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One Life to Live’s Ellen Holly Talks Her Groundbreaking Role And Struggles As Carla Gray


In a sit-down video interview with the Television Academy Foundation, Ellen Holly best-known for her iconic and groundbreaking role on One Life to Live as “Carla Gray” talks about being the first African-American actress with a continuing major role on a soap opera and the turmoil behind it.

Throughout the over four and half hour’s of interview conducted with Holly, the actress chronicles her struggles with One Life’s creator Agnes Nixon, and various producers to be paid fairly, while also asking for good and dramatic storylines.

Photo: ABC

Holly recalls leaving One Life to Live in 1980, and returning in 1983, only to be fired by then-producer Paul Rauch at the end of her contract.  She discusses what she feels was poor treatment by the network and several producers of One Life to Live, and what she learned from that experience.

There are lots of stories, and behind the scenes moments through the viewpoint of Ellen, as well as how important it was at the time to be cast is such a key role in 1968.

From advice for actors, the civil rights movement, diversity in television, events and behind the scenes stories with her co-stars and producer at One Life, pivotal career moments and more, all of it was covered with the TV Academy Foundation

Now below check out a six segments relating to Holly’s experience and time on OLTL.  Let us know what you thought about what she had to say via the comment section.

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Always loved Ellen Holly and Carla! (From the narrative and having read her book, I presume her dressing room was given away to Jacquie Courtney and her co-star of less sexual wattage than Peter De Anda and Robert Milli was Herb Davis.) However, she misrepresents the span of time Lillian Hayman was on “One Life.” Lillian left about 1970 (replaced by Hilda Haynes and Esther Rolle) and didn’t return to the show full-time until 1977 (the show was 45 minutes at this point; original cast member Doris Belack had been fired and replaced a few weeks prior). Sadie did, however, return to the show briefly for Carla’s wedding to Ed Hall (circa 1973). When Sadie returned full-time, the writers had created a backstory whereby Sadie once worked for Will and Naomi Vernon as their nanny/housekeeper before becoming housekeeping supervisor at Llanview Hospital (Holly erroneously reports in her book that Sadie worked for the Siegels, the last of which had left months before the introduction of the Vernons in 1976.)

Holly is correct, however, in the show’s re-positioning of Carla beginning in the 1970s. She became a supporting character, whereas she was a leading lady during her first couple of years or so. She had some high notes in her following decade on the show — Carla and Ed taking in young street smart Joshua West and her second marriage (to Dr. Jack Scott, played by an actor whom she despised). However, Holly and her audience deserved better — the actress was an asset and drawing card, and evocative of the show’s glorious early years.

Rickie, thanks so much for providing such detail and filling in the blanks. I, too, watched OLTL during that time, but my memory of that show is not as vivid.

What I do remember, however, is the mesmerizing allure of Ellen Holly as Carla Gray. A great actress in a groundbreaking storyline — for any medium!

I must thank Michael Fairman for this illuminating feature, including snippets of this riveting interview. For me, it’s so enjoyable when the early days of soaps are honored — and deservedly so!

There doesn’t seem to be any love lost between Holly and Erika Slezak, who she refers to as “the third Viki”

Lol @ the third Viki. Yikes! That hurt MY feelings…

I started watching OLTL as kid in the late 70s, so I missed the initial groundbreaking Carla Benari/Grey storyline, but I fondly remember Miss Holly during the Ed Hall era. It really is heartbreaking how she and Miss Hayman were relegated to bit players when they were clearly and integral factor in the shows success.

And speaking of the third Viki, I would imagine that the overwhelming majority of the remaining OLTL fans could never fathom anyone in the role of Victoria Lord Riley Burke Riley Buchanan Buchanan Carpenter Davidson Banks/Niki Smith/Jean Randolph/Torrie/Tommy/Princess/Victor Lord, other than the incomparable Erika Slezak. I have heard many times that her work doesn’t even come close to what Gillian Spencer gave to the role (albiet as an only twice married Viki with only one alter). I have never seen any of those scenes, and have only seen two or three stills of her in the role. I believe all the original video from the first few years of the show was rerecorded over or destroyed. Tragic! What I would give to see just a few of those original episodes featuring Miss Holly, Miss Hayman and Miss Spencer, who I grew up watching portray another iconic soap character on another iconic Agnes Nixon soap..;)

LOL. I was thinking the same thing. In her book, she raves about Gillian Spencer (the original Victoria Lord) and mentions that Joanne Dorian (her replacement) was a good actress who was physically a Xerox copy of Ms. Spencer (the actresses only vaguely looked similar, as I recall). Re: Erika Slezak — I was impressed she had so much chemistry with Lee Patterson (Joe Riley) when he returned to the show (Slezak was cast with Bernard Grant as her love interest; she hadn’t worked with Patterson during his first run). However, Slezak wasn’t a major draw for me personally. Ellen Holly, Lynn Benish (Meredith), Dorrie Kavanaugh (Cathy), Lee Warrick (Julie) and Nancy Pinkerton (the fabulous original Dorian Cramer) were more of a draw for me through the early 1970s.

