On a recent episode of The Talk that aired on October 12th, the afternoon series welcomed stars from As the World Turns as part of a special broadcast honoring CBS Daytime’s 30 years as the number one daytime television network.
Four powerhouse actresses who kept fans on the edge of the seats during their storylines were part of the ATWT reunion: Martha Byrne (Lily), Elizabeth Hubbard (Lucinda), Ellen Dolan (Margo) and Colleen Zenk (Barbara). Before these soap opera MVP’s were brought out in front of the live studio audience, a short retrospective of ATWT clips was shown reminding us all what made the town of Oakdale so special for 54 years.
Sadly, As the World Turns was canceled, and aired its last episode on September 17th, 2010. It has now been six years since its loyal audience saw the characters whose lives they followed for decades, or a major television reunion featuring some of them.
Following this fab four’s appearance, On-Air On-Soaps Michael Fairman sat down with Martha, Elizabeth, Ellen and Colleen backstage for our own sentimental and heartfelt reunion. All Emmy-nominated and Byrne and Hubbard having won multiple Emmys, these ladies looked back on the incredible time in their careers, collaborating with each other, and shared their appreciation for being part of an iconic piece of television history. In addition, they also are well-aware what a loss it was for fans when ATWT when off the air. Here’s what these terrifically talented ladies shared!
It was very emotional watching each of you come out in front of the studio audience and take your place on set. I especially noticed Martha. You had tears welling-up in your eyes. What was going through your mind at that moment?
MARTHA: It was so emotional while we were up there, and especially when we were backstage and the clips came on, and they were so good! Those were really good scenes they showed from As the World Turns. That was some good stuff we put out there, and it just reminded us that there are hundreds of hours of this show!
ELLEN: I didn’t recognize myself in the Christmas scene when it played! (Laughs) I remember going, “Who is that?” Then, I went, “Oh, that’s me!”
What has been the most memorable part of this reunion, seeing each other and representing the iconic ATWT, in this CBS 30 years at number one celebration?
COLLEEN: Just being together …
MARTHA: … And also we have all evolved as human beings We have all had our personal stuff that we have been through in our real lives. But, I think our growth since that time is tremendous. So we can look back at it now, and come here, and we can really appreciate first of all, that we were even asked. The show was canceled, and it was so painful for so many people, and it was such an abrupt ending. Then shows were canceled after that like All My Children, and thus lots of people were out of work in New York.
ELIZABETH: There was a wrap party at a bar at Eighth avenue and 49th street in New York. I got to this bar and I said, “I’m looking for the party.” And this man tells me, “It’s up the stairs!” So when I get there this other guy says, “Welcome to a room full of unemployed people!” There were the producers, the directors, the actors, the hair and make up people, everyone.
MARTHA: It was sad. So to have this moment on The Talk, and to be embraced by the head of CBS Daytime, Angelica McDaniel was special. They treated us so well.
COLLEEN: We were celebrated!
Let’s not forget As the World Turns was the number one show there for awhile starting in 1958 through 1978.
COLLEEN: Yes. We were number one in the 70′s from 1970-1978!
ELIZABETH: And then I came on and ruined it. (Laughs) We had wonderful directors on our show. I was talking about this with Grant Aleksander (Ex-Phillip, GL), who directed on ATWT too. You could go to the directors and say, “This is my problem!” They would understand what you’re talking about, and not think you are some creep, or a sociopath, or whatever they think actor’s are.
ELLEN: When I came out to Los Angeles for a couple of years, I did enough work, but I thought, “It’s not enough for me.” We’re workhorses on the soaps, we’re in there every day. We spew out so much story. I thought, “I have a strong character- she’s funny, she’s rock em, sock em. What am doing here? I’m going back to New York and do my character. ” You know, people mostly are lucky if they get to do two films a year, and they get to do five scenes in a year. On ATWT, we did 5 scenes in one morning!
ELIZABETH: I did one sitcom, Hope & Faith. I loved it, because it was so fast and the writers are right near you, and they are on your side during the tapings . They are not in a room some place making up stories, and so they can tell the actors to make changes quickly, and we did it. I think in the story, Kelly Ripa kicked my character’s ass in the end, and it was perfect. But I did like that experience.
Where do each of you see your ATWT character right now at this point in her life, since the audience can’t see them, and has to also use their imaginations on what happened to these wonderful women that they loved?
COLLEEN: Barbara’s definitely In a dance hall!
MARTHA: Lily would hopefully be single. She was never alone. She always had a man around.
ELLEN: I think Margo would still be the police lieutenant. She would still be ordering people around and no one would listen. She would be making mistakes, and coming home to Tom. She would ask the proverbial question, “Well, why?” (Laughs) I think Margo would be that gruff older rascally lieutenant and she would take over Dan Frazer’s (Dan “Mac” McClosky) role. Margo was such a beautifully constructed character. She had just a little dash of everything, and I don’t think that much would change. You would now be watching someone age, and becoming their true selves.
When you look back on the final episode of As the World Turns, do you think it did it justice? It is an extraordinarily difficult task to wrap-up a show that is 54- years-old with so much rich history, characters, and story.
COLLEEN: I felt that it really captured everything. There was a lot they had to leave on the floor, a lot of scenes, because there was so much shot for the finale. But, it made me weep.
ELLEN: You got the sense that these lives are still going to go on.
ELIZABETH: I was doing a Dutch soap at the time, so to have John (Larry Bryggman) and Lucinda deported was a good way to get us out of Oakdale. (Laughs)
On the last day of taping, did you take any mementos or keepsakes with you?
MARTHA: Kelly Hensley (Emily) gave to me Lily’s wedding ring when the show went off the air. Noelle Beck (Ex-Lily) did not wear my ring. So, they had put it in a box somewhere.
COLLEEN: I took the giant crystal rock chandelier that was in the nightclub, where Barbara and Henry (Trent Dawson) did their famous dance. I took the barrel back silk Damask chair that Barbara would always hide in when she was going through her evil era. I also have the marble plaque of the mausoleum, some Stenbeck documents, but in the end the show sold everything off.
ELLEN: I took the clown on Hal (Benjamin Hendrickson) and Margo’s desk.
ELIZABETH: The last day everything had already been sold, but there was a thing you put a vase on. I said “I will take that.” There was a second one and I said to the stage hand, how much will it be to deliver it to my house? And he said, “Oh, no. It’s free. Your the only one who gave us Christmas presents.” That was nice.
If another network soap came calling, would you jump at the chance to do a role on daytime drama at this point in your careers?
MARTHA: Listen, we are actors! When the phone rings you pick it up, and you go to work. I’m doing a play in New York right now, because I love what I do. That’s in our DNA. It doesn’t go away.
ELLEN: You say, “yes” to every job, and if there is a ever a job like we had on ATWT that can be recreated, you say, “Yes, absolutely. I will do it!”
For more on CBS Daytime’s 30 years at number one celebration, The Paley Center For Media in Beverly Hills, California now through November 27th continues to feature an interactive exhibit of one-of-a kind memorabilia and original set pieces from some of the most popular daytime shows of the last thirty years. This special exhibit honors CBS’s five current shows—The Price Is Right, Let’s Make a Deal, The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, and The Talk—as well as legacy programs, including As the World Turns and Guiding Light.
So, what did you think of Martha, Ellen, Elizabeth and Colleen’s thoughts on their time with ATWT, being at this televisied reunion with each other and their memories and mementos of their time in Oakdale? What soap opera would you like to see these four ladies on now? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and let us know if you miss ATWT!