Tonya Pinkins has had a successful career in theater, film, television, and even as an author. She’s won a Tony (and been nominated for two others) and won a host of other prestigious awards in all areas of entertainment. But soap fans loved her for memorable roles on both As the World Turns and All My Children.
Tonya Pinkins Looks Back
Since then, she’s appeared in hit TV shows such as Scandal, Fear the Walking Dead, Bull, and Nurse Jackie, and her IMDB page of movies is long and impressive. Then of course is her seven Broadway productions and numerous Off-Broadway shows.
Even with all her accomplishments, many remember the veteran actress starting out on daytime. Pinkins’s daytime career began in 1983 as Heather Dalton (eventually Foster) on As the World Turns, a role she played for two years, working with some of the biggest names to come out of daytime.
“There was Meg Ryan [Betsy], Marisa Tomei [Marcy], Steven Weber [Kevin], we were the kids on the show,” she recalls. She exited the show in 1985.
Her favorite moment from ATWT was performing the song, “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” — written by songwriter Jimmy Dunne and made famous by Whitney Houston and Jermaine Jackson.
“We sang the song at Betsy and Steve’s [Frank Runyeon] wedding,” Pinkins shares. “I sang it with Jimmy and no one remembers that we originated the song before it became popular on the radio.”
In 1990, Pinkins returned to soaps as fan-favorite Livia Frye on All My Children, becoming one of Pine Valley’s most successful attorneys.
“All My Children was the show I grew up watching in Chicago, so I was so excited to be a part of that,” she says. “There was so much energy there and I loved it.”
While she demurs that neither of her daytime characters ever had a really major storyline, she notes she did really enjoy the love triangle Livia was in with health club owner Tom Cudahy and architect Lucas Barnes, played by Richard Shoberg and Richard Lawson, respectively. Livia eventually married Tom.
One of her favorite memories from AMC again involved singing, this time in 1992 during Livia and Tom’s wedding reception. The real-life Tony winner sang “Tonight I Celebrate My Love” with Peabo Bryson, who played himself on the show, an old friend of Livia’s.
Pinkins left the show in 1995 but returned in 2003 to defend Kendall Hart (Alicia Minshew) in her trial for the murder of Michael Cambias (William deVry).
“There were so many great people that I worked with,” Pinkins says. “Walt [Willy, ex-Jackson], Kelly Ripa [ex-Hayley], who was just a teenager then, and it was a dream to be part of that cast and I enjoyed coming back when they asked.”
Although she hasn’t given it much thought, the actress hasn’t ruled out the chance to be on the upcoming All My Children revival if asked, though her schedule keeps her pretty busy these days.
In addition to touring in different cabarets around the country, such as her upcoming show at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut on June 26, Pinkins spent time in Korea during the pandemic performing, and she also wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the 2020 film Red Pill, alongside Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), which has won more than 15 international awards and will be streaming later this year.
“I’m also staring in the series, Women of the Movement, in an upcoming ABC limited series,” she says. “It’s been kind of a good year for me.”