One of the most dynamic characters over the course of the final years of ABC’s One Life to Live was that of Natalie Buchanan. It was that portrayal that introduced daytime audiences to the talents of Melissa Archer.
Over the years that followed, Melissa would become a fan favorite. She also continued playing the role of Natalie B. when Prospect Park brought the series online for one season of 40 episodes. Then, after a series of independent film roles and a turn in Crystal Chappell’s web series, Beacon Hill, Archer landed a primo role on NBC’s Days of our Lives, where just a few short weeks ago she debut as Serena Mason, the complex ex girlfriend of Eric Brady (Greg Vaughan).
As DAYS fans have witnessed, Serena comes to Salem as a journalist. She has ties with friend Melanie Jonas (Molly Burnett), and already has a definite “issue” over Eric… with that man’s recent ex, Nicole (Arianne Zucker). On-Air On-Soaps sat down recently with Melissa to get her thoughts on a multitude of subjects including: what she thinks of her new character, what fans can expect, the relationship between Nicole and Serena, and Eric and Serena, plus some hot button topics such as: what she felt about not being asked to join General Hospital to reunite her with her OLTL on-screen love interest, Michael Easton (formerly John McBain, now Silas), what if Erika Slezak (Ex-Viki, OLTL) were to get a job on DAYS as a recast Laura Horton, and where she thinks Llanview’s Natalie is at right now! Here’s Salem’s newest gal (even though we all know she has been taping for months … wink-wink) the beautiful Melissa Archer!
So, how did Serena feel when Eric (Greg Vaughan) told her he was going to chose religion over her?
MELISSA: It was off-camera obviously, she kind of knew that it was coming, and when Eric finally came to her it was sad, but she understood, because she loved him.
What can you say about the relationship between Melanie (Molly Burnett) and Serena, since what we know is that they met in Europe?
MELISSA: It’s interesting the dynamic between them and that is what I loved coming into it. There is this really cool feeling of having this back-history even though I wasn’t a character that was here before, if you know what I mean. It felt comfortable, not like when Natalie came into the canvas on OLTL … nobody liked her! (Laughs) Well, that’s not exactly true. Nobody knew what to think of her. In of herself, she kind of felt that she was not as good as other people, and I don’t feel like Serena is like that. I feel like Serena is very confident. She is liked by people except perhaps by her frenemy Nicole! (Laughs)
Is Serena going to eventually attached to anyone else on the canvas? Do you know if she is related to someone from one of the core families?
MELISSA: I have not heard anything like that … I have only seen people speculating on Twitter. I guess there was a character Sarah Horton. They wanted me to be Sarah Horton! I think that would have been great, because I love Suzanne Rogers (Maggie) and I love Molly Burnett (Melanie), so I think being related to them on the show would be awesome – the three redheads! Right now it’s fun, related or not related. I will say, when you play a character that is not related to anyone though, you have more chances of your character being able to go all over the place with relationships.
Will Serena be spending Christmas Eve with the Horton’s hanging ornaments on the tree? (Laughs)
MELISSA: She ends up spending Christmas with Eric and the family, and it was really cool. Every soap does things a bit differently for its holiday show. I really loved how they did it here at DAYS. It was interesting how it was done. Everybody was in the scene, but the scenes weren’t really long. So, it’s like you got the feeling of it, but you didn’t have to spend 12 hours to shoot the episode.
Do you see Eric and Serena’s revisiting of their romance being a slow burn … or do they hit the sheets … like tomorrow?
MELISSA: I don’t think they hit the sheets tomorrow. You’ve got to remember he just came from abstinence and then deal with the trauma of what happened to him at the hands of Kristen (Eileen Davidson). Serena knows about it, and because of it, and the situation, there will be a lot of slow moments rather than jumping right into it, because it has to be something that Eric is comfortable with. However, Serena is a bit of a man-eater sometimes! She is like, “C’mon let’s go!” (Laughs)
Did you know a lot of the DAYS cast here before you began taping episodes?
MELISSA: Yes. I knew Eric Martsolf (Brady), Kassie DePaiva (Eve) obviously, and Chrishell Stause (Ex-Jordan), and Rob Scott Wilson (Ben). Kassie actually found out I was coming to DAYS even before I told her!