In going back over the history of the the show, ES didn’t seem to be much of a stand out until they brought back Niki Smith. Prior to that, I believe both Judith Light and Robin Strasser had won Emmys before Slezak won her first. Viki could be quite dull and one note. They really milked the DID storyline to the point of ridicule. As a kid, I remembered it being poignant and heartbreaking to see Viki succumb to Niki Smith. After a while, it just looked like the writers drug out Niki whenever they didn’t know what to do with Viki, or they just wanted cheap comic relief.

Yes–soaps historical OVERDO a once-good thing. 🙁

When I watch Ellen Holly, I feel as though I am witnessing a remake of Captain Queeg’s Court Martial in The Caine Mutiny. Whew… creepy.

I watched all of this interview. I have her book as well. She dropped quite a bit of info from her years on the show and beyond. Well worth viewing. She is quite knowledgeable of the business and how the game is played. It IS a shame how she and others were treated by those in power at ABC. She deserved better.

I have always loved Ellen Holly. She is a beautiful and talented actress. She still is. I am sorry TPTB treated her so badly. Thank you Michael Fairman for sharing these videos.

Ellen Holly’s the reason I began watching OLTL beginning at age five with my big brother and two aunts. I never understood why she suddenly disappeared until reading her book years later. you Ms. Holly

So sorry–evil lurks everywhere.

I was only 5 years old when OLTL debuted and I watched with my mom and my great aunt. I loved Ellen Holly. Funny that even at my you g age, I never saw Ellen as a supporting or secondary role. She was always a a main star of OLTL in my eyes. Her words in this interview are a much needed cautionary tale for everyone who is new act acting.

I was just a young mother, years ago when watching the most romantic relationship between Carla and Ed. I also loved watching Ms. Holly many years ago in The Heat of The Night with Carroll O’Connor. What a two for one treat that was.

When was she on In The Heat Of The Night with Caroll O’Connor? If you are thinking of the actress he married on there, that was Denise Nicholas of Room 222 fame, Blacula, and other shows and movies.

She played Ruth Peterson from 1989 to 1990. You can Google it, if you like.

Gotcha. But Denise Nicholas has been misidentified often as other actresses. I didnt know Ellen Holly was ever on there..but I only watched it about half the time

All My Children

EXCLUSIVE: Jacob Young, Joan Collins and Nadia Bjorlin to Prague to Film ‘Murder Between Friends’

On Thursday night during the Michael Fairman Channel’s livestream interview centering around Jason Cook’s (ex-Shawn, DAYS and ex-Matt, GH) latest movie Four For Fun which stars Brytni Sarpy (Elena, Y&R) and Jacob Young (ex-JR, AMC, ex-Rick, B&B and ex-Lucky, GH), revealed another upcoming film project with some very familiar faces.

Jacob Young shared an exclusive that he is set to direct, produce and star in a Agatha Christie-like murder mystery feature film aptly tiled Murder Between Friends.

Speaking on the upcoming project, Jacob said, “I’m flying at the end of the March to Prague to direct, produce and star in a film with Joan Collins (ex-Dynasty). Nadia Bjorlin (ex-Chloe, Days of our Lives) is in it, and Toby Alexander Smith from Eastenders (ex-Gray Atkins). Plus, a couple of my Broadway friends and a very well known Czech actress (Hana Vagnerova).”

Photo: BBC

According to Jacob, the production start date is April 1st. He added on the premise of the film, “It’s very Agatha Christie sort of ‘Knives Out’ without having a hundred million dollars to shoot it, but still will be a lovely film nonetheless.” Young said the plan is to finish all principal photography by April 17th.

Photo: JPI

IMDb has more on the film. It shared that former All My Children star Trent Garrett (ex-Asher Pike) is listed as co-directing the feature. Mark Rozzano is listed as writer of Murder Between Friends.

So, what do you think about this upcoming feature from Jacob that will feature Joan Collins, Nadia Bjorlin et al? Share your thoughts in the comment section. 

