Jeffrey Carlson, who played the groundbreaking transgender character Zoe in All My Children, has died at age 48, according to Time Out New York theater editor Adam Feldman.
Feldman announced Carlson’s death on Saturday via Twitter.
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). A powerful actor and a painful loss. pic.twitter.com/ZdZdmlKtTP— Adam Feldman (@FeldmanAdam) July 9, 2023
The actor, who starred in 59 episodes of the soap opera starting in 2006, per IMDB, also appeared on Broadway in such roles as Billy in Edward Albee’s The Goat or Who Is Sylvia? and Marilyn in Taboo. He also took on several film and TV projects during his career, including the 2005 comedy Hitch.
“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). A powerful actor and a painful loss,” Feldman wrote, adding that he first saw the actor in Lee Blessing’s Thief River.
“It was clear he was something special,” he added.
“Devastated beyond measure to hear of the passing of the beautiful and gifted Jeffrey Carlson,” Eden Riegel, who played Bianca on AMC, wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Devasatated beyond measure to hear of the passing of the beautiful and gifted Jeffrey Carlson. 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. ❤️— Eden Riegel (@edenriegel) July 9, 2023
As Broadway World noted, Carlson was from Long Beach, California, and attended the University of California at Davis before graduating from New York’s Juilliard School in 2001.He first appeared on All My Children in August 2006 as a British rock star named Zarf, before returning to the show with the name Zoe.
As the actor explained on The View at the time, he got a call months after his first taping about the updated storyline, and eventually spoke with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to prepare.
“I’m learning new stuff every day, and we’re just filming those episodes right now where Zoe decides to tell the world that she’s herself,” he said. “It takes her a long time, possibly 25 to 30 years of her life to have the courage.”
In 2007, Carlson told PEOPLE that the role was meant to “cause a conversation.”
“Members of the transgender community are talking with the regular posters on the All My Children chat rooms,” he said. “I got a letter from an 11-year-old girl. It said, ‘It’s cool you’re going to become a girl. Then we will have stuff in common.'”
“I met several people in the transgender community, and one became someone I can talk to on a regular basis,” he added. “Talking to her started to enlighten me. She was so open about telling her story.”
Executive producer Julie Hanan Carruthers spoke about the news of Carlson’s character being trans in November 2006, per Broadway World, adding that the series “has a longstanding commitment to telling socially relevant stories that entertain and inform.”
At the time, the outlet noted that Zoe’s inclusion in the show marked the “first time any daytime drama has chronicled a transgender coming out story”
The Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. also paid tribute to Carlson, reflecting on his “memorable performances” in Lorenzaccio in 2005, Hamlet in 2007, Free for All in 2008, and Romeo and Juliet in 2016.”STC is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Jeffrey Carlson.
Jeffrey gave beautiful and nuanced performances during his career which took him from television and film to Broadway and, fortunately for us, to STC,” the company shared on Facebook. “We send our love to Jeffrey’s friends, family and colleagues, those who knew and loved him dearest.”
STC quoted Hamlet when remembering the late actor: “Good night, sweet prince, and may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”