Tantalizing teasers, a few scoops, thoughts on current storylines, favorite memories and sentimental moments abound, that is what On-Air On-Soaps came away with after being on the red carpet as stars, past and present, from Days of our Lives came out in full force last Tuesday night, in honor of the Academy of Arts and Sciences event, Celebrating 45 Years of Days of our Lives.
What’s a night on the town with the citizens of Salem without first checking in with the woman who is front and center on the hottest storyline on the show! I can only be talking about Alison Sweeney, who’s Sami Brady, just recently shot EJ Dimera in the head. Was Alison shocked when she grabbed the script that made her be a gun-toting revenge seeking woman? “No. We talked about a little bit before, but not much,” Sweeney elaborated. “I really didn’t know how it was going to unfold, because they really only tell you the bullet-points. You don’t know how she is going to handle it and what unfolds from there. So as an actor it is your job to fill in these gaps in your head as to what motivates you, and what the lines means, and all of that. And, even if it is subtext or off-camera stuff that you are playing out, I had to think, ‘How does Sami feel about all of that?’ I think the easy way to explain it is that she is a person who acts before she thinks. She is so reactionary, but on a deeper level, I think she thought this was the only way out of this horrible cycle she found herself in. I think they wrote such a beautiful moment at the wedding when EJ proposes to her, and there is that moment where she is almost tempted by him. There is this thing where EJ has her number, and he just does, and she knows it. I mean, how many times have you witnessed a scene where Sami knows she is with a guy who is not good for her, or right for her. However, then she and the guy can’t seem to stay away from each other! So you either want the bad moments to flip and for them to really connect, and they will be happy forever, or they will eternally be at each other’s throats. That is what seems to happen with EJ and Sami.”
Then the big question for SAFE and EJami fans… is Sami truly in love with two men? Is she really torn? “Obviously, there is a depth of feeling for both men. For Sami it’s not a fickle thing. I think it’s about these two opposite pulls of who she is as a person. This is a dream of hers since she was 16-years-old and met Austin. She wanted to him to be her hero the way Carrie had it with Austin. Sami fought for that for how many years? And she never made that dream come true. If she had met that guy at sixteen maybe she wouldn’t have these two paths of a very confused person, which is what she has become. Rafe is that guy! He loves and adores her, and he takes care of her and believes in her, and accepts her for who she is. He gave her the sweetest proposal ever. And yet, she is not the whole person she could have become. She is this very complicated person with two clearly different parts of her personality. Sami has these two sides that make her have a different moral standard than most people… and that is someone who does believe in doing what she needs to do. Yet, she is very drawn to this guy, EJ, who is pulling towards the dark side of her. She knows she is drawn to it and ultimately that is why she shot him. There will be many more twists and turns. It’s a complicated story.” And with seventeen years as Sami, Alison has made the most of all of her storylines, and navigated through the histrionics and the tears. Sweeney knows it is now commonplace for her and her alter-go to be handed the ball with this type of material. “I will say I feel like this is a common thing for me, and that in seventeen years I have been anxious to receive my scripts. When I get them I go, ‘Oh my God.’ When you are turning every page, and you are even reading other people’s lines, and then you get to the last page, and you want it to continue, that is when you know you have a good thing going.”
Next, Galen Gering offered up his thoughts to me on having to play “Mr. Wonderful” opposite “Mr. Badass” Dimera in vying for the affections of Sami. Galen previews there is more coming to this story. “There is definitely a twist coming. I don’t know how big a twist you can call it. But the stuff we just did is some of my favorite material in the last two years since I have been there. That is the good thing for the fans. I think they will enjoy what we have coming up. That is not to say there is not a lot of adversity ahead for Sami and Rafe, and mixed in with that is some other great stuff, and ultimately that is what daytime is about.” But I had to ask, “Will Rafe solve the case and realize who shot EJ and protect Sami, no matter what?’” I quickly pointed out that Agent Hernandez is not always the quickest to solve his cases! Gering replied, “Yeah… he solves everything eventually. But it may take him a year. (Laughs) It’s interesting to see what Rafe will go through for this girl. Talk about being a stand up guy!” DAYS executive producer, Ken Corday stopped by just then to talk with Galen and I. The head honcho let Gering know how important he is to the show by giving him one of the greatest compliments an actor can receive. “Galen brings the Gary Cooper that we have been missing for so long. Not only is Galen the strong silent type, but his eyes can talk and he doesn’t even need any lines. He is a fine actor and we adore him because he has those bedroom eyes.”
