J. Eddie Peck returned to The Young and the Restless as Cole Howard last November for the first time in 24 years as the show shockingly revealed that Eve (Hayley Erin) the baby Cole and Victoria (Amelia Heinle) thought died as an infant is actually alive and out for revenge alongside his deranged Aunt Jordan (Colleen Zenk)!
The TV Watercooler had the opportunity to chat with J. Eddie before the holidays to discuss what it was like returning to the show, reuniting with his former All My Children co-star, his praise of his new on-screen daughter, and the imagined life he gave his character over the years.
The Claire and the Aunt Jordan storyline has helped keep the momentum going for Y&R’s 50th anniversary. It had been 24 years since we last saw Cole Howard. What are your thoughts on the positive feedback your return and this story have generated?
Thank you for saying so. I heard some really wonderful things within the last hour of the fans’ response from our Young and the Restless Instagram page as well.
I feel so fortunate to be in such great hands with Josh Griffith, our head writer and executive producer, who has created this storyline.
I’m so fortunate to be plugged into such a wonderful and compelling storyline. I think at the beginning, a few people were a little like “Hey, where are they going with this?” But I think it’s really resonated beautifully with the audience.
Knowing what I know as to what’s ahead, it’s only getting better! And for me, the actor, I don’t like to read too far ahead of my scripts because I like those surprises. I’m surprised just as much as Cole, the character, is and there’s so much that I wanted to look ahead as to what is coming up in the scripts next week! I forced myself not to look ahead to what we’re filming next week – I’m just along for that surprise!
It’s really, really, wonderful and I’m just really grateful to be part of such a wonderful storyline.
How much was revealed to you when they pitched you to come back?
They did not reveal much!
It’s funny, maybe one of the only things that I think was revealed was that someone within production had mentioned to me, “Oh, by the way, you know on the first or second episode, there will be lots of blood. So, you know, there might be multiple changes of clothing.”
I didn’t ask! I love surprises but when I heard there would be a lot of blood, I said to my wife, “Well, either I’m getting killed in the first episode or someone else is!”
And of course, it turned out that that was not the case! There wasn’t necessarily a lot of blood when Cole was hit by Jordan [Colleen Zenk] over the head with a claw hammer. So, that just goes to show you that sometimes when we hear things or get a tip on something early on and we think we know what’s going on, we’re really way off base!
It ended up being Nick’s (Joshua Morrow) blood!
Exactly. Nick had the blood. I knew he’d have some blood when he’d get hit by the hammer, but thankfully not too much of Cole’s blood was spilled.
While you didn’t act opposite of each other on Y&R, you and Amelia Heinle do share some history as All My Children’s Mia and Jake. What was it like reconnecting with Amelia?
I was thrilled when it was announced [back in 2005] that Amelia was going to come to the show to play Victoria for two reasons. The first, I was very happy for Amelia because I knew that was going to be the perfect role for her. She makes a wonderful Victoria. I knew it would be a wonderful future for her as an actor on such a great show. I was so very happy for that.
But another reason was that Amelia and I had a really, really nice working relationship. We had nice chemistry on All My Children. I knew that when Jake and Mia had their very first scene, we shot it on a Friday and we were up at the end of the day, and a lot of times when you’re up at the end of the day, you’re up against the clock and sometimes there’s not the luxury of having the ability to do multiple takes – sometimes there’s not even the luxury of a rehearsal!
And on that particular day, we did not have time for rehearsal. I had never run a line with Amelia and we had only met briefly, kind of in line in the hallway a couple of times because she was working with Cameron [Matheson; who is now playing Drew on General Hospital] and they were doing their thing.
So, I’m working with this actor for the first time with no rehearsal, no running lines, nothing – and then the chemistry that we had, the spontaneity that was there, the spark that was there, it was just so wonderful, to be honest. It’s one of my favourite groups of scenes that I’ve done actually, in my career. It was just so engaging.
For me to come in now and to work with Amelia, it’s truly wonderful. It’s just really nice. She has a tremendous presence, warmth, and vulnerability to her that just sucks Cole and me right in! I look forward to exploring more of that in the future.
