In Part One of our two-part interview with Judith Barcroft, the actress shared stories of starting her acting career and playing the role of Lenore on ANOTHER WORLD. In the final part, Barcroft revisits her time as Anne on ALL MY CHILDREN as well as her many other soap roles.
We Love Soaps: It sounds like Agnes Nixon wanted you for the role of Anne on ALL MY CHILDREN after working with you at ANOTHER WORLD?
Judith Barcroft: Yes. I didn't have to audition for anything after [ANOTHER WORLD] until I came to RYAN'S HOPE.
We Love Soaps: What was it like working with Ruth Warrick (Phoebe)?
Judith Barcroft: She played my mother, of course, and was very glamorous and very, very funny, and had a dirty sense of humor. She and Larry Keith used to do all kinds of sexual jokes [laughs]. When you're acting with Ruth Warrick she was mainly looking at the lights and the camera and being sure her face was in the light. I think that was her main priority [laughs]. It was fun working with her.
We Love Soaps: How did your husband, Wisner Washam, come to write for the show? Were you excited about that or nervous?
Judith Barcroft: I got him the job sort of because he wrote beautiful letters. He was writing a letter for me called "Letters To My Unborn Child" for some soap magazine. I said, "You write such beautiful letters, why don't you write for soaps?" Agnes said she was looking for somebody, and they didn't have any men writers and was looking for a man's point of view. She came over to see the new baby and they just had a rapport and liked each other right away. He did some trial scripts and she loved him. Agnes hired him right away.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Look for a new We Love Soaps interview with Wisner Washam in the coming days.
We Love Soaps: What was your most memorable storyline on ALL MY CHILDREN?
Judith Barcroft: The conflict with the two men - the guy from the wrong side of the tracks, played by Larry Keith, and Bill Mooney, the lawyer who was sort of slick. Mary Fickett won one of the first soap opera Emmys and was well-known, but I had the storyline that year, going through a lot of stern und drang. That was a lot of fun to play.
The last thing I did was when the show went to an hour when the character was losing her little baby. That was not much fun to play because my mother was dying at the time. I also had some other plays I was working on. I was doing a play Off-Broadway called "Songs of Twilight." So I was really frantic, and going down to Virginia back and forth because my mother was dying. That plot was not my favorite.
One thing I loved about doing ALL MY CHILDREN at the time, especially when it was half an hour, was we were like a repertory company. I said let's use this repertory company and do plays on television. We were really so close and knew how to work together and enjoyed working together. You got to know everybody. Nowadays you come in and the people you don't have scenes with you never see.
We Love Soaps: Didn't Anne go crazy? People still talk about that a lot.
Judith Barcroft: It was a really sad thing. And it was easy to cry because I was emotional anyway.
We Love Soaps: What was the mindset at that time. GUIDING LIGHT had been on the air, at least on radio, since 1937. Did people really think these shows would be around for as long as they have?
Judith Barcroft: I don't know. There was wonderful response from our audience. There was always people piled outside our door. Everywhere I went, people would say, "Oh, you're on my story." I did about seven Broadway shows, so I was down in the Broadway area a lot with busloads of women coming up to me and screaming, and I'd have to calm them down.
We Love Soaps: ALL MY CHILDREN has always been popular here in New York. Were you getting recognized all the time?
Judith Barcroft: All the time. Every once in a while I still do.
We Love Soaps: You left ALL MY CHILDREN and next played Louise on EDGE OF NIGHT.
Judith Barcroft: I did a stint on EDGE OF NIGHT as April's mother and the director made me scare this six year old girl. He said I wasn't frightening enough so I really had to scare. I wonder if I traumatized her for the rest of her life.
We Love Soaps: You stepped into a couple of very famous and long-running roles on a short-term basis. You subbed for Marie Masters as AS THE WORLD TURNS as Susan.
Judith Barcroft: In the summer of '78 I played Dr. Susan Stewart.
We Love Soaps: Do you remember what Susan doing that summer?
Judith Barcroft: She was in California doing something.
We Love Soaps: Probably fighting with Kim [laughs].
Judith Barcroft: Kathryn [Hays] hated the idea that somebody else was going to play that part. The first day I was on, she had to have a fight with me and said, "I really need to slap her." [Laughs] I really objected. I didn't want to be slapped. But she had to try it. She was mad someone else was playing the part. It was hard going in and playing that part, but it was fun. I went back later on AS THE WORLD TURNS and played a judge named Sara Comstock. I prosecuted Meg Ryan's (Betsy) boyfriend (Steve). So we were in make-up chairs together.
We Love Soaps: You also appeared on EDGE OF NIGHT twice, coming back near the end.
Judith Barcroft: I went back and did EDGE OF NIGHT and played a wicked psychiatrist, Eleanor Prentice, in its final days.
We Love Soaps: You also subbed for Erika Slezak on ONE LIFE TO LIVE as Viki. What was it like doing a long-running character like that on a temporary basis?
Judith Barcroft: They called me in one day in the morning and asked me to come in at 1 o'clock and tape seven scenes of Viki and Niki. I did seven scripts in a row and they knew I had a very good memory. I used to ride the bus with Hugh Franklin (ex-Charles, ALL MY CHLDREN) and learn my lines on the way down. I used to learn them the night before but your memory gets better and better.
