Betty Rea, former Broadway actress and retired daytime television casting director for “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns,” died Dec. 23 of respiratory failure in Los Angeles. She was 82.
Rea was the casting director for the soap opera “Guiding Light” from 1970 to 1996 and simultaneously the casting director for “As the World Turns” from 1979 to 1983.
Rea is credited with discovering a number of notable actors during her 26 years of casting, among them, of “Guiding Light,” fame: Kevin Bacon, Sherry Stringfield, Nia Long and Melina Kanakaredes. Rea also cast Meg Ryan, Dana Delaney and Marisa Tomei in “As the World Turns” during her tenure with the show.
From 1996 to 1998, Rea remained involved in the casting business, serving as a casting consultant for “Another World” as well as her two longtime shows.
Born Elizabeth Wilson in Montreal, Quebec, Rea originally was interested in acting and dancing. She appeared in a number of productions in Canada before moving to New York to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse.
In New York while appearing on Broadway in “Medea,” she met Oliver Rea, who helped found the Guthrie Theater. After their marriage and divorce, Rea worked as a talent agent for the Tranum Agency before landing the position of casting director for “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns.”
In 1997, Rea was recognized for her work and inducted into the Soap Opera Hall of Fame. She previously won the Soap Opera Digest Editor’s Award in 1994 and received the Casting Society of America’s Hoyt Bowers Award in 1995.
Rea is survived by two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations in Rea’s name can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association or to the Actors’ Fund.
A memorial service will be held in New York on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. at Second Stage Theater, 307 West 43rd Street.