From Soaps to Serving God
Former `All My Children' star
now a youth minister in Cornelius
The new director of children's ministries at Lake Forest Community Church in Cornelius has
recovered from the brain tumor that made her so paranoid she pushed someone out a window.
She's through with the power-hungry older man she married and divorced three times. She
was so mad during Marriage No. 3, she had an affair, got pregnant, got caught cheating and
miscarried after a shoving match with her husband at his mansion.
She and her mother are over the fact they
had an affair with the same guy at the same time. But wait! We left out the most
incredible part of Marcy Smith's life story. All this made-up dirt went down on TV, when
she was soap opera star Marcy Walker. Proving once again that life can take some crazy
turns, she has walked away from the soaps, taken her married name (Smith) and embraced her
most meaningful role yet: Sharing the joy of faith with children.
They might not let Liza Colby -- her
"All My Children" character who endured all that misery and more -- near a
church. Marcy Smith is welcome any time. On the A list.
To those for whom soap operas have been a
constant, comforting companion, it doesn't get much bigger than Marcy Walker.She still
gets recognized regularly as Colby of "All My Children," where she began as a
confused kid in 1981 and grew up to become a vixen by the time she went off the show in
2004. "Santa Barbara" loyalists still love her as good-girl Eden Capwell
Castillo from the 1980s, even though the soap was canceled. To "Guiding Light"
fans, she'll always be Tangie Hill, the woman with the mysterious past.
Sweet one moment, a schemer the next --
Smith, 44, was so good at it all that she won a Daytime Emmy, not to mention Best Death
Scene in some distant soap-opera honor, the details of which now escape her.
Among the stars with whom she worked: On
"All My Children," soap icon Susan Lucci (Erica Kane, of course), and Regis
Philbin's pal, Kelly Ripa. On "Santa Barbara," movie actress Robin Wright Penn
(Sean's wife), who played her sister. Lynn Leahey, editorial director of Soap Opera Digest
in New York, called Smith an A-list soap star, someone with the talent to infuse even the
easy-to-loathe Liza Colby with humanity.
"You really could feel sorry for Liza
and the horrible things she did," Leahey said.
Smith -- possessing a pastor's heart way
back when -- tried to portray Colby as a character in need of what most everyone needs.
"The heart of who she was," Smith said, "was someone who desperately wanted
to be loved." But after years of filling fans' afternoons with lust and intrigue, and
getting the fame and other perks that go with it, Smith began yearning for more.
`Straw that broke my back'
Smith said she grew up in a home where
religion played no part. It was during her years filming in New York that she began moving
in another direction. She became active at Hope Evangelical Free Church in Wilton, Conn.,
teaching children in Sunday school, helping with vacation Bible school, starting to see
another side to her life. She said they'd sometimes shoot soap scenes out of order so she
could participate in Bible study.
"God," she said, "opened a
What moved her to burst through the door
was the death of several show-biz colleagues over the years -- "actors, directors,
writers" -- from causes including AIDS and drugs. When a dear friend from "Santa
Barbara" died a year ago from liver failure, that did it.
"The straw that broke my back,"
Smith called it .
She prayed for God to come into her life
and take it. She prayed for a new direction. She left "All My Children" in 2004.
Her character, Liza, snatched her daughter and ran away, never to be seen again except in
Having already risen to the job of
director of children's ministry at her Connecticut church while continuing to act, she
knew what she wanted to do full-time. Then she learned about an attractive job opening: A
young, fast-growing congregation in north Mecklenburg with a heart for drawing people back
to church was seeking someone to work with its children. She was hired from a field of 60
Smith and her husband, Douglas, and their
16-year-son, Taylor, moved to Huntersville last August.
The next act had begun.
The past is the past. With the occasional
soap-opera flashback, TV movie reruns, an agent who still calls and an Internet that makes
old photos available at the click of a mouse, Smith can't escape her past.
Many folks at church know what she used to
do for a living. She gets recognized on the street. People will come up to her and say
they met their spouse at college while watching one of her old soaps between class. She
loves the way soaps have been a friend to so many people, though she does urge people to
watch them with caution, especially with kids around. She still picks up a soaps magazine
in the checkout line every now and then.
Sometimes a fan will bring up one of her
failed pilots (she played a lawyer in "Bar Girls") or old TV movie. Her body of
work includes a 1996 offering that fell short of an Oscar -- "Sudden Terror: The
Hijacking of School Bus #17." She played Lt. Kathy Leone, a "SWAT Team
Barbie," she called her, with a ponytail. But she recalls it all with a laugh,
comfortable that the past is the past and now is now.
Today, she's fulfilling the role of a
church leader willing to share her "bumps in the road," as she calls them, for
the higher purpose of convincing people it's never too late for faith to blossom.
For life to change.
For Marcy Smith, it's no act.