She was a muse of beloved soap opera head writer Douglas Marland, who wrote incredible roles for her on two soaps — As the World Turns and Guiding Light. Now comes word that Lisa Brown has passed away at the age of 67 years old.
Lisa Brown — In Tribute
Soap Opera Digest reported the news that the actress died on November 24 after a short illness. Lisa Brown Neary, as she went by after her time in the soap world, was born on August 2, 1954, in Kansas City, Missouri. It didn’t take long for her to realize New York was calling her, or specifically, Broadway.
On November 6, 1975, she joined the cast of Hello Dolly! for a little over a month as a dance alternate and understudy for the characters of Ernestina and Mrs. Rose. The following year, she was swing for Pal Joey, and in 1978 she joined The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas where she was an understudy for the part of Shy while playing other roles.
But perhaps her biggest Broadway coup was being part of the cast of 42nd Street as Peggy Sawyer from August 2, 1982, through more than half of 1983, only leaving because she was pregnant with her first child. While she enjoyed success on the stage, daytime viewers loved her for playing scrappy and sometimes troubled heroines.
The first Douglas Marland creation she played was the utterly memorable Nola Reardon on Guiding Light in 1980. She was the obstacle determined to break up dream couple Kelly (John Wesley Shipp) and Morgan (Kristen Vigard). Nola told Kelly she was pregnant with his child but Floyd (Tom Nielsen) was the real father. When Kelly and Morgan were exchanging vows at Laurel Falls, Nola and Floyd were having a shotgun wedding at the Reardon’s boarding house. While Kelly and Morgan said their “I do’s”,” Nola simultaneously and memorably said to poor Floyd, “I…can’t.” Nola’s instincts were correct. She was destined for a sweeping love story of her own with enigmatic Quint McCord (Michael Tylo).
After recreating famous movie scenes and embarking on perilous adventures, Quint and Nola wed in 1983. The bride needed to hitch a ride on a firetruck to get to the church on time!
Quint and Nola left Springfield in 1985 but Brown wasn’t off the soap scene for long. The actress followed Marland that same year to his next head writing job, helming As The World Turns where she would be the anchor for a new family — the have-nots Snyder clan. She portrayed eldest daughter, Iva Snyder, who would later be revealed as the birth mother of heiress Lily Walsh (Martha Byrne), who didn’t know she was adopted.
The fallout of that secret and so much more would help garner the actress to Daytime Emmy nominations in 1987 and 1988 in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She stayed on the show on contract until 1993 but would return in a recurring capacity as needed. In 1995, she had a short stint on the Marland-created Loving, playing Carolyn but would also return as Nola to GL, where she would stay for three years.
Brown appeared on GL in the series finale episodes as Nola bid a fond farewell to Company, the restaurant/bar once owned by the Reardon family. She worked as an acting coach at GL and OLTL. Brown also segued into directing and producing, including working with former onscreen daughter Byrne on her web show, Gotham the Series, earning them both another Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Short Format Daytime. Byrne reacted to the news of Brown’s passing on Twitter by saying, “My heart is broken.”
“I am deeply saddened by this news,” shared Scott Bryce (Craig, ATWT) to Soap Hub. “Lisa and I worked together for years. She was dedicated to her craft and, more so, to her fans. She was a fiercely committed mother. Years ago, during a time in my life when I was struggling with depression and a lack of self-confidence, Lisa supported me as a friend and helped me find myself again. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Prayers up for Lisa, her family, and friends. 🙏 🙏 🙏”
Margaret Reed (Shannon, ATWT) remembered her former colleague fondly on Facebook. “Lisa was a one-of-kind human being. I’ll never forget the first day we met at As The World Turns. She very directly and with purpose thrust out her hand and said, ‘I’m Lisa’ and just as assuredly & efficiently she was off to introduce herself to other people. One always knew they were in her presence. Her energies were off the charts – so powerful, funny, extremely talented, and inquisitive. She will be missed by so many. ❤”
“I reached out to Lisa about starting my playwriting career and she’s the one who gave me the confidence,” revealed Michael O’Leary (Rick, Guiding Light) to Soap Hub. “She was an unrelenting advocate for me and believed in me. Lisa was someone who gave me straight talk with no fluff around the corners. I appreciated that. We worked closely together for years on my first play. I’m broken-hearted, stunned, and very sad. Beyond just being a loyal advocate and friend, she was just an immense talent in every respect.”
On the personal front, Lisa Brown has been married to Brian Neary since March 26, 1997. She was previously married to GL co-star Nielsen. They had two children, James Anthony Nielsen and Victoria May Nielsen before divorcing in 1991. Soap Hub sends condolences to her family, friends, and fans during this difficult time.