The acting world is mourning a tragic loss of a TV trailblazer. All My Children alum Jeffrey Carlson, who played one of the first transgender characters on daytime television, has died, according to multiple reports. He was 48.
The soap star’s death was first announced publicly by Time Out New York theater editor Adam Feldman. “RIP Jeffrey Carlson, 48, exposed-nerve star of Broadway (Billy in The Goat, Marilyn in Taboo) and TV (the groundbreaking trans character Zoe on All My Children),” he tweeted July 8. “A powerful actor and a painful loss.”
Carlson, a native of Long Beach, Calif., was a graduate of University of California Davis who also studied at New York City’s Juilliard School. He began his acting career onstage, making his Broadway debut in the 2002 play The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.
In 2003, while continuing his theater career in New York City, Carlson made his onscreen debut with a small role in the indie film Happy End. He later appeared on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and the movie Hitch before he landed his breakout acting role on All My Children.
He made his debut on the soap opera in 2006, playing a rock star who later comes out on the show as a woman named Zoe, before exiting the show after a year. It marked his final onscreen role and what is believed to be the second time a daytime series has featured an actor in a transgender role, the first being the ABC soap The City in 1996, according to Out magazine.
“They hired me as a day player but then they wrote me on the show. My parents were thrilled,” Carlton told Chicago-based LGBTQ+ newspaper Windy City Times in 2013. “I had a meeting with the producer and they explained that they wanted to do the first coming out story of a transgender from male to female on daytime television. I asked, ‘How are you going to do it?’ She said, ‘With dignity.’
Eden Riegel, who played Zoe’s friend Bianca on All My Children, paid tribute to her late costar on Twitter following news of his death. “Devastated beyond measure to hear of the passing of the beautiful and gifted Jeffrey Carlson,” the actress wrote. “I feel fortunate to have called this kind soul a friend and see his brilliant work up close. Gone far too soon — an unimaginable loss. Love you, Jeffrey. Rest friend.”
Meanwhile, Susan Hart, a fellow stage performer who taught Shakespearean acting with Carlson in Chicago years ago, also mourned her friend and colleague online. “Good night my sweet sweet sweet prince among men,” she wrote on Facebook July 7. “No words for our despair at losing you Jeffrey Carlson. You were … oh God… no words… so so loved and adored.”
She added, “For those of you that don’t know, I’m very sorry to share the news that Jeffrey passed away yesterday. I have been respectful of his family’s privacy in not sharing the news sooner… also could not breathe or function… still can’t… love to all… just devastated.
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