Daytime Emmy Award-winner Eileen Davidson is beloved for her sassy roles on the CBS soap The Young and the Restless (Y&R) and Days of Our Lives, along with letting cameras into her life on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But throughout her 40-year career, Eileen says one of her most rewarding TV storylines happened just a few years ago, when her character, Ashley Abbott on Y&R, overcame breast cancer. Eileen received letters from fans around the world saying that her portrayal saved their life: “Ashley got a mammogram,” fans wrote, “so I’m going to get a mammogram.”
This hit close to home for Eileen after her sister tested positive for the BRCA gene mutation (which increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers). Insurance would not cover testing for Eileen, but she and her doctor knew it was important because of her family history.
So Eileen got the test anyway and, while on vacation in Scotland with her son and niece, she got the news that she tested positive for the BRCA gene as well. Shortly after, Eileen made the difficult decision to have her ovaries removed.
“I’m trying to do something preventative to ensure I am here for my family as long as I can be,” says Eileen, who is married to actor and athlete Vincent Van Patten. Together the couple have a blended family of three sons. “Every year, I get a mammogram and ultrasound. For ovaries, there are no signs that you have the cancer until it’s too late.”
Inspired by her courage, Woman’s World recently sat down with Eileen — who was the cover girl for our most recent issue available online here and will be in a new TV movie called Wine Country Christmas this holiday season — to talk about playing Ashley, her relationship secrets and the best advice she’s ever gotten. Here, her candid Q&A:
Woman’s World (WW): Who was your favorite character to play?
Eileen Davidson: Certainly, Ashley [Abbott from Y&R who she has played since 1983] has been such a consistent part of my adult life. It’s a great character who continues to evolve and change. She’s had some mental health issues over the years. I was always hoping they’d bring that back. She has the outer appearance of someone who’s got it all together, but she’s one disaster, bad situation or bad breakup away from needing serious mental help. She’s compensating for her innate fears and insecurities.
WW: How are you similar to Ashley Abbott and how are you different?
Eileen: I’ve been married for 20 years. That’s certainly different [Ashley, like most soap characters, has had several short marriages]. Ashley also has a lot of vulnerabilities. Plus, I’m not as rich as she is, that’s for sure!
WW: What is something your husband does for you that makes you feel loved?
Eileen: Vincent is very good at arranging little surprise things, like an impromptu going out for cocktail or dinner together – or, having a glass of wine ready for me when I come home with a little note saying: ‘How was my lovely wife’s day?’ He’s very good at small things like that. He’s a terrifically talented athlete, so he’s very good at being available in terms of helping me, teaching me, and coaching. He’s a great dad to my son and two stepsons.
WW: What marital advice would you give to our readers?
Eileen: I really think it’s important to let small stuff go. You cannot dwell on it. You have to forgive and let it go quickly. Obviously if it’s something major, you need to talk about. We’ve been in and out of therapy many times over the years for different short-term things. I am a big believer in therapy for all reasons, for all people, forever. He [Vincent] has no problem with that either.
I actually have friends whose husbands won’t go. I don’t understand it – there still is a stigma, which is fascinating in 2023. Life is not an easy journey. On many, many levels, it’s challenging. I can’t imagine not needing objective help on how to best communicate and make your life better. There’s no shame in knowledge or open communication ever. It’s all a part of growing and being a more well-rounded human.
WW: What was the best advice you ever received?
Eileen: The late and legendary Jerry Douglas – who played Ashley’s TV dad, John Abbott, on Y&R – gave Eileen her best advice soon after she joined the soap and was stressed about her performance.
He said: ‘You can’t worry about that when you’re on TV 300 times a year. You’re going to have your bad days, so please don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re not going to hit it out of the park. Just let go and do your best.’ Sometimes I regret some of the things I did … but you have to try your best. That’s certainly what we tell our kids.
WW: Do you have any drugstore beauty buys or beauty hacks that you swear by?
Eileen: I have gone the route of the super expensive before, but I guess I’ve just gotten kind of bitter. I’m wondering if it really makes a huge difference. So now, I use Cetaphil as a daily facial cleanser. I use Eucerin as a body lotion. Just your basic things. I do use Aveda hair products but every once in a while, I throw in Pantene. (Click through for must-have fall drugstore beauty products).
WW: Besides Wine Country Christmas, what other projects are you working on now?
Eileen : I recently wrote, with my niece, a script called They Still Die. We just cast a director and we have an investor who is raising money for it. I’m very, very excited. It’s a horror movie about seven ex-scream queens from the ‘80s who in the present day go to a horror convention, and they start getting killed. The movie pairs the classic scream-queen actress with a younger actress who portrays her from her horror heyday.
I also joined the advisory board of MAPDA – Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse [Eileen lost a niece to accidental opioid overdose]. I have a really strong interest in that because of the big fentanyl problem and opioids. I’m happy to be doing whatever I can to help with that. I’m also still working with No Kid Hungry and Project Angel Food as well.
For more of Eileen’s tips about staying happy and healthy, pick up the latest issue of Woman’s World at your local grocery store – or subscribe and save here!
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