The Life And Career Of Soap Star Eileen Davidson

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Eileen Davidson truly is soap opera royalty. She began playing Ashley Abbott on "The Young and the Restless" in 1982, kicking off a long and acclaimed career in daytime TV. She has also graced the small screen in such iconic daytime shows such as "The Bold and the Beautiful," "Santa Barbara," and "Days of Our Lives."

But the daytime star is not only recognizable to die-hard soap fans. Davidson was also a cast member on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" for three drama-filled seasons. She always handled herself with grace, even in situations which seemed to imitate the chaos of a soapy scripted scene. Davidson has had a bit of a scandalous love life, something that was a point of contention on "RHOBH," but has been happily married to Vince Van Patten since 2003.

Davidson seems to live a charmed life with a supportive family and a still-flourishing career, but she has weathered her fair share of tragedy throughout the years as well. Whether you know her as Ashley Abbott, Kristen DiMera, or as the woman on the receiving end of Kim Richards' wrath, you'll be interested to know more about the life and career of Eileen Davidson.

Eileen Davidson fell into an acting career

Eileen Davidson was born in Artesia, California, the youngest of seven children. Once she graduated high school, she began a career in modeling, doing mostly print work. As she recounted on a 2021 episode of "The Locher Room," she ended up moving to Los Angeles with two friends, both of whom were actors. One of her LA roommates suggested she take acting classes to help with her modeling career, and that changed everything. "I fell in love my first time on stage," she recalled. "I started working right away. I was very lucky."

Although Davidson is well-known as a soap opera star, her first big break came in the form of a film. In 1982, Davidson was cast in a starring role in the now cult-classic slasher film "The House on Sorority Row." In 2018, Davidson tweeted a throwback pic from the movie and announced it would be playing in theaters across the country for one night only as part of a retro horror cinema series.

Davidson went on to appear in several other film projects, such as the 1988 TV movie "Sharing Richard," and 1989's "Easy Wheels." Davidson recently posted a fun and nostalgic pic on Instagram, a promo photo for "Sharing Richard." Even though she seemed to enjoy her film work, Davidson found her niche on daytime TV.

Her long tenure on The Young and The Restless

In an interview with Soap Opera Digest, Eileen Davidson recalled her screen test for "The Young and the Restless." "I don't remember my audition, just the screen test. I had lost a contact lens that morning, so I was screen-testing with one contact lens," she said. Despite the contact lens snafu, Davidson was a shoo-in for the part of Ashley Abbott. She revealed, "[S]omeone from CBS later told me that I ad-libbed or did something and everybody looked at each other and said, 'That's Ashley.' I don't have any idea what I said or did, but thank God."

Davidson was such a perfect fit as Ashley Abbott that it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Yet, the role was in fact recast in 1988 when Davidson left to pursue other acting opportunities. Ashley Abbott was played by two different actors between 1988 and 1999 when Davidson made her return. She stayed on for another long run, until leaving again in 2006. She returned in 2014 and left again in 2018 to spend more time with her family. 

She tweeted her gratitude while announcing her departure, and told Soap Opera Digest, "I just found myself exhausted and completely consumed with memorizing lines...doing a lot of homework on the weekend. I've been doing this for a long time. I was kind of wanting to not have to be somewhere all of the time." In 2022, Davidson continued to appear on the show periodically, marking forty years on the soap.

She made soap history on Days of Our Lives

During her first hiatus from "The Young and the Restless," Eileen Davidson joined the cast of "Days of Our Lives," originating the role of Kristen DiMera (née Blake). She played Kristen from 1993 until 1998, making guest appearances in 2012, 2013, and 2014. But it was in 1997 that Davidson found herself playing five different characters on the show at one time. In fact, the feat made soap opera history, as she was the first actor to do so on a daytime show. Davidson played Kristen DiMera, Susan Banks, Sister Mary Moira Banks, Penelope Kent, and Thomas Banks. Unsurprisingly, her game-changing work on the show earned her a Daytime Emmy nomination in 1998.

Davidson has enjoyed playing Kristen, telling the A.V. Club, "I call her the sociopath with a heart of gold, because she can justify anything she does." But some viewers have taken issue with the character over the years. In one storyline, Kristen was responsible for breaking up a beloved couple on the show, and fans were not happy. "I had one woman taken out of the fan events by security," Davidson told Soap Opera Digest. "She had said she was going to knife me, and she was writing me on a regular basis, threatening me."

