Catching Up With Kelley Menighan

Kelley Menighan admits she was very surprised to learn that she had been nominated for a Daytime Emmy as Lead Actress in a Digital Drama Series for the role of Veronica Ashford in TAINTED DREAMS. “I was completely sideswiped,” she says. “But I am so excited.”

Menighan, who is now living in the Midwest and taking a brief hiatus from acting, was unaware that the Emmy process was even underway until she heard the news from the show’s creator/executive producer, Sonia Blangiardo, who Menighan met when they both worked on AS THE WORLD TURNS. “Sonia called me and I didn’t see her call,” Menighan explains. “I played her message probably 10 minutes later and it totally made me cry. I’m just still in shock. I was like, ‘What! From when? What year did we do this?’ I’m thrilled.”

The series, which was filmed in 2013, marked an emotional time for Menighan, who was dealing with a very personal situation when she signed on to do it: her split from longtime husband Jon Hensley (ex-Holden, ATWT). “The two weeks that I spent doing it were absolute pivotal moments in life,” she shares. “The first day of shooting, I got a call that my friend’s mother had this massive stroke and was on life-support, and that was how it started. She was like a mother to me in high school. And with Jon and me … it was the ending of everything and coming to terms with all of that. It was such a life-changing two weeks for me.”

She was grateful for the support of her TAINTED DREAMS family. “In those two weeks, I was surrounded by people who I instantly loved,” she recalls. “Like Walt Willey [Gregory; ex-Jackson, ALL MY CHILDREN]; I felt like I knew him my whole life. And, of course, Sonia — I would do anything for her — and all these other people that I felt very safe with. They were so accommodating and let me film everything out of sequence. I was so emotional anyway because of what was happening in my life, but it was just this really great platform to be able to let it all out.”

Acting, however, isn’t currently on her radar — “I have not even remotely looked into it,” she affirms — instead, Menighan is working in a thriving family business of Art + Science salons in Illinois. “I made a clear choice when I moved back from L.A., and I said to my agent, ‘I’m going to take a hiatus. I’m going to figure out how I’m going to support my family and my children.’ Thank God, we’ve got this killer family business, which is just multiplying hand over fist. It’s so great; this place is exploding. It truly couldn’t have been a better-case scenario.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s given up on a return to performing someday soon. “With all of that being said, I just feel like there’s this whole other part of my life that I have to step into again,” she notes. “And maybe this nomination was a secret, little tap on the shoulder like, ‘Hello! This is something you love, and something you’re pretty decent at. Maybe you should go back and feed your soul.’ Because that’s truly what it does. I think all of us feel that.”

Getting the nod sent Menighan down a nostalgic road of days gone by in Oakdale. “It made me kind of melancholy, so I found my first clip [on ATWT] and I think the air date was July 4th of 1992, so I was 25,” she marvels. “I always go back to Don Hastings [ex-Bob] and Marie Masters [ex-Susan], and Elizabeth Hubbard [ex-Lucinda], and all the people who set such an example, not only as actors on how to behave and show up to set, but how to be a good, humble person from the get-go. I think that was so important to everybody on that show. I think that’s why everybody sort of turned out the way they did at AS THE WORLD TURNS. We had such great role models.”

Of her time on the soap, she says, “It meant so much to me. I met Jon, I had my children, I’m so connected with so many of my friends and people that I worked with, and it’s such a bond. We all just love each other so much. I haven’t seen Grayson McCouch [ex-Dusty et al] for 10 years. I miss him. I talk about [the late] Benjamin Hendrickson [ex-Hal] twice a year at least for an hour at a time. They were just treasured, magical years; nothing will ever replace that. The work, the friends, the craziness, all of it.”

