Colleen Zenk Pinter (CBS)

This year will mark Colleen Zenk Pinter’s 30th year on As the World Turns. It’s hard to believe she’s been causing trouble in Oakdale for that many years as Barbara Ryan, but at the same time, it’s hard to image the place without her. The actress recently received an Emmy pre-nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress and is currently involved in a storyline that is her most personal to date. With so much going on with Colleen, we felt it was the perfect time to catch up with her.

After I congratulated her on the pre-nom, Colleen downplayed it by stating it was too soon for congrats, but added, “I’ll take it anyway!” Noting that the material she’s been given to play this year is stronger that what she had in 2007, she told me she was grateful for ATWT producer, Vivian Gundaker’s input on selecting scenes to submit for Emmy consideration. “I just said, ‘Ok you tell me’ and she gave me a list of shows to look at and I made my choice from there,” she recalled.

Once she reviewed her options, Zenk Pinter settled on scenes where Barbara was exposed for her role in the baby adoption debacle. As she explained, “There’s a real nice little through line to it. There’s comedy; it’s very sad; it’s, you know, you feel for Barbara and yet, you know she’s blown it again. So, they’re nice scenes; they’re fun.”

But that was last year. This year Colleen is using her personal life to help tell the next chapter in Barbara’s story. After successfully battling oral cancer herself, the actress and the producers wanted to incorporate her struggle into her onscreen persona’s life. While she wishes she had a little more air time, she is quite pleased with how they are handling Barbara’s battle thus far.

Since she has a first hand account of what it’s like to live with oral cancer, Colleen was able to add some input into how the storyline would be written. “It’s one of those rare, rare, rare occasions where because, yes I experienced this in real life and have a lot more expertise on the subject matter than the writers ever could, that when we first started talking about it, well before the strike, I sat down with them and told them point by point my entire story, you know down to the smallest, minute little detail.”

Colleen was quick to point out that while they are basing the story on her experience, the writers altered her account for dramatic affect. “What we talked about was telling it in a different way than what I experienced, because even though it was very dramatic to me, when I was going through it, it would not be dramatic as a story, as a way to tell a story to the viewing public,” she explained. For example, in Oakdale, Barbara waited to tell her family she had cancer, which has added to her torment. In real life, Colleen immediately turned to her family for support and mapped out a plan to fight her disease.