August 3rd, 2011  |  Leave a comment

The Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn Interview – Days of our Lives

Photo Credit: Steven Bergman

They’re back! Two of the most beloved and memorable performers in soaps who were unceremoniously given their pink-slips in late 2008 (due at that time to budget cuts) are set to re-emerge on your daytime television screens in late September!  We can only be talking about Days of our Lives, Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn, as super heroine Dr. Marlena Evans Black, and super hero extraordinaire, John Black!

Hall and Hogestyn’s return is the cornerstone in which Days of our Lives is resetting the show and its canvas, while bringing in many familiar faces, blasts from the past, and modernizing the longest running scripted television show in the history of NBC in the process.  On-Air On-Soaps had the opportunity to talk to both Deidre and Drake to get their thoughts on the big return, the pressure that comes with it, what fans can expect, and a preview of what brings “Doc” and John back to Salem.  We also discuss with these durable veterans, who have seen it all and lived through the ups and downs of daytime, what they think the future holds for DAYS and for the troubled soap genre.

We have to say, this was a fantastic opportunity for us to reconnect with such familiar favorites, and it was just as they say, “like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes,” when conducting our interview, and hearing their voices.  Deidre, ever the slick professional filled with humor and grace, and Drake, one of the true gentlemen of the soap world who has had more curve balls thrown at him (and yes, that is a nod to his baseball days, too!) than any actor could ever imagine!

The motto over at DAYS for the summer leading into fall is, “Watch Now to See How We Change.”  And if all the hype and all the changes that are happening can put smiles across viewers faces, old and new, and make them want to tune-in again, then who better to kick things off, than Deidre and Drake.  So, here’s our chat with the ultimate pros!

MICHAEL:

First of all, I was kind of shocked to hear that you were coming back to DAYS after the last go-round and how the dust settled from that. Were you shocked?

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DRAKE:

You were shocked? I can guarantee you; you were not half as thrilled and shocked as I was.  I not only fell off a chair, I fell off a ladder! And that is the truth. That is fact!

MICHAEL:

Deidre, having been written off the show and then asked to return, was there any trepidation on your part to come back now?

DEIDRE:

Oh no!  I wrote a book called Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Close-up and I was on the road with our co-executive producer, Greg Meng, whom I have known casually while I was at DAYS previously. The experience was so replenishing and reassuring just dealing with him. There was just no question that I would want to come back, but a lot of things had to happen to make it comfortable and make it sensible for Drake and I to return. Greg had set a plan in motion that was frankly irresistible, and it really was about new writers and new producers that are just brilliant at what they do.

MICHAEL:

Drake, when I think of how many times DAYS has written you off, brought you back, morphed your character, and altered his mind… I thought, “And here we go again!” (Laughs) But, I was thrilled you will be back on-screen.  When they asked you to return, did you have any trepidation?

DRAKE:

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There was never any trepidation about coming back.  Everything kind of aligned. Well, first of all, I was invited to Ken Corday’s book signing of his memoir, and then the 45th anniversary celebration at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honoring DAYS.  Those were interesting moments for me because I got to play with the cast a little bit at Ken’s book signing, and then I got to see a lot of the crew at the 45th event. Different emotions come over you like, “Oh my gosh, it is so good to see you.  I love these people who I have not seen in forever.”   But then, I have to keep in mind and keep in check a tight rein on my heart, because I then have to put my toys away in a couple of hours. I did not get the next day to go back to work and see everybody.  I may never see them again. There were some very conflicting emotions with that.  I am still very emotionally attached to the show, but I was not physically part of the fabric anymore, and that was hard to deal with.  Kristian Alfonso (Hope), Alison Sweeney (Sami), Suzanne Rogers (Maggie), Peggy McKay (Caroline), and Joe Mascolo (Stefano) at the book signing, started a buzz with some people at DAYS, especially Greg Meng.  Then, I was invited to go out on one of the 45th anniversary book signings with Jim Reynolds (Abe) and Kristian Alfonso in Houston.  I sat next to Greg while we were signing books.  The turnout from the fans and the outpouring of emotion, and the hunger for wanting to see DAYS return to the romance, and the action/adventure, and the intrigue that was all apart of the 90’s, was missing in their lives.

