its actors. It’s been months since I’ve seen Josh or Lily in anything but as extras. But Zach, Kendall, Greenlee and Aidan are on every day I watch. The producers and writers need to mix it up more. Might be due to the writer’s strike, though.

    Marlena says: I love this letter because I come from your original AMC era myself, plus it cracks me up. If you don’t like Alicia Minshew as Kendall now, you should have seen her when she first came on the show a few years ago! She has improved exponentially as an actress. Also, if you want to become an soap critic in this current age of soap opera, you have to learn all the headwriters’ names and bash them in every other sentence, at the very least.

  15. EricMontreal22 says:

    I thought Tad stuck by Jesse when he was at odds with Angie because it turned out Angie’s father was a baby smuggler–one of the first ‘decent” things tad did. Am i completely making that up (I just read that–I wasn’t watching back then, I woulda been 5 or 6)

    HOWEVER, there is some precedent here if it’s pretty dodgy indeed. The show did aknowledge Tad seeing Jesse as a ghost in the ’95 tornado (the first time I had seen him although Jacob was already at Loving which I watched) but didn’t aknowledge the MESS of a time during 2001 (I think) when for several months Jesse was Pine Valley’s friendly ghost.

    *Rant warning*

    This was, I think, THE worse era in AMC history (no small task considering the ’98-99 McTavish era, Culliton’s era with the ENDLESS Proteus story and tons of dropped characters including the first adult Frankie who was father of Mia’s baby and the one who filmed Simone’s brother’s drug OD as a docuemntary film student–wonder if they’ll bring THAT up–, or the awful Rayfield era with all the newbies…). After McT’s disastrous tenure, Agnes Nixon returned as official headwriter, for the last time (sadly) around 2000, with Elizabeth Page listed as her co headwriter….

    Marlena says: I’m interrupting this rant here to emphasize my point from a previous reply that the younger generation of soap critics date everything through the “reigns” of headwriters…..I have very mixed feelings about this because I knew and interviewed most of the soap headwriters repeatedly in the years I was a magazine editor and columnist and the first thing they would tell you is that they have far from total control over their stories because soaps are a collaborative medium, with producers and network executives exercising more influence then any writer would like…but now back to the end of the rant.

    Jesse as a ghost, wandering around basically wisecracking and helping out Tad. they were, despite their physical situation, best friends like some sort of weird buddy movie–Jesse even saved tad from a noose!…

    (Finally Richard Culliton came in as HW and it was dropped)

    So… In a sense in AMC history Tad and Jesse WERE best buds. Even if it was maybe in a storyline which now makes zero sense and will never be mentioned again.

  16. RavenJaymes says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your assessment of JnA’s return is write on the money. I don’t know who deserves the credit for their return but I’m enjoying every minute of it.

    Every second of Angie and Jesse’s return to PV has been magic, pure magic. And Debbi and Darnell are ROCKING every bit of this story–with their talent, skill and grace. Debbi can make be cry at the drop of a hat and Darnell, well I can’t say enough about this amazing man. Darnell’s Jesse can do more with a look than others can do with pages of dialogue.

    Bravo AMC! You got a clue and brought back a beloved couple. The Hubbards are back in Pine Valley and so am I.

    PS Kudos to whoever cast Cornelius Smith, Jr. as Frankie Hubbard. The actor is great a bears an uncanny resemblance to both DM and DW. It’s the most believable casting in years.

    Marlena says: I agree about Cornelius Smith Jr as being bullseye casting–plus I think he is just incredibly handsome!

  17. David C says:

    All My Children was my second true soap love, second only to first and always love Edge of Night. I started my love affair with Pine Valley in the spring of 1981 when the divine Dorothy Lyman was taking over the show as Opal Gardner. Well I was hook with her and the whole show. And stayed with it without fail until the early 1990s. No idea where the magic started to disappear but gradually it did. After that spectacular tornado story of the mid 1990s, I just lost interest and literally had not watched 10 minutes of the show in the last ten years.

    Then I heard Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams were returning and I taped the first Morgan episode just out of curiosity. Wow. Instantly and I MEAN INSTANTLY, I was hooked on that story. And I knew immediately why: Angie was such a beautifully defined character played by a stellar actress and I knew why I loved AMC then and why I’m willing to give the show a try again. It is the depth of that character and also Jesse and so many other precisely designed characters that were the secret to the show in those classic days and is the essence of what a successful soap should be.

    That was the true secret to Edge of Night — those Slesar-penned mysteries were intricately plotted filled with equally well-defined characters. It was the characters that made the show a hit all t hose years and the wonderful stories were what really hooked you.

    So Morgan, Williams and company got me back again to Pine Valley. Sad I fast forward through much of the other stuff although the Lucci/ Van Peebles pairing looks promising.

    As long as Megan Mctavish and the other incompetent hacks who’ve ruined the soap genre in the last 15 years don’t return to this or any show, I may became an unabashed soap watcher again. It’s as nice to be back in Pine Valley as it’s been to see the magic return to daytime.

  18. Cyberologist says:

    Its a hell of a love story…I blubbered for days and needed a tissue box next to me kudos to what you wrote about this maginificent love story…I can’t begin to explain how good it is to see “old school” show them how its done…

    On so many levels this is working for me and you pretty muched touched on them all but I am happy to see African Americans in “romantic love scenes” in an A storyline with lead top tier actors…its a blessing Darnell and Debby came back to us and I am so glad that they did…

    I have to go to Sam’s club to buy tissue in “bulk” for this week because I ran out!

  19. lynn says:

    It’s been a very long time since I watched AMC regularly, but “Reds” being one of my favorite movies, I couldn’t help but take a look after I read Marlena’s description of Angie and Jesse’s train station reunion (at least they didn’t make Debbi Morgan wear a schmata on her head, although I have to say, a turtleneck without long sleeves is a look I’ve never understood:)

    Not being a recent viewer, I too, ffed through what one commenter above described as, “the horrible Kendall, Ryan, etc. (stuff) that is keeping us from the next A&J scene.” I can’t say that anything flying by on the screen gave me any reason to stop and watch. But, even at warp speed, it felt a little schizophrenic, as though I was watching two completely different shows. Of course, the look of the location shoot was completely different, but far more important was dialogue, character, relationship and history. I know there’s been some carping about the whole Jacob-Jesse thing and whether or not Tad and Jesse had been friends. Not having been a longtime viewer, that mattered far less to me than actually getting to see classic soap opera at its best. I just hope they can weave all the elements of the show into a cohesive whole. Of course, I’ve waiting for years for my show, ATWT, to do that, so I’m not holding my breath.

  20. angie says:

    If you are still looking for the answer it was GREG that stood by Jesse when Angies dad initially forced her to give Frankie up for adoption not Tad.

    Tad and Jesse had little interaction until he appeared (with Jenny if I remember correctly) as a ghost after the tornado.

    However Jesse on screen with Tad helps me to forget how awful Tad is these days and reminds me when his character was flawed but still likeable!

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