Was it nice being away from doing the day in and day out of being on a soap, or did you miss the daily grind of it?
MELISSA: I love working. The thing about daytime that is so awesome is that you do get a feel as an actor of having consistent work. It’s fun to take something that you don’t get a lot of preparation work or rehearsal for, and still try and figure out how to make the scenes work to the best of your ability, and hope you are in the realm of what the writers are looking for, and what the show as a whole wants from you, and then what your fans want, and also what is good for you.
You had know DAYS head writers Gary Tomlin and Chris Whitesell from your time at One Life to Live, so I assume that is how your name popped up to play Serena!
MELISSA: Gary was the executive producer at One Life to Live when he brought me on there as Natalie, and then he was also a writer for a short period of time there. I love Gary. And, Chris Whitesell and Lorraine Broderick were both the co head-writers at OLTL and originated the character of Natalie. I love them. It’s a privilege to work with this trio again.
So many fans are saying that they want OLTL’s Erika Slezak (Viki) to come to Days of our Lives and play perhaps the role of Laura Horton! They miss her so much.
MELISSA: Oh, my God! How great would that be? I miss Erika, too. I love watching her work. She is amazing.
So, do you want Serena to be a bad girl?
MELISSA: I want her to be more than just bad, and I want her to be more than just good. I want her to be human, but I don’t want her to have to be sweet just to get along. I like that she is tough, and she will stand up for herself. I like that she can be devious.
Is Serena devious because she needs get a story on the professional side of her life and in her career, or is she devious in her personal life to go after whom or what she wants?
MELISSA: I think there are multiple layers to that, and I don’t want to give away anything because we are so far ahead, but I think there is not just one part to it – so there is this reason, and this reason, and this reason, and now for today this reason is more powerful than this reason. How’s that for an explanation? (Laughs)
Do you want the fans of Days of our Lives to be rooting for her?
MELISSA: Personally, I would think so, but I don’t know. There are things that happened in her past that she has to deal with currently that are questionable, and therefore some of her choices aren’t the most upfront choices. The thing that is nice about her is her sincerity in the rest of things she is doing is real, and just because she has made bad decisions, doesn’t mean she is a bad person. So, that is why I like her, and that if you want to sort of compare her to One Life’s Natalie, she did make a lot of poor choices also!
But eventually One Life’s Natalie was good at heart!
MELISSA: Yes! I do feel that Serena is good at heart. I don’t know what the audience will feel, but I personally feel she is good at heart, but that does not make her an angel by any means.
The journalist side of this … Serena came to University Hospital in Salem to work on something. Do you know what it is? Do we know what it is? (Laughs)
MELISSA: No, and no. (Laughs) All I know is I am supposed to be a medical journalist. I am doing some research on stuff at University Hospital and I am so smart! (Laughs)
What has been your favorite moment that you have taped thus far?
MELISSA: One of my favorite scenes was one with Arianne Zucker (Nicole) at the club, and all I can say there is it’s one day that everyone needs to tune-in, because it’s really good. It’s emotional, but not the kind you think between Nicole and Serena!
Tell me about working with Arianne Zucker?
MELISSA: She is so great, and so fun, and she is so funny, too! It makes the day enjoyable when we work together.
You were always really good at learning lines if I remember correctly. Well, Erika Slezak (Ex-Viki) knew everyone lines at OLTL too! Why does that come so easy for you?
MELISSA: I like to say I have a photographic memory, just because it sounds good! (Laughs) I have my moments and struggled learning lines when something doesn’t sit well in my brain – and that could be that sometimes I just didn’t understand it … like sometimes I have read it, and sometimes it didn’t register in my brain. Sometimes it’s like I read a word wrong, and I am questioning, “Why am I not remembering it?” Soaps believe it or not, are slightly easier to memorize lines in than other mediums, because you know your character, and a lot of it is just telling story. Then sometimes, the other person in the scene with you is going to say something that calls for a response, and once in awhile you will have a response that has nothing to do with what they said! (Laughs)
If you were to tell me in your own words what makes up Serena, what would you say? Serena is …
MELISSA: Serena is a fiery lady, a firecracker, she is passionate, and because she is so tough, at times you think she is not going to be that sentimental, and that at other times you see that she really is. Serena can be very sweet. Her feelings are so genuine when she cares for someone. And as for her being tough, I think a lot of that comes from what she does. She is a journalist who has to go out there to get a story in a third world country, and therefore if she would have carried her heart on her sleeve, she wouldn’t have made it through there and survived.
