WE LOVE SOAPS TV: One of the things daytime soaps have traditionally been able to do is offer comfort and stability in a world that is changing and unpredictable.
Kathryn Hays: That is what they did. It’s hard to let it go. It suddenly dawned on me that by September 17th I was one month into my 39th year on the show. [Pause] We had a cast party at a restaurant before the last week of shooting. Just the actors, the crew, a close family party. Almost without exception, people talked about their gratitude for the job, and how they loved this job. They talked about how much of a family we were, and what it meant to work together for so many years. Then we talked about the process of the show. You might have worked that day and added some bit to what was shot that day, or what was put together. In some way you felt you added a little bit to the show and you went home feeling like a million bucks. No one goes to work envisioning doing a bad job. It was with such genuine joy in whatever we were doing. Everyone gave their very best.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I would like to talk with you about Helen Wagner.
Kathryn Hays: Oh bless. She was a pistol. And remained that to the end. I saw her a couple days before she passed on and she was still herself. She knew how she wanted to be. She was definitely an original. She loved her job, loved her position, and loved her character. Even at the end, when she was in the hospital, she knew she had a call to appear on the show the following week. She asked the doctor if they could get her well enough to be there for her call.
She was strong. She was edgy. In terms of my relationship with her, I did spend a lot of time with Helen and her husband, Bob [Willey]. We had some really funny experiences. What was great about her, in terms of the two of us talking to each other, is that sometimes I would kid her about being edgy, and we would laugh about it. I was able to speak with her at one point about the fact that the kids on the show would try to help her when she would come into the studio. She would respond, “No, I can do it myself!” I had seen that a couple of times. I went to her and said, ‘You know, when people reach out to you, and you refuse to let them help you, you cut yourself off from their friendship. They are reaching out in love. When you refuse it, that is hurtful.” We talked about that. She didn’t seem to get mad at me. She thought about it, realized that it was true, and she did get to the point where she could accept help graciously. You could get through to her, and she did have a sense of humor about the things she would do. But she had her ways, and that’s how it went.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What do you think the impact AS THE WORLD TURNS’s cancellation had on her?
Kathryn Hays: She was weary in the last few years. But she was an actor. It’s like the bell rings, and you still run. As long as she was around she wanted to be there. But she was weary [Pause]. More than that, I don’t really know.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What about the impact it has had on you?
Kathryn Hays: I have heard Terri Colombino articulate some of what I have gone through. [Pause] I’m not even sure I can say it. It was the moment I realized that Kim wouldn’t be there anymore [tearful]. It was such a shock to me. It was just a shock to me. I recognize different things Terri is doing to deal with that . I would assume that a lot of us are dealing with that.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It is a death. How do you cope with loss?
Kathryn Hays: I know these things are qualities. Nothing really ends. I mean, the show ends. And the character doesn’t go on. But you know you’ve shared things with people. You know you’ve done the best you can do. You know it’s been fabulous. Those qualities that were expressed are still there, and you’ll find another way of expressing them. There are always ways to be active. There are always qualities you can express. If acting is closed to you, then there are other ways. There’s helping people, there are just a million ways of being creative. Even if you’re an accountant, there are always ways to express your talents and share them. That is how I deal with it.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you feel the spiritual work you mentioned earlier, and the way you found your center, has helped you through this process?
Kathryn Hays: It is the way I got through. Absolutely. I’m not saying it doesn’t pull at my heart. I’m not saying that I don’t have these moments, which you just witnessed. I may have difficulty even talking about it because it opens up a very recent challenge. But the fact is, I’m able and grateful to have the ability to go on and be useful, and to be happy. I actually have free time now to not be legislated into a certain schedule. I can go on and see my grandchildren and do some things I hadn’t had the time, the freedom, or the energy to do before. I can travel around now to see my grandchildren. I can give attention to people now in my own family, and I have such joy from watching them. I have peace.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: There is a Buddhist proverb that I frequently use in my own therapy practice. It says, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”
Kathryn Hays: That is so exactly right.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: It’s basically saying that loving others means we will have pain at times. But the suffering comes from our thoughts about the pain. That is what leads to bitterness and anger.
Kathryn Hays: And that doesn’t help anybody.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I have learned from many actors who had been on GUIDING LIGHT how the ending of the show truly propelled them in new creative directions they would not have tried otherwise.
Kathryn Hays: That is absolutely the case. I have done some things that I have always wanted to do. I am finding ways to work with the arts in my community. You just have to open your thoughts to it. I’m not sure my work life is even what I'm thinking about right now. You just think about being. You just think about who you are and what that means.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What might you say to a co-worker or a viewer of AS THE WORLD TURNS who is not at peace, and still suffering with the loss?
Kathryn Hays: You can reach out and love them. You can be mentally supportive them. And people feel that. You don’t have to talk about it. Sometimes just providing a little love and a sense of your own peace can be helpful.
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.