Alan Carter
March 04, 1994 AT 05:00 AM EST

With apologies to Esquire, I’m periodically going to showcase the soap women- and men-we love. First: Martha Byrne (As the World Turns). Assuming the role of Lily in 1985, Byrne made her a marvelously morose teen, winning a 1987 Emmy. ”It was easy,” says Byrne, now 24. ”As a teenager you’re depressed to begin with.” After she quit in 1989, her replacement never quite flowered. Last year Byrne returned as Lily, currently a torch singer and kidnap victim, expertly portraying her as ”a total emotional mess.” She now anchors one of daytime’s most compelling love triangles with Lily’s husband, Damian (Paolo Seganti), and Holden (Jon Hensley). ”The audience is really torn-which I love,” says Byrne. ”One (fan) letter says, ‘I love you.’ Another says, ‘You’re a tramp.’ What more could I want?”

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