Monday, May 03, 2010

Helen Wagner ATWT' Matriarch, Dies at 91

(from CBS news)

Actress Helen Wagner, who played mild-mannered Nancy Hughes on the CBS soap opera "As the World Turns" for more than a half-century and spoke its first words, has died at age 91.

She died Saturday, said the show's New York-based production company, TeleNext Media Inc., which didn't say where she died or what was the cause of her death.

Wagner opened "As the World Turns" when it premiered on April 2, 1956, with the words: "Good morning, dear." She held the Guinness World Record for playing the same role on television for the longest amount of time, 54 years, TeleNext Media said.

"All of us at 'As the World Turns' are deeply saddened by Helen's passing," executive producer Christopher Goutman said in a statement. "She is loved by generations of fans, and while we will miss her greatly Helen will always remain the heart and soul of 'As the World Turns."'

While Wagner, who was born in Lubbock, Texas, was seen less often in later decades, no other network television performer came close to her run playing a single character.

She was still part of the cast, though with a small presence, in December 2009, when CBS announced that "As the World Turns" was being canceled and its last episode would air in September 2010.

Her final appearance aired April 5, in an episode in which Julianne Moore, a series regular in the 1980s whose two half-sister characters played Wagner's granddaughters, returned for a guest walk-on. The episode was taped in March.