It was an emotional week for Days of our Lives young Theo Carver (Kyler Pettis). After being devastated that his father, Abe Carver (James Reynolds), was shot during one of the super villains (Clyde, Xander, and Orpheus) heinous acts of terror in Salem, he decides to take matters into his own hands to avenge his dad, who has been lying in critical condition at University Hospital. Only Theo’s plan sort of backfires!
Playing a young man living with autism, and who is growing up through teen angst and beyond right before the audiences’ eyes, has made Kyler Pettis’ Theo a character to root for on the NBC daytime drama series. While this young man has been raised by his father for most of his adult life (his mother Lexie died years ago), it’s evident he feels a deep and unbreakable bond with his dad. But what will happen when Dr. Valerie Grant (Vanessa Williams) comes to Salem? How will that bode in the father/son relationship? Meanwhile, Theo is finding himself popular with the young ladies in Salem. He is currently dating Claire (Olivia Rose Keegan), but he seems to have always been carrying a torch for Ciara Brady (Vivian Jovanni). Just who might end up being the love of Theo’s life long term? Pettis weighs-in!
On-Air On-Soaps chatted with Kyler as he approaches his 24th birthday next week on October 16th, to get some insight on to how he approached incorporating Theo’s autism into his portrayal, what it has been like seeing the fan reactions to his character on social media, his thoughts on his co-stars, and what he thought of Theo’s brief moment of attempted violence, with gun in hand, trying to take down one of the villains. Here’s what he had to say about it all, and much more!
This past week after Abe was shot, Theo went to his dad’s hospital bedside and was quite shaken up. Wouldn’t you say?
KYLER: Yes. I think he feels a responsibility. Lani (Sal Stowers) is not there, and I think Theo feels like, “What am I going to do if the doctor asks me a question?” It’s scary. Theo’s a young man, and his dad is in the hospital after getting shot. I mean, what do you do?
So then, Theo decides he is going to make Clyde Weston (James Read) pay for shooting his dad! And we see, Theo with gun in hand. What did you think of these key scenes and moments for Theo?
KYLER: Theo really wanted to shoot Clyde Weston. But he gets disarmed by Clyde when Clyde kind of creeps up on him. Theo had many chances to pull the trigger, but this is Theo Carver, we are talking about here. I think the idea was stronger than the action in his mind. It wasn’t his best moment! (Laughs) And then … Clyde got away.
So that left Theo visibly and emotionally shaken that he even was attempting to shoot someone?
KYLER: Yeah, at the end of Friday’s episode, Theo said to Roman, “I’m sorry. I screwed up.” Roman (Josh Taylor) stopped him in the alley, and Ciara also tried to stop him and said, “This is not what you should do.” I think after all was said and done, Theo realized it did not turn out the way he thought.
What I think you should be commended for in your portrayal is how you play an autistic young man. You never play this over the top; you understand that Theo has lived with this his whole life. How do you try to communicate in your performances that having autism is a part of the character, without playing it so overt for television?
KYLER: That was on my mind when I took the role, and I definitely researched it. Honestly, the thing that helped me most was looking at Theo as a person first rather than, “This is an autistic kid.” Then it made me be able to approach the role with more humanity. I looked at him and I looked at his storyline, and as well, I talked to people who interacted with autistic people. I also spoke with our co-head writer, Dena Higley, who has an autistic son. It was challenging to step into, but it’s something I look forward to as an actor, and it’s fun.
Back in 2008, it was Dena Higley’s idea to have an autistic child on the DAYS canvas, and for a family to learn and struggle with this in order to raise awareness to the viewing audience. She decided to have Lexie (Renee Jones) and Abe’s son be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. I do hope DAYS continues to cultivate what they started, and to show a human being living with autism, but that it doesn’t define who they are.
KYLER: I think DAYS is doing a good job incorporating that storyline as well as this new Theo, whose handled it his whole life and worked on it, and can function in society. I am so glad the show is pulling both those elements together.
DAYS fans just learned that Dr. Valerie Grant is back in the picture, and she will be arriving on to the canvas in less than two weeks (she debuts on the Oct 25th episode) to help Abe. From what we surmise, Theo may not be happy about her being in Salem?