MICHAEL:

And what did the fans says to you the most?

DRAKE:

They kept saying, “Drake!  Who do we talk to and get you back on the show?” And I said, “Well, I suppose you could start with the man right next to me!”  And Greg Meng, God bless him, put “post-its” on my jacket of how many people said that!  So I had my jacket looking like it had scales hanging off it.  I know Deidre was getting the same response, and Greg was taking it all in.  And this actually put a face on what was going on with the audience.  People were then able to tangibly talk to someone from DAYS that was in a leadership role, and Greg was there.  It was a real eye opener for me, and I was overwhelmed.  I thought, “Oh my gosh!  They still remember me?”  Once again, it was the grandmother, mothers and their children coming up to me in line.  And I was talking to Greg about how come DAYS has been on so many years; and that is because generations were passing on the torch.  A lot of viewers have left the show for whatever reason.  Now a lot of times, it’s because an emotional favorite has been taken off.  When Deidre and I return to the show, I can guarantee there will be a lot of television sets that will be turned back on.  And Michael, you know this better than anybody.  Once you have those television sets on, there are going to be other eyeballs that walk through the room.  And they are going to say, “Hey Grandma! Hey Mom! What are you watching?”  And I can tell you, if they watch from commercial to commercial, we are going to have the audience again, because right now we have the engaging story and we have the compelling actors.

Courtesy/NBC

MICHAEL:

Deidre, because you play this soap opera legendary character of Dr. Marlena Evans Black, and she is so beloved, did you have discussions or meetings with the writers before you agreed to tape a show?

DEIDRE:

I don’t have story approval nor would I want that. That is somebody else’s job. But meeting with the writers and hearing their theories about the show and what their fantasies were and what their direction was, I realized now it feels like one big solid team and a return to the core family values and the way the show was ten to fifteen years ago. Then, the people that tuned into the show couldn’t wait to see it, and wouldn’t want to miss an episode.  And, there were multi-generational families discussing it together.  That was what Days of Our Lives always was, and we got to return to it.  Everybody was on board for it with Greg Meng’s guidance and Noel Maxam’s supervision. It is, as I have said over and over again, truly DAYS 2.0.  It is a return to family the way they used to be.

MICHAEL:

Deidre, you are a very successful businesswoman and entrepreneur, and you have written books and diversified into a myriad of platforms and projects.  As someone who has been in daytime soaps for a very long time and has seen how the daytime landscape has evolved and dissipated, it has been hard for those of us in the field for any length of time to see how it’s been decimated, and most recently, with the cancellations of All My Children and One Life to Live.  Do you feel the same kind of thing for DAYS, and the genre in general, that this could be the last hurrah?

DEIDRE:

I think daytime had encountered a number of problems that bested a number of the shows and that is: there is very little revenue in daytime or any television shows anymore, and we are fighting the internet and cable and Netflix, and anybody or any entity that is offering up any type of programming.  And in order to compete, we needed to reinvent ourselves. And what Greg Meng and the prior administration had managed to do was produce a show that was smart, beautiful to watch, but affordable.  I would like to say there are other things that make a show stay on the air for a long time, but in this medium and market, the secret is that has to be affordable.  DAYS figured out a way to do it that did not compromise the quality of what went on the air.

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MICHAEL:

Are you speaking of how it worked at DAYS the last go-around, before you returned in 2011?

DEIDRE:

Well, the system had changed a lot of what I heard about, which was… we do it faster, it’s streamlined, and all the fat is cut away.  By that I mean, there is never waiting for an actor on set, there is never waiting for a prop, there is never, “let’s stop and re-light it”, and everybody arrives on stage with their best game in front of them. When that team all pulls together you can then do one fabulous scene after the next in the first take!  Could I have thought it could have been done this way?  No! (Laughs) I have to tell you I was apprehensive. We are just used to kind of floating around the stage and taking our time. (Laughs)  We also loved having the opportunity to put in a couple ad-libs and being really clever and playing jokes, but not anymore.

