Anthony Herrera remembered

Anthony Herrera, the actor who played the villainous (and nearly impervious) James Stenbeck on AS THE WORLD TURNS off and on since 1980, passed away on June 21 in Buenos Aires, according to Soap Opera Digest. He was 67 years old, and had been fighting lymphoma since being diagnosed in 1997.

Herrera wrote a book about his fight against his particular cancer, a rare form called Mantle Cell Lymphoma, but his tome, The Cancer War, was not mere celebrity self-aggrandizement. He worked hard to promote research to help all cancer patients, and even testified on Capitol Hill in support of stem-cell research in 2005. Two operations employing stem cells helped extend his life.

Herrera’s Stenbeck last appeared on ATWT as a specter from beyond the grave in late August of 2010 , as the show marched toward its own demise that September. I was working for Soap Opera Weekly then, and we produced a glossy tribute issue (which turned out quite well, if I do say so myself) dedicated to the long-running daytime drama. As part of that project, I researched a history of James Stenbeck – a fan-favorite character from his first roguish appearance as Barbara’s control-freak ex. Herrera’s personal magnetism made the imperious and cruel James a fun character to watch, even as you rooted against him. No matter how crazed the plan, Stenbeck always came across as a believable threat because Herrera played him as intelligent; he never reduced the character to wild-eyed insanity. Instead, there was a cold light in Stenbeck’s eyes as well as a conviction that he was correct in whatever he was doing. Sure, he was a bit too smug, but bad guys need flaws, too! I think James was the Lex Luthor of daytime. I will always remember Herrera’s great work opposite another bright light of daytime, Colleen Zenk, who played Barbara, the love of Stenbeck’s life. I wish I had gotten a chance to interview the master villain, but it was never to be…

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