We Love Soaps: In 1981, you played the role of Barbara Wilde on RYAN'S HOPE. Barbara was a soap opera actress, and you were in a soap within a soap type story.
Judith Barcroft: I played two characters, Barbara and Maggie. I played an actress playing a character. I drove John Gabriel (Seneca) crazy because I had just come off doing a play and I wanted our scenes to be really good and I kept trying to direct them. I should have just shut up. He and I didn't get along too well.
We Love Soaps: Lenore and Anne were sort of similar, nice characters. But after that it seems like you were cast in darker roles.
Judith Barcroft: Right. Barbara on RYAN'S HOPE was mean and honery. On AS THE WORLD TURNS Sara was a very aggressive woman and wanted to take Bob Hughes out to dinner and pay the check. She was not a nice character.
We Love Soaps: Would you say that Anne was your favorite role?
Judith Barcroft: I think so. It had a lot of variety. And, of course, the writing was brilliant [laughs]. It was hard sometimes because people would say, "Tell your husband to write that," and I would say, "Please, just leave me out of this." He finally wrote me off because I was doing another Broadway show. We sat down at the kitchen table and tried to figure out how to write me out. That was the time my mother was dying and I really just couldn't handle that much, working both at night and in the daytime.
We Love Soaps: When you left ALL MY CHILDREN, was it because you had all this going on or because the show expanded to an hour?
Judith Barcroft: It was everything. The show had expanded to an hour and my contract was up. I told my husband that I had to go back to Virginia because my mother was dying, and I had been asked to do a wonderful play that I wanted to do. And I was raising two wonderful children. It was just too much. So I said I needed to cut down some of my work and we both agreed.
We Love Soaps: They eventually killed off Anne. I don't like it when soaps kill off legacy characters like that.
Judith Barcroft: I don't either [laughs]. I got mad! My husband said, "You're not around enough, I'm killing this character off." They cloned Kitty and brought her back. You could bring Anne back now I'm sure.
We Love Soaps: When a show writes out characters that brought a lot of heart, it really loses something.
Judith Barcroft: I played one of the last debutant types. We don't really have debutant types anymore, sort of the Grace Kelly classic girl-from-a-good-family with nice manners. I used to wear a lot of hats and dress up really nicely. On ANOTHER WORLD I was mean in a way because I tried to take away Audra Lindley's son (Bill) from Missy, Carol Roux, who played the really good orphan girl. But later on Lenore turned really good. She was in jail on Christmas Eve when her husband did a murder and she was blamed for it.
We Love Soaps: Are either one of your kids in the entertainment industry?
Judith Barcroft: Ian does acting sometimes but he's in the restaurant business. He's very handsome and a very good actor, but he has to support his family.
We Love Soaps: You were lucky to have these long-running soap roles. So many actors have to work other jobs in order to make a living. Once your kids were grown, did you ever consider doing another soap gig?
Judith Barcroft: I signed with an agent about 10 years ago and at the time I wanted to concentrate more on theater. And now I'm really enjoying doing some films. I really enjoyed We Pedal Uphill. I love the medium of film. When I first went to Northwestern and came to New York, I just wanted to be in theater. When I webt out to L.A., I didn't want to do any movies, because I just associated movies with Debbie Reynolds, but now film has gotten so interesting I would like to concentrate on that.
We Love Soaps: GUIDING LIGHT went off the air last year, ALL MY CHILDREN has now moved to Los Angeles and AS THE WORLD TURNS is going off the air this year. That only leaves ONE LIFE TO LIVE here in New York. What do you think about that in terms of actors who love to work in theater and worked on soaps as a way to earn money.
Judith Barcroft: I'm going to find a hole there. I'm really going to miss the soaps in New York. It's something I wouldn't mind doing again.
We Love Soaps: There are a lot of web soaps now, including GOTHAM from Martha Byrne, which shoots in New York. These shows are trying to figure out a business model, but there is a talented group of people out there trying to continue the medium just not on broadcast TV.
Judith Barcroft: That's a great idea. I'd love to do a part now that I'm in a different age range like Ruth Warrick or Audra Lindley. I find the soaps have very few older characters. They have lots of love stories but they don't go to their parents and grandparents to talk to. I think we all need older people to give us advice and be mentors to us in different ways. Or to act funny.
We Love Soaps: How has your life turned out differently than you imagined it would be?
Judith Barcroft: Well, I thought I would have about 13 children [laughs]. But I'm glad I only had two. I thought that you could do everything, be in the theater and television. Television was sort of a new thing for me and a real surprise. But to work everything out, to be a mother and stay married, and to raise children, and to do work, is very, very hard to do. Now that my children are grown, it's easier for me to concentrate on a film role because I don't have homework to do or have to get babysitters.
We Love Soaps: If you could go back to 1966 when you first started on ANOTHER WORLD as Lenore, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself?
Judith Barcroft: I noticed on RYAN'S HOPE I was overacting. I'd love to go back and take all that stuff away. It's like I'm doing a takeoff on Mae West or something. I think some of my acting was too theatrical and I would like to keep it simple. I was doing a Marsha Norman play in Chicago, "Traveler in the Dark," and I was working with an actor named Tom Bower, and he said, "Just surprise me, whatever you do." I really loved working like that - just really honestly. I should have learned to be simpler.