DRAKE:

DAYS is doing things right, getting the show in on time and under budget. Greg Meng and Noel Maxam are doing a fantastic job and it is like a great marriage.  Greg is up in the office and keeping the numbers correct, and Noel Maxam is down on the floor with his sleeves rolled up.  No more running back to the booth.  He is right there in your face, going faster and faster and getting it right.  The show looks fabulous and we are getting out of there at 5PM every single night, and shooting seven and a half to eight shows a week.  Back in the old days, we shot every singe day and shot four or more Saturdays a year to get two weeks off for the holiday!  We shot on Memorial Day and Labor Day; we did not get those days off.  We shot till 1AM in the morning and we would come back at 6AM.  I have ledgers that say I had 90-hour weeks!  Really!  So now this is a whole new ball game and the way to keep the show on the air.  If you are going to do a one-hour original show a day, this is the way to do it, and by God they are doing it…on time and under budget… and still with the stories the audience loves.

MICHAEL:

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But if I recall, Deidre, you are the kind of actress who really likes to “work” a scene, right?  So you can’t really do that as much now.  So do you just go to set and do your scene and get-out? (Laughs)

DEIDRE:

Well, we now work a scene ahead of time!  We are in the dressing room and we have a brilliant woman who is on staff full time and she gathers the specific actors together who come to our dressing room.  Her name is Maria, and I have to tell you, she is brilliant.  So by the time you step on stage, you have your moves and lines cold.

MICHAEL:

Drake, there must be some inherent pressure put on you and Deidre, to raise the ratings and viewership of DAYS, given the state of the industry and the downturn Deidre and I just spoke of.  What are your thoughts on this, having been a veteran in this genre for decades, from your vantage point?

DRAKE:

Michael, this is an interesting thought, if we could save the show.  I got a call from Jeff Zucker (former NBC President and CEO) my last week of work at DAYS, just to say “Thank you,” which was a really nice gesture.  I called him back, and after playing phone tag for a bit we finally spoke.  And we talked about the daytime genre, and the fact that he owned Passions and let it go, and the fact that he does not own Days of our Lives and where was it going, and how viable it was to the network at that point.  It was leading me to believe, and if I were reading between the lines correctly, that the show might not be long for the air.  But obviously, Jeff Zucker is now moving forward with Katie Couric, and could not bump General Hospital off the daytime canvas!  So I am kind of looking at that going, “Whoa! Is there an agenda there?  I don’t know.”  But the thing is, all shows are soap operas!  That is the way I look at it.  First and foremost, you must have story, story, story, for the audience.

MICHAEL:

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There is a big kick-off week starting on September 26th that resets Days of our Lives, which brings John and Marlena on-air and back to the Salem canvas.  And I also know, many familiar faces are also returning, and when taping these scenes en masse, you got to see some old co-horts.  Was there anybody or a moment when you went something like, “Oh my God!  I can’t believe I am seeing Patrick Muldoon (Austin)?”

DEIDRE:

Oh my God! You know those moments were more about my crew.  I traveled with Shawn Christian (Daniel) and Molly Burnett (Melanie), and we had so much fun on book tours, that to see them was like seeing someone you had done Summer Stock with, squealing and running and hugging!  I can tell you, we all fell in love with one another on the road…so that was a real treat; to finally be in that situation now with them at DAYS.  Traveling with Greg Meng, Shawn and Molly was like, “I know we were friends in a past life, because we all do the same job at different times,” but we just resonated to each other.  And Molly taught me how to tweet, oh my gosh!

MICHAEL:

I know you are on Twitter!  Who would have ever thought!  And isn’t it funny when you see the younger generation tweeting and being really cool about it? They know how to do it perfectly and get their thoughts out.  And then I watch people in my age group, and at first they don’t quite have the hang of it and it’s kind of humorous, because we are all so clumsy with it.

