LOS ANGELES — Funeral arrangements were pending Thursday for actress Jacklyn Zeman, who portrayed nurse Barbara “Bobbie” Spencer for decades on ABC’s long-running soap opera “General Hospital.”
Zeman died at the age of 70, the show’s producers announced Wednesday night.
“On behalf of our @GeneralHospital family, I am heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved @JackieZeman,” executive producer Frank Valentini tweeted. “Just like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work.
“Jackie will be greatly missed, but her positive spirit will always live on with our cast and crew,” Valentini added. “We send our heartfelt sympathy to her loved ones, friends, and family, especially her daughters Cassidy and Lacey.”
No further details about her death were announced.
“I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of the talented and beloved actress, @JackieZeman,” actor John Stamos tweeted. “I recall the wonderful times we spent working together on General Hospital. Her warm personality and infectious energy always brightened my day. Jackie will forever hold a special place in my heart, and her memory will continue to inspire me. XO.”
Zeman joined “General Hospital” in 1977 as Barbara Jean, who went by Bobbie, and was the feisty younger sister of Anthony Geary’s Luke Spencer. Zeman grew to regard Geary as family off camera. “I’m probably closer to him than I would be a real-life brother,” she told co-star Maurice Benard last year on his YouTube series “State of Mind.”
Bobbie had worked as a teen prostitute and given up a baby for adoption but had managed to turn her life around and become a nurse at General Hospital. Zeman’s portrayal of Spencer was a spirited, upbeat woman who was as sweet as pie but who also had a sense of self. She didn’t suffer fools and had no problem revoking the niceties if warranted.
“Bobbie has been a fascinating person for me to play,” she said in an interview in 1982. “I get to do … all the things that most women think about but wouldn’t dare.”
One of Zeman’s most memorable scenes was in 1994, when Bobbie’s daughter B.J. was in a school bus accident that left her brain dead. Bobbie and then-husband Tony (played by Brad Maule) made the decision to donate their daughter’s heart to her cousin, Maxie, who had Kawasaki disease.
Laura Wright, who plays Bobbie’s daughter Carly Spencer, posted a series of broken heart emojis. Jon Lindstrom, who plays Kevin Collins wrote, “This is going to take me a minute to process. I can’t believe such a life force as hers has left.”
Born March 6, 1953, in Englewood, New Jersey, Zeman discovered a love for dance as a child, and as a teen began acting in school productions. She worked in Venezuela as a dancer after high school and was pre-med at New York University but dropped out when she was offered a contract at the ABC soap “One Life to Live” after originally being hired for just three days of work.
On “One Life,” she played Lana McClain for a little more than one year and then left for “General Hospital.” “I didn’t even audition,” she told a blogger in 2010. Zeman was nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards for her work on the show.
Outside soap operas, Zeman worked as a Playboy Bunny to help pay for college and also acted in commercials. She had a role in 1982’s “National Lampoon’s Class Reunion” and appeared in a string of TV movies, including the ABC Afterschool Special “Montana Crossroads” in 1993. She also had a series regular role as Sofia Madison in the crime drama series “The Bay,” earning her a fifth Emmy Award nomination.
Zeman last’s appearance on “General Hospital” was in April for the wedding of her character’s grandson. The same month, she also celebrated the show’s 60th anniversary by posting a video on Instagram to fans.
“A great, big heartfelt thank you to the very special people who have been watching us and supporting us and keeping us on the air all these years. We love you.”
She was married and divorced three times, first to Glenn Gordon and later to Steve Gribbin and disc jockey Murray “Murray the K” Kaufman. Zeman’s survivors include two daughters, Cassidy and Lacey, from her marriage to Gordon.
“Jacklyn Zeman has been a beloved member of the ‘General Hospital’ and ABC family since she originated the iconic role of Bobbie Spencer over 45 years ago,” the show’s official Twitter account posted. “She leaves behind a lasting legacy for her Emmy-nominated portrayal of the bad girl turned heroine and will always be remembered for her kind heart and radiant spirit.”
Zeman herself tweeted a video message on April 5 thanking fans for their support as “General Hospital” celebrated its 60th anniversary.
Jacklyn Zeman has been a beloved member of the ‘General Hospital’ and ABC family since she originated the iconic role of Bobbie Spencer over 45 years ago. She leaves behind a lasting legacy for her Emmy-nominated portrayal of the bad girl turned heroine and will always be… pic.twitter.com/iFQpoKb72b
— General Hospital (@GeneralHospital) May 11, 2023
I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of the talented and beloved actress, @JackieZeman I recall the wonderful times we spent working together on General Hospital. Her warm personality and infectious energy always brightened my day. Jackie will forever hold a special… pic.twitter.com/MdV65RC6xT
— John Stamos (@JohnStamos) May 11, 2023
On behalf of our @GeneralHospital family, I am heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved @JackieZeman. Just like her character, the legendary Bobbie Spencer, she was a bright light and true professional that brought so much positive energy with her to work. pic.twitter.com/DxGdjYavab
— Frank Valentini (@valentinifrank) May 11, 2023
RIP Jackie Zeman, a vivacious, magical actress who was sunshine personified and always a kick in the pants as General Hospital’s Nurse Bobbie Spencer. I will miss her fabulous giggle, her loving heart, her ability to make every single moment MATTER. Farewell, dear one. pic.twitter.com/MdysZC8nVC
— Michael Logan (@TVGMLogan) May 11, 2023
She saw me in the hallway marveling at the #GH sign — I couldn’t believe I was actually there. I turned, saw her & immediately fan-girled. I’ve loved her all my life! She was lovely. #RIPJackieZeman pic.twitter.com/dSjN0oK9Ej
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) May 11, 2023
I just heard of Jackie Zeman‘s passing late tonight. This is going to take me a minute to process. I can’t believe such a life force as hers has left. Her family and close friends must be absolutely devastated. Please hold them in your hearts. @JackieZeman #RIP @GeneralHospital pic.twitter.com/wSsQ4fKdag
— Jon Lindstrom (@thejonlindstrom) May 11, 2023
My earliest memories of my time on General Hospital involve @JackieZeman loving on & mothering me, gently guiding me toward success, where she felt so at home. Beautiful Queen, inside & out. I know everyone who loved her is devastated. My love to her girls, fam, work fam & fans pic.twitter.com/8l4eYQSQCO
— Sarah Joy Brown (@sarahjoybrown) May 11, 2023
Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.
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