On the Anniversary of His Death 34 Years Ago, We Remember a Daytime Actor Who Brought Heart and Humor to Every Role
When Marfan syndrome caused the dwarf to suddenly grow in late 1987, he suffered a fatal attack shortly after ringing in the new year.
It’s been 34 years since one of our favorite soap actors of the ’80s was taken from us. Brent Collins may not be a household name, but for those who watched As The World Turns and Another World back in the decade that gave us sequins and shoulder pads in spades, we can guarantee his characters were unforgettable.
A longtime Off-Broadway theater performer, Collins actually began his professional life as an English professor and book editor. He was even a playwright, penning and performing his own production, Lautrec, about the famed French artist. He did just fine when he made the jump over to television, scoring guest roles on shows like The Golden Girls, but it was in daytime that he found stardom. And that all began with a lengthy guest stint on As The World Turns as Bernard Ignatius Grayson.
Not familiar? Maybe you’ll remember him as the more nefarious moniker he preferred to go by: Mr. Big.
Collins dug his teeth into every scene, clearly relishing the over-the-top-villain, and if you were a fan of Tom (Justin Deas) and Margo (Margaret Colin) in the ‘80s, then you know exactly who Mr. Big was. The drug lord loomed large in their life, as they tracked him and his connection to James Stenbeck (Anthony Herrera) from Oakdale to France to Zanzibar and back again.
In fact, it’s safe to say the future Hugheses might never have fallen in love if he hadn’t kidnapped them in his French castle, terrorized them on his boat in Africa and presided over their first “wedding,” as the two stalled for time before his henchmen killed them.
“I now pronounce you man and wife,” Mr. Big proudly declared (in the clip below). “Harry, put them to death.”
But all good things must come to the end, and Mr. Big’s reign of misadventure ended with him getting snagged in a fishing net on a boat in an African river.
As these things tend to happen.
As much fun as Mr. Big was to play, though, it couldn’t quite compare to his next role: friend, confidant and comedic foil to Linda Dano’s Felicia Gallant on Another World, Wallingford. Of course, to Felicia and Cass (Stephen Schnetzer), he would always be Wally.
For the actors and viewers, this unexpected and unplanned team-up was pure magic. Originally supposed to only appear on Another World for four weeks, instead Collins stayed for almost four years. In fact, he was so popular that when the show tried to kill him off, there was such fan outcry that the powers that be brought him back from the dead!
Felicia’s early years on Another World wouldn’t have been the same without her friend by her side to make her laugh, lend her a sympathetic ear and let her know whenever she needed to reign it in.
Collins was much-loved, and when he passed at just 46 years old, much-missed. Another World gave him a touching memorial on the show (which you can check out below), while Dano herself travelled back to his home in Plainville for the funeral. Several days later, the church in New York City was packed with mourners for his memorial service.
Years later, when Felicia and Cass opened a bookstore together, they named it Wallingford’s after their lost friend. Another World never forgot the sheer joy that Collins brought to the world, and neither have we. While you’re here and feeling nostalgic, perhaps take a stroll down memory lane by reviewing the below photo gallery of Another World through the years.
Video: YouTube/As the World Turns, Another World