DEIDRE:

I was like, “Wow, the world is doing this!  What have I been doing?”  I have found people to be so responsive to my tweets.  It has been, great, great, great!

MICHAEL:

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I also am hearing there is a big umbrella story that kicks off the week of September 26th and John is a functioning man! (Laughs)  Last time we saw him he was paralyzed via syringe, and shipped off to Switzerland!

DRAKE:

It is the opening of the Horton Center, and they have a fabulous set, Michael.  It runs the whole width of NBC studios.  I mean, it’s not one of those sets you are going to tear down.  It has an open-door type of feel, with a plethora of stores that surround a semi-circle.  I hear the audience will be able to feel like they are going in and out of those stores.  And then you will have a reverse type of scene, where you can see the Horton Center from the back.  They are doing a lot of visual experimentation that is pretty exciting.  Now, when we last saw John he was a quadriplegic and he had gotten a whopping dose of a toxic syringe that went right to his spine, in an effort to save “Doc” from this not-half-bad-to-look-at psychiatrist. (Laughs)  But anyways, you know they had to rush him to Lugano, Switzerland because that clinic is the only one in the world that could save his life and work with him 24 hours around the clock!  Wow! (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

When he comes back, will John be able to walk?  That is what is in the rumor mill.

DRAKE:

Well, when he comes back, you won’t know that right off the bat.  But, there is an “Ah-ha” moment there.  John is getting back the use of all of his extremities, but at that time there are other forces that have been waiting for him to arrive on American soil.  And that creates the next event that created that Umbrella storyline you are talking about, which defines all the characters in black and white.  And this is where our head writers, Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas are redefining the characters.  I remember when they worked under Jim Reilly several years ago.  I talked to Jim about sometimes the characters get muddied when you have plot driven storylines, and they do things that are out of character.  But we are doing very contemporary storylines now, and so everything we are doing is character driven.

MICHAEL:

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Trouble always follows John!  So one can assume he is a major catalyst here?

DRAKE:

Well, John is the Jason Bourne character.  And that is where, to this day; I always go back to that as my Bible…you know, the identity crisis.  And, who has he relied on over the years that he can trust?  And who doesn’t he trust?  And obviously, Stefano Dimera will always be at the center of that, and I have only had one small scene with Joe Mascolo so far.  But I can tell you; we have already set the table.  I am not sure how EJ will play into this, or how much he will be carrying the torch.  But in the back of my mind, I don’t forget the fact he shot me.  So that will always be there, and the fact that he comes across reptilian.  I keep that in the back of my mind, too.

MICHAEL:

Deidre, are you happy with the story that brings John and Marlena back to DAYS? As Drake hinted at, there is major story that brings the beloved duo back to the canvas!

DEIDRE:

Oh my Gosh.  I am beyond satisfied.  I did not fantasize that two writers could sit down and could create, day after day after day compelling television.  And Greg Meng had said to me, “What we want to do is create a great surprise in every show.  And we don’t just mean, ‘Oh my Gosh.’  We mean, ‘OH. MY. GOSH!’  And that is how I feel when I pick up a script. I find myself going, “We’re what?  Oh my Gosh!”  And it all goes so fast!

MICHAEL:

Is Marlena going to have new kind of “Marlena” problems? I mean, please confirm for us that there will not be the supernatural involved or serial killing!

DEIDRE:

There will be no science fiction and it will be no-nonsense.  What Darrell Ray Thomas and Marlene McPherson have created is storytelling that is about contemporary life.  And in our world right now, people are concerned about their mortgage, putting their kids through school, putting food on the table, putting the gas in their car, and they are scared senseless.  I don’t think that skips a generation or any place in our country.  So we end up without giving away storyline, having stories on our show that will feel very familiar, and taken from the headlines.  And no one is buried alive, and no one is wondering who the daddy is, and no one has been cloned.  It just is real life drama.

MICHAEL:

On that note, we have discussed John is getting his mind and body coordination back, but will he be of sound mind when he returns?  This time can you promise no brain alteration, chips, or warped personality change or confusion?

