February 19th, 2009  |  Leave a comment

THE THAAO PENGHLIS INTERVIEW- DAYS OF OUR LIVES

thaao_black.jpgIn this exclusive On-Air On-Soaps interview, Days of our Lives actor Thaao Penghlis, who has played Tony Dimera on and off for over several decades, talks openly and honestly about being one of the actors and characters let-go by executive producer, Ken Corday, as part of the show’s final budget cuts and cast trimming.

As many “DAYS” and soap fans know, a few weeks ago came word that Thaao was being written off the show in an upcoming murder mystery whodunit. Thaao explains that he feels ageism was part of the decision making process, including what happened with other soap veterans, Deidre Hall, Drake Hogestyn, Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans. Next, we learn what’s going to precipitate Tony’s exit and storyline, and Thaao talks about his feelings on departing the show and embarking on a new career path. We do touch on his thoughts on head writer,
Dena Higley, former head writer, James
Reilly, and former co-executive producer,
Ed Scott.

In this revealing interview, Thaao says goodbye to his fans and talks about his new projects. Always the world traveler, he talks about his upcoming travel plans and gives an in-depth look, and his sentiments, into the daytime soap machine.

MICHAEL:

How did you find out you were being let-go from “DAYS”?

THAAO:

I was overseas in Cuba doing some mission work. I don’t think that Ken Corday knew, but he left me a message to call him. I kind of knew, or had a sense, because you did not get many calls from Ken unless they are ominous in some way. They used to call you once when you did good work, but those things don’t happen anymore.

MICHAEL:

Every actor I spoke with in recent months has told me when you get called in to the office it’s usually not a good sign.

THAAO:

Yes, it never used to be that way. I do not know why it happens this way, and I don’t know what’s happened to the heart of things.

MICHAEL:

How did you feel hearing, once again, that the show was going to “kill” off Tony Dimera? You have been “killed” off “DAYS” numerous times in the past!

thaao_sunglasses.jpgTHAAO:

It stayed with me for about half a day. You think to yourself, “How many times can you kill me? And how many times do they always have the same feel about it?” And then you go, “Wait a minute? Do I take this personally? Why does this character have to be killed?” I don’t know what that is.

MICHAEL:

So, what did Ken say to you?

THAAO:

Ken told me the character is going to be “killed” in a “whodunit.” He said, “You’ve been killed before and you’ve always come back,” but not this time. I think this is it for me. I am looking elsewhere, and it wasn’t that I did not anticipate this.

MICHAEL:

We had talked previously that they were not even using you and Leann Hunley (Anna) on-screen.

THAAO:

Yeah, and this head writer looked me right in the eye and said at the Emmys, “There is nothing she couldn’t write for me,” and the fact of the matter is she was going to bring me into an autism story. Then all these stories were developing with the Dimeras and John, and EJ and Tony, and the estate, and Stefano was dying. Then a new producer came in.

MICHAEL:

Yes, Gary Tomlin replaced Ed Scott as the new co-executive producer at “DAYS”. How did you feel about seeing Ed go?

THAAO:

I was sorry to see Ed Scott go. He was more hands-on and appreciative of actors. He would come out and really let you know how he felt, but he is a different kind of human being, I think.

MICHAEL:

What did Leann say when you told her the news of your upcoming departure from Salem?

THAAO:

She was sad, because we did not have anything really to play. Even the writer thaao_leann.jpgsaid to us, “You two have chemistry you can’t buy.” So, I am not taking it personally. It’s their choices. They are entitled to the expression they want to play. I can’t turn around and say to them, “You’re not being fair, it’s terrible.” They’re not really, it’s just someone coming in and creating a different recipe with the ingredients they need for the recipe. I have been around and survived as an actor my entire lifetime, so it’s not like Gary Tomlin is an ogre or the head writer is terrible, its not. They are just who they are, and they want to tell other stories. You just have to know when its time to move. It’s just not pleasant, finishing the character and dying again. I don’t like those kinds of things… death and coffins. James Reilly, ex head writer “DAYS”, put me in a coffin for three days, and Gary was a friend of James Reilly, and they are the two people that have killed me.

