WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You portrayed Kim for 38 years. Over that time there were some different writers who came in and took core characters in wildly different directions. But there were many things about Kim that remained solid and consistent. Her temperament, her vocabulary. Whenever Kim called someone “Kiddo,” the world was a better place
Kathryn Hays: [Laughs] I got a note from someone recently thanking me for my work. He said the word “Kiddo,” “Toots,” and “Pal,” would be part of his vocabulary the rest of his life. Those were the things that would come out of me. They were absolutely my words.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How often were those words were scripted?
Kathryn Hays: After awhile they put the words in. I didn’t always use them. Those were words that happened naturally, not just because they felt they should happen. When they happened it was so right. I did appreciate that there was an attitude at the show that those were my words. I don’t think a lot of people used the words on the show. I know a couple of people tried, and I heard they were given the notes, “Don’t use that.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: In the 1970s you were part of a very controversial storyline that had not been done on daytime before. John Dixon raped Kim, who was his legal wife.
Kathryn Hays: I didn’t even realize that was controversial. But it was.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Other shows such as GUIDING LIGHT and DAYS OF OUR LIVES would later go on to do socially relevant stories about marital rape. But with AS THE WORLD TURNS, was it made into a social issue?
Kathryn Hays: It was not. Or if it was, I was not aware of it. But it definitely was an issue.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What was it like to film that?
Kathryn Hays: It wasn’t as graphic in those days. It didn’t register with me how important this story was. I thought that relationship certainly served us well throughout the years. It was such a love-hate relationship. That only happened because of what we made out of it. It was so much about how Larry [Bryggman] would approach the scene. Because they would write some brutal things for him. He would then take them and pull it around in such a way that it would be so poignant, so that the reaction could only be one of compassion. That became the way we would function. At the end of one of these scenes, he said to Kim, “If you would be nicer to me, I will be nicer to you.” That was in a scene that was written as nasty. Instead of being nasty and brutal, he would temper it. He said that to me in a way that broke my heart. That is what made it interesting. In his terrible clumsy way he really loved Kim. He just wasn’t good at being loving. That’s what Larry did. He twisted it around and made it so interesting, as opposed to being horrible to her and having this open warfare all the time. They just wrestled through their experience together loving and hating one another.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Did you at the time get any letters or feedback from viewers who had been in a similar marital situation?
Kathryn Hays: I don’t recall that I did. In those years, because we were live, and because we worked every day, all I did was the show. Of course I had my daughter at home. So by the time I could devote any time to her, there just wasn’t anything else to think about. It was all I could do. Those were the years I would collapse on the weekend. It was very emotional all the time.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: During the years you worked with a number of writers, executive producers, so many people coming in and out, trying to make their mark on the show, some for better...
Kathryn Hays: And some not for better [laughs].
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Right. How did you deal with so many changes?
Kathryn Hays: I took care of Kim. I fought. If I needed to, I fought.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What did it mean to have to fight for Kim?
Kathryn Hays: I would just walk in and say, "This is ridiculous! I can’t do this! This is not who she is!" I would say that when I saw something, and in my heart knew that was not her. It was not her essence. The fact of the matter is, when you play a character for a long time on a show, the unwritten rule is that you are the only continuity there is. People come in and out writing and producing, it is a revolving door. You are the continuity, and you take responsibility for that.
They have the responsibility of the storyline. I have never had a sense of what a storyline should be, I have never felt that that was my responsibility. Kim was my responsibility. I knew who she was, and if she was threatened, I intended to let somebody know that it needed to be thought about. And ask how can we work that out so it would work within their storyline but she could maintain who she was. If I had an objection I would voice it very clearly to the executive producer. I would also come with a way to fix it. I never said, “Fix it.” I came with, “This is how we can do it.” I thought it through for Kim in relation to their storyline.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Can you share an example of when you’ve had to do this?
Kathryn Hays: There is one recently, but I’m not sure it’s good politics to talk about it. It was extremely disturbing because we were working toward the end of the whole show. I spent all these years with Kim and thought, "I’m not going to blow this character now". I found that Chris [Goutman] had already found this and flagged this particular area. There were two totally different sets of scenes within one week that I found myself asking, "How in God’s name would I possibly be able to do this?" It was too much to see that happen toward the end of our run.
I had easily found a way of approaching the first example, and they cut much of the scene anyway because it was too long. But Chris brought up the other one. I told him I had seen it too but hadn’t had a chance to bring it up. We were working every day by that point and the hours were amazing. I went to the director, spoke to her, she said she realized that both actors in the scene would find it difficult. The other actor was unhappy as well. She said, "I’m so grateful, I had no idea what to do." She was unhappy as well. I was given permission to deal with it, and we did. I think the writers probably got exactly what they wanted, but also both actors and the directors felt that it was within realm of who are characters were.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That's wonderful to hear how hard you defended Kim right up to the end. It helps explain how Kim remained a stable presence that was very comforting for the viewers.
Kathryn Hays: I’m so glad that’s how people feel. It makes you feel that what you have done was worth it.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Press here for the final part of our interview during which Kathryn Hays shares memories of Helen Wagner, and coping with the loss of Kim Hughes and AS THE WORLD TURNS.
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist now accepting new clients in New York City. He is also the author of the popular book "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To learn more about how to lead an easier and stress-free life that you deserve without "shoulds," visit Damon's official website at Shouldless.com.