KYLER: Yup! She’s back in the picture and he mentioned in a recent episode it has just been him and his dad this whole time. I think Theo has gotten comfortable with that he and his dad are buddies, and it’s just the two of them. Theo often mentions throughout his storyline how his late mom, Lexie, has been a big impact on his life. I think not only is it about a new person coming in and intruding on what Theo and Abe have, but Theo also sees it as intruding on what he and his mom had.
How has it been working with James Reynolds and Vanessa Williams?
KYLER: It has always been fun working with James. He has the qualities that remind me of my own dad. So, it’s easy to sink into that father/son relationship with James. As far as Vanessa, she is so charismatic and right when they yell “cut”, we kind of joke about the scene and mess around a bit so we get more comfortable. Then when we shoot those scenes, or those that have high tension in them (where there is negative energy coming at each other), it’s fun to joke between the scenes to ease up the tension, and then get back into it.
Do you think Theo might manipulate the situation to keep former flames, Valerie and Abe apart, if a spark reignites between them?
KYLER: I don’t think Theo is much of a manipulator. I think he has his own ideas, but I don’t think he would go to that level of manipulation. Theo’s moral compass is pretty high, but he might have some people in his ear to instigate that for him.
The scenes between Theo and Abe in the hospital are very tender, but not overdone. Should viewers expect to see more scenes like that as Abe struggles with his health?
KYLER: There are some more heart-tugging scenes between Theo and Abe you are going to see. It’s a vulnerable situation between a father and a son, but I do think fans will see more scenes with that dynamic coming up.
This past week, Abe told Theo he was so proud of him, which was a hankie-filled moment!
KYLER: Yes, yes, yes! It’s always touching when a father says that to a son, you know.
Theo is also a young leading man on the show, and he seems to have two young women in his orbit: Claire and Ciara. What are his feelings for these two?
KYLER: I think it’s hard, because it’s the infamous love triangle of soap operas. I think Ciara was Theo’s one true love, and they have been best friends forever. But I don’t think the love Theo had for Ciara really changes that quick. I think he still has love for her, but it’s more as a friend. I think they discovered that the relationship is not going to go in a romantic way right now. Theo is at an age where he is thinking, “There are all these pretty girls running around Salem, and I want to get some attention.” That’s when Claire comes into the picture. He is a bit more intimated by Claire. She is more fast-paced than Ciara has been, but at the same time I think this is what he has been looking for.
Is Theo truly OK with Claire pursuing her singing career? If she were to become a big star, would he feel threatened that she wouldn’t be interested in him anymore?
KYLER: Ok, let’s look back at the prom. If there were some threats, I think he could handle it, but Theo is definitely rooting for Claire to succeed.
Is this though a slow burn love story between Theo and Ciara, where eventually down the line, they could end up with each other?
KYLER: I do think that, and throughout this whole time, Theo has had his eye on both Ciara and Claire. There is definitely still a connection between Ciara and Theo, even when they are talking about mundane things. I definitely think there is a little flame there, but it’s not acted upon. So, it’s definitely in the back-burner of his mind for now.
One of the other reasons Theo wanted to shoot Clyde was because Joey (James Lastovic) was kidnapped. Doesn’t Theo see Joey as his best bud?
KYLER: Joey has been Theo’s friend for a long time. I think if anything, the best Theo can do is help out around town now. I think the whole gun incident really scared him. As you can see, he was very unprepared to hold a gun, or shoot a gun. I mean, his hand was shaking the whole time! (Laughs) So, I don’t think he is going to try to take more action that way, but he will try to cooperate with everyone around town.
Was playing Theo holding the gun on Clyde, and shaking so badly, hard for you to play?
KYLER: You know what? It was really funny. I came on to the set holding the gun, and I thought I was going into full-action mode. I was excited and ready like a pro! Then the producer came to me and said, “OK … well … Theo is new at this…” So then I had to do a 180 turn and play it the other way, but it was really fun.
