Helen Wagner Helen Wagner

Helen Wagner, best known for playing Nancy Hughes on As the World Turns for more than a half-century, has died. She was 91.

Wagner, who acted up until her death, died Saturday, the show's New York-based production company, TeleNext Media Inc., announced. She spoke the first words on As the World Turns when it premiered in 1956, and holds the Guinness World Record for playing the same role on television for the longest time (54 years). She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2004.

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"All of us at As The World Turns are deeply saddened by Helen's passing," executive producer Christopher Goutman said. "She is loved by generations of fans and, while we will miss her greatly, Helen will always remain the heart and soul of As The World Turns."

On Nov. 22, 1963, Wagner's character was saying her lines when the broadcast was interrupted with a "CBS News Bulletin" sign and Walter Cronkite announced that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

Before joining the CBS soap opera, Wagner appeared on TV programs including Studio One, Philco Television Playhouse and The World of Mr. Sweeney.

Born in Lubbock, Texas, she also starred in several Broadway productions including Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma!, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Bad Seed, My Name Is Acquilon and Love of Four Colonels.

Wagner was married to Broadway producer Robert Willey from 1954 until his death in May 2009.