At the same time, she said, "it just didn't seem real."
"Walking out on to the set for my first scene yesterday morning, I have to say, I started to feel it," the actress told TVGuide.com Wednesday, just several hours after the entire production wrapped its storied 42-year-run on broadcast television. "I had to rein my emotions back in because I had to work ... but the setting was spectacular! Perfect for the last day of shooting."
Even if it might be the last time Lucci, 64, steps into the formidable shoes of daytime's most recognizable diva, Erica Kane? "That is what went through my mind," she said. "And yet, somehow, I couldn't believe it. I mean I have spent my entire adult life in this collaboration with [series creator Agnes Nixon] and playing this amazing character."
"There are a lot of feelings," she continued. "There's pride and excitement and gratitude and joy and celebration — and still a cloud over us because we don't know." In April, ABC announced that it was pulling the plug on the soap, which is set to end on Friday, Sept. 23. Online startup Prospect Park is planning to re-launch the series on the Web in January, though deals with the cast and crew have yet to be signed.
Until then, Lucci is giddy for longtime fans to see the final episodes. Without giving the ending away, she says they can rest assured: It's classic All My Children, thanks in large part to the return of Nixon and veteran head writer Lorraine Broderick.
But by classic she means it ends with a big ol' cliff-hanger! Will that satisfy longtime fans who might be bracing to grieve the show's ABC ending? "Oh, I think it's spectacular," Lucci says. "To me, knowing how Agnes writes, it was not shocking that she would do that. Like any great novel, when you put it down you say, 'Well, then what?' I knew she wouldn't tie it up in a neat bow, and she really didn't. There are several cliff-hangers."
In a separate interview with TVGuide.com last week, Nixon said there was no question that the stories of Pine Valley's finest should not draw to a close so much as leave you wanting to know more. "Wrapping up the run on ABC wasn't as important to me as keeping the show interesting!" she said with a laugh. "We did not wrap everything up with people fading into the sunset with happy endings. It's a continued story and the last episode, we think, will make people want to come back very much to get some answers!" (Viewers can, however, count out another natural disaster hitting Pine Valley. "Oh, no, no, no," Nixon said. "True to what I feel has been part of the character of All My Children is that the cliff-hangers are related to characters and personal emotions. I don't hanker after tornadoes!")
Says Lucci, who just finished a wild arc casting her as both Erica Kane and a crazed fan who had undergone facial reconstruction so she could pose as Erica Kane: "What blows me away is that I am involved in this show where Agnes and Lorraine, even at this later hour of the show's broadcast on ABC, are so creatively, passionately working forward." For those not up-to-date, villainous genius Dr. David Heyward (Vincent Irizzary) has just literally resurrected several of Pine Valley's most beloved, among them Dixie Martin (Cady McClain) and Zach Slater (Thorsten Kaye) — and more could be on the way! "The characters are so rich and the scripts were so much fun to work on because the characters are there — they're back! And I know the audience is going to have fun watching, and that is making all of us very happy," Lucci said.
As for the reported offer she's received to continue with the show when it moves online, Lucci said, "I can only say that we're in conversations. We are in conversations. That's where we are."
But she does hope to continue. "My heart is there," she said. "I think it's a very, very exciting possibility. I think that Prospect Park, the men involved there, have a wonderful, successful track record ... It could be very exciting, especially with Agnes and Lorraine."
Nixon's participation, in fact, is "critical to going forward as far as I'm concerned," Lucci said. "I mean, it won't be All My Children if she's not doing it."
What do you think? Would you prefer the show wraps up its story lines or do you like the idea that things are ending with a cliff-hanger? Will you watch the show online if Susan Lucci isn't part of the deal? Let us know in the comments below, and check back next week to read more about Lucci's memories of her early days in Pine Valley, the show's not-so-good years, and her lasting legacy.
All My Children: The Stars, Stories and Secrets airs Sunday, Sept. 11 at 8/7c on TV Guide Network.