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19 September 16th, 2010 ATWT’s Colleen Zenk on her amazing run in Oakdale & real life battles!

Photo Credit: JPI Studios

ATWT’s Colleen Zenk’s 32 year run as Barbara Ryan ends this Friday.  The actress caught up with TV Guide to share her thoughts on the shows final moments, her real life cancer battle and how it affected her both on and off the television screen, and how through it all she still brought joy to the role that has made her beloved to long time fans of As the World Turns.  Here are a few excerpts!

Zenk on how she is feeling with just a few episodes left to air! “All I can think is why? The cancellation makes no sense. The last few episodes have been wrenching. Oh, my God! Those scenes with John and Lucinda! And Reid’s death! And the ashes! It’s all so emotional and poignant. I just can’t believe we only have a couple of episodes left because I still haven’t dealt with the loss of the show and the loss of Barbara. To continue shooting months and months after we got the cancellation notice created a grand illusion. It was easy to fall into a place of denial and say “We’re fine!” because we were still telling great stories. Someone told me it took Victoria Wyndham five years to accept the loss of Another World. [Laughs] I’m a different kind of human being than that, but the loss is still huge.”

Zenk on dealing with her cancer battle in such a public way:  “I had a lot of resistance at home and elsewhere about taking it public. But I did it anyway. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I had tremendous emotional support from everyone at work. Procter & Gamble didn’t have to keep me employed, and certainly not under contract, after I got sick. They could easily have said, “This is not going to work.” The show worked around all my surgeries and treatments and radiation. And I sounded like hell for a very long time, and I didn’t look so good, either. I’m told no one can hear my speech impediment anymore. I sure can hear it, and it doesn’t sound so good to me. But people have ignored it, and that’s extraordinary. Having that kind of love all around really changes you. Having that unrelenting, unquestioning, no-holds-barred kind of love was what kept me alive.”

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  1. amina says:

    Gifted with that amazing glow and acting talent, I’ve always considered Colleen a class act. It wasn’t until reading this article, though, that my jaw-dropping admiration for her soared even further into the heavens. I just cannot grasp the reality of fiercely muscling my way through two horrifying bouts of oral cancer and re-emerging as badass and beautiful as she did! We clearly saw Colleen’s remarkable traits resonate through Barbara, whom I cannot believe will disappear from permanent view come Monday. Jeesh, I’m depressed…. As for Colleen though, I know we’ll be seeing her really soon in some amazing role that she’ll surely make her own! I just hope Colleen knows that she has many daytime and non-daytime fans out there wishing her the very, very best and rooting her on, big time!!


  2. Phyllis says:

    Colleen is extraordinary and exudes beauty, inside and out.


  3. Nia Liz says:

    I want to thank Colleen for being faithful to Barbara throughout the years, even while she was undergoing her real life battles. I pray that Colleen continues to have exceptional health and performs for an array of audiences for many more years.


  4. Marcy says:

    I am writing this message with complete adoration of Colleen Zenk. No human being should have to face this much hardship in one gulp. I cannot fathom enduring a health crisis of that proportion, becoming strong and stable again, then receiving notice that my amazing job is ending, my beloved character that I’ve put my all into (and it showed) will no longer exist and realizing that my marriage has run its course. This quadruple whammy is all too surreal, and unjust until the old adage comes to mind that “what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger” and I know that Colleen will prevail and that I’ll be seeing her name in lights very soon!!


  5. tricia says:

    as far as daytime TV icons go, Colleen ranks at the top of my list. her wide range, longevity, comedic timing and stunning good looks have made the character Barbara a soap legend. reading this posted article reminded me of when i’d read about Colleen’s Big C scare a couple years ago. i was scared to death for her. i am so grateful to the real PTB for allowing her to overcome those complex surgeries without impairment so that she could continue working and educating people on the importance of early detection. i love this great actress and will miss Barbara terribly. Babs certainly knew how to charm her viewers.


  6. mmc says:

    She’s lovely and a brave woman…I loved her happy ending with Henry.I wish her continued success…and as she gets older she gets better, in every way!


