These two reflect on working with daytime icons when they were playing Tad and Dixie in their AMC heyday.
Michael E. Knight and Cady McLain were a legendary pairing as Tad and Dixie on All My Children and fans still remember their love story to this day. Recently, the two actors recalled working with some of the biggest legends of TV, film, and theater — in Pine Valley.
Michael E. Knight & Cady McLain: Working With Legends
GH’s Knight (Martin Grey) and his AMC co-star, McClain, consider themselves very lucky to have captured the audience’s attention with the coupling of AMC’s supercouple, Tad and Dixie. Their onscreen romance had the two actors sharing scenes with some of entertainment’s greatest and they were ready to share some insider scoop with fans at a recent Zoom event hosted by Coastal Entertainment.
Through their characters, Knight and McLain were connected to some of the TV, film, and theater’s legendary actors, such as Ruth Warrick (Phoebe Wallingford), David Canary (Adam/Stuart Chandler), James Mitchell (Palmer Cortlandt), Ray MacDonnell (Dr. Joe Martin), Jill Larson (Opal Gardner), and Susan Lucci (Erica Kane).
McClain reflected on watching and learning from the masters. “Working with all these wonderful actors and so many people that were so experienced, I mean, we could just start with Ruth Warwick, who was in Citizen Kane [Emily Kane], and her legendary status.
“She was a hoot, she was a wild woman,” the actress revealed. “I think it was her that went out and did the full banana. During one of the dress rehearsals, she just opened her coat and flashed everybody. She was wild, and James Mitchell was hilarious, but also very dry.”
Knight often worked with Mitchell and enjoyed a practical joke or two. “We get bored, you know, we spend all day together,” the three-time Daytime Emmy winner explained. “And Jimmy, God bless him. I loved that man. May he rest in peace. He had a trick…he would memorize the blocking, and he would write his dialogue on a piece of furniture or a plate or something like that. So he wouldn’t miss a beat.
“This one day, I don’t know what I was thinking,” the actor confessed. “I was young and full of p*ss and vinegar, and I decided to move the stuff around. You know what I mean? This poor guy, in the middle of the take, sidles over to the fireplace and looks behind the plate and he was so p*ssed.”
Both actors shared a lot of screen time with the late, great David Canary. Knight described his feelings for the beloved actor. “We work together, you hear people say this, and it’s really true because it was like a family. We spent an average of 12 hours a day together. So, I mean, if you didn’t get along – Susan Lucci was nice to pretty much everybody and everybody took their cue from that. But if you didn’t get along, they got rid of you. We really were a pretty tight-knit group. Not that we took the people for granted. We were pretty good at our jobs.”
Knight reminisced about one of the late actor’s more moving storylines. “I remember watching David when David won the Emmy for Best Actor because there was a scene where he was married — as Stuart was married to Cindy [Ellen Wheeler], who was dying of AIDS. And I loved that story. There’s a scene where Adam — and the whole idea was that Stuart was always the better half of Adam. Stuart was the good part of Adam’s soul — so he goes in to console his brother in this little chapel.
“It’s in the hospital,” Knight continued, revealing how Canary would easily switch from one character to another. “And David was so good at that, by that point, by doing the two guys that he cut himself off. I mean, he knew exactly how they were going to edit it. It literally looked like he was cutting himself off in the middle of the thing.”
The sheer mastery of the acting technique really moved Knight and left an impression on him. “I remember watching the tape of this thing, and I just turned to somebody, and said, ‘You know, I don’t care what you do in this business. When you’re in front of the camera that is as good as I’ve ever seen.’ It’s very, very humbling. I mean, it’s funny to come and make jokes about the stuff that we do. But there was a lot of magic that I had absolutely no idea.”
McClain remembered how meticulous and structured he was. “David was such a professional,” she disclosed, explaining how he set an example for his fellow actors. “He was so disciplined, but he really set the bar for us. He would swim at five o’clock in the morning and then have his fruit and then be totally ready to go on his lines, and then he would walk for a salad at noon.”
Her co-star concurred. “You’re right. He would do his apple every day at four o’clock, and he would do his vocal warm-up. You could hear him upstairs. He would sing. He would do vocal warm-ups every day before he went on camera.”
Knight was especially close with the late actor Ray MacDonnell, who played Joe, Tad’s adoptive father. “Ray was just hysterical. That’s what most people don’t know about Ray MacDonnell. Because Doctor Joe was always sending out for tests from the hospital. He was always saying, ‘We’re gonna run more tests.'”
McClain loved that there was someone on the set funnier than Knight. “He always said that he was the funniest funniest man who would make you laugh, which was great because you were the funniest guy and somebody who would make you laugh was great.
“Michael would peel into laugh and laughter and fall over laughing,” she recalled. “Like weeping, tears running down his face. I have never seen anybody make you laugh like that laugh.”
“I never laugh in public because I have a very hype-pitched girly squeal and sound like a 6-year-old child,” Knight declared. “Ray used to do this thing, and he did it for like the entire time, 30 years, we knew each other, where during rehearsal he had this slight thing where he would sort of move his head, tilt it in the way he was basically saying to you that you’re standing in my light a**hole. He had come down and done this grand Shakespearean thing. And I just loved it. I adored him.
“I always said the best show in town was, back in the old days, when we would do the entire dress rehearsal because there was so much melodrama,” Knight elaborated. He shared how the veterans helped keep the set relaxed. “A lot of times, especially around a Thursday or Friday, we’d be tired, we’d start letting it rip. So our job during dress rehearsal was to make our friends, and our cast members laugh. They’d be up in the booth going, ‘Okay, guys, get it together, we’re gonna go to tape in an hour’ or whatever. I have got to tell you the best show in the world was the dress rehearsal Thursday or Friday, and Ray MacDonnell was the star.”
The actor surprised fans with a Susan Lucci story. “One of my other favorite stories, because it really made me laugh, and you got to see another side of Susan because she was always doing, you know, Erica [was when], they turned Raising Kane into a movie, she insisted that she get a screen test to play herself. Susan made the choice that Erica was going to be the worst actress in the world, and she was absolutely brilliant. She was like Susan doing Erica doing Erica trying to beat Erica and just really stinking up the joint.”
Working with the talented veterans was educational, but sometimes it set the stage for lifelong friendships like McClain has with Jill Larson. “Jill Larson, who played Opal. We always had like this little, you know, tug of war back and forth over what we were gonna do or what she was doing with Uncle Palmer, you know, marrying him and stuff like there was. I think Dixie had to sort of bear her, you know what I mean?
“She was such a big crazy person,” the Daytime Emmy-winning actress stated. “I think that that was fun, kind of seemed very much like a mother-in-law, you know, the in-law just drives you crazy. Jill’s great. Jill is so much fun. She’s still great. We’re still really good friends, and I just love seeing her when I can.”
McClain perfectly summed up how lovely it was working with such a talented cast and how it impacted both her and Knight’s careers. “It really just, you know, taught all of us like, okay, this is what it looks like. This is what a pro looks like. And we would just try and keep up as best as we could. It was great. I think those actors really cared about the work. They had integrity.”