By Lynette Rice
Updated August 31, 2010 at 08:25 PM EDT

Image Credit: David M. Russell/CBSEW obtained this exclusive shot of Kathryn Hays (Kim Hughes) and Don Hastings (Bob Hughes) from As the World Turns‘ last day of taping in June. In preparation for the soap’s series finale on Sept. 17, we talked to Hays about those final hours on the soap’s Brooklyn set and what it was like to say goodbye:

“The last day was poignant, and what was so incredible about it was how we shot pretty much in order that day. As each group finished with a scene, that would be the end of their involvement. But it wasn’t like tomorrow was another show, so the studio got really full. By the time they got to our scenes with Don and myself, there was hardly any room for cameras or the boom. In a way, it felt like being in a theater. We don’t normally have an audience. The stage manager asked if it was going to be a problem for us, but we both said no. It was like everybody’s arm was around us. It was absolutely incredible, there was not a sound. It was like everyone was holding their breath. In a way, we were all doing it together. When we finished, Don and I both spoke a little bit to everybody, and the whole As the World Turns family moved to the other end of big studio where they had the world’s longest table set up, covered with champagne glasses.

“On the way home, I said to my daughter that if you are gonna go out, this is the way to do it. We had been talking about making changes for a long time, so it’s not like this was a major surprise. We had been given six months warning, and our executive producer Chris Goutman absolutely insisted that we drive story all the way to the end. And I cannot begin to say how hard people were working. The writers must have felt as if they had fallen into some hellhole. Everybody worked their buns off. When it came to the end, it felt that we had done our best.

“I think if you look beyond soap operas, you’ll see that people like to have an ongoing story. They love to read sequels of books. They like to see sequels of movies. Maybe soaps will be changed in some way. Or maybe at some point, someone will come along and say that nobody wants to watch reality shows anymore and that maybe we should try telling stories again. Soaps will come back in some way. As far as I’m personally concerned, I feel it was a major privilege to be part of this family.”