When Jack Wagner Saw His Daughter For The First Time In 23 Years, He Thought She Was A Stranger

Images: Facebook/General Hospital / Instagram/jackwagnerofficial

It’s 2011, and actor and musician Jack Wagner is getting ready to go out on stage in Florida. Everything is seemingly proceeding as normal when suddenly the star hears a knock on his dressing room door. As Wagner opens it, he sees a woman whom he doesn’t recognize. She appears to be overwhelmed by emotion – and it will soon transpire that she’s been looking for him for a long time.

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Wagner has had a long career in television. In fact, he’s worked on some of America’s longest-running soap operas: Melrose Place, General Hospital, The Bold and the Beautiful and more. And the twist that took place in the actor’s dressing room in 2011 sounds as though it could be straight out of one of his TV dramas – except that it was totally real.

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You see, the woman who knocked on Wagner’s door is in fact his long-lost biological child. “You don’t know who I am, do you?” she apparently asked him before adding, “I’m your daughter.” Needless to say, the revelation changed Wagner’s entire life. And the story of how the two of them got to that point – a happy reunion in a dressing room – is a fascinating one.

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Wagner’s personal life has long been a matter of interest – especially because of his fame in the soap-opera world. The actor was once one half of a soap super-couple, after all: he married his General Hospital co-star Kristina Malandro in 1993. But after welcoming a pair of children, sons Harrison and Peter, Wagner and Malandro subsequently called it quits in 2006.

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The decision to split seems to have been the right one, however. “I think the divorce was the best thing that could have happened to me,” Malandro explained on Oprah: Where Are They Now? in 2016. “And for my children as well, because I don’t think I was being a good mother at the time, either. I wasn’t making good choices.”

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Wagner, meanwhile, has in the past expressed the fact that he doesn’t regret marrying his co-star at all. “It was an amazing ride,” he revealed on Oprah: Where Are They Now? in 2014. “You know, I’m grateful for every day of it. And I learned a lot from it, and we have two beautiful children because of it.”

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But as Wagner would later discover, there was a third child of his out there as well – and one whose mother had also had to make difficult choices. The child in question, whose name is Kerry, was reportedly the result of a one-time fling. Before settling down with Malandro, you see, Wagner had enjoyed a reputation as a bit of a heartthrob; there’s even a novel called Getting Over Jack Wagner.

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And it was during this period of his life that Wagner met Kerry’s birth mother. The actor recalled the encounter on Anderson Live in 2012 – not long after he had met his daughter for the first time. “I did West Side Story and Grease, and one of the dancers in those shows was friends [with me], and we’d all hang out.”

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Wagner also confirmed that he had indeed had a fling with this woman. “One night, we got together,” he explained to Anderson Cooper on the talk show. “And you know, nine months later, I got a call.” Yes, the woman – whose name has never been revealed by Wagner – had become pregnant as a result of the one-night affair. But the actor himself apparently hadn’t been aware of this development.

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What’s more, it appears that the woman had told Wagner what she’d planned to do about the child. “She said, ‘I just had a baby girl, you’re the father, and I put her up for adoption,’” Wagner recalled. “That was the first you had heard about it?” Cooper asked the actor. “That’s all I ever heard,” Wagner replied.

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Meanwhile, Wagner hadn’t had any idea how to deal with the shocking news. “I called an attorney, and I said, ‘Listen, this has happened,’” the actor explained. “And he looked into it. He said, ‘You know you have no rights? She’s gone.’” After all, babies can sometimes be adopted without the consent of their biological dads.

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the situation left Wagner in something of a bind. “I really didn’t know if it was true,” he told Cooper. “I had no way of knowing if I was the father, so it’s just something I really never spoke about.” And when Anderson asked whether the mother had ever informed Wagner about the child while she was still pregnant, the actor replied, “No, nothing.”

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That said, Wagner seemingly bears no ill will towards the mother of his daughter. “She’s a wonderful person and just felt that this was the best choice for her in terms of being single in New York. So, she made the right choice,” he said. It’s important to point out, after all, that at the time there was some social stigma surrounding the idea of being a single mom.