Did you provide some insight to her about Victoria and Cole’s history? There were some parallels of Cole cheating on Victoria with Ashley, just like Jake cheated on Mia…
Yeah, that’s right! That was very un-Jake-like! I’m not quite sure [which party it took place at] but it was very unbecoming of Jake to do what he did. It actually kind of surprised me whenever I read it!
I’ve given Amelia some background [about Victoria and Cole], but I should probably give her some more! I think we always assume that the actor knows all the history of the character or the details.
When I took over the role of Jake Martin [on All My Children], I knew some things and I knew some of the key things that had happened in his past or was [in the process] of learning them. That’s why it’s nice when if you kind of get the Bible of the character on the show so that you can learn as much as you possibly can.
Long-lost kids on soaps aren’t always successful at first, but the way the beats are being written and acted, makes Claire being Eve very successful. However, there is one thing that is worrying the fans. Can we be sure Cole didn’t get the DNA tested from the brush used on Nikki at the Oregon house? We don’t want this taken away from us!
Well, I can’t really say for certain! Just being honest. But as far as I know, Cole has absolutely been straight up on the DNA and about everything that he’s done. Cole is honourable and honest. He did exactly what he said he did and that’s how I played it. I haven’t heard anything different, but I did see some comments online so I could see where folks could run with this. But as you know, sometimes you can go down a rabbit hole!
What has it been like acting opposite Hayley Erin? You, Amelia and Erin were all so vulnerable. It was all in the eyes. And then your first scenes together, just the two of you at the hospital. How are you approaching Cole in dad mode?
Thank you! I really do appreciate you saying that. It means a lot to me.
I love working with Hayley and I look forward to working with her more. I love this vulnerability that she also has. I just instantaneously had this connection with her. Maybe it’s because she puts off the spirit, if you will, of being my daughter. I have children her age, and maybe she gave me that gift of connecting with me right away. I really do feel that.
I love this! The greatest role in my life is being a father and as an actor, to be able to play a father and to experience the things that Cole has been experiencing for the first time where he’s discovering that this child that he had lost so many years ago. So, for her to come back into his life, at this time in his life, that’s what emotionalizes me. I have to really hold myself back from being more emotional because when I event think of this character that I’ve loved for so long and how much I think that I know how much this means to him, it really touches me. It’s just really special to play it.
It’s a really wonderful opportunity for me and I embrace it. I feel grateful for it every day. I really do hope that the show will continue to nurture the relationship between the three of us and grow it.
I’ve had people say, “Well, gosh, you know, you’ve been away from this character for so long, and you’ve been away from daytime for so long, what’s this like or what’s that like?” Even my wife didn’t ask that exact question, but she did hint at it. I said to her, “After my life experience as a father, as a husband, and this long, multi-decade life experience that I’ve had since playing Cole, I am so far much more deep, appreciative, and capable of everything that just comes with age that we all get with maturity.”
I just really think I have so much more to offer to Cole at this time in his life, than at a time in his life where we’re young and we’re focused on our goals or focused on all kinds of [other] things. I think when we get older, we make a shift. It’s not that we don’t have goals or that we don’t have aspirations, or it’s not that we’re still growing. It’s just that I think so much of our focus is really about our family and the people in our lives, and how we can make a positive impact on them.
In another interview, you mentioned being a soap fan in college and you were familiar with Colleen Zenk’s work on As the World Turns. What’s it been like having her play your aunt Jordan?
We can see actors that we watched before we were in daytime, and we become such fans! I certainly have those! I got to meet so many of them during the early days from when I enjoyed watching those shows and characters in college. And then sometimes you become friends with some of them!
There was a moment where you go, “Hey man, I just want to tell you that I’ve been a huge fan for a long time!” And I feel like that way with some of the other actors on The Young and the Restless. I’ve been watching this show off and on since I left the show. I’ve also been watching The Bold and the Beautiful, and the same thing with General Hospital. I wasn’t on them, but I’d watch them. And it’s not just the veteran actors, but some so many actors who have just come on in the last few years and I’ve become a fan of their work.
But with Colleen. Wow! Yeah, mean the whole vision of Colleen, who is such a beautiful and lovely lady, but I just remember through those years, I thought that she was just so classy and so beautiful. She’s just really a wonderful actor. I think all the time, “My gosh, I’m just really fortunate!”
