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Fort Wayne native Julia Barr credits soap’s endurance

Keiara Carr
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Fort Wayne native Julia Barr stars in “All My Children.”

Fort Wayne native Julia Barr reprised her role as Brooke English for the Hulu launch of “All My Children,” but the actress is back on television.

The Web version of the soap opera launched a few months ago and the series debuted Monday on the Oprah Winfrey Network for a 10-week limited showing.

“It’s a medium that has had great endurance, even if you go back to when a lot of soaps started on the radio,” Barr says by phone from her home in New Jersey. “Going online is the third transition for this kind of entertainment – it has amazing staying power, which I find incredible.”

The Daytime Emmy-winning actress had already left the soap opera when ABC canceled the show in 2011 because of the decline of daytime TV viewers. But the show has seen an upswing in interest since its online resurrection in April.

Oprah Winfrey, who is a self-proclaimed soap opera fan, says in a new commercial that viewers have been pleading with her TV network to bring back “All My Children” and “One Life to Live,” which once filled the daytime time slots before her talk show on ABC. In late June, Winfrey took to Twitter to announce that the network will broadcast 40 episodes of both shows Monday through Thursday this summer.

“For two years, you posted, tweeted, Facebooked me … I heard you,” Winfrey’s Twitter page said.

OWN will rebroadcast episodes already available on Hulu, giving viewers a chance to catch up before heading online for new episodes. The shows air noon to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The story line picks up five years later in Pine Valley with a mix of recognizable characters and newcomers.

“It brings those fans on who may be a little bit resistant or feel like they don’t want to watch it online,” Barr says. “It’s a way to engage them and hopefully, if they like the episodes this summer, it will entice them to carry on watching it online.”

Graduating as a theater major from IPFW, Barr moved to Buffalo, N.Y., to study acting at the Studio Arena Theater for two years. A series of short-lived roles in other soap operas led Barr to “All My Children” in 1976 as Brooke, transforming a spoiled niece to an award-winning journalist and philanthropist. When Barr left the show in 2006, she had garnered eight Daytime Emmy nominations, winning the award in 1990 and 1998 for her performances as supporting actress. Barr says that after playing one character for more than 30 years, she has been able to leave Brooke in Pine Valley when she exits the studio.

“The character exists in a certain time and place called Pine Valley, otherwise the character doesn’t exist; but there are certain things you bring to a particular character that that the role requires,” Barr says.

Barr says she was on board for the online series after she heard that creator Agnes Nixon and former associate producer, now executive producer, Ginger Smith would both be involved in the project. She was also encouraged when she knew veteran “All My Children” actors such as David Canary, Debbi Morgan, Cady McClain and Jill Larson, who all have played characters on the show for more than 20 years, would be joining her for the new installment.

“There was great comfort in knowing that the show would be in very good hands, not only in a writing and executive point of view, but also from a cast point of view. I never had a second thought about it,” Barr says.

But some things have changed with the show. Now produced by Prospect Park, the online version is no more than 30 minutes long, with all of the week’s episodes posted on Hulu, Hulu Plus and iTunes every Monday. Barr says that, for her, the change signifies more of a look into the future rather than revival of the past.

“I think what’s interesting about daytime soaps is that we’re actually tipping forward into what they have been talking about for a long time – that eventually you would be able to view any entertainment on any portable device that you have, and eventually you will able to take that entertainment from the Internet and watch it on your TV screen because there will be ‘smart TVs,’ ” Barr says. “I think it’s a real credit to the enduring nature of this kind of storytelling to be able to transition all the way from the radio to the Internet.”

kcarr@jg.net

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