‘The Young and the Restless’: Why the Death of Colleen Carlton Is One of the Show’s Most Polarizing Storylines Ever

A legacy character on a soap opera is one that has deep ties to the show’s canvas via long-running characters. Often times, these are usual familial connections. The death of Colleen Carlton, a legacy character on The Young and the Restless, is a one that still a sore spot for viewers of the show.

Tammin Sursok at the Daytime Emmys in 2008
Tammin Sursok at the Daytime Emmys in 2008 | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Who were the actresses who played Colleen Carlton on ‘The Young and the Restless’?

As a legacy character, Colleen was the only daughter of Traci Abbott and Brad Carlton. She was born on-screen at 1992 and went on to be portrayed by several different child actors until 1995. The character was then taken on the canvas and was brought back several years later when the character was rapidly aged to be a teenager.

Lyndsey Fonseca was the first actress to portray a teen/young adult version of the character, first debuting in the role in 2001. She portrayed the character regularly until 2004 when the character was written off. She briefly returned to play the character for a few months from late 2004 to early 2005.

In 2006, the show sought to recast the character, and tapped former General Hospital star, Adrianne León, to step into the role. She was let go after about a year in 2007. She role was then recast with Australian singer-actress, Tammin Sursok, who portrayed the character up until her on-screen death in 2009.

The short history of the character’s time on the show

The character was known for her popular relationship with J.T. Hellstrom. She was also a part of the show’s integral teen scene in the early 2000s, along with other characters like Lily Winters and Mackenzie Browning.

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One of her final storylines, which took place immediately after her father Brad died, revolved around her feud with Victor Newman. She blamed Victor, in part, for her father’s death. Brad died when saving Noah Newman from a frozen pond. Victor also feuded with her father Brad. Colleen inherited Brad’s seat on the Newman Enterprises board and wanted Victor to pay.

A chain of events indirectly set into motion by Victor would see Colleen kidnapped by Patty Williams, the ex-wife of her uncle Jack Abbott who had a mental illness. She was able to escape but almost drowned. She was declared brain dead and was taken off of life support. Victor was in need of a heart transplant at the time and the Abbots agreed to give him Colleen’s heart.

Fans and critics both felt some type of way about the character’s death

Colleen’s death is one of the more divisive ones in the show’s history. Many people took issue with the fact that the show killed off such an important legacy character and the only child of a longtime character, Traci. Brad, also a longtime character, had only died about a year before Colleen was killed off, which was another point of contention for some fans.

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Another legacy young character, Cassie Newman, was also killed a few years earlier. Colleen’s death garnered comparisons to Cassie’s, but whereas Cassie’s death had major impacts across the show that still exist to this day, Colleen’s death seemed to only be due to the fact that Victor needed a heart.

And though Sursok was an unpopular recast for a lot of viewers, most did not want to see the character go out like this. In 2009, the soap opera blog Serial Drama posted an article called “The Curious Case of Colleen Carlton,” detailing issues with the story.

Killing off Colleen was a TERRIBLE idea. Not quite as terrible as murdering Georgie Jones and Emily Quartermaine in the same heinous sweeps story, but terrible nonetheless! Yes, she was a nonentity for the past year or so. And yes, she was, more often than not during her time on the show, completely pointless. And YES, Tammin Sursok was such an awful recast that “Tammin Suresucks” quickly became the third most popular keyword search leading people to Serial Drama. But she’s Traci Abbott and Brad Carlton’s daughter and that alone should be enough for her and her heavily accented portrayer* to be written off the show by leaving town, or being in a coma, not killing her off! That’s exploitative and lazy and I am trying and failing to see the point of it all.

Why exactly was the character written off?

It is unclear whether or not the character’s death was strictly storyline-dictated, as Sursok, who had signed on for a role on a major Nickelodeon television movie at the time of her exit, said that it was a mutual decision.

When reporting on her exit in 2009, Daytime Confidential said via a source, “Tammin has been let go from The Young and the Restless. She’s been really busy with a lot of other projects, so it’s been hard for the soap to write her in.”

The Young and the Restless airs weekdays on CBS.