Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana on February 8, 1949, Julia Barr is most famous for her role as Brooke English on the ABC daytime drama All My Children. Barr played the character from 1976 until 1981 and from 1982 until she exited the show on December 20, 2006.
Barr broke into the soap world at 27 years old with a short stint as bad girl Serena “Reenie” Szabo on Ryan’s Hope in 1976, but later that year was asked to join All My Children, and the rest is history as they say. She won two Daytime Emmy awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 1990 and 1998 for her portrayal of Brooke English.
The actress has been married to Dr. Richard Hirschlag since 1982 and their daughter Allison played Lizzie Spaulding on Guiding Light in 2002.
Barr is currently working on an internet series with Jill Larson (Opal on All My Children), about three women who are at a point in their lives where they are without their male companions for various reasons. She returns to her role as Brooke English on All My Children, starting on February 23, and took time out of her busy schedule to speak with us for a few minutes.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Julia, thank you for speaking with me and Happy New Year! Congratulations on coming back to All My Children! Personally, I am excited about your return and I know many fans are. Is this something that has been in the works for a while or were you asked to return when you taped the 40th anniversary episode?
Julia Barr: Being asked back was really nice. It occurred after I taped the 40th anniversary show (which I taped in early December) and had nothing to do with that appearance. This is something that worked out in conjunction with a storyline they started writing late in December.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Are you planning on staying in Pine Valley for a while? I’m sure Erica won’t be pleased, especially since she has begun a romance with Ryan. You know Erica, she’ll think that Brooke will want her “leftovers.”
Julia Barr: For now I’ll be there for a few months … but stay tuned! Anything can happen.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You will be commuting from New Jersey to LA now that AMC has relocated?
Julia Barr: Yes – I’ll commute to/from the east coast and my husband will come and visit me when he can.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Can you give us any spoilers concerning Brooke’s new storyline? Personally, I think she needs to use her investigative reporting skills to find out the truth about David … that he’s not dying!
Julia Barr: Can’t say a word! Sorry!!!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): When last we saw Brooke, she was a mourner at Simone Torres’ funeral. I believe since then they have said that Brooke has been living in China with Laura. Will the character of Laura return with Brooke?
Julia Barr: I don’t think they have plans to bring Laura back right now. And I think Brooke was visiting China but not living there… these things seem to change in terms of back story! I can’t keep up.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Fans have been wondering what happened to Tempo. Will Brooke continue to work for the magazine?
Julia Barr: I hope so. I think so!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you keep in touch with Richard Shoberg who played Tom Cudahy on AMC? I always thought there was great chemistry between Brooke and Tom. Any chance of bringing him back … or will there be a new love interest for Brooke?
Julia Barr: I never know what the show has planned and who they bring back or let go … I am in touch with Richard.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Who would you like to see her paired with romantically? A reunion with Tad perhaps … although he and Liza have been getting closer lately.
Julia Barr: Tad, Adam, David! Any of those would be more than fine by me!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You left All My Children in December of 2006. Many actors opt to go on recurring status (if given the choice) rather than completely leave the soap. Why did you decide to leave?
Julia Barr: I felt like the time was right to take a break after 30 years. I also was unhappy with the direction they took the character and not having any story for such a long period of time.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Megan McTavish (head writer off and on from 1992 until 2007) was criticized for killing off Dixie Cooney Martin in 2007 and for reversing the landmark storyline of Erica’s abortion. Was it her decision not to give your character any goodbye scenes before you left about three years ago?
Julia Barr: I don’t know why – or who – it was decided to not give Brooke any closure. It was sad for me and I know it was very difficult for fans.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): I recently interviewed Daniel Kennedy (Petey Cortlandt). He was let go and not given any goodbye scenes (although he requested the scenes since he had an ongoing relationship with Colby). His character was just mentioned a few days ago as being gone. Do you think this happens in soaps because the writers do not care about the characters as much as the storylines?
Julia Barr: I can’t speak for the writers or producers. I know that there are so many people involved in these decisions and so many reasons why things happen. I stopped trying to figure it all out.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): You began your soap career on Ryan’s Hope that aired from 1975 until 1989. What would you say are the major differences between soaps in the 1970s and the current soaps of today?
Julia Barr: Soaps keep trying to reinvent themselves and viewers have so many choices on television now… and so little time in this fast paced world and working full time. But the core of good storytelling and acting is the heart of a good soap opera and I believe still there on the few shows left.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): With Guiding Light gone and As the World Turns going in September, do you think that All My Children could be next … or has the move to LA “saved” the show for now?
Julia Barr: This is a question for the television executives. Not me! I’d like to see AMC on forever!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Do you see a future without soaps?
Julia Barr: It would be a very sad turn for the entertainment industry and for our culture at large. I hope that never happens. It is a long-standing art form and I hope there will always be an audience who has the time and interest to watch.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Our magazine is a media partner with the local humane shelter and we do Pets of the Week where we feature a dog and a cat from the shelter with photos and stories, to aid with adoptions. Tell us how you first became interested in animal welfare groups.
Julia Barr: I have been doing hands-on work and direct care for an animal rescue organization in New Jersey called Save the Animal Rescue Team II. I was spokesperson for The Fund for Animals from 2001 until they merged with The Humane Society of the United States in 2005. When the two groups merged, I continued supporting The Fund through The Humane Society of the United States and continue to help spread the word.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): What pets do you have now?
Julia Barr: We have a mixed-breed dog named Lucy, and cats Ned and Margaret. They’re the best adopted pets we could ever have!
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Please tell us about your other charity work.
Julia Barr: I’ve spent several years as an active volunteer for The Coalition for the Homeless’ First Step program in New York, worked with the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and on the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): Other than AMC, do you have any new projects going on personally or professionally?
Julia Barr: I have a web project I’ve been working on with Jill Larson, my animal charity work, and our household of pets! I love traveling and spending time with my family. That has all kept me really busy.
Melissa Parker (Our Prattville): If this was your last day on earth, how would you spend it … and why?
Julia Barr: I would spend it with the two people I love most in the world, my daughter and my husband.
Interview by Melissa Parker
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