So while I had Corday there, it was time to try and get some insight into what is going to happen for the SAFE and EJami fans. Ken offered up, “First of all, the fans are split down the middle and I love it. We stretch the rubber band until it snaps. And, Sami snapped a couple weeks ago and she should have capped him. (Laughs) One bullet… a 22 caliber… and when you get a good thing in story, you run with it.” OK Ken, so Sami snapped, but can we have Rafe snap too? I mean how much does guy have to deal with to be with the woman he loves? Ken revealed, “Rafe is not going to snap. He is solid and he is the G-man. There are other women besides Sami, too. Let’s not forget that! And I am talking about someone currently on the canvas.” With that, I looked at Gering for his reaction and he was genuinely surprised! “That is revealing news there. Not sure if he really mean me or not, but either way it bodes well.” James Scott (EJ) was not doing any press interviews that evening. So we were unable to get his thoughts on the current story, and to give you his insight at this time. We hope to catch up with him very soon.
For Kristian Alfonso, Days of our Lives has been such an integral part of her career. Now as the show is about to celebrate its 45th anniversary, her Hope has got a new look! Prison stripes… well, orange jumpsuit. Alfonso enlightened me on her new “babes behind bars” story with soap vet, Robin Mattson. “I love Robin. She is fantastic and hilarious. I have never done the prison thing. Hope has never really been in prison. Let’s just say orange is my color these days without my earrings from the Hope, Faith, Miracles jewelry line. They made me take all of my jewelry off! And I said, ‘C’mon. Can’t I keep my earrings on? And they said, ‘Kristian, you got to lose the earrings! And I said, ‘Oh, c’mon. I can’t kill anyone with earrings!’ I finally took them off and went, ‘OK. Here you go. It’s a great story though. Hope is doing her time where she should be, and working in the infirmary. Then things start happening. I turned to our co- executive producer, Gary Tomlin the other day, and I go, ‘This is getting really juicy. I am excited!’” And from what we are hearing too, Hope’ s story is going to be quite the barnburner.
Peter Reckell (Bo), who along with Alfonso has created legendary soap supercouple, Bo and Hope is still feeling the same conundrum as fans of the show these days. Who does Bo really love? Hope or Carly? “I ask that everyday, ‘So who do I love?’ And they tell me, ‘Well, you love em both.’ And, I go, ‘Well, OK. So I am ever going to make a choice?’” After revealing his confusion too, Reckell went on to say, “Obviously the writers have been having difficulty with it because they flip flop between who Bo should be with, or is dedicated to, and so we are limbo. But the storyline that is coming with Hope is going to really sort of set things up. I can’t say anymore than that!” When I asked Reckell of the differences between Carly and Hope in Bo’s mind, he tells me it’s all a matter of the type of alcoholic refreshment that distinguishes the two beauties! “As a character, Hope had always been the princess and Bo was from wrong side of the tracks and it has always been that dynamic, whereas with the character of Carly, Bo and Carly are on the same level. Look at one of the first episodes when she came back. Bo and Carly were just hanging out having some beers, whereas Hope is champagne and Bo is a beer.” (Laughs) Reckell who came on the show as the ultimate anti-hero says being a hero for so long, he would now welcome the opportunity to step to the bad side, and had come up with a great way to do it. “Somebody asked me, what I would like you to play, and of course, I would love to play an evil twin. Here’s how: Victor could have been at the birth and stolen the twin away. So the twin could have grown up someplace else that Victor arranged!”
