‘Green Acres’: One Character Went On To Become a Prolific Soap Opera Villain

by Taylor Cunningham

Green Acres star Judith McConnell began her career playing a doe-eyed country sweetheart. But she didn’t find her place in the industry until she branched off and took roles as a soap opera villain.

McConnell’s first big break happened in 1969 when she played Mr. Drysdale’s bank assistant Jeanne Leeds, a beautiful brunette who caught Jed’s eye in Beverly Hillbillies. And that same persona carried through to the recurring role of Darlene Wheeler in Green Acres and Pamela Bennington in Mayberry R.F.D.

Her place in Hootersville was her most notable classic TV role, though. In the story, Darlene was Eb Dawson’s love-struck girlfriend who enjoyed the simple small-town life and never spoke ill words about anyone or anything.

Green Acres was a major hit during its run from 1965 to 1971. The show, which was based on the radio series Granby’s Green Acres, told the story of a wealthy New York City lawyer who convinced his high-brow wife to her city penthouse for some “farm livin’.”

The series gandered so much fame that it even became one of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s favorite shows. So landing a brief gig in the story helped producers notice McConnell. And she eventually shot her to stardom. But when she moved on to become a soap star, her screen-side personality took a drastic turn.

The ‘Green Acres’ Actress Became a Murderous Widow on ‘Santa Barbara’

When McConnell finally found her niche in Hollywood, she spent over two decades tormenting the rich and glamorous on daytime TV. The actress spent years on shows such as Another World, As the World Turns, One Life to Live, and Passions. Her longest-running character was Sophia Capwell on Santa Barbara. In over 1,000 episodes, she played a millionaire’s widow who lied, cheated, and killed to remain rich and powerful.

“Sophia is a dynamic lady who is emerging as one of the core characters in Santa Barbara,” McConnell explained to the Mason Valley News in 1985. “I see her as a woman with charm and yet with a chilling determination to get things done.”

Judith McConnell, who studied her craft at Carnegie Mellon University, earned a nomination for a Soap Opera Digest Awardfor that dynamic role in 1986.

Today, McConnell has made another turn in her career. Her last soap opera appearance with during Passions, where she played a witch, in 2007. Since then, she has played in major shows like Cougar Town and Criminal Minds. And she even starred alongside Nicolas Cage in The Weatherman.