It was a past connection with Y&R’s executive producer and head writer, Josh Griffith, that brought Colleen Zenk (ex-Barbara, AS THE WORLD TURNS) back to daytime to play Claire’s great aunt, Jordan. “Josh wrote off and on for WORLD TURNS, so I felt the offer would not have been made to me if he didn’t trust that I could bring to the role what he wanted,” explains the actress. “I got an email from Josh in early August that said, ‘I have something, give me a call.’ I called him 15 minutes later and he said, ‘That was fast,’ and I said, ‘Well, let’s talk.’ After he told me [about his vision for Jordan], I said, ‘Okay, tell me when I start.’ I’m not exaggerating. That’s really what happened. The funny thing [is that] when he was on WORLD TURNS, he and I never had a conversation. I was very friendly with most of the writers on the show but I’ve never had a [face-to-face] conversation with Josh until I walked into his office the day I got here.”
As viewers now know, Jordan has a score to settle with the Newmans — and is using her niece to do so. “Josh was around during the evil Barbara days so he knew what I was capable of,” Zenk chuckles. “Jordan is pretty intense. I’ve been playing her for five-and-a-half weeks, so I’ve been finding my way along with her and getting back into a rhythm of working in daytime. I think the writers have done such a terrific job in just developing her psyche. I’ve played bad characters in a lot of different theater things as well, so I know how to navigate and make sure that such a character doesn’t come off like a cartoon villain.”
Zenk is impressed by the friendliness of the Y&R cast and crew. “This company has just opened their arms to me and brought me into the fold; I did not know if that would happen or not because I’m a New York actor,” she notes. “I’ve never worked out here before and the way that they have treated me has just been so lovely. In all these years of working in soaps, I’ve never had a conversation with Melody [Thomas Scott, Nikki] but it’s just been fabulous working with her and Eric [Braeden, Victor]. And Hayley [Erin, Claire] has really been fun.”
Crossing Jordan: Zenk with on-screen kin Hayley Erin (Claire).
Since the daytime world is a tight-knit community, Zenk has run into many familiar faces on Y&R. “I’ve known Christian [J. LeBlanc, Michael; ex-Kirk, ATWT] since he was out of college,” she recounts. “Sharon Case [Sharon] was on WORLD TURNS for a short while [as Debbie]. I’ve known Judith Chapman [Gloria] and Michelle Stafford [Phyllis] off and on for many years. Vivian Gundaker, one of my very favorite producers from WORLD TURNS, who I’ve known for 29 years, is here now and it’s just fabulous to work with her again. And half the writers here, including Josh, have written for WORLD TURNS.”
Zenk now resides in Naples, FL, but her Genoa City duties have kept her busy in Los Angeles. “I have a daughter here in L.A. and I haven’t been back to Florida since the day I started working on the show, but I will be there for Christmas,” she smiles. “Y&R has bent over backwards to accommodate me so it’s just been great. I also have my dog, a Maltese and Shih Tzu, my little Boo with me. On WORLD TURNS, when Kim Hughes used to get angry with Barbara, she would say, ‘Oh, boo,’ so that’s why I named my dog Boo.”
Zenk is still in touch with many of her former ATWT co-stars. “Trent [Dawson, ex-Henry] called me this morning and Martha [Byrne, ex-Lily] called me last night,” she notes. “I talk to Kelley [Menighan, ex-Emily] and Maura [West, ex-Carly; now Ava, GH], but I haven’t been able to tell Maura why I’m really here! Now, I can. She knew I was coming out to see my daughter and now I can finally see her.”
How long Jordan will be in Genoa City is still a wait-and-see situation, but the actress is having a blast appearing on a show she is a fan of. “When WORLD TURNS went off the air [in 2010], I started watching Y&R faithfully, so it’s fun being here,” Zenk marvels. “CBS has just been so great to me and that just means a lot.” The only downside to this new chapter is getting familiar with the lay of the land at the Y&R studio. Zenk laughs, “I can’t find my way around here [in CBS Television City]. I know where the elevators are and that’s it!”