Since we are celebrating DAYS 45th, I had to ask Crystal Chappell (Carly) and her real-life hubby, Michael Sabatino (Lawrence) when they first felt that spark between them while working together at DAYS. Sabatino stated, “It was 20 years ago, and she was on this second-story balcony. I was reading the book The Fountainhead at the time. I looked up at her and thought, ‘Oh my God. It’s Dominique Francon, the daughter of the architects!’ I was totally rocked, and that was it. That was the moment.” Chappell responded with her moment of truth about her “hots” for Michael S. “I think it sort of snuck up on me. I started checking the schedule trying to find out when Michael was going to be there. I will say this… I kept looking at his booty. I had a booty attraction, and I am not ashamed of it at all.” (Laughs) Now in 2010, Carly seems like a bit of “buttinksi” these days with her meddling in the DNA test result daddy-drama. “I think she is traumatized by her life,” Chappell explained. “I think she is madly in love with Bo, but does not know what the right thing to do is. I think she is confused about that and what is the right thing to do for everyone. It’s a good thing about her, and its one of her biggest flaws. Like most doctors (and this is a generality) doctors tend to play God. It’s that kind of attitude. I don’t think she thinks that of herself, but it’s in her nature, certainly. I think she feels very guilty of having Daniel’s baby and not telling him. I think that is still very much there, but we are just not talking about it right now. It comes up in some scenes with Melanie and Carly, where she is trying to control things so people don’t get hurt again, especially the people she has already hurt.” For Crystal, looking back on this special night she says she never regretted her decision early in her career to leave DAYS the first time. (It has been seventeen years before Chappell came to the series last year.) “I don’t regret any decision I made back then. It made me more aware as a person and a more grateful person, and a better actress… having gone on to play other parts and characters and having that challenge. I did not leave under the best of circumstances. I wanted to come back and create and sew up better karma for myself and for the show. I am grateful for this experience.”
When Eric Martsolf (Brady) and his lovely wife Lisa stopped by to chat, we all took a moment to revel in the fact that Eric has finally got a great new storyline to sink his teeth into! And what a story it is! Brady buried Vivian alive in a sarcophagus, and he is becoming the town drunk all in one fell swoop. “Oh my God. Stop the presses,” Martsolf announced. “Who knows? Brady’s face could be on a cover of soap magazine! The possibilities are endless. I have never been on a cover of a magazine; I am like the Susan Lucci of covers. That is OK. Covers don’t mean anything, but it would be fun. Do I literally have to bury someone alive to get a cover?” (Laughs) So, what exactly happened to Salem’s Dudley-Do-Right, Brady Black? Martsolf says blame it on that vixen Nicole. “The moral of the story is: if the woman manipulates you one to many times and your cup runneth over, you will crack as a man. Nicole lied to Brady one to many times and the way he dealt with it is he went back to his poison, which is alcohol now. I know it was a drug addiction previously, but that is the most realistic part of the story. Most addicts believe they can handle most poisons. Brady’s whole way of rationalizing it is, ‘I can handle the alcohol. I just can’t handle the coke.’ But now he is turning into a full-fledged alcoholic. I say, he should become addicted to burying people alive.” Now Martsolf has gotten the chance to crossover and really play with some of the evil-doers in Salem, namely Louise Sorel’s, Vivan. So how do the two of them stop themselves from laughing so hard, and not peeing in their pants with the ridiculous sarcophagus drama? Martsolf replied, “And that is the question everyone has been asking, ‘Has Vivian peed in her pants yet?’ And, is Brady changing bed pans in his spare time?’ (Laughs) I am having more fun than I have had with this storyline, and than I have had in my soap career since 2003, and Louise is terrific to work with.”
Louise Sorel came by next, and I got her thoughts on Vivian’s latest perilous plight. “You know being buried alive is restful. (Laughs) There are so many twists coming. It’s fun. I am shocked every day when I see what they are writing. Sometimes I wonder how am I going to pull of the material that Vivian is asked to play. But I learned you have to be large and fill a space. So they give me this material and I sort of put in a space and let it explode, because if I think about it, I would not be able to do it.” Sorel heaped praise on her unlikely new co-star, Eric Martsolf. “First of all, he is so cute. I had to get past the way he looks. Then when we started to work together, he just flew. I could just see what a good time he was having, and he gives back and he is loose. Eric improvises and nothing throws him. This was like an accidental thing that happened, and he had not gotten to play before, because Brady was always the nice guy. Now he is very dangerous and he is radiating excitement. I can see it in his work. And, he is so funny.” But what was on my mind was, whatever happened to the real reason Vivian came back to Salem in the first place… to exact revenge on Carly? Sorel concurred it sort of disappeared. “I don’t get that. It should have been continued, it was kind of like the M.O. for the character. Now I am after Maggie and someone else who I can’t say right now. But I am thinking, ‘What happened to this very passionate thing she had about revenge on Carly?’ I can’t speak for the writers. I don’t know why they have made the decision to go in this direction. But you are right it has shifted and gotten away from her original intent when she returned to Salem.”