Eileen Davidson's family has endured tragedy

During her time on "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," Eileen Davidson managed to avoid much of the drama that was brewing between her castmates. But Davidson had a lot going on in her personal life right before filming began, some of which she did share while on the show. In 2014, Davidson's sister Connie died from complications related to breast cancer. Davidson took to Twitter with the sad announcement, saying, "My beautiful sister lost her battle to cancer last Friday AM. Her daughter and I were with her. Love you Connie 4ever."

Mere months later, Davidson's niece Brooke passed away at just 35 years old. Brooke was the daughter of another of Davidson's sisters. Davidson tweeted about her loss at the time, and in 2019 shared a pic on Instagram honoring her late niece. "We said goodbye to my beautiful niece Brooke 5 years ago last weekend. We love and miss this sweet soul every day," the caption reads.

In February 2016, Davidson's brother died. Davidson was on "RHOBH" at the time, and used her Bravo blog to pay tribute to him. "I'm here with a very heavy heart to share the news of another beloved family member passing away. Sadly, my eldest brother, John 'Jack' Davidson, left us suddenly last week at the age of 69," Davidson wrote. Hopefully the outpouring of love and condolences from soap fans and Bravo fans alike was helpful for Davidson in processing these tragedies.

The ups and downs of her relationship history

While Eileen Davidson is now happily married, her relationship history is actually rather soap-worthy. Davidson was married to "Dukes of Hazzard" actor Christopher Mayer from 1986 until 1987. RadarOnline reported that both Davidson and Mayer requested restraining orders against the other as part of their divorce proceedings. 

On "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," Davidson opened up about having been in abusive relationships when she was younger. While she did not name names, she spoke at length about being a survivor in her Bravo blog. "Being 'strong' doesn't mean you can't find yourself in an abusive relationship. It can happen to anyone. I know, because I've been in two of them; once when I was a teenager, and again in my 20s," she wrote.

According to RadarOnline, Davidson had a romance with actor Jon Voight after her divorce from Mayer. The couple was seen together at the 1989 People's Choice Awards and appeared together in a film, 1991's "Eternity." The romance was not built to last, however, and the couple split soon after the movie premiered. Davidson went on to date fellow soap star Jon Lindstrom, who was on "Port Charles" and "General Hospital" at the time. The couple wed in 1997 but filed for divorce in 2000. Apparently, it wasn't a messy split. According to Soap Central, Lindstrom said in a statement, "This is an amicable situation." Davidson then married Vince Van Patten in 2003 and the two have been together ever since.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Life as one of the Real Housewives

In 2014, Eileen Davidson joined the cast of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." The show was in its fifth season, and Davidson was introduced to the audience alongside fellow soap veteran Lisa Rinna. Davidson's tagline for Season 5 was memorable for sure: "I'm not a b***h, but I've played one on TV."

While Davidson was generally well-liked on the show, and thought of as the voice of reason, she did get dragged into the drama quite often. In the middle of a vacation dinner gone wrong, Kim Richards called Davidson a "beast"; during another get-together, Brandi Glanville splashed Davidson in the face with the dregs of her glass of wine. When asked about her "RHOBH" experiences, Davidson told the A.V. Club, "I don't think you can really describe the situation to anybody. It is like nothing else. I mean, it's a mind, you know, fill in the blank."

In the same A.V. Club interview, she mentioned an interesting detail that may have led to some resentment from the rest of the cast. "When it was first announced that I was going to be on the show, it was announced that I was getting $750,000. I wasn't. And I knew I wasn't," she stated. "But then I realized in that moment what [the producers] were doing. And I really went, 'Oh, holy crap.' What they're doing is they're setting it up so that there's already conflict before these women even meet me." Sounds like something right out of a soap.

Eileen Davidson is a published author

Many actors have capitalized on their fame by publishing memoirs, which makes Eileen Davidson's foray into the literary world all the more... novel. Davidson is the author of a series of mystery novels revolving around a fictional soap opera star. So far, there are four books in the series: "Death in Daytime" (2008), "Dial Emmy for Murder" (2009), "Diva Las Vegas" (2010), and "Swingin' in the Rain" (2011). While the books, published by Penguin Random House, may not be a runaway hit with critics, they have received largely positive reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

In a chat with CBS.com (via TV Fanatic), Davidson shared that her interest in writing predates her acting career. "A long time ago I was writing in high school and college and I got some really good feedback about it but it was always in the back of my head as something I wanted to do," she said. "You know, the first computer I got I considered writing children's books, but I was always pretty busy and just never found the time to do it."

Her marriage to Vince Van Patten

Eileen Davidson and Vince Van Patten have been married since 2003. They share a son named Jesse, and Vince has two children from a previous marriage, Duke and Vinny. While they are by all accounts a happy family, the beginning of Davidson and Vince's courtship was a bit scandalous. 

