Breaking the "Abbott" habit : Terry Lester ditches The Young and the Restless and switched to Santa Barbara

 By Jason Bonderoff, Soap Opera Digest, 1989

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In June, Terry Lester stunned the soap world when he announced that he was leaving The Young and Restless. He felt his character, Jack Abbott, was being shunted aside, and he wanted out. At the same time, one of Santa Barbara's most popular leading men, Lane Davies, had just voluntary abdicated his role of Mason Capwell.

It didn't take long for Santa Barbara to realize that Terry Lester might the ideal candidate to replace Lane Davies. After all, on The Young and Restless, Terry's character of Jack Abbott was known for being rich, ruthless and flashing a razor-sharp wit. Those same three Rs were Mason Capwell's stock in trade. Moreover, as the long-running star of TV's number-one serial, Terry hopefully would bring a big surge of viewers with him.

At the daytime Emmys, Santa Barbara head writer Chuck Pratt reportedly told Terry, "Boy, would I like a chance to write for you !" Soon afterward, Santa Barbara contacted Terry's agent, and the mega-deal moved forward quickly. By mid-August, contracts were signed, and Terry's on-air debut was set for late September.

Jill Farren Phelps, Santa Barbara's executive producer, was delighted. "I am absolutely thrilled that Terry Lester has joined the family of Santa Barbara," she told us. "He is an incredible actor, and he will be a great addition to our cast. We were very lucky to get him."

We spoke with Terry on August 17, his last working day on The Young and Restless. He phoned us from his dressing room, and sounded jubilant, despite some bittersweet pangs about leaving longtime friends on The Young and Restless. "Yes, I've got a new job", he said, "and this is great for me, because Santa Barbara is a show I truly admire. I've been watching it ever since 1985, when Robin Mattson (Gina) came on. I'm a big fan of hers."

In a way, Terry feels he was destined to take over as Mason. In fact, he almost replaced Lane Davies once before. "Even though we've never met, Lane and I have a mutual friend, a musical conductor named Stephen Smith, "Terry explains. "Recently, when Lane was leaving the Los Angeles production of Man of La Mancha, he sent a message to me, via Stephen, that he thought I'd be perfect to take over his role in that. Listen," he laughs, "maybe I could return the favor someday - and recommend him for the part of Jack Abbott."