Longtime Days of our Lives actress Peggy McCay, who stole the hearts of daytime fans as beloved matriarch Caroline Brady, passed away on Sunday from natural causes. She was 90.
DAYS actress Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans) confirmed the news via a Facebook post, which reads: "Our dearest Peggy McCay has left us. She was a friend, an activist and a real scrapper! I remember meeting her at the bedside of a dear, very ill friend. I backed her up as she ferociously took on doctors and nurses to make sure he had the very best care. She fought that hard for all her causes. Passionate and tireless. And how she loved being Caroline!"
In an almost unbelievable twist of fate, McCay's death comes just weeks after the passing of her longtime DAYS costar Frank Parker, who played Caroline's leading man, Shawn Brady.
McCay grew up in New York City and knew from a very early age that she wanted to be an actress. While other girls her age played with dolls, she spent her time acting out a bounty of scenarios that flowed from her creative and active imagination.
"I'd set up situations, paint a scenario and then [my friends and I] would all act them out, never knowing how our stories were going to end," she recalled. "Today it's called 'improv,' or better yet, interactive/CD ROM acting, but back then, it was just 'Cops 'N Robbers' and 'Knights in Armor.'"
Her love of performing later led to stage roles at the Omnibus and Playhouse 90, and as soon as she graduated from Barnard College of Columbia University, she landed a role in a Kraft Theater show. She continued cultivating her talents, touring as the youngest member of the Margo Jones Repertory Theater, but also received intense training from iconic acting coaches like Sanford Meisner, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg.
One of McCay's first truly notable roles was in a 1956 off-Broadway production of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, where she played opposite Franchot Tone. Her role as Sonya earned her the honor of being one of the first women to win the Village Voice off-Broadway OBIE award.
McCay made the transition from the stage to the screen when Warner Bros. offered the budding actress a contract. She immediately landed her own comedy series, Room for One More, and began making guest-star appearances on shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Maverick.
Though she was successful in the primetime arena, McCay truly shined in daytime. Her early soap opera roles included Love of Life's Vanessa Dale, The Young Marrieds' Susan Garret, The City's Mrs. Lockney, and General Hospital's Iris Fairchild.
Said McCay of her affection for daytime television: "I love the spontaneity of daytime TV; after all, it's the nearest thing to theater we have in television."
The talented actress landed the role of Days of our Lives' Caroline Brady in 1983 and signed a long-term contract with the NBC soap opera in 1985. She played the character of Caroline on a regular basis for over thirty years, earning five Daytime Emmy nominations for her work. Her final appearance as Caroline aired on August 24, 2016.
In addition to being recognized with several Emmy nominations in her career, the Manhattan native holds the unique honor of being nominated for a primetime and daytime Emmy in the same year: she was nominated in the Outstanding Lead Actress category for her work on Days of our Lives in 1987 and was also nominated in the Best Guest Actress category at the primetime Emmys for her work on Cagney and Lacey that same year.
It wasn't until 1991, however, that McCay took home an Emmy statue. She did so for her performance as a homeless woman on The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, which also garnered her a special award from the John Henry Foundation that read: "For your dignified and perceptive depiction of mental illness."
Some of McCay's additional television credits include L.A. Law, Night Court, Newhart, Highway to Heaven, and The Jeffersons. She was also a regular on Gibbsville, The Lazurus Syndrome, and Matinee Theater, and had a recurring role on Lou Grant.
Her film credits include Murphy's Romance, Second Thoughts with Lucy Arnaz, and Bustin' Loose with Richard Pryor. McCay's movies of the week include Two of a Kind with George Burns, Amityville with Patty Duke, and Deadly Care with Cheryl Ladd.
McCay's contributions to the entertainment industry were acknowledged by more than 1000 members of the Acting Branch of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, who elected her as their Governor. She was also a member of the Daytime Awards Committee, where she helped arrange a tribute to DAYS' creators Ted and Betty Corday with the 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award. McCay was also a founding member of the New Image Committee, a bicoastal organization designed to improve the daytime Emmy Awards show and the nomination process.
The actress was extremely devoted to animal rights issues and was heavily involved with PETA, Last Chance for Animals, Actors and Others for Animals, and L.A.S.P.C.A. Her love of animals even spurred her to request that the actors on DAYS refrain from wearing fur on the show.
Some of McCay's other loves included traveling the country, visiting college campuses, teaching intensive drama workshops, and holding fundraisers for college drama/theater departments.
McCay's longtime costar Stephen Nichols (Steve "Patch" Johnson) honored the actress with a social media post that reads: "The last time I saw you, you talked about how eager you were to get back to work. You said it with such conviction and longing. Don't worry, you gave the world plenty. Gave your audiences inspired performances and your fellow actors your strength and inspiration and absolute love of the work. I will miss you sweet, Peggy. I am so grateful for the time I had with you. Sending love to your loved ones. Rest In Peace."
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Well Peggy, this is unexpected. The last time I saw you, you talked about how eager you were to get back to work. You said it with such conviction and longing. Don't worry, you gave the world plenty. Gave your audiences inspired performances and your fellow actors your strength and inspiration and absolute love of the work. I will miss you sweet, Peggy. I am so grateful for the time I had with you . Sending love to your loved ones. Rest In Peace. #days #mamabradyforever
"God Bless Peggy McCay," wrote Jackie Zeman (Bobbie Spencer, GH). "You have so many friends and fans who will always remember you."
Wrote Jen Lilley (Theresa Donovan): "I just heard the news that #PeggyMccay has passed. She was like a real grandmother to me, a mentor, a great source of encouragement, and she was so hilariously fierce. You are deeply missed Peggy!"
I just heard the news that #PeggyMccay has passed. She was like a real grandmother to me, a mentor, a great source of encouragement, and she was so hilariously fierce. You are deeply missed Peggy! #RIPGrandmaCaroline 💔#Days pic.twitter.com/EPZh7yt1Tf- Jen Lilley (@jen_lilley) October 10, 2018
"Always a classy lady our Emmy winning Peggy McCay who cared about her craft, her fellow actors and the Life of Days," shared Thaao Penghlis (Andre/Tony DiMera). "She reigned well in this most pressured profession of Daytime."
Always a classy lady our Emmy winning Peggy McCay who cared about her craft, her fellow actors and the Life of Days. She reigned well in this most pressured profession of Daytime. pic.twitter.com/27EGzNkRWi- Thaao Penghlis (@ThaaoPenghlis) October 10, 2018
Wrote Sal Stowers (Lani Price): "Peggy McCay was such a beautiful and tender woman. Her Presence was truly special to be around. Very honored to have shared precious time with her. Fly with the angels Ms. McCay."
Peggy McCay was such a beautiful and tender woman. Her Presence was truly special to be around. Very honored to have shared precious time with her. Fly with the angels Ms. McCay. ❤️🌹🙏🏽 #PeggyMcCay pic.twitter.com/HuiuT6mTMT- Sal Stowers (@SalStowers) October 10, 2018
On behalf of DAYS, head writer and executive producer Ken Corday issued a statement that read: This past Sunday we lost our dear Peggy McCay, known to her fans as Days of our Lives matriarch Caroline Brady. A strong woman and actor, Peggy fought tirelessly for the members of her community, and her spirit lives on in those causes. On a personal level, Peggy was like a grandmother to my children and a beloved member of our family. Her wonderful spirit will be deeply missed by all of us at Days of our Lives and her fans.
For more memories and messages from stars about Peggy McCay, continue reading here.
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