We Love Soaps recently had the chance to speak with Judith Barcroft, an actress best known for her roles as Lenore Curtain on ANOTHER WORLD and Anne Tyler on ALL MY CHILDREN. She recently appeared on our critics panel's 50 Greatest Soap Actresses honorable mention list. After leaving ALL MY CHILDREN, Barcroft went on to roles on other soaps including THE EDGE OF NIGHT and RYAN'S HOPE. She also substituted for two popular actresses in famous roles (Susan on AS THE WORLD TURNS and Viki on ONE LIFE TO LIVE). In this exclusive two-part interview, the actress takes a look back on her long and successful career and catches us up on what she's doing now.
In Part One, Barcroft talks about moving around as a child and learning adaptability, landing a job her first week in New York, playing a popular role on ANOTHER WORLD and then returning to the show many years later as a dayplayer.
We Love Soaps: Tell me about your background. You were born in D.C. but then moved around a lot?
Judith Barcroft: Yes. My father was an Episcopal minister and so we lived in Germany for two years. I studied art in Rome at the Borghese Gallery. We lived in Oklahoma and Palm Beach, very contrasting places. I went to a lot of different schools - the American School On The Rhine in Germany; the National Cathedral School in Virginia; St. Mary's Hall at Fairbault, Minnesota; Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri; and then I graduated from Northwestern University. You learn adaptability I guess.
I came to New York and got a job my first week, within five days, in the theater. It was a show directed by George Abbott, "Never Too Late." I went out on a bus and truck tour.
We Love Soaps: Did you always want to be an actress?
Judith Barcroft: Always, yes. We were living in Charleston, South Carolina, and my father was in the Navy. I went to a play when I was 2 1/2 or 3 and it was "Little Black Sambo." I said, "What is that?" They said, "That's a play." And I said, "That's what I want to do." I also wanted to be a bride when I saw my first wedding. I thought you could just wear white and walk down the aisle all the time as an occupation [laughs].
We Love Soaps: What did your parents say about you wanting to be an actress, especially your dad the minister?
Judith Barcroft: He felt called to go into the ministry after the Navy, and felt theater and religion were very close. He taught me to read with expression. He loved the theater and took me to my first concert to see Dame Myra Hess play the piano. Both of my parents loved the theater. They were very supportive.
We Love Soaps: So you came to New York and got your first job within five days. How did your role as Lenore on ANOTHER WORLD come about?
Judith Barcroft: I went on tour for a year and came back that Spring. They were casting a Broadway show and at the same time they were casting ANOTHER WORLD. I just happened to walk into this Broadway show called "Mating Dance" that lasted one night. It starred Van Johnson and Richard Mulligan and I played a stewardess that came in and out the window. That was my Broadway debut. As soon as that closed, ANOTHER WORLD was casting and I got that part the same week I also got "Dinner at Eight," directed by Sir Tyrone Guthrie on Broadway. At first the producers said they wouldn't let me do the soap, and then Tyrone Guthrie said he could work around me so I did both at the same time.
We Love Soaps: ANOTHER WORLD was still live at that point.
Judith Barcroft: Yes, it was live and that was very funny. If you forgot your lines you could just sort of mouth the words [laughs]. I had a scene with Audra Lindley (Aunt Liz) and the wall of the set fell down and we had to continue. My first day I stood up quickly and bumped by head on the mic. I didn't know anything about television.
We Love Soaps: What happened with the wall? Did they put it back up during the commercial break?
Judith Barcroft: No, we played with it falling down and we just shot around it. The whole fireplace and everything just fell down [laughs]. Audra Lindley was so funny when she had to ad lib.
We Love Soaps: I loved her on THREE'S COMPANY. I wish I could have seen her work on ANOTHER WORLD.
Judith Barcroft: She would also put a strip of scotch tape on her face to lift up her face. She was very fun. I had a honeymoon scene with Val Dufour (Walter) and it was supposed to be really romantic in Hawaii on a balcony. It was a bamboo set and the bamboo started creaking in really odd sort of fart noises. And they wanted to have more of a breeze so this big heavy guy from the crew started waving his hand at us. We practically broke up. Live television was very funny. Pretty soon it became taped and then they said, "Every mistake you make will be $4,000 cause we have to stop." It was a lot of tension.
We Love Soaps: For that time period on a lot of soaps, especially ANOTHER WORLD, there doesn't seem to be any footage left which is really sad.
Judith Barcroft: Some of my director's saved some of the footage, but they have all died now. Also, there's not footage when I first started ALL MY CHILDREN. Before it went to an hour, all those half hour shows, there's not much of that. They never show all of my time on the reruns.
We Love Soaps: Agnes Nixon was the head writer of ANOTHER WORLD when you first started?
Judith Barcroft: She hired me on ANOTHER WORLD and then wrote the part of Anne for me [on ALL MY CHILDREN]. But I was still on ANOTHER WORLD at the time. I left ANOTHER WORLD when I had my first child, Ian, then I was able to do the part. She hired me as soon as I had the baby. I didn't like to go to [the ANOTHER WORLD studio in] Brooklyn so much when I was breastfeeding. She wrote the part for me on ALL MY CHILDREN and my son played little Phillip on the show. Then she talked to my husband about writing.
We Love Soaps: You celebrated 40 years of marriage last year, and your husband, Wisner Washam, wrote for ALL MY CHILDREN for many, many years including when you were on the show. But you met before all that.
Judith Barcroft: We met on Broadway in "Plaza Suite." I was understudying the bride and he was understudying the groom. He was Mike Nichols' assistant and production stage manager for the show which starred Maureen Stapleton and George C. Scott. Later, George C. Scott hired me to understudy his wife in "All God's Children Got Wings" at Circle in the Square.
We Love Soaps: When you were on ANOTHER WORLD they spun off another soap, SOMERSET, and you made an appearance on that show as well.
Judith Barcroft: The SOMERSET cast was all there so it was fun. There was one big studio out in Brooklyn. I remember one time I was working with Bob Milli (Wayne) and he got murdered. As soon as he died his commercial came on and he said, "Mmm, that's good coffee." There was a time when SOMERSET was on and there was a lot of work for the writers so George Reinholt (Steve) and I used to rewrite the scripts. For about a month there we were rewriting the scripts everyday because they were a mess, but then it all settled out.
We Love Soaps: Many years later in 1988, after your successful run on ALL MY CHILDREN and other soap appearances, you played the role of a pharmacist on ANOTHER WORLD. What was it like returning to the show at that point?
Judith Barcroft: That was the worst job that I ever had on a soap. It was terrible going back there. I had been one of the stars on ANOTHER WORLD and to come back as a pharmacist selling condoms, and nobody knew who I was, that was sort of a degrading stint. I didn't want to do that anymore.
We Love Soaps: By that point the only remaining actor on the show was Constance Ford (Ada). Are there any actors you're still in touch with from ANOTHER WORLD?
Judith Barcroft: I'm still friends with Beverly Penberthy, who played Pat on that show. I saw Ginny Dywer (Mary) recently too. A lot of people have died, like Val Dufour.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click here for the final part of our interview where Barcroft discusses moving over to All MY CHILDREN, her other soap roles and what she's doing now.