Richard McLaren

Soap-opera legend Susan Lucci gets on with life after Erica Kane with her new show, Devious Maids.

Forty-one years is an impressive­ tenure in any job, but in the entertainment industry, it’s an ­eternity. So when the daytime soap opera All My Children­ aired its final TV episode in September 2011, actress Susan Lucci — who played the notorious yet beloved diva Erica Kane for more than four decades — found herself in completely unfamiliar territory: without a steady job for the first time in her career.

The end of the groundbreaking serial’s run on TV — Lucci may still guest-star on AMC’s current online revival — marked the start of a whole new chapter in the life of the woman who was among the most popular — and the highest-paid — actors in daytime television. After brief stints on Hot in Cleveland and Army Wives, Lucci has her first post-AMC starring role in the Marc Cherry–created drama Devious Maids, airing on Lifetime. Of the transition, Lucci says, “I loved playing Erica Kane, and I never made a secret about that. [When the show was canceled], there was the loss of a character I loved. But one of my goals moving from All My Children was to be in the hands of a great writer, which I am on ­Devious Maids.” She’s also finding fulfillment in things she’d long missed. “I was really missing the process,” she shares. “At All My Children, the process was very shortened and it was kind of a rush to performance, but I love that I’m getting the opportunity to play and see where a scene takes you. I just adore that part of acting.”

After having the stability of AMC for so many years, it’s invigorating for Lucci to be starting from scratch. “Sitting at our table reads, it’s such an incredible cast, and I certainly don’t want to be the weak link in the group,” she says. “I want people to love my character.”

That would be Genevieve Delatour, one of the Beverly Hills homeowners who employ the show’s titular maids. While Lucci says she’s creating a character completely different than Erica Kane, the two share similarities. “She’s a romantic,” Lucci says, then adds with a laugh, “and she has lots of mood swings.”