Running into a familiar daytime face  — Jesse Lee Soffer (ex-Will), who stars in CHICAGO P.D. — recently served as a reminder that acting will always be a calling for her. “I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ He goes, ‘What are you doing here? I live here!’ I’m like, ‘I live here! Are you kidding me?’ Every time I see him, I think, ‘Ugh. Am I crazy? Should I be doing this? What am I doing?’ But you cannot do anything and do it well until you are 100 percent invested, and I’m not there yet. I need to be able to take that risk, and when I’m there and I’m able to do it, I’ll do it gangbusters. I’ve got to just get myself a little more settled with other things in my life.” She’s looking forward to dipping her toe back into it at the Emmy ceremony. “I can’t wait to reconnect,” she smiles. “I can’t wait to say, ‘I’m here, and if anybody’s interested, I’d love to do something.’ I don’t know what that means, though!”

On the home front, Menighan is super-close with her clan, and couldn’t be more thrilled to have them around. “I’m surrounded by my parents and my sisters. We all live blocks away from each other and are with each other all the time. It’s just special. I don’t know how I raised my kids for as long as I did without everybody here.” Hensley lives nearby, and Menighan  shares, “We are much happier single parents — I don’t like the word divorced — than we ever were together. We are just better. We’re friendly, we’re raising our children together and that’s the most important part.”
Looking back, she says it was crucial to her to keep their split under wraps for as long as they did. “The element of privacy was imperative,” she reflects. “I just didn’t want to have it be an issue with anybody; it was too personal. But, the upside is if anybody ever wants guidance on how to do it, they should call Jon and me, because I think we did it fairly well. I commend him, and I commend myself for that. Other than Martha [Byrne] and Michael [Park], Maura [West] and my closest friends I spoke to, nobody asked anything. Ever. Fans didn’t even, really. It’s sort of a testament to the kind of people we all worked with.”

With her personal life on a new path (see sidebar), and her professional goals in check, Menighan is looking forward to what the future will bring. “In general, I’m very, very blessed,” she notes. “I think I’ve gotten to a point in my life where you definitely look at the good and the bad that come in and out of your life and they’re all kind of the same, as strange as that is. They bring you to where you are, anyway, so I just feel like I’m in a state of evolution. I don’t take anything for granted, never did a day in my life. For now, it’s all good.”

New Beginnings

Menighan has a new man in her life named Stephen, who she has known since she was a teenager. “It’s kind of funny to say, but he’s my old high school boyfriend’s best friend,” she shares. “We ended up going to the same college together, SMU [Southern Methodist University] in Dallas, but I think I saw him once the entire four years I was there.” They reconnected when he invited her to a charity event. “It was just as a friend,” she explains. “He called me out of the blue and said, ‘It’d be a great place for you to meet tons of single people. We’ll have a blast.’ I met up with a bunch of my friends, saw him across the room and I was like, ‘I don’t remember him being so cute.’ I talked to him for five minutes and we stayed in touch. A friend of his asked me out that night. Bad date. Guy had four drinks on a Wednesday night. And then, finally, Stephen and I met for drinks and dinner, and I think we’ve been together every day since. It just happened. It was weird. He was just talking, and I was looking at him going, ‘Oh, my God. I’m done. I’m just done.’ He’s amazing. He’s just such a good person. He’s so good to me. He’s emotional and connected, loves to travel. He’s just fun.”

Just The Facts

Birthday: Menighan turned 50 on February 15. “It’s really complex. I felt totally empowered. I’m healthy, knock on wood. I’ve always kept myself physically strong, so that felt really good. I can still run without getting tired. That’s important to me. Fifty is not old … but I got my AARP card in the mail.”

Hails From: Glenview, IL

All My Children: Sophie May, 18; Spencer, 15; and Gigi, 9. “They’re all just thriving. They’re all really athletic, which makes life really great, college-wise, because they’ll all get great rides. I’m so proud of all of them. They’ve lived on both coasts, and I think they love the Midwest the most, and I think it’s because they’re surrounded by my family, which is an important part for all of them. We won the lottery when it comes to our kids.”

Oakdale Ties: Menighan is still close with her ATWT pals: “Michael Park [ex-Jack], Maura [West, Ava, GH; ex-Carly] from afar, Martha [Byrne, ex-Lily/Rose], of course. I’ll always be in touch with Martha.”

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