Ellen Holly has died at age 92. The famed African American actress made history on the soap “One Life to Live” in 1968 when she played Carla Gray (the name, obviously was an inside joke0, who passed for white while dating a white man. It was a groundbreaking storyline written by Agnes Nixon and delivered by Holly with art and grace.
“Agnes [Nixon, OLTL’s creator] wanted to take the viewers and have them become involved with a character, believing that character to be one thing,” Holly shared with in an interview here. That way, when the character’s true identity was revealed, if a viewer’s feelings about her changed, “the viewer would have her eyes opened up as to how she must be prejudiced.”
Carla eventually married Ed Hall, played by the legendary Al Freeman, Jr. If they did this story now, both actors would have won Emmy Awards. A young Lawrence Fishburne played her son. Holly left the show in 1973.
Besides “One Life to Live,” Holly had many New York theater credits. After the soap she had a recurring role on the TV version of “In the Heat of the Night.” In real life, she had a long on again, off again affair with actor and civil rights advocate Harry Belafonte.Ellen Holly was a trailblazer. The picture here from “One Life to Live” may have been the first of its kind on daytime TV. I hope the Emmy Awards will include her next month in the In Memoriam.