MICHAEL:

When you look at “DAYS” now, with the departure of so many long time veterans and icons of the genre, what do you think?

THAAO:

“DAYS” is not “DAYS” anymore. It’s an extension of what it was; it’s not the body or the heart of what it was. We were all part of that, especially those that just left and I think we were the best of daytime. I think, hands down, the James Reilly’s of the world have destroyed daytime. They took the thing that people watched, which was great reality and passions, and made it into somewhat of a joke and cartoons. However, I must say, the fact that “DAYS” has remained on so long is a credit to the show. It has such a wonderful history and I will miss it.

MICHAEL:

Will Leann be leaving or spending time in the murder mystery?

THAAO:

I am sure she will be visiting my grave.

MICHAEL:

Do you think she might be a suspect then, to facilitate her exiting the canvas?

THAAO:

She needs to have some kind of mourning period, and then Anna will probably decide she needs to go to a nunnery. (He laughs)

MICHAEL:

Will Tony be stirring up a lot of trouble in his last month and half in Salem?

thaao_joe.jpgTHAAO:

Yes, and I am enjoying that! I like to disturb! It’s all coming out that it’s not Nicole’s child and Tony finds out. I am having hassles with everybody. Suddenly, I am having arguments with everybody, so it’s one of those, “Who do I disturb the most?” I know how I go, but it will be something that will set up the battle between the Kiriakis and the Dimeras families.

MICHAEL:

Will it be a bloody death? You know, bullets through you kind of thing?

THAAO:

Are you asking me if am I dying with dignity? It’s not going to be as bad as that, I don’t think.

MICHAEL:

So, who will you be mixing it up with to precipitate this murder?

THAAO:

I have got some interesting stuff with some of the females on the show. I know Joe Mascolo (Stefano), is very upset that I will soon be exiting the show.

MICHAEL:

So, for “DAYS” and Tony fans when can we say you will be on-air till?

THAAO:

I will be shooting about 16 shows, and those will all be airing through the end of March.

marybeth_stephen.jpgMICHAEL:

Have you spoken to Mary Beth Evans (Kayla) and Stephen Nichols (Patch) since they have also been given the pink slip from the series? In a recent issue of Soap Opera Digest, Ken Corday was quoted as saying, “We are done.” (with the cast cutting) I’m going to let the cast know that this is the week we start our new contract with NBC and the difficult, onerous, painful bloodletting of this transition is over.”

THAAO:

I have not spoken to them, but they knew. Mary Beth had come to me after they had spoken to the producer and were told, “There were too many actors on the show over 40, and they had to let some go.” The interesting thing is Ken said, “It had nothing to do with ageism.” And yet, every one of us who was let go was over 40. To me, it is about ageism,
because these are all wonderful characters
on the show.

MICHAEL:

Did you feel at some point that “DAYS” head writer, Dena Higley, was not going to write for you?

THAAO:

She did give me a clue one day. She said when she first came to the show, “I noticed you were playing two characters and I thought to myself, who wants to go there”? And I thought, “Well, that does not sound encouraging.” It only got me an Emmy nomination. I do not have complaints about it. They gave me many wonderful years of employment. I used that employment to have my own education to travel the world. In the big picture, “Am I upset about it?” No. I just wish they did not dangle me around for the last year.

MICHAEL:

How is Deidre Hall (Ex- Marlena) doing?

deidre_hall.jpgTHAAO:

She is doing great, and it’s the first time in years she felt she didn’t have to run anywhere. She was really upset when she called me and found out I was “let-go”. We had a good laugh, and we are going to meet and have lunch together. She is not bitter.

MICHAEL:

There are some rumblings that you have a new show on the Sci-fi Channel?

THAAO:

This thing, “Emissary”, I was excited about because I was getting to work again with Phil Morris, who I worked with on “Mission Impossible”. It’s a series being developed for an Internet series on the Sci-Fi Channel website, and beyond that, they are trying to get it sold to television. So, it could be very intriguing.