Then below, check out the full livestream conversation with Jason Cook, Brytni Sarpy and Jacob Young on ‘Four For Fun’ and their notable soap roles.

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Breaking News

The Young and the Restless Renewed for Four More Years at CBS

Congratulations are in order to the cast, crew, creatives and fans of CBS’ The Young and the Restless. On Wednesday, the top-rated daytime drama was renewed by the network for four more years.

The renewal will bring Y&R through the 2027-2028 television season, and brings the series through its 55th season. The Young and the Restless has continued to remain the #1 daytime drama for over 36 years and is CBS’ longest-running series.

In a statement, Amy Reisenbach, president of CBS Entertainment shared, “The Young and the Restless has been a staple of daytime television for over 50 years, and it is with great pleasure that we will continue that legacy at CBS,The talented cast and writers deliver compelling performances and stories on a daily basis and have provided iconic moments that have kept the show on top of the ratings and thrilled generations of fans for over five decades. We look forward to seeing what new creative twists and turns they have planned for the folks of Genoa City.”

Photo: JPI

According to CBS, Y&R is averaging 3.50 million viewers this season. The series is also the #1 daytime program among African American viewers. Full episodes of the series are streaming on Paramount+ and CBS TVE.  The soap opera airs weekdays at 12:30-1:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m.-12:30 p..m. PT.

Y&R notables are also celebrating anniversaries in 2024 including series icons: Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman) for 45 years this month, and Eric Braeden (Victor Newman) for 44 years. In April, the show will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Nikki and Victor’s wedding, which aired in April 1984 and was one of the highest-rated episodes in the history of the show.

Photo: JPI

Other notable cast anniversaries in 2024 include: Peter Bergman (Jack Abbott) at 35 years and Joshua Morrow (Nicholas Newman), Sharon Case (Sharon Newman) and Michelle Stafford (Phyllis Summers) all at 30 years.

Photo: JPI

The Young and the Restless debuted on March 23, 1973 and the show celebrated its 50th anniversary season in 2023. Y&R was co-created by the late William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell. At present, Josh Griffith currently serves as the series executive producer and head writer.

Share your thoughts on the news that Y&R had been given a four-year renewal by CBS and will continue on with the lives of the people you love in Genoa City through its 55th season via the comment section below.

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Kimberlin Brown ‘Killed-Off’ as Sheila Carter on The Bold and the Beautiful in Shocking Twist

The Monday, February 26th episode of CBS daytime’s The Bold and the Beautiful brought with it the apparent end to one of the all-time villains of soap opera.

In story, Steffy Forrester (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) was being stalked by Sheila (Kimberlin Brown) in the dark. Eventually, Steffy stabs Sheila in the heart with a knife and she apparently dies.

Speaking with TV Insider, Brown admitted that it is extremely hard to leave a now iconic role she made soap-famous since 1990 on first The Young and the Restless and then The Bold and the Beautiful.

Photo: JPI

Kimberlin expressed: “It’s a tough place for me to be in right now; I’m not going to lie about this. I guess if anyone were going to take Sheila down, I’m happy it’s Steffy. I just wish that no one was taking Sheila down.”  Three time Daytime Emmy-winner, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood expressed: “It’s bittersweet because I absolutely love working with Kimberlin; she is just the consummate professional.”


However, the stabbing is vindication for Steffy as Wood related, “This is her moment. How long has it taken Steffy to take her down and it’s finally happening, so it’s going to be a big shock.”

As to her B&B death scene and to her future plans, Brown revealed, “Laying there on that floor when the paramedics pronounce the time of death, my eyes were closed and you’re holding your breath so it doesn’t look like you’re breathing. It was just like, ‘Wow, OK, I guess we’ll have to see what might come next for me.’”


If this holds up and Sheila is “dead” dead, it will open up the story and trouble in the marriage of Finn (Tanner Novlan) and Steffy, because ultimately, Steffy killed her husband’s biological mother.

Photo: JPI

This is leading many to believe this move will bring Steffy back together with Liam (Scott Clifton) while Finn and Hope (Annika Noelle) draw closer. Is that part of the reason for Sheila’s death? Stay tuned.

What do you think about The Bold and the Beautiful killing-off Sheila Carter and Steffy to be the one who put an end to her life? Comment below.

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Peter Reckell returns for a second visit with Michael Fairman following the wrap-up of his recent run as Bo Brady on Days of our Lives.Leave A Comment

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Days of our Lives

Airdate: 7-24- 2023