Helen Wagner, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for her long-running performance as Nancy Hughes on As the World Turns since the show debuted in 1956, has died. She sadly misses the the series’ final episode by just a few months– its planned for a September 17th airdate. Her TV series career began with roles on several early-to-mid ’50s shows, including soap The Guiding Light, sitcom The World of Mr. Sweeney, and soap Valiant Lady. Once she landed in Oakdale though, it became her mainstay for 54 years.
Helen Wagner was interviewed by the Archive of American Television on October 6, 2004, viewable in its entirety at emmytvlegends.org.
Helen Wagner was interviewed for nearly two hours in Mt. Kisco, NY. Wagner described breaking into acting on the New York stage and in experimental television. She talked about her appearance as a regular on the short-lived Charlie Ruggles sitcom The World of Mr. Sweeney. She then discussed the role for which she is most associated, that of “Nancy Hughes” on As the World Turns, a role she has played for nearly fifty years, the longest running character to date in the history of television. She described the production of As the World Turns including its transition from “live” to tape, story plot lines, and working with her longtime co-stars. She talked about various moments from the show from uttering the series very first line (“Good morning dear, what would you like for breakfast?”) to playing a scene “live” while unbeknownst to her CBS broke in to announce the shooting of President Kennedy. She talked about her continued work on the series and how the show has evolved over the years. The interview was conducted by Karen Herman on October 6, 2004.