Rebecca Balding, a prolific television and stage actress best known for co-starring with Billy Crystal in the soap opera parody sitcom Soap, has died. Her husband, James L. Conway, said she died on July 18 after a battle with ovarian cancer. She hadn’t appeared on screen in a long time, having played Alyssa Milano’s boss in the original Charmed from 1998 to 2006. She was 73 years old when she died.
Balding’s career began as a stage actress in Chicago, rather than in Hollywood. She made her first television appearance in 1976, in two episodes of the Emmy-winning action series The Bionic Woman, kicking off a string of appearances that included Lou Grant, The Rockford Files, and Starsky & Hutch. Along the way, Balding appeared in the television movies The Gathering and Deadly Game, where she played the girlfriend of James Cromwell, who was the deputy of Andy Griffith’s Abel Marsh. She had a recurring role as Corky Crandall on Makin’ It before landing Soap.
Her big break in Soap came as part of a scandalous storyline where her character Carol David is revealed as Jodie Dallas’s (Crystal) baby mama. Carol played the role of over-the-top soap opera villain, seducing the gay Jodie into a one-night stand to have a child, ditching him at the altar after he wants to wed her out of parental obligation, and later kidnapping the child when she ultimately loses the custody battle. It was a bizarre storyline that cemented her within the show’s lore as one of its most conniving and memorable. She ultimately left once the baby battle concluded, moving on to more television guest appearances in shows like MacGyver, Family Ties, and Beverly Hills, 90210.
After Soap, she landed several more recurring gigs, appearing in several episodes for Paradise and later having a prominent role in Charmed as Elise Rothman. Elise served as the editor for the fictional publication The Bay Mirror where Milano’s Phoebe Halliwell had an advice column. She’d appear in 23 episodes from the show’s beginning in 1998 to 2006.
Despite commonly appearing in sitcoms or dramas on television, Balding was also a classic scream queen appearing in horror films like Silent Scream and The Boogens. The latter film united her with her husband Conway who was behind the camera. Her cousin, fellow horror veteran and Texas Chainsaw Masscare 2 star Caroline Williams, shared a tribute on Twitter celebrating her long and varied career which you can read below, our deepest condolences to Balding’s loved ones.