"We made Martha an incredibly generous offer in hopes that she would remain a valuable member of the ATWT cast," executive producer Christopher Goutman said in a statement. "Unfortunately, Martha has decided to leave despite our best efforts to keep her."
Goutman's remarks come in response to reports that the show's "incredibly generous offer" was anything but generous. Though terms of the deal remain confidential, Byrne is said to have not wanted some concessions in her contract that the show was unwilling to agree to.
Though money is not believed to have factored into Byrne's decision to walk, the average salary for a soap star is not what it used to be. At one time, a top-tier soap star could demand a salary of up to a $1,000,000 per year. As ratings for daytime drama series have eroded - some soaps have less than 50% of the audience that they had 20 years ago - so too have the top salaries. In an effort to keep the shows from going over budget, many stars have been forced to take huge pay cuts and many daytime stars have walked as a result.
Byrne, who joined As the World Turns in April 1985, won the first of her two Daytime Emmys, an Outstanding Ingťnue (now called Outstanding Younger Actress) trophy, as a teenager. 14 years later in 2001, Byrne took home top honors as Outstanding Lead Actress.
There has yet to be a statement from Byrne regarding her impending exit, and it is unclear if any comment will be forthcoming. Comment or not, this will not be the actress' first exit from ATWT. The actress took a three-and-a-half-year break from As the World Turns from October 1989 to April 1993. During Byrne's absence, Heather Rattray took over as Lily.
There has been no immediate announcement regarding how the show will handle Byrne's exit on-screen. However, with Lily being such a central character and in the midst of a major front-burner story, the show is expected to recast the role.
Byrne is still reporting to work and a final airdate has not been determined, though it is expected to come sometime in April.