Soap Star Colleen Zenk Returns to Daytime TV with 'Scores to Settle' in “The Young and the Restless” (Exclusive)

Soap Star Colleen Zenk Returns to Daytime TV with 'Scores to Settle' in “The Young and the Restless” (Exclusive)

The actress exclusively tells PEOPLE about her new role and reflects on her 32-year run on 'As the World Turns'

Colleen Zenk is returning to the drama-filled world of daytime TV after more than 13 years away.

The actress, who was a fan favorite on As the World Turns, marked her debut on The Young and the Restless on Friday as Aunt Jordan, an entirely new and enigmatic character who has some scores to settle with the Newman Family, including Victor Newman (Eric Braeden), Nicholas Newman (Joshua Morrow), Nikki Reed Newman (Melody Thomas Scott) and Victoria Newman (Amelia Heinle).

"Prior to my showing up in Genoa City, I have sent my great niece to maneuver her way into the inner sanctum of the Newman family, which she has done quite successfully," Zenk hints exclusively to PEOPLE.

Related: Lauralee Bell Celebrates 40 Years on The Young and the Restless: 'It’s Gone By in a Blink' (Exclusive)

<p>Sonja Flemming/CBS</p> Colleen Zenk on 'The Young and the Restless.'

Sonja Flemming/CBS

Colleen Zenk on 'The Young and the Restless.'

For Zenk, 70, stepping back into the brisk and rigorous production routine of a soap came back easily. As a theater actor who has appeared in stage productions of Hello, Dolly! (twice), Bring Back Birdie and Follies, among others, she has long had a knack for quickly absorbing and retaining reams of dialogue.

"That wasn't as difficult as just this stamina involved and wearing five-inch heeled boots," the Florida resident explains, adding, "I'm used to wearing flip-flops, all the time. ... I would come home at the end of the day and my poor little feet were just so swollen. That was the most fatiguing thing about all of it."

Related: 12 Stars Who Appeared on 'The Young and the Restless'

Despite the physical and mental demands, starring on The Young and the Restless is proving to be an unexpected pleasure for Zenk, who declined to disclose whether she would be a series regular.

"I just can't get over how loving everyone has been to me. In fact, I kept crying the first couple of days," she admits. "It was just so overwhelming. I really didn't expect it. I'm a New York actor coming into their show. It's not my show, it's their show and I just didn't know how they would respond."

<p>John Lamparski/WireImage</p> Colleen Zenk performing in 'Marrying George Clooney: Confessions From a Midlife Crisis' in March 2012 in New York City.

John Lamparski/WireImage

Colleen Zenk performing in 'Marrying George Clooney: Confessions From a Midlife Crisis' in March 2012 in New York City.

Raised partly on her grandparents' farm in Barrington, Illinois, Zenk originally aspired to become a dancer, even winning a local televised dancing competition in Chicago called Little Stars when she was 5. But several knee injuries during her adolescence effectively put an end to her dance career.

After booking commercial and theater roles, and testing for a role on Guiding Light, she impressed the producers at As the World Turns enough for them that they cast her in the role of Barbara Ryan. Over more than three decades, her character progressed from the "good girl" and "ingenue doormat" to the "homewrecker," and eventually, the "bitch and the evil mother from hell." It was quite the evolution, concedes Zenk.

Related: Icons from 50 Years of 'The Young and the Restless' Celebrate Show's Golden Anniversary – See the Cast Photo

<p>Robert Voets/CBS</p> Colleen Zenk in 'As the World Turns.'

Robert Voets/CBS

Colleen Zenk in 'As the World Turns.'

Now the actress is simply trying to enjoy her time back in the wild world of soap opera drama as she adjusts to life in Los Angeles, a city where she's never worked. When she's not working long days, she has ambitions of making progress on her to-do list: check out the La Brea Tar Pits and visit an art museum and the Holocaust Museum LA, for starters.

"I am just a newbie here. I know nothing," she says, adding, "I found a fabulous, wonderful restaurant where I've eaten nearly every meal, four blocks away from where I'm staying, so that's been great."

And she's in fine company with her 5-year-old Maltese/Shih Tzu mix Boo by her side, telling PEOPLE: "I have my puppy with me and that makes me very happy."

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The Young and the Restless airs 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

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