DRAKE:

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This is the romantic John, the protector and the hero.  He is working hard now to get himself back to 100%.  There are still some lingering things from the shots.  There was one piece of dialog that happens between Marlena and Lexie, where she says, “I am still worried about him.”  And she said, “Why? Because of his recovery?” And Marlena says, “It’s coming along OK, but he is restless at night and there are other issues.”  So I am not sure at all if they are going to touch upon that, or if it is a red-herring because of the event that is unfolding right now.  But as far as you know, I am the swashbuckling John that is coming back to save Salem from any “do-badders!” (Laughs)

MICHAEL:

Finally, Deidre, can you speak to if John and Marlena are in a good place in their relationship when they return?  You know how many Jarlena fans are out there!

DEIDRE:

What is compelling about their story is; they are coming back more united, more joined and stronger, and more capable of facing anything together then they have ever been before. It is a deeper love story and a deeper love story of support, and you see it is the marriage you always wanted to have every day on the screen.

  1. Kim says:

    Thank you so much. I love the DH’s and can’t wait to see them back on Days. Great interview!

    Reply

  2. Jasmine says:

    Wonderful interview. Makes me more excited for September 26th!!!

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  3. Heather T says:

    This longtime viewer is tuning out midway through September -now “that’s a fact”!

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    Doreen replied

    Why? Are you disappointed they are coming back?How long have you been a fan?What is it that is making you tune out?

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    Heather T replied

    Almost 40 years of watching….real disappointed in KC latest decision of releasing CC to be honest. It was bad enough the first time around. He releases an Emmy winning actress that has been absolutely killing her storyline as of late.

    Cathy replied

    While I was not a CC fan…she is a good actress and I think they could have made room for her and gotten rid of some of the Hernandez family and other useless actors. But with the return of J&M, Jack and Carrie and Austin I do believe that the show is returning to an amazing time. I want to the see the rating shoot them to #1!!! KC is a jerk and always was and always will be. He destroys characters and then dumps them. We understand how you are feeling. We went through that with J&M and it sucks!!!

  4. Waverly says:

    I’m excited when you post an interview Michael because the questions you ask always elicit engaging responses. Thank you for that.
    It’s encouraging to hear the enthusiasm Deidre and Drake have for the changes viewers will see in September. Knowing that the writers, directors, producers and actors are collaborating makes me feel confident that Days will delight fans once again. Character driven stories where we know consistency will be upheld is so important in keeping the trust of the audience. I’m definitely intrigued that they want to provide daily surprises and “Oh. My. Gosh.” moments!
    I can’t wait to see this big turning “event” and Marlena & John’s return along with the other characters. It sounds fantastic. Mostly I’m looking forward to all the characters, old and new, getting stories that draw me in and rushing for the television daily.

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  5. Beba K says:

    HOLY CRAP! this is making me even more impatient! Hurry up September 26th…!!

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  6. AlistairCrane says:

    I am not excited for the “contemporary”, “character-driven”, “ripped-from-the-headlines” element if that is in fact the direction these writers go. If I wanted that kind of thing, I’d watch CNN. I prefer Days to be Gothic with elements of the supernatural mixed in. I hope I’m not disappointed….or I’ll quit watching!

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    Christie replied

    Judging by your screen name, I’m guessing you were a Passions fan. They did a lot of that crap.

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    AlistairCrane replied

    Not crap. Good soap.

  7. Doreen says:

    I`am delighted John and Marlena are coming back it is about time.I was devastated when they were let go.Can`t wait to see them back on the show.

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  8. Cory says:

    Another fabulous interview Michael!!!! (two thumbs up)
    I just hope the whole show is better!!!! For ALL of the characters!!!!!
    So I’ll give the new writers and their new story lines some time to play out. The worst I can do is tune out again right???

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  9. Maggie says:

    Great interview, Michael. It makes me excited for Days 2.0. I’m so curious to see the changes the new writers bring. I’m pleased that the characters I’ve loved who were sacrificed for plot-point writing will be restored. Excellent move! And I can’t wait to see the big event and subsequent umbrella plot. Here’s to restoring the Days I loved!