Then they dressed you down, per se, and you were like, “That’s not what I wanted to do!” (Laughs)
KYLER: Yeah! I was like, “Where is the explosion? I want to put some flying kicks in here, too!” (Laughs)
It is very hard when young characters are aged (SORAS’d) and brought on to a soap opera with a bunch of actors the viewers has never seen before, and are then interacting with a bunch of actors the audience is very familiar with. Certainly, it is a difficult adjustment for the fans. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. With social media being the place where fans vent negatively, or praise positively, what are your thoughts on how that has personally affected you since coming to DAYS?
KYLER: That has been a big thing in my life. As we are progressing in life, social media is only going to get bigger. I think it’s a great tool to be exposed for other projects and to get my name out there, but it is also very intimating. I am a person who really likes privacy. For instance, when I go out I wear baseball caps most of the time and sunglasses, because in real life I am very introverted. So it’s kind of intimating that anyone can look you up, and then you look at your phone, and look at social media and you can get negative comments. But for the most part … it’s been all positive for me. I will say it is also imitating coming on to a show that has been on the air for 51 years – so that alone also kind of gave me something to think about, because these fans have been watching for a long time. Soap opera fans are very loyal, and they have been watching the show forever, and I am like, “Alright, I am stepping into some new territory here!” (Laughs)
It’s rough out there!
KYLER: It is! It’s very rough, but I have to say most of the comments have been pretty positive so I am grateful for that.
Since you have been playing Theo, have people with autism reached out to you, personally?
KYLER: I have had people who have autism message me on Twitter, and they say, “Thank you so much for portraying someone with autism, and we are loving you in this role. “ And to be honest, their opinions on Theo were the ones I was most concerned about, because you can play this character so wrong where you could get so much backlash for it. That was something I was very concerned about when I took this role.
Are you enjoying the ride at 23-years-old (soon-to-be 24) being on your first network TV show?
KYLER: No, not really. (jokingly laughs). It’s great!! I have wanted to act since I was little and I remember wanting to act inside the TV! It’s all I think about. I am so prepared when I come to set. I have been getting the scripts, and I actually like reading them to the point where I will go, “This is happening? Oh, my God!” I will text my scene partners and go, “Did you just read that?” It’s weird to think about in a way, because there was my dad downstairs watching me on TV. So I walk past him, and there I am on the TV. I have so much more to accomplish and do in my life, but this is such a big milestone for me being part of the cast of DAYS.
Ultimately, do you want to be acting in motion pictures?
KYLER: I have always had a passion for the medium of film, and I do love movies. Ultimately, that is where I want to be, but at the end of the day there is so much good work right now on TV. You have ABC, FX, but then Netflix, and now Hulu. If I could get to a point where I have the power of choice, I would love to pick projects that allow me to work as freely as an artist as I would like, wherever that takes me.
What happens when people give you a compliment and say, you are “good looking”? Do you say “thank you” or do you shy away, or deflect answering the question?
KYLER: I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the attention, because it’s nice. You’re not being called ‘ugly”, so I like it. But I know this whole thing isn’t reality, because they are seeing me for the person I am on TV, but it is nice to hear.
I was watching your brother, Washington Huskies wide receiver Dante Pettis, scoring touchdowns during the Washington vs. Stanford game on ESPN two Saturdays ago. And all of sudden the announcer goes, “Dante’s brother, Kyler Pettis is on Days of our Lives!” I went “Woot-woot!” Do you watch your brother play? He is having a fantastic season.
KYLER: Yup. I watch every game. That was a good plug for Days of our Lives on ESPN. (Laughs)
You and your brother Dante seem to be overachievers! (Laughs)
KYLER: We so are! We plan things like: we want to do a talk show together and do joint interviews, and then we want to get a house together in the state of Washington that will be our family vacation house. We definitely have plans that we are hoping to execute!
In closing, do you think Days of our Lives viewers should anticipate more sadness, or rough times ahead for Theo?
KYLER: It’s not so much sadness coming up, but more of that the audience is going to watch him grow. He is entering into a new stage of his life and you are going to see soon how the teens are going to interact on their own, and not so much just with their families, and those relationships are going to get pretty juicy for the fans.
So, what did you think of Theo trying to avenge his father’s shooting on last week’s episodes of Days of our Lives ? Are you enjoying Kyler’s portrayal of Theo Carver? Do you hope Theo winds up with Claire, Ciara, or someone else? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!