Suzanne Rogers (Maggie) who has been with the series for 36 years is having a soap renaissance. The two of us were overjoyed at the recent turn of events which gives Maggie a new nemesis in Vivian, and a new beau, in Victor Kiriakis! A far cry from where we were a few years back when they “killed” Maggie, and gave Suzanne a royal bon voyage in a movie theatre in Hollywood, complete with another red carpet event! Rogers shared her thoughts on her new lease on her soap life. “I thought my time would be relegated to watching and giving advice to the kids at this point. All of a sudden this silver tongued devil walks into my life. Can you believe this? When they “killed-off” Mickey, I did not know they were going to do this. I don’t think the writers did either. My honest opinion, I think it was a surprise. It was one of those things where I came over to Victor’s house to see Phillip. He was not there. So Victor and Maggie talked and we went at it. Now they call us “Magic”. When we heard that, John Aniston (Victor) said to me, ‘What are you “Mag”? And I am “Ick”?’ (Laughs) It is wonderful working with him. I hope he likes working with me. He has a photographic memory I will tell you that, and John is great with one-liners.”
That stunner Shelley Hennig, whose Stephanie is up to her eyeballs in DNA switching disasters, was happy for the turn to the dark side for Patch and Kayla’s offspring. “I don’t know what is happening to her. I just realized there are some similarities and differences between myself and my character. I will not stop till I get what I want and Stephanie is the same way. However, I will not do illegal things to get what I want.” I had to ask Hennig, is she getting confused like some viewers of who did or who didn’t switch Chloe’s baby-daddy results? “I do know who switched the results, and it is so weird. You are going to be like, ‘What?’ But it makes sense. Stephanie thinks if Melanie finds out about Chloe and Phillip’s one night stand, she is going to leave Phillip and go after her man, Nathan. This story has been fun and the episodes that aired just the other day with Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) and I were great to play. Mary Beth did a great job at making it believable.”
Salem has always had some unique men that led the charge into battle against the bad guys and none more so than Drake Hogestyn as John Black. Drake came back to see former cast mates this night, and shared with me his sentiments on the 45th anniversary, and what his Salem experience had meant to him. “When I entered the show it was really in its heyday. There was such phenomenal talent and we shot the show differently back then. I stayed on the set and I watched. I stole from the MacDonald Carey’s. (Tom Horton) I watched what they did and they were so giving with the advice. John Clarke (Mickey Horton) gave me so much advice too. It all went by so fast. Some people have been encouraging me to write a book. I have started to put my thoughts down. And when I started to do my history and how I got to the show from being a baseball player, and then to my time at DAYS, I realized my personal life had sort of dissolved for 23 straight years. In a way, when you put your blood, sweat, and tears into a show like that and really do live this part… 23 years went by so fast. I feel like I left the show yesterday. I see all these people here and my heart is just swelling. Then there are people who I don’t know. I know they are part of the cast and I am sure they are a great addition.”
Wally Kurth first joined DAYS back in 1987, and was one of the leading men given some great material. Wally recalled those good ole’ DAYS! “You know 1987- 1991 those were important years. Those 80’s were big years, the power years. (Laughs) Even judging from Ken Corday’s recent book, those were the power years. That first year of Justin and Adrienne was an amazing year, and was also amazing for me. I had never done TV before, or a soap before. I just remember our director, Al Rabin, saying, ‘Now Wally. When you see Adrienne you fall in love with her. You love her like you have never loved anyone before.’ And I was like, ‘Ok. That is what I will do.’ And so every time I saw her, I just looooved her. I did it. I sold it. I went for it. I drank the kool-aid and never looked back!” But while Kurth is back on the show in 2010, he has been languishing on the back-burner. The two of us were trying to come up with story to reinvigorate Justin to the canvas. “I’ll do anything at this point (Laughs). They have to come up with something. They have to invest something. Justin is a lawyer. So he has that function on the show, but he could be an unscrupulous attorney, which would be fun. If the people out there have any suggestions, I am putting it out there…write the powers-that-be. I am sure they would be interested in what you have to say.”
