Helen Wagner

Actress


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In her two-hour Archive interview, actress Helen Wagner (1918-2010) describes breaking into acting on the New York stage and in experimental television. She talks about her appearance as a regular on the short-lived Charlie Ruggles sitcom The World of Mr. Sweeney.  She discusses 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 describes 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 talks 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 talks about her continued work on the series and how the show has evolved over the years. Karen Herman conducted the interview on October 6, 2004 in Mt. Kisco, NY.

"Irna Phillips wanted to show people as they were with 'As the World Turns.' In all our various forms: the good, the bad, and the indifferent. She felt that this was what was interesting about people. That was her goal, and that is why the show has worked for nearly fifty years."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Helen Wagner on advice to aspiring actresses
Helen Wagner on the sets, costumes, and hair of As the World Turns
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On her early life and influences; on deciding she wanted to be an actress and her early stage experience; on the first time she appeared on television: a 1946 experiment to test what colors worked for black and white
On appearing on various live television shows early in her career and her character type; on mishaps that happened on live television 
On appearing in Reynolds Wrap commercials on Mr. Peepers;  on appearing on Guiding Light as a tryout for As the World Turns;  on co-starring in the NBC 15-minute sitcom The World of Mr. Sweeney

Chapter 2

On co-starring in The World of Mr. Sweeney and not continuing when the series moved to Hollywood; on how she came to be cast on As the World Turns; on the development of her character "Nancy Hughes" on As the World Turns
On working with Don MacLaughlin as "Chris Hughes" on As the World Turns and on the difference between her and "Nancy Hughes"; on the beginning of As the World Turns and the standards and practices of the day; on working with As the World Turns creator Irna Phillips
On the pilot for As the World Turns; on the early cast of As the World Turns; on the death of Don MacLaughlin and how it impacted As the World Turns

Chapter 3

On working with the cast of As the World Turns; on As the World Turns producer Ted Corday; on the day-to-day production of the show in the '50s as opposed to the then-present
On the sets, costumes, and hair of As the World Turns; on the writers of As the World Turns and on dealing with sponsors and executives; on the topics covered by the show
On As the World Turns and the Kennedy assassination; on the more recent storylines of As the World Turns; on how her As the World Turns character "Nancy Hughes" changed over the years and on the fan mail she gets

Chapter 4

On being recognized by her fans; on her lack of Emmy nominations over the years and having the longest running character on television; on continuing to work and her acting style
On advice to aspiring actresses; on how television has changed since she started; on how As the World Turns changed during her tenure and why the show has been so successful; on her career highlights and regrets
Shows

As the World Turns

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Helen Wagner on how she came to be cast on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on the development of her character "Nancy Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on working with Don MacLaughlin as "Chris Hughes" on As the World Turns and on the difference between her and "Nancy Hughes"
Helen Wagner on the beginning of As the World Turns and the standards and practices of the day
Helen Wagner on working with As the World Turns creator Irna Phillips
Helen Wagner on the pilot for As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Ronnie Welch as "Bob Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Bob Hastings as "Chris Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Eileen Fulton as "Lisa Grimaldi" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Rosemary Prinz as "Penny Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Richard Holland as "Donald Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Santos Ortega as "Grandpa Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on the death of Don MacLaughlin and how it impacted As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on working with Don MacLaughlin as "Chris Hughes" on As the World Turns and on the difference between her and "Nancy Hughes"
Helen Wagner on Ruth Warrick as "Edie Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Patricia Bruder and Wendy Drew as "Ellen Lowell" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Mark Rydell as "Jeff Baker" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Henderson Forsythe as "David Stewart" and Marie Masters as "Susan Burke" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on the more recent cast members of As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on As the World Turns producer Ted Corday
Helen Wagner on the day-to-day production of As the World Turns in the '50s as opposed to the then-present
Helen Wagner on the sets, costumes, and hair of As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on the writers of As the World Turns and on dealing with sponsors and executives
Helen Wagner on the topics covered by As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on As the World Turns and the Kennedy assassination 
Helen Wagner on the more recent storylines of As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on how her As the World Turns character of "Nancy Hughes" changed over the years and on the fan mail she gets
Helen Wagner on how As the World Turns changed during her tenure and why the show has been so successful 