You don’t think her passion for Eric (Greg Vaughan) will turn into an obsession for Serena down the line, do you?
MELISSA: No, not at all. Serena is not someone who just lets her heart out for any person. So the fact that they did have that time together, and she did love Eric and he really did love her, I think she sincerely just wants to see if there is something there between them. If not, she is OK with that too, but she would be an idiot not to try.
Does Serena know why Eric ultimately walked away from her in the first place?
MELISSA: She knew why, and they do discuss it. I hope the audience takes to her, because I think she has a lot of interesting things going on. I think there are more colors to her, than just one.
Is it more scary than fun when you get to take on a new role and craft it?
MELISSA: Fun, but of course it’s scary. I mean, you don’t want to bomb, and you don’t know what people are going to think when they see you in a new role. You have to hope that people like you. But it’s always fun. That’s why we are actors, and why we do this.
Has your family watched you on DAYS yet?
MELISSA: Yes, and my family is awesome. They are very supportive, and if my grandparents were alive they would be recording DAYS every single day. They watched One Life to Live for the entire time I was on the show and they recorded it every single day. It was really sweet. They recorded it on a VCR, and they finally got a DVD player, and then there were stacks of the show and such in the house.
Do you think you will ever to fully get away from the role you are so remembered for … that of Llanview’s Natalie Buchanan?
MELISSA: Natalie is part of my history. I never want to get rid of her. I just want to be able to create other things, other people.
What do you think Natalie is doing right now?
MELISSA: She is probably taking care of that little kid and trying to figure things out. And, she is probably thinking about all the husbands she had, and all the husbands she wanted to have, and trying to figure out what happened to John McBain, who is now in Port Charles? (Laughs)
Did it honestly bother you that you were not asked to join the cast of General Hospital to play Natalie opposite Michael Easton (John, now Silas)?
MELISSA: I don’t take much personally in life, and if I do, it wouldn’t be over something like that. I am sure they had their reasons for that, but things have worked out well!
Is there someone in the DAYS cast you would like to work with, that you haven’t had a chance to have scenes with yet?
MELISSA: I would love to work with Kassie DePaiva (Eve) more, and I think we would have a blast together. I think we have done like one scene together thus far. I would love to work with John Aniston (Victor)! I love him, and I don’t even know him that well. John reminds me of someone in my family. I would love to work with Kristian Alfonso (Hope) too! She is iconic on this show.
Did you ever watch DAYS growing up?
MELISSA: When I was younger, I did a little bit. My friend back in school … her mom watched DAYS. So, when I was over at there house during the summer it would be on and I believe Marlena’s (Deidre Hall) possession storyline was going on then! So I knew how some of the characters were. I am friends with Farah Fath (Ex-Mimi, DAYS and Ex-Gigi, OLTL), and she filled me in on stuff as well.
What would you like to say to your fans for continuing to be interested in your career from One Life now on to Days of our Lives as we close out 2014? Your fans have been so behind you every step of the way!
MELISSA: I would love to say to my fans, “Thank you for all the support and all the love. It does not go unnoticed.”
For more with Melissa Archer, come back on Tuesday to On-Air On-Soaps for a brand new video interview of additional questions from our chat, where she discusses working with Greg Vaughan, some upcoming scenes, and more! Plus, our very special behind-the-scenes tour with Melissa in her new DAYS digs: her dressing room, the make-up and wardrobe departments at DAYS and an impromptu meeting with Ari Zucker!
In the meantime let us know, what do you think of Melissa comments on Serena? Are you intrigued by the character thus far? Do you hope Serena becomes truly bad? What did you think of Melissa’s thoughts on not being asked to join GH? Having Erika Slezak appear on DAYS? Where Natalie is now? Comment below!