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Davidson’s ‘Nothing’ Did the Job

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Anyone who has kept up with “The Young and the Restless” in the past year might describe Eileen Davidson with superlatives, but the actress who plays troubled business executive Ashley Abbott Carlton has barely had time to relax and enjoy her work. Having given birth to her first child (a son, Jesse) last spring, the two-time Emmy nominee has since managed to balance motherhood with a soap story line that has dealt her alter-ego enough sturm und drang to last a lifetime.
Starting off the year with a diagnosis of breast cancer, Ms. Davidson’s character went on to miscarry her baby-and eventually lose her mind. In the midst of it all, the president of family-owned Jabot Cosmetics was busy running her company and hiding a shocking paternity secret.
“When I came back from my maternity leave, they didn’t tell me I’d be coming into a huge story and working every day,” Ms. Davidson said, adding that her biggest challenge last year was finding time to breastfeed her baby between scenes.
Having to portray the grief and devastation of losing a child struck a nerve for Ms. Davidson, whose own pregnancy was partially concurrent with that of her character. “It was freaking out my husband,” she said. “There was one time [my character] was in a hospital bed, having found out the baby was gone, and when the take was over I was just crying and so upset. I had to be tenacious because I didn’t want to do it half-ass or phone it in.”
Ms. Davidson said her closeness to the subject matter allowed her to understand Ashley Abbott’s dementia after losing her baby. The character was so distraught that she believed her miscarried child was alive and well. In fact, Ms. Davidson’s co-star in many scenes was simply the blanket that Ashley constantly cradled as if it were a precious bundle of joy. “You should see its brother, the quilt,” the actress quipped.
As for the challenge of portraying a mental collapse without coming across as too cartoonish or over-the-top, Ms. Davidson said less was definitely more.
“If I tell you my technique, I probably won’t get an Emmy,” she joked. “I just decided not to play `crazy’ or `nutty’ and instead, I just decided to play nothing. She basically vacates the premises. She switches off because it hurts too much.”
Ms. Davidson said her character’s Achilles’ heel has been a mistaken belief that she can be everything to everybody. Ms. Davidson herself, on the other hand, has done a far better job of balancing her various roles in life.
“I really care about what I do and I throw myself into it,” she said. “So sure, winning an Emmy would definitely be something very, very special.”