Guiding Light

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Helen Wagner on appearing on Guiding Light as a tryout for As the World Turns

Mister Peepers

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Helen Wagner on appearing in Reynolds Wrap commercials on Mr. Peepers

World of Mr. Sweeney, The

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Helen Wagner on co-starring in the NBC 15-minute sitcom The World of Mr. Sweeney
Helen Wagner on co-starring in The World of Mr. Sweeney and not continuing when the series moved to Hollywood
Topics

Advice

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Helen Wagner on advice to aspiring actresses

Bloopers

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Helen Wagner on mishaps that happened on live television 

Characters & Catchphrases

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Helen Wagner on the development of her character "Nancy Hughes" on As the World Turns

Historic Events and Social Change

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Helen Wagner on As the World Turns and the Kennedy assassination 

JFK Assassination and Funeral

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Helen Wagner on As the World Turns and the Kennedy assassination 

Pop Culture

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Helen Wagner on the development of her character "Nancy Hughes" on As the World Turns

Technological Innovation

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Helen Wagner on the first time she appeared on television: a 1946 experiment to test what colors worked for black and white

Television Industry

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Helen Wagner on advice to aspiring actresses
Helen Wagner on how television has changed since she started
Professions

Actress

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Helen Wagner on her advice to aspiring actresses
Helen Wagner on her advice to aspiring actresses

Performers

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Helen Wagner on her advice to aspiring actresses
Helen Wagner on her advice to aspiring actresses
Genres

Comedy Series

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Helen Wagner on co-starring in the NBC 15-minute sitcom The World of Mr. Sweeney
Helen Wagner on co-starring in The World of Mr. Sweeney and not continuing when the series moved to Hollywood

Commercials

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Helen Wagner on appearing in Reynolds Wrap commercials on Mr. Peepers

Daytime/Primetime Serials

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Helen Wagner on appearing on Guiding Light  as a tryout for As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on playing "Nancy Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on playing "Nancy Hughes" on As the World Turns (Pt. 2)
Helen Wagner on how As the World Turns  changed during her tenure and why the show has been so successful 
People

Patricia Bruder

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Helen Wagner on Patricia Bruder and Wendy Drew as "Ellen Lowell" on As the World Turns

Ted Corday

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Helen Wagner on As the World Turns producer Ted Corday

Henderson Forsythe

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Helen Wagner on Henderson Forsythe as "David Stewart" and Marie Masters as "Susan Burke" on As the World Turns

Eileen Fulton

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Helen Wagner on Eileen Fulton as "Lisa Grimaldi" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Eileen Fulton as "Lisa Grimaldi" on As the World Turns

Don Hastings

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Helen Wagner on Don Hastings as "Bob Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Don Hastings as "Bob Hughes" on As the World Turns

Richard Holland

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Helen Wagner on Richard Holland as "Donald Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Richard Holland as "Donald Hughes" on As the World Turns

Don MacLaughlin

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Helen Wagner on the death of Don MacLaughlin and how it impacted As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on working with Don MacLaughlin as "Chris Hughes" on As the World Turns and on the difference between her and "Nancy Hughes"
Helen Wagner on the death of Don MacLaughlin and how it impacted As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on working with Don MacLaughlin as "Chris Hughes" on As the World Turns and on the difference between her and "Nancy Hughes"

Santos Ortega

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Helen Wagner on Santos Ortega as "Grandpa Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Santos Ortega as "Grandpa Hughes" on As the World Turns

Irna Phillips

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Helen Wagner on working with As the World Turns creator Irna Phillips
Helen Wagner on working with As the World Turns creator Irna Phillips

Rosemary Prinz

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Helen Wagner on Rosemary Prinz as "Penny Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Rosemary Prinz as "Penny Hughes" on As the World Turns

Mark Rydell

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Helen Wagner on Mark Rydell as "Jeff Baker" on As the World Turns

Ruth Warrick

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Helen Wagner on Ruth Warrick as "Edie Hughes" on As the World Turns

Ronnie Welsh

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Helen Wagner on Ronnie Welch as "Bob Hughes" on As the World Turns
Helen Wagner on Ronnie Welch as "Bob Hughes" on As the World Turns

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