When it comes to iconic African-American couples, the Obamas, the Smiths, the Carters and even the Huxtables easily come to mind. But in Pine Valley, it’s the Hubbards that top the list. The fictional town of Pine Valley, Pennsylvania is the place where the long-running ABC soap opera All My Children is located, and where Angie Baxter and Jesse Hubbard were one of the first Black love stories to grace the small screen. Played by Debbi Morgan and Darnell Williams, they were so popular that they reunited on the show 20 years after Jesse’s untimely death.
Unfortunately, the couple’s happy reunion was short-lived when it was subsequently announced in 2011 that All My Children would be cancelled to make way for more commercially viable daytime television. But a couple who survived death, divorce, the kidnapping of their child, blindness (Angie’s), Angie’s overbearing father (played by Antonio Fargas, from the 1970s cop drama Starsky & Hutch), infidelity, their son’s illness, and a baby switch—among other challenges—could not be denied.
Morgan and Williams as Angie and Jesse will return to Pine Valley now that All My Children is back in its new incarnation as a web series on Hulu starting today. The TV couple remains so popular that there is a website, AnJnation.com, dedicated to them.
Debbi Morgan, who’s been married four times in real life, told The Huffington Post that her relationship with Williams as Jesse has lasted longer than many of her actual marriages.
After being shot and dying on the show in 1988, Jesse was resurrected (he apparently faked his death to protect his family) and reunited with Angie in 2008, to the delight of all hardcore All My Children fans. Both Williams and Morgan won daytime Emmys for their roles, with Williams becoming the first Black actor to win twice. Morgan, who went on to star in movies like Love and Basketball, is the first actor to play the same character on three different soap operas, reprising her role as Angie on Loving and The City.
As any soap fan can deduce, this isn’t the end of the drama for Jesse and Angie. A two-minute All My Children preview clip seems to take them through even more changes; but that’s probably why the fictional couple has endured for so long. No matter what happens, they somehow end up together.
The Huxtables, another famed Black TV couple, were often criticized for their upscale lifestyle, a criticism the Hubbards never received—though Angie is a doctor and Jessie the chief of police. Maybe it’s because their struggles, despite the expectation of drama on a soap, always ended in triumph. With the regular assaults on Black love and marriage in the media, this is one couple that has stayed the course, no matter how difficult. Their 1980s heyday cemented them in the minds of viewers who weren’t used to seeing a young African-American couple on TV everyday, who were held in equal regard to the White characters on the show.
The lesson of Angie and Jessie may not be that love conquers all (we know it doesn’t), but certainly that when love exists, it’s hard to break its bonds.
Tonya Pendleton is an entertainment writer based in Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @amazonink.