We’re in the same storyline but we haven’t been working together as much here lately as I would like to, but I look forward to working more with Colleen. I just love her. She has a tremendous heart and I think that’s the reason why she’s resonated so much with the viewers over the years. It’s because you can really see what a special person she is and how deeply grounded she is. She’s everything that you want an iconic actor and star to be, you know!
I’m a fan.
And as I’ve gotten to know her a bit personally in this short amount of time, I’m just an even bigger fan of her as a person!
It’s great having you both back in daytime!
Victoria and Cole have been through a lot emotionally. She’s single. Is Cole? Could having their daughter alive bring them closer?
Absolutely. Yeah, I think that the opportunity is there for them to seize that connection and that chemistry. I think that there is a different take on Cole than maybe other relationships – and I can’t speak on all of the relationships – that Victoria has had in the past, but I do think that given their history and all of us actors bring something different to the canvas, I definitely see great potential there.
I think it’s just a matter of if the audience wants to see it – if they feel it and want to see more of it. And if the writers feel the same.
I hope they see it because, for me, I see it there. I see it being interesting and compelling. It’s a relationship that I think is maybe on a different level, possibly.
I don’t know! I’ve seen Victoria in relationships with some of the other actors on the show and I have loved their work! It’s been a beautiful thing. I’ve actually gone back and watched some clips, and have gone, “Wow, this is great stuff. What a beautiful couple.”
Well, Billy and Nate were little boys the last time Cole was in town!
Yeah, yeah…That’s right! [Laughs] They were.
Will Cole get any scenes with Nina and Ashley? Have you had the chance to act opposite Tricia Cast and Eileen Davidson again?
Yeah, Eileen and I have a quick scene! We had a fleeting moment. Eileen was so wonderful. I loved the way she played it. There was a little chemistry. It was a nice little moment between Cole and Ashley!
As far as Nina is concerned, I called Tricia recently. We always had such a nice connection together – not just Cole and Nina, but Tricia and Eddie as well. I was really hoping that they would explore that. I always love working with Tricia.
I also loved working with Heather Tom. I love Cole and Victoria together, but I also loved the time that Cole and Nina spent together. I always felt like there was something really special there between the two.
I think that anybody would have really wonderful chemistry with Tricia because she’s such a wonderful actor. I told her recently that “I’d love to work with her! We had a really nice connection. There could be some fun stuff with you and I.” And she’s like, “You know what J. Eddie? I think you’re right! Let’s do it!” I was like, “Alright girl, let’s do it!”
Nina is single! Cole was a mentor to her, with her writing, back in the day.
Yeah, he was! That’s something that I’m so grateful for. I’m so thankful that we have these wonderful actors on the show and that Cole is actually positioned in a really nice place for a number of the girls on the show.
Cole went off to become a professor at Oxford in England in 1999. Did you or the writers come up with key moments that could have happened in Cole’s life in those 20-something years? Did he remarry? Have other kids? Or blank is that slate and would you be excited to explore it?
Yes, absolutely. Not only did I think about it after I was hired back on the show, but I thought about it over the years. I would occasionally think to myself, “I wonder where Cole Howard would be at this time and place in his life?” And then I’d put that story together!
It may not exactly align [with what is on the show]. I definitely feel as though Cole may believe that Eve/Claire is his only child. But I have thought at times that Cole has had other children. No one has ever said it, but I’ve thought it! [Laughs]
I think the reason why is that I feel the character so much in my heart. This is a guy that, I don’t want to say “craves,” but he’s desired that in his life. He is a hopeless romantic. He is a deep person. He has wanted that soulmate. I have always believed that Cole believed that Victoria was his first true love and his true soulmate. I think that being such a romantic, who is a writer and author, who loves life, the world, and humanity – how could someone like this not have children along the way?
So, that’s just me personally! That’s what me, Eddie, as the actor, has always thought about this character. We’re discovering that at least at this point, that doesn’t exactly align with the history that we’re telling right now.
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on Global and CBS. Canadians can catch up with episodes on demand, the Global TV app, STACKTV, and at GlobalTV.com. Stream The Young and the Restless with AppleTV.