  7. Val says:

    I applaud Colleen for using her celebrity to address the dangers of oral cancer. The message that we’re all susceptible needs to be voiced loudly because so many people are under the perception that since they don’t smoke, they’re not at risk of contracting the throat and tongue cancers…..just as we all thought smokers only developed lung cancer until Dana Reeve, who’d never smoked, died from it. Colleen was one of the super unfortunate ones to develop oral cancer but thankfully, she was fortunate enough to survive it. She’s so brave to put herself out there for the greater good. She’s wonderful, a true star.


  8. EJ says:

    can’t believe that colleen is no longer married! her ex – like most men in their 50′s – is most likely going through some personal crisis of his own. or he is one of those men who can’t handle situations like illness. colleen will get through this rough period. she’s already conquered C twofold so the worst is definitely over. and with her energy and stunning good looks she’ll find happiness soon and probably without even looking for it. in the olden days she reminded me so much of a young natalie wood but with more splendor. and even today after all the suffering she’s still so exceptionally attractive and full of life. wishing her all the best and gonna miss the good, evil, funny, quirky and always beautiful barbara.


  9. Jamie Lynn says:



  10. Jamie Lynn says:



  11. steph says:

    what colleen is doing to spread the word is so admirable. people at risk need to hear what she has to say. her fans need her too……daytime needs her !! i hope in time colleen’s able to act again on another soap. i think that she would be amazing in a role like gloria bardwell’s on young and the restless…..just my two cents


  12. nadal4life says:

    Listened to her podcast on Daytime Confidential. It was long but informative and uplifting. The recent low blow of the day (I think the DC interview happened on 9/17)didn’t seemed to dull her spirit. She’s a very positive person and I could tell that she was all smiles during the podcast. I hope the others vets are doing okay.


  13. Estelle says:

    Thanks nadal4life. Listening to Colleen’s podcast on DC now. Very inspiring…..


  14. Scherrie says:

    michael, thank you for posting this interview. colleen is a champion.

    what i loved the most about atwt was that it preserved the good ole’ days by keeping those historic characters like barbara, bob, kim, nancy, lisa, and lily around. keeping the vets brought forth the familar and served as a reminder of how incredible the show had been 20 and 30 years ago. racking my brains for weeks now, i still feel that there’s NO good reason whatsoever why oakdale should stop turning. with guiding light, i could easily see the end in sight since the storylines were so bad that even great acting couldn’t salvage them. with atwt, it’s a completely different situation. sure there were a few hiccups in the writing here and there but overall the show had consistently delivered and outperformed across all relevant areas.

    colleen and henry were my newly favorite couple on the show but i am sad that we had very little time to enjoy them. i wish there was more history between them but as long as my memory serves, they will remain a happily married oakdalian couple.


  15. Trudy says:

    Since Colleen looks too young to play the role of cougar, I’ll call her a puma. I loved the puma storyline with Barb and Henry. LOVED IT. I wish Chris G. would’ve cast someone from the outside to start up a genuine romance with Lisa. By the end of the show, she was the only adult whose life remained sort of cliche and mundane……


  16. RogerR says:



  17. Karen says:

    Colleen Zenk was a GODDESS on this soap. She’s gotta get grabbed by another one!!!


  18. Reagan says:

    catching up on atwt…..i’m watching barbara and henry compete in a dance contest. those two are sizzling together. i love love love them! their scenes remind of what soaps used to be like.


  19. AaronZ says:

    i grew up watching Colleen her outer beauty is matched by her inner strength. i wish her a continuing success in whatever new projects she decides to do. i cannot believe ATWT is off the air and for the garbage that CBS has put on in it’s place it is a disgrace these are the dog days of broadcasting on daytime television. i truly wish ATWT’s had been picked up by HBO or SHOWTIME cable network instead of them just reruning rotation of movies in the morning hours. i think ATWT or GL unbound without public broadcasting restrictions and with already fan base these now canceled daytime show could have garner profit and audience in millions for those cable outlets in daytime hours.


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