When the two met on the set of "The Young and the Restless," both were still married to their respective spouses. Tabloids made a big deal out of the relationship timeline, as did Lisa Vanderpump during an episode of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills." Davidson admitted that she and Vince developed feelings for each other while married to other people, but maintained that they did not pursue a relationship until both were separated.

Vince Van Patten is the son of Hollywood legend Dick Van Patten, and Vince has made a name for himself in his own right. He is an actor, a poker player, and a former tennis pro. Davidson says she wishes fans of "RHOBH" had gotten to know him a bit better during her tenure on the show. "Not only is he just hilarious but he's a weirdo when it comes to numbers. ... He's been a gambler and playing poker all his life, and he's, like, a mathematical genius," she told Bravo's Daily Dish.

She's a decorated soap star

Eileen Davidson's small screen career has spanned decades, and she has earned some impressive accolades along the way. Her performances on both "The Young and the Restless" and "Days of our Lives" have garnered her four Daytime Emmy nominations and two wins for Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series. Her first win came in 2014 for her role as Kristen DiMera on "Days of Our Lives" and her second win was after her return to "The Young and the Restless" in 2018 reprising her role as Ashley Abbott. And way back in 1999, she was the recipient of the Soap Opera Digest Award for Favorite Return.

In addition to earning acclaim for her soap opera work, Davidson has also been lauded for her roles in more recent films. She won the Garden State Film Festival award for Best Supporting Actress in a Feature for a 2019 film called "7 Days in Vegas," which also featured her husband Vince Van Patten, as well as Chad Lowe and Jennifer Tilly

She reunited with Lisa Rinna on Days of Our Lives

In 2021, fans of both "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "Days of Our Lives" were in for a treat. Peacock debuted the limited series "Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem" which featured Eileen Davidson and Lisa Rinna reprising their roles from the beloved soap, as well as storylines that allowed the cast to recreate iconic scenes from "RHOBH." 

Thanks to some nudging by Davidson and Rinna, the series tips its hat to the "RHOBH" Season 5 cast trip to Amsterdam during which Kim Richards called Davidson a "beast." "The very first script I got with it, they didn't have the two famous lines, and Lisa and I were like, 'Wait, what? If you're gonna go there, you gotta go there,'" Davidson told Entertainment Weekly.

The series, which featured a whole host of "Days" alumni such as Deirdre Hall, Christie Clark, and Austin Peck, was a hit and left fans wanting more. It was renewed, and Season 2 premiered in July 2022.

Eileen Davidson stays busy

Aside from Eileen Davidson's appearance on "Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem," she has been featured in several other TV specials, films, and has a new series in the works. Davidson was in 2021's "Days of Our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas," and continues to guest star on "The Young and the Restless" in 2022. Davidson also starred in the miniseries "Three Way Mirror" in 2022 and in the feature film "Symphoria" in 2021, as well as 2019's "7 Days to Vegas." 

In 2023, Davidson will appear in a scripted comedy series called "Duke of the Valley" written by her stepson Duke Van Patten and directed by her husband, Vince Van Patten. As reported by The Wrap, the series, which is based on the memoirs of the late Dick Van Patten, will star Caitlyn Jenner and feature Davidson as a washed-up actor deluded about her career.

In 2021, Davidson told the A.V. Club about yet another project she's working on: an adaptation of her novel "Dial Emmy For Murder" for the big screen. "I'm going to be co-director. It's very women-forward, a lot of great, strong, fantastic, funny women characters. I'm super proud of it and just trying to get that off the ground," she said. It looks like Davidson can soon add even more roles to her already impressive résumé.

The philanthropic side of Eileen Davidson

With such a prolific career touching upon so many different aspects of the entertainment industry, it seems implausible that Eileen Davidson would have time left over for charity work. But she has made a point to make the time and is a champion of many great causes. 

In 2020, Davidson lent her support to "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" cast mate Kyle Richards' auction to benefit Children's Hospital L.A. In 2022, Davidson announced via Instagram that she would be auctioning off some of her own enviable wardrobe items, specifically those worn on "RHOBH" to raise funds for Project Angel Food. The non-profit organization works to deliver food to those in need. According to Look To The Stars, Davidson has also supported such charities as Bailey Baio Angel Foundation, CHOC Children's, Family Equality Council, Habitat For Humanity, and No Kid Hungry. "We're such a wealthy country, we have to take care of our most vulnerable people," Davidson said in an interview with CBS Los Angeles in June 2022.

Given the difficult circumstances Davidson and her family have endured over the past decade, it's wonderful to see her put so much focus on the well-being of others. Although Davidson has played a b***h on TV, in real life she is a genuinely good person.