'Young and the Restless' Actress Was 85

Marla Adams, the Emmy-winning soap opera veteran who starred as the scheming Dina Abbott Mergeron during parts of five decades on The Young and the Restless, has died. She was 85.

Adams died Thursday in Los Angeles, Matt Kane, director of media and talent for Y&R, announced.

When she was just starting out, Adams appeared in 1958 alongside Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne on Broadway in The Visit and portrayed June, the high school best friend of Natalie Wood‘s Deanie, in Elia Kazan‘s Splendor in the Grass (1961).

Her first prominent role on a daytime drama came on CBS’ The Secret Storm, where she played bad girl Belle Clemens from 1968 until the show’s 1974 demise. “I was the bitch of daytime,” she said in a 2016 interview. “I played a good bitch.”

Adams joined Y&R in 1982 but left when her three-year contract was up. She returned to Genoa City for brief stints in 1991, 1996 and 2008 before being asked by head writer-producer Sally Sussman to go it again in 2017.

“I remember when [Sussman told her], ‘I’m going to bring you back on The Young and the Restless, but you’ve got Alzheimer’s,’ and I said, ‘What!? You’re bringing me back so you can kill me off?’” she recalled in 2020. “And she said, ‘Oh no, it’ll be about a year.’ That dissolved into four years.”

Viewers watched the Abbott matriarch slowly and heartbreakingly unravel before dying in an episode in October 2020. In her final moments, she addressed her kids, Traci (Beth Maitland), Jack (Peter Bergman) and Ashley (Eileen Davidson), before being welcomed into heaven by her first husband, John Abbott (Jerry Douglas).

Eight months later, Adams received the lone Daytime Emmy of her long career.

“From all the characters I’ve played, from The Secret Storm to Broadway, this has been the most astonishing, amazing part I’ve had the privilege to play,” she said.

Marla Adams was born on Aug. 28, 1938, in Ocean City, New Jersey. She was named Miss Diamond Jubilee at the 75th anniversary celebration of her hometown in 1954 and graduated two years later from Ocean City High School.

She spent two years with The American Academy of Dramatic Arts and was hired for The Visit, directed by Peter Brook, on the day she graduated. “I played Alfred Lunt’s daughter, and I thought, ‘Well, it’s going to be downhill from here,’” she told Soap Opera Digest in 2018.

Adams made her big-screen debut in the period drama Splendor in the Grass, which was Warren Beatty‘s first movie, too.

Actors on ‘The Secret Storm,’ clockwise from left: Christina Crawford, Keith Charles, Nicolas Coster, Lori March, Jada Rowland and Marla Adams.


After Belle made life miserable for Jada Rowland’s Amy Ames on The Secret Storm, she moved to Los Angeles when the soap was canceled and guest-starred on episodes of The New Dick Van Dyke Show, Harry O, Adam-12, Starsky and Hutch, Marcus Welby, M.D., Barnaby Jones, The Love Boat, Emergency! and Archie Bunker’s Place before landing on Y&R.

The actress also portrayed Mildred Deal on ABC’s General Hospital in 1963; the conniving Myrna Clegg — between turns by Carolyn Jones and Marj Dusay — on CBS’ Capitol in 1983; Helen Mullin on NBC’s Generations in 1989-90; Beth Logan on CBS’ The Bold and the Beautiful in 1990-91; and Dr. Claire McIntyre on NBC’s Days of Our Lives in 1999.

She was also nominated for a Daytime Emmy for her turn as Dina in 2018 before winning one three years later.

“On behalf of the entire company of The Young and the Restless, we send our deepest sympathies to Marla’s family,” Josh Griffith, executive producer and head writer of Y&R, said in a statement. “We’re so grateful and in awe of Marla’s incredible performance as Dina Mergeron as both Marla and Dina made an unforgettable mark on [the show].”

Survivors include her children, Gunnar and Pam; grandchildren Gefjon and Stone; and great-grandson Remi.

In her later years, Adams said she was still getting spotted in public. “I’m very big at Walmart,” she said with a laugh. “When I was younger, I was recognized all the time, and now that I’m older, people are like, ‘Is that her? No, that’s not her. It couldn’t be! Just some old lady in sneakers and sweats.’”

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