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  10. Jules says:

    Thank you for the wonderful interview. The millions of J&M fans are so excited about their return to the screen. I AM MOST DEFINITELY ONE OF THEM! Thanks again!

    Jules

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  11. Cathy says:

    I am beyond excited!!!! Stopped watching days when they put all those 20 something horrible actors on the show and turned into the Sami Brady show!!! Class and good acting is returning to days. Character driven storylines which is what good soap opera is all about….finally!!!! I have watched Days since day one in 1965 and now i can come home again in September!!!

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    nancy replied

    also an avid Days fan since ’65!! watched through out the ups and downs and am now soooo excited about the return of not only marlena and john but also jack!!

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    Cathy replied

    It will be fun Nancy!!!! The Days I loved and grew up with is coming back….

    Tricia replied

    I really think Sami Brady and Rafe along with that storyline have been very interesting and it has kept Days as good as it is today. If some of the crazy antic that were done could have been taken out, it sure could have been a lot better. Allison Sweeney is a good actress and I like her character as Sami and hope that they continue this. I also am glad that some of the past characters are returning to Days, but really sorry to see Carly go. It could have went different for her storyline-I hated seeing her become a drug addict. I am so glad to see Vivian finally leave, talk about boring. I have watched Days for >30 years and still stay a fan. I have of recent thought about not watching anymore but for now, I will continue to tune in. I also love the Melanie and Dario scenario.

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  12. Angie says:

    Thanks for this awesome article! I am so excited John and Marlena are coming back! I haven’t watched Days since they left. I’ll start again on September 26th!

    Reply

  13. Joyce Hightower says:

    I have been waiting for 2 years to hear that Drake is coming back as John Black on Days. I think he and Marlena will be the next Tom & Alice. I am ready for some of the romance that they had before they left. Thank goodness you have come to your senses and brought them back. Drakes # 1 Arkansas Fan

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  14. KESM says:

    Sounds good! I can’t wait till Sept 26! I really hope they get John ,Marlena & Jack right. I also hope they can balance the stories with the whole cast throughout the whole year and someone does not have to disappear for 2 months the way Peter did April/May 2010 because they did not want to go over budget.

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  15. Penny says:

    Glad to see all the old ones come back except for one. Was never a fan of Jack..sorry was boring. I am so glad to see that Victor & Maggie together..YEA love them. Have watched for a long long time can’t miss it. Just wish they would kind of stop the scene’s with everyone has to have a drink in there hand. This is really getting to be a drunk town. TO MUCH ALCOHOL.

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  16. RJ says:

    Looking forward to the change – the drama, romance, adventure, action, but with real life 21st century characters, storylines, and issues (no more RoboRafe’s). I have not watched Days in awhile now, but I hope that it will be good, so I will want to watch again. Thanks for a good interview, Michael. Thanks for doing the interview Deidre and Drake. Good Luck to Days and all the actors. I hope it will really improve and have engaging storylines and compelling characters, so it will be successful again.

    Reply

  17. Jules says:

    Fantastic interview. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  18. rob lail says:

    Finally, back to the core that made this show unstoppable in the mid 80′s and early 90′s
    This is great.

    Reply

  19. Lucille Ramella says:

    I have always adored Deidre and Drake I met them in person at luncheons in their honor! They are such beautiful looking people, Drake actually sat on my lap I was so embarrassed but thrilled at the same time! I have pictures with him and I. He is so handsome and fun! I have pictures with Deidre also! They are such a super couple, the best of the best! I’ve been counting the days until their return on Sep. 26th like many of us fans are doing! I started watching the show back in the early 70′s and it has never been the same without these two fabulous actors! So excited for their return!

    Reply

  20. MAR says:

    Glad to see John (Drake) and Marlena (Dee) back. They are the best. Their chemistry clicks together like no other television couple. I have been watching them as a couple since the beginning. They show you what romance is all about. They have me watching the show again. Please keep them together.When they left, I didn’t have interest in the show. Welcome back!!!!!!

    Reply

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