Daytime Emmys Flashback: Ellen Wheeler

Ellen Wheeler worked both in front of and behind the camera of daytime dramas for a quarter of a century. She is one of the only people to win Emmys for both performing and producing.

Wheeler won both her acting bids: “Best Ingénue” (now known as Younger Actress) in 1986 for her nuanced performance as twins Vicky and Marley on “Another World” and Best Supporting Actress in 1988 as HIV-positive Cindy Parker on “All My Children.” In that groundbreaking plotline, her character contracted HIV from her drug-using ex and then fell for the mentally-challenged Stuart Chandler. She was shunned by the residents of Pine Valley and extremists set fire to her friends home where she was living.

Turning to directing, Wheeler helmed episodes of both “Another World’ and “As The World Turns” between 1999 and 2003. She then went to work at “Guiding Light” as an associate producer and was named executive producer in March 2004. She also served as the series head writer in the spring of 2008.

She earned three consecutive nominations for directing “As The World Turns” (2001-2003). Then, as a producer of “Guiding Light” she shared in three consecutive Best Drama Series bids beginning in 2006, and celebrated a win in 2007. She was also nominated in 2007 for “Outstanding Broadband Category- Variety”, for a specially produced web series celebrating the show’s 70th anniversary. 

While the industry rewarded her with Emmys, fans weren’t always so supportive. Indeed, some blame Wheeler for “Guiding Light” getting the axe. She shifted away from doing the traditional multi-camera in-studio set-up to location shooting in Peapack, New Jersey. The look and feel of the series suffered with many noticeable audio and lighting issues.

Those woes were amplified by the lack of strong storylines. Oftentimes characters were left just milling about. Only with the introduction of lesbian couple Olivia and Natalia, played by Crystal Chappel and Jessica Leccia, did the show come alive. But by then the ratings had begun a downward spiral and this was too little too late and the series was cancelled in 2009.

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