If I could pick one performer at As The World Turns who has made me believe everything they’ve ever been handed to play, that performer would be Colleen Zenk Pinter (Barbara).
Her Barbara Ryan has had perhaps the most complex journey of any of the long term ATWT characters.
A few years ago, I mistakenly described Barbara as an ingenue when she first became a front-burner character on ATWT – and was called out by readers and longtime viewers. Barbara may have been at the mercy of James Stenbeck, but she was never simply a one-dimensional heroine.
When I first started watching the show in 1985, Barbara had just undergone a subtle transformation into a bit of a bitch. That was thanks to Douglas Marland, who saw another side to Barbara. He paired her with Duncan, threw in a return visit from James (Hello, Barbara!) and then paired her with what I long believed to be her soulmate: Hal Munson.
Zenk Pinter has had chemistry with everyone, but the hot/cool combination between Benjamin Hendrickson and Zenk Pinter was something to watch. It’s why they got married so many times – and yes, we still cared!
I also loved Barbara’s pairing with John Dixon, for many of the same reasons – two complex, flawed citizens of Oakdale trying to make it work.
I think every long-term fan knows that the show made huge changes in its last decade of life. So many of them were either old characters with new faces (Dusty, Meg, Paul et al) or characters we knew acting…well, out of character. And Barbara certainly did a 180 from the perspective she’d had before.
But unlike so many other characters, I believed in Barbara II and believed in the changes, partly because of how they played on Barbara’s history, and mostly because of the bravura performances that Zenk Pinter gave.
A lesser actress would have allowed Barbara to become a one-dimensional bitch, but Zenk Pinter showed us Barbara’s scars and reminded us that monsters aren’t born – they’re made that way.
Despite the rollercoaster nature of her most recent storyline, I find it very poetic that Henry and Barbara are linked. It seemed so odd in the beginning – especially if you consider that Henry had just learned he was a Stenbeck – but it’s actually one of the few ATWT storylines that really have heart and hark back to the old soul of ATWT.
Henry and Barbara, two wounded scoundrels, might just find their redemption in each other. And that’s a testament to the immense talent that Colleen Zenk Pinter has brought to the show – the power to make us believe. No matter where she’s gone, I’ve willingly followed.