Jeffrey Carlson, portrayer of All My Children's groundbreaking rocker Zoe, dead at 48

Posted Sunday, July 09, 2023 4:18:43 PM
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Though his time on All My Children was brief, Jeffrey Carlson's work as Zoe, one of daytime's first transgender characters, earned critical acclaim. Carlson died this weekend at age 48.

Jeffrey Carlson, known for his groundbreaking role as the first trans character on All My Children, has died. He was 48.

Time Out New York theater editor Adam Feldman first reported the news 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," Feldman wrote.

In a statement to Soap Central on July 12, Carlson's sister, Elizabeth Carlson Gingras, remembered her brother's "beautiful soul."

"As most are aware our beloved Jeffrey has gone to rest. We are devastated by his passing and trying our best to handle this in a way that allows us to grieve, protect our hearts, and celebrate every ounce of goodness about him," Gingras shared. "It seems impossible to move forward without him, but we must focus on the time we had, and bring to light his memory and beautiful soul. Thank you to everyone who has reached out and shared their memories and gracious words. We feel how much he was loved and how much he will be missed. We kindly ask for privacy during this excruciating time, and promise to update all on his celebration of life as details emerge. Thank you and much love to everyone."

Born in Long Beach, California, Carlson was reportedly given the first name "Jeffrey" because his mom was a huge All My Children fan and wanted to name him after the character of Jeff Martin.

Carlson would eventually join the show his mother loved in August 2006, playing the role Freddie Luper, an internationally known rocker that performed under the stage name Zarf. Luper eventually shared that she was trans and, the following year, began living her life as Zoe.

Zoe's story was groundbreaking and marked the first time that a daytime soap opera had told the coming out story of a transgender character. All My Children won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Daily Drama in 2007 for this storyline. Zoe, however, was not the first transgender character on the soaps. In 1995, ABC's The City introduced Azure C, a high-profile fashion model who was outed as trans on the cover of a tabloid.

“I was very moved by it,” Carlson told the Los Angeles Times of the story line in 2006. “If it creates a conversation, I think we’ve done our job.”

Eden Riegel, whose Bianca Montgomery was a love interest for both Zarf and Zoe, reacted to Carlson's passing on Twitter. "Devastated beyond measure to hear of the passing of the beautiful and gifted Jeffrey Carlson," Riegel wrote. "I feel fortunate to have called this kind soul a friend and see his brilliant work up close. Gone far too soon -- and unimaginable loss

After leaving AMC, Carlson found success both in film and on stage.

The Shakespeare Theatre Company wrote on Facebook, "STC is saddened to learn of the recent passing of Jeffrey Carlson. Jeffrey gave beautiful and nuanced performances during [h]is career which took him from television and film to Broadway and, fortunately for us, to STC."

A graduate of the Juilliard School, Carlson made his Broadway debut in 2003 when he appeared in Edward Albee's The Goat or Who Is Sylvia.

Carlson died July 8, 2023, just two weeks after his 48th birthday. Details of Carlson's death have not been made public at this time.

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