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Plus, it’s perhaps safe to say that the choice seems to have ultimately worked out for the best. Certainly, the reunion between Wagner and Kerry was extremely touching. The second that Kerry entered her father’s dressing room, she flung her arms around him and sobbed – despite having not even introduced herself at this point.

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However, the truth quickly dawned on Wagner, because Kerry produced a snap of him posing with her biological mother. And yet even without photographic proof, Wagner might still have guessed her real identity. “We held each other, and I knew immediately that she was my daughter,” Wagner told People in December 2011.

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In fact, Wagner was so bowled over by the fantastic news that he began calling other members of his family to share it with them. He told People that his sons, for instance, were both “floored” by Kerry’s appearance. He also rang up actress Heather Locklear, with whom he’d recently been in a relationship. “I called her and said, ‘Something happened tonight: I have a daughter who found me.’ She was incredibly supportive and excited,” Wagner explained.

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Wagner and Locklear had reportedly been dating since 2007, but they had parted ways only a short time before Kerry came into the picture. And ironically, it’s rumored that the couple had been worried about the impact of their relationship on their children: they didn’t want to have a “blended family,” according to TMZ. That said, Wagner has reported that the breakup was very amicable.

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But let’s get back to Wagner’s encounter with his long-lost daughter. The following day, Wagner was scheduled to deliver a show on board a ship. And so, the star asked Kerry to go with him in order for them to spend time together. The young woman accepted the invitation, too, and for the first time she was introduced to the world as Wagner’s daughter.

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Wagner in fact made a point of explaining to his audience who his mystery guest was. “Some of you have seen me on the boat or around. I’ve been walking around with this beautiful girl,” he said, according to E! News. “And my daughter found me.” Then, the performer brought Kerry up onto the stage – and there was barely a dry eye in the house.

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Indeed, Kerry herself wiped away tears as she hugged her father in front of the crowd. “I’ve started a new life with her,” Wagner told the audience. “I was about ready to go [onstage] in Boca Raton, and this beautiful child showed a picture of her mother to the backstage guy. He brought it to me, I went to the door, and she came in hysterically crying and said, ‘I’m your daughter.’”

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And when Wagner appeared on Anderson in 2012, he also described exactly what it had been like meeting Kerry for the first time. “I just knew it was her,” he said, visibly emotional. Wagner still had to go and do his show, mind you, as thousands of fans had turned up to see him. But his newly found daughter got to watch the concert, too.

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Touchingly, Wagner also revealed to Cooper that he had made contact with the adoptive family who’d brought Kerry up; he’d even developed a relationship with them. “Last night, you know, I was in Queens, and I had dinner with Kerry’s parents and aunts and uncles,” he said. “She was just raised by these wonderful people.”

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What’s more, Kerry also made an appearance on Anderson. On the show, she talked about how she’d encountered her birth mother before meeting Wagner. “Is this surreal for you, this last couple of months?” Cooper asked. “Yeah, completely,” Kerry said. “I never had any expectations, and it’s just been like an amazing experience meeting my birth mother for the first time.”

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Cooper then asked Kerry when she had met her birth mother. “The day after my birthday – September 15,” she said. “We had planned to meet, we had been speaking on the phone a few times, and I met her at her apartment. It was just a crazy experience seeing someone who looks just like me.” However, the process hadn’t been easy.

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In fact, it had taken a private investigator to reunite Kerry with her birth mother. But she had also wanted to track down her biological father, and it turned out that her mother had had all the information that she needed. “How long had you been talking with your birth mom until she mentioned your birth dad?” Cooper asked Kerry.

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As it turned out, Kerry’s journey to finding her biological dad had been quite a slow one. “We had been talking for a month before we even met,” Kerry said of her birth mother. “And I had never asked about my birth father. It was kinda like one of those things where that’s the real Pandora’s Box right there.”

