Remembering One Trailblazing Actress

Ellen Holly, a trailblazing actress, has graced our screens with her exceptional talent and memorable roles. She created history as the first Black soap opera star, enthralling fans as Carla Gray on “One Life to Live.” Holly featured in 522 episodes of the show from 1968 to 1985, leaving an unforgettable impression on the world of television.

Holly’s claim to fame was not limited to Carla Gray. She has been in films such as “Take a Giant Step” and “School Daze,” as well as TV shows such as “In the Heat of the Night” and “The Doctors and the Nurses.” Even after her time on “One Life to Live” ended, she continued to shine as Judge Frances Collier on the serial opera “Guiding Light.”

Though Holly hasn’t been on film in quite some time, her legacy lives on. Her final acting role was in the 2002 television film “10,000 Black Men Named George.” Today, we grieve the passing of this extraordinary talent. Holly died on Wednesday, December 6, 2023, at the age of 92, in Calvary Hospital in the Bronx.

Holly spoke out about the difficulties she had in securing acting opportunities back in 1968. She refused to be labeled as a white actress, longing for the chance to express herself as a black actor. Agnes Nixon, the author of “One Life to Live,” noticed Holly’s skill and commitment after hearing her passionate speech. So Holly’s adventure in the world of soap operas began.

Holly reflects on her audition for “One Life to Live,” recalling the unusual process and the unexpected phone calls she received. The thrill of landing a role in the trailblazing soap series outweighed any reservations she had. Take a look at the video below to hear Ellen Holly talk about her audition for “One Life to Live.”

Ellen Holly’s cause of death has not been revealed, so we can only remember her life and the amazing contributions she made to the entertainment business. She is survived by her cousins Wanda, Julie, Carolyn, and Clinton, as well as her grand-nieces Alexa and Ashley and their father, Xavier.

We remember Ellen Holly as a trailblazer whose ability and determination opened doors for black performers and actresses. May her legacy continue to inspire future generations.

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