For The Young and The Restless newcomer Colleen Zenk, the big 7-0 was not exactly a banner year. The beloved As the World Turns alum’s recent 71st birthday, however, found her dancing – and scheming – with joy!
Zenk’s grand return to daytime TV last October was supposed to be a short little romp. Unfortunately for the Newman clan and fortunately for fans, Zenk and her villainous character Jordan have proven to be unstoppable.
FIRST for Women sat down with Zenk to talk about playing The Young and the Restless’ (Y&R) maniacal Jordan, starting a whole new chapter in her 70s, and what comes next.
Y&R star Colleen Zenk loves playing “horrible” Jordan
Some soap villains sneak up on viewers, and others, like Zenk’s As the World Turns character, Barbara Ryan, can swing between destruction and redemption. Genoa City’s newest big, bad Jordan, however, pounced onto the scene in full attack mode to abduct Nikki, run alcohol directly into the addict’s veins, and then kidnap and threaten the entire Newman clan.
“She’s a horrible human being,” Zenk admits to FIRST for Women. “She’s so damaged, and she doesn’t know it. And I’m loving every second of playing her. I’m having so much fun I can’t tell you. They’re having their way with me at Y&R!”
While Jordan is a new addition to The Young and The Restless canvas, she’s fueled by the heartbreak of losing her sister, Eve Howard – who in the 80s and 90s, pulled off her own wild schemes in Genoa City to land Victor. Convinced the Newman’s must pay, Jordan has been working on her revenge since she swapped Victoria and Cole’s baby with a stillborn, decades ago, and raised “Claire” to believe she’d been abandoned.
“She took baby Eve under her damaged wing in order to inflict as much pain on them when the time was right,” Zenk says. “The fact that Y&R mined the history of the show this way is so delicious. You can’t come in and play a character like Jordan without that kind of backstory, because nobody would buy it.”
“The Newmans are such a dysfunctional family and so manipulative, themselves,” she adds. “So it also dovetails beautifully into their history.”
ATWT alum Colleen Zenk talks returning to daytime
Having played As the World Turns‘ Barbara for over 32 years, Zenk understands good soap. That said, returning to daytime after 13 years was daunting.
“I was scared, frankly, that I wouldn’t be able to absorb everything,” she says. “My brain has been elsewhere – whether it’s been in the theater or doing interior design and reconstruction after a hurricane decimated my coast in Florida. I was working as a consultant, and also completely redid my own place – which is why I miss home! It’s so beautiful.”
“I’ve also had a lot of change in this past decade that’s been really difficult for me,” shares Zenk, who moved full-time to Naples, Florida a few years ago after losing her mother and her 28-year-old son, Morgan. “And I’ve had some health issues in there, as well.”
The actress battled tongue cancer twice, in addition to sharing it with her As The World Turns character, but her more recent health issues actually go back to her childhood love of dance and gymnastics.
“I was a musical theater girl,” explains Zenk, who didn’t let knee surgeries in her teens keep her from landing on Broadway’s Bring Back Birdie in 1980 alongside legendary Chita Rivera and more recently, performing in Hello Dolly in 2018. “I wanted to be Liza. I wanted to be Carol Burnett – and now I’m working in her studio!”
Zenk is referring to Television City, where The Young and the Restless shoots, and reveals that only a year ago, she would not have been up to this opportunity.
“I’m having terrible back problems,” she explains. “I just discovered I’ve shrunk 2 inches, because I have no cartilage. I’m bone on bone. I have major scoliosis. It’s from everything I did to my body when I was a kid, and last year, it got to the point where I couldn’t even walk by two in the afternoon. So much pain.”
Thankfully, Zenk found relief via a sports chiropractic group. “I have never been to a chiropractor before because I always felt that was hokum,” she admits. “But they fixed me up.”
Cut to today, and Zenk’s walking all over the Los Angeles – not to mention peeking through air vents, breaking out of prison, and surviving fires in Genoa City!
“I honestly can’t believe I’m 71 – let alone doing what I’m doing right now, work-wise,” Zenk says with a smile. “But I also don’t feel that age. I feel maybe 40, 45. I don’t feel 50!”
ATWT alum Zenk talks starting anew at 71
Landing on The Young and The Restless this October was a game-changer for Zenk – who suddenly finds herself in a new city, with a brand-new cast of characters. The daytime vet reveals she does have a few old friends behind the scenes. She’s also known Peter Bergman, who plays Jack Abbott, since before their soap days, and worked with Christian LeBlanc, who plays Michael Baldwin, in her 20s when he was on As The World Turns.
“It was heaven for me, having the two of them as a jumping-off point,” Zenk says. “But other than that, I had never even had a conversation with Melody Thomas Scott (who plays Nikki) and only had one conversation with Eric Braden (who plays Victor). Now, I’ve been thrown into their sandbox.”
Zenk – who keeps in touch with As the World Turns alums like Jennifer Landon, Maura West, Eileen Fulton, Larry Bryggman, and Trent Dawson – confesses she’s been happily surprised by how much she’s enjoying her new playground.
“I’m an East Coast actor, and it’s a whole ‘nother world – no pun intended,” she cracks. “Because most of the soaps back in the day were East Coast shows, you would look down on the West Coast. They were a different breed. They were prettier. They made more money. They had a very different life than we East Coast, theater-oriented people.”
“I come to find out, they were looking down their noses at us, too!” she continues. “But what I did not anticipate was how loving, warm, family-oriented, and stable everyone on this show is. Yes, I miss home. That’s a hard thing for me. But I’m loving the work. I’m loving the company I’m working with. I’m loving the writing. I’m loving the show.”
What was supposed to be a little blip of a role has started to look like a whole new chapter.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen down the road with Y&R, but I’ve been getting a lot of interest from other areas and I have to figure out what I want to do,” Zenk confides. “Over the last five years, I’ve turned down work. My agent was not very happy with all that! But when Y&R called, I said, ‘Yes. That feels right to me.’ And I’m just so glad to be here. What a gift this is, at this point of my life.”
ATWT alum Colleen Zenk promises more Y&R mayhem
While other offers may be coming in, The Young and the Restless is keeping Zenk and her character very busy. True, for all Jordan’s preparation, her scheme to destroy the Newmans fell apart the moment Baby Eve – aka Claire – realized her entire life was a lie.
That said, Jordan also made serious ground. Having pushed Nikki off the wagon and damaged poor Claire via a lifetime of machination, she’s proven to be a formidable villainess who’s clearly not going to give up on revenge.
“Oh my, there’s a lot coming,” Zenk teases with a grin. “I don’t know what the end of this story will be. No clue. But I’m working nearly every day, and it’s not over yet. Hold on to your hat!”
The Young and the Restless airs weekdays at 12:30 p.m. ET / 11:30 a.m. PT on CBS and streams on Paramount+.
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