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“I didn’t even ask about it. And we were flipping through photo albums, and she goes, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna have a heart attack.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ She goes, ‘That’s your birth father sitting next to me right there,’” Kerry continued. “And it was him,” she added, gesturing to Wagner, who was sitting beside her.

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“[My birth mom is] like, ‘Do you recognize him?’ And I’m like, ‘No, should I? Were we on the train together?’” Kerry explained on the talk show. But even though Kerry hadn’t known that her dad was a celebrity, the woman was finally coming closer to meeting him.

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Meanwhile, on the show, Kerry explained that her mother had then given her the name of her father. “She’s like ‘Oh, his name is Jack Wagner… Do you recognize him now?” she recalled. But Kerry was still in the dark. “Vaguely insulting, but that’s okay,” Cooper chipped in. “We googled him, and I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s pretty neat,’” she continued.

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Wagner had certainly achieved a lot of success in his career since having Kerry. Not only had he continued to act and sing, but he had also become a golf champion. In fact, in both 2006 and 2011 the star had taken first place in the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic, and he’s now considered to be among the best celeb golfers out there.

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In addition, Wagner had been a competitor on Dancing with the Stars in 2011. And interestingly, Kerry is particularly well-qualified in this arena, because dance instructing is actually her chosen career. Perhaps she also takes after her biological mother, who, as we already know, has a dance background too.

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Kerry admitted that she hadn’t thought much of her father’s dancing skills, mind you. “[Once] we were in the workout room, and I was trying to teach him how to salsa,” she told Cooper. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I hope he never goes on Dancing with the Stars; he’s gonna embarrass himself!’”

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Not only did Wagner compete on Dancing with the Stars, though, but he also included Kerry when it came to “personal stories week.” He and his dancing partner, Anna Trebulunka, performed a tribute to his daughter, in fact – a samba to be exact – and the judges liked it. Len thought it was Wagner’s “best dance,” and a couple of tears were shed by Carrie Ann.

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However, Wagner was subsequently knocked out of the contest – and Kerry had something to say about this. “I think he did a wonderful job in the samba. I was very surprised he was eliminated,” she revealed. So, it seems that her opinion of her dad’s dancing had most definitely changed.

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On Anderson, Wagner also discussed the experience of seeing his sons meet their half-sister. “Initially, they were a little confused and wanted to have a DNA test, and we did that,” he revealed. “And Kerry came out for this past Thanksgiving and spent an entire week with me and my sons.”

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What’s more, Wagner said Kerry had “brought this incredible female energy into this all boy-man house.” He added, “You know what? They really hit it off. They are close now, they’re in constant contact, and it’s just been a mini-miracle for us.” Then, Cooper asked Kerry if she’d had any adopted brothers or sisters while growing up.

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Kerry revealed that she hadn’t had any siblings as a child but that she’d always wanted them. And she also talked about what it had been like meeting Wagner’s sons. “They’re two very different men. One is very kind of introverted, and one is like completely extroverted,” she explained. “I’m kind of like maybe in the middle. But it was really cool – the kind of bond. It was just an automatic bond.”

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Even a year later, in 2013, Wagner seemingly still hadn’t gotten over the emotional whirlwind of meeting his long-lost daughter. In fact, in April of that year he talked about it with Katie Couric on her show and almost began crying. “My daughter found me,” he said as the audience began aww-ing and applauding.

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Once the applause had died down, Wagner compared the stunning twist of reuniting with his long-lost child to the sort of storyline that you may find in a soap opera. “So, it’s just a real blessing… like something you would see on General Hospital,” he told Couric. And the host agreed with him. “Life imitated art,” she said.

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Yet Wagner and Kerry’s story arguably has a happier ending than those of many soap opera plotlines. The remarkable reunion was, after all, a small miracle – and Wagner is now blessed with a new addition to his family. “Visiting my lovely daughter Kerry!” the actor tweeted alongside a picture of them in August 2015. And one of the comments read, “Glad you found each other.” Long may Wagner and Kerry’s happily-ever-after continue!

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