MICHAEL:

What would you like to say to your fans?

THAAO:

I must say fans can be fleeting, but I have had a core of fans. I know the actors that have gone before me have, too. You can’t have lasted this long and be able to come back this many times without having a base to support you, and the fans are terrific. It’s something you do that makes them feel that you have changed the way they have looked at things, or you have amused them in some way, or scared them, and they have stayed around to support you. They have been amazing, and so supportive. And it’s almost like you become an extension of them. Their responses have been interesting. I have had great stories and gotten the chance to play challenging things. I have no animosity. I go to work and I see wonderful faces and people who I appreciate, and through their reflection, you see how much you have grown. In the 80’s people would day, “Thaao’s on set!” thaao_outdoors.jpgThis was back in the 80’s. I could be a bit difficult in the way I would approach getting to things, but as I have matured, I have been able to be very quiet in my approach to work, so I do not upset those around me. In other words, when I come into the room, I like when people get excited. I don’t want to waste time, and I know my lines and I am going to surprise them. In many ways you support the fans that way. For them to keep guessing, you have to be able to keep that mystery going. I have certainly hooked enough people through the years to feel embraced ,and I have really appreciated it. Also, I really appreciate Ken Corday. It does not matter what people will say about him. My whole thing is when I step away from Ken, I just say, “Thank you for letting me be the best of it!” He and I have always clicked well.

MICHAEL:

So, will there be no on-set ceremony commonly known around “DAYS”, as “The Cake of Death?”

THAAO:

The way I am going to do it is do my work, give my embraces to a few, and go home and go on to the next thing.

MICHAEL:

As you are set to exit, and “DAYS” fans prepare for the next month of storytelling, what can we do to tease to the fans?

THAAO:

I would say, there is going to be a tinge of Andre in the work, and this mischievous side of Tony that likes disturbing happy people.

MICHAEL:

What gets Tony so riled up?

thaao_james.jpgTHAAO:

I think, in many ways, he talked about not being appreciated, because EJ is the “Golden Boy”. Even though Tony knows Stefano loves him more than anyone, suddenly the storyline went from EJ and me being friendly against daddy, to where he goes with daddy and I am left alone. It’s hard because the through line has not been clear. What I am left with are all the ingredients of what is going to be passionate, disturbing and volatile. The trouble is that there won’t be romance or any love. I don’t know where my poor wife is! It’s strange. The fans will get some of the old Tony and Andre. I have not seen the death script yet, but I think I am just being used as a ploy to bring up the war between the Dimera’s and Kiriakis’s

MICHAEL:

Since the soap industry has fallen on some very hard times recently, due in part to our nations economic struggles, do you think “DAYS” will survive and be on the air for sometime to come?

THAAO:

I will put it this way: My astrologist last November said, (and he is really terrific), I will be finished by May of 2009 and that the show will not be on past January 2010.

thaao_in_syria.jpgMICHAEL:

Where will your travels take you next?

THAAO:

I am going to Iran next. I have not worked that out yet. I would like to see Iran and Lebanon. I also want to go to Sicily and China.

MICHAEL:

Really, you want to go to Iran? Don’t you worry about safety when traveling with so much conflict in the world
territories?

THAAO:

I am not stupid when I travel, and you learn what to trust and what not to trust. As I said to a Turkish Rug dealer in Istanbul, “I have been through the crooks in Hollywood!” (He laughs)

  1. J.C.Scott says:

    Wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness: The wise man’s eyes are in his
    head; yet he goe’s the way of
    the fool in the dark.

    Brave Thaao of the Penghlis, may your many journeys be filled with joy and excitement,
    hope you find many golden fleeces along the way. Watch out for Apate’ she can be
    tricky, but I’m sure Athena will give you all the protection you need.

    Bye

    Reply

  2. J.C.Scott says:

    The darkest part of the night is just before dawn.

    Reply

  3. J.C.Scott says:

    May GOD be with you in all you do.

    Reply

Leave a comment