Ty Treadway is playing Salem’s newest doctor. Now let’s think about this. Something is going to have to be up with this guy, and he is going to have to be pulled into some skullduggery. After all, this is the same dude that played evil and off-center twins, Colin and Troy McGiver on One Life to Live! So I asked Ty, is he going to play a sonofabitch? Treadway shared his insight. “You know, I can’t imagine they picked up the phone without a little twinkle in their eye somewhere, but so far I haven’t seen it. They wrote some great stuff for me like the fun house plot at One Life. I was so lucky to get that to play. Now being here at DAYS and being reunited with those same writers, Dena Higley and Christopher Whitesell, I am looking forward to whatever they write for me. I hope it’s as crazy and wild as it has been in the past. So far he’s been a really nice guy. Dr. Jason Walters is a brain surgeon. I am sure he is going to be willing to do something wrong sooner or later for the love of his life.” Ah, and so there will be someone that catches Jason’s eye! “I am interested in a “love”. Treadway goes on to tease, “We will hopefully see that play out, and see how the fans like it.” I also gave some kudos to the man who co-hosted the now defunct Soap Talk with another former Salemite, Lisa Rinna. To me, Ty always seemed prepared and knew his soap stuff. Something any good interviewer should have in his back-pocket. “I felt like it was important and I owed it to people who came on the show as guests to know about the history and know about them and their character. I felt I owed to the fans if I was going to chronicle what was going on today on soaps. I was fortunate to get to know so many people in daytime hosting Soap Talk. It will go down as one of my favorite jobs until now!”
So you can’t end an evening in Salem without the soap supercouple who started it all, Doug and Julie, AKA long time real-life lovebirds, Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes. Between these two legends, the history of the show is truly right before you. They shared with me their fondest memories. Susan started, “My fondest memory is when Bill talked the writers into doing a variety show segment and when everyone on the show who could sing and dance…and go to it. Suzanne Rogers got to tap dance, Billy sang in a quartet, MacDonald Carey did a soft shoe and Frances Reid played Groucho Marx, and it was amazing, and it was all Bill’s idea and execution.” But speaking of memories, I had to ask the duo their thoughts on when they decided to burn Julie’s face so badly that Susan had to wear that disfiguring make-up/prosthetics. Back in the day, soaps were into burning up their leading ladies faces! Seaforth Hayes commented, “I was astonished at my mother, Elizabeth Harrower (Ex- writer, DAYS) for coming up with that story, and it was difficult. I was working so much and I was happy to be. Julie recovered amazingly!” (Laughs) Bill on the other hand, recalled watching the poor stunt double for Susan who had to become a crispy critter. “The day in the studio when that fire was done was frightening. The stunt girl was in a suit and they put fire stuff all over her and then lit it. They had thirty seconds and she has to be out of that within that time. The stunt can only last that long, or she is custard!”
When DAYS celebrates its true anniversary in November, look for the new pictorial backdoor history of the show never before released. That is when Days of our Lives 45 Years: a Celebration in Photos will hit the book shelves. I received a preview copy and let me tell you, any fan of the show is going to love it. Eddie Campbell created the book along with DAYS and Corday Productions executive, Greg Meng. I got Eddie’s thought on the carpet on why fans will love this upcoming addition to their coffee table. “It is a very modern twist and a very moving forward book, but it is sensitive to the past and the entire history of the show. You know my grandmother always watched the show, and so that is how I knew it. I love the characters of Hope, Bo, and Sami. I also love that we embrace the past with Frances Reid (Alice). She was a top notch gem of a person. Fans will love this book because it is stage doors open and an unprecedented behind the scenes journey unlike any DAYS book every produced, and it breaks the fourth wall.” On-Air On-Soaps will give you news in the near future on how you can pre-order this special memento.
And so as the sands through the hour glass timed out, as the red carpet dwindled down, Salem still seemed like a great place to be. Unanimously, the stars shared their happiness of the intimate feeling that comes from being part of the select actors who through the years, have gotten to be part of the DAYS family. For me personally, I reflected back to 1997 when I launched the SONY/ DAYS official website that still lives on today. And 45 years as the longest running scripted television show on the peacock network is nothing to sneeze at either. Quite the accomplishment from Corday and Company.