Three-time Daytime Emmy winner, Sarah Brown is heading to Salem in her brand new role of Madison James on the October 4th episode! And while the announcement a few months back that this acting dynamo was coming to Days of our Lives came as a bit of a shocker, when you speak to Sarah it all makes sense! Having ventured to General Hospital twice; first as Carly then back again as Claudia Zacharra, a stop at As the World Turns as Julia, and her last daytime role as Aggie on The Bold and the Beautiful which seemed to unexpectedly fizzle out, Brown was ready to be front and center again, while being part of an exceptional canvas of new castmates and beloved characters.
On-Air On-Soaps recently caught up with the talented Ms. Brown to get the skinny on Madison and a preview of her upcoming on-screen love life! But after talking with Brown, not only did we come away with, as per usual, that this gal knows what she is doing, but that there may be a big future for her as a major television programming or development executive, should she ever decide to venture behind-the-scenes! Check out what Sarah had to say about how daytime needs to change, what we can look forward to in Salem, and bringing together generations of soap viewers once again.
When DAYS sold you the role of Madison James and you agreed to sign on, did you know that she you would be paired pretty quickly with Brady Black, played by Eric Martsolf?
SARAH: I did not know anything about Brady, but when Greg Meng (DAYS co-executive producer) sold me the role of Madison it was about the idea that we were going to build this character together from the ground up and that I would have a lot of input and I love that. There are a lot of things I can’t talk about right now, but I will say, I get him. I get our co-executive producer. I look in his eyes and I see he knows what he is doing. I’m not saying other people don’t know what they are doing, but when you are coming on to a new show you need to consider who is helming it, because otherwise it is not going to do well. I think Greg and I are on the same page as to what things need to change to move forward in a way that brings in more and more viewers. So 13-year-olds, women my age, and women my mother’s age, will all sit together again and watch the show.
One of the things where I believe executive producers and head writers make a wrong turn is assuming that to get the key demo back that has tuned out to daytime soaps – who are now watching reality shows, or watch everything on the Internet – is that the young demo wants to see stories revolving around their same age group. That has more often than not proven to be a bust!
SARAH: Right. The thing that most producers in soaps think is that if they put younger characters on the show that is what the younger generation wants to see. I can tell you this: my daughter, Jordan is 13-years-old and we finally agree on a few things. One of them is Josh Duhamel, OK? That is all I have to say! (Laughs) We now understand that same thing. Jordan does not want to watch a 7 year old running around the set. She has no interest in that. She wants to watch Ryan Gosling take off his shirt, God help her! And so do I want to watch Ryan Gosling take off his shirt and so does my mom, quite frankly! (Laughs) That is what I am saying, because who are most likely watching the soaps? I think a very high percentage of women and gay men. Look, soaps can be a little bit of soft porn in the daytime for women. We need to see in soaps opening titles and great music. Those are part of the things we like to see on our favorite nighttime series that kick the show into high gear.
It seems like after all your travels in daytime that this new gig at DAYS could afford you the opportunity to really make a difference in the overall picture of the presentation of daytime soaps. You seem to have a firm grasp on how to modernize it.
SARAH: I have some revolutionary ideas for soaps and when I came to DAYS I said, “Look, I am going to tell you what I think. Do with it what you want, and regardless if I take this job or not, I think this will fix daytime.” And Greg, went, “You are absolutely right.” So then I said, “Well then you have got yourself an actress. Let’s do this together.” So yesterday, I had a scene where they said to me, “OK. You are standing there behind a tree. And you can hear what he is saying all the way over there.” And I had to feel. And what I feel is … if I walk up to the tree and I sit down instead of lurking, I could just sit down on this bench which is right here in front of me. I take out my cell phone and I casually answer texts, while I am listening and watching it. To me, that will feel more like you are watching something on primetime, such as Pretty Little Liars, where they do gossip and spy on each other, but they don’t do it in such an obvious way. This is not the actress, this is the producer coming in and telling us that the audience doesn’t get it. They will tell us that they need to see more, and that they need to see it in your eyes more, and that is not what people want. I feel I have had to at times in my career, bang my head against the wall while saying, “That is not what people want!” I feel in the situation now at DAYS that for the first time people realize that and to make the show, (as per example again) more like Pretty Little Liars that my daughter would watch, or a show my mother at 56 would watch, and a show that I would watch again and again.
So what is the key ingredient that you think a daytime soap has got to have to grab the audience and make them stay put?
SARAH: Soaps have got to have romance, romance, and romance. Romance leads to drama and all the other stuff is background. You know that, and I know that. It’s something you should be able to go in the next day to work and have that water cooler moment, and go, “Oh my God. Did you see that guy taking his shirt off? And then he did …” People get excited about that. Jordan and I went to see Steve Carell’s movie, Crazy Stupid Love with again, Ryan Gosling. (Laughs) And as we were walking out, I thought, “Wow. We are finally at that point when they are 13; they want romance in their lives, too!” Yes in real life women have kids and we want to relate to those characters on soap operas, but at the same time we want something better than our own lives. That is why people watch television, to escape reality not to relive it. And this holds true especially during the day. We want to have fun and escape. And when we watch talk shows like Ellen, people like her because she gets crazy. She dances in the daytime. And that is not to say heavy drama does not have its place in daytime, it’s just there needs to be some real romance between all the heavy drama. I can tell you what Greg Meng gets is that chemistry between actors is gold. You don’t force a plot if the actors don’t have chemistry. Nobody wants to watch it and the actors hate doing it. Yes, it’s called “acting” but you also need chemistry. And the people who are great in this business recognize that and go for it. You have seen bad movies with a great writer and great actors, and it does not matter because the actors hate each other, and I can tell! And it’s not that they are then bad actors, there is just no spark between them, there just isn’t.
Speaking of having that spark, do you feel that you and Eric Martsolf have that chemistry that will ignite the small screen?
SARAH: We absolutely have the chemistry. He is gorgeous and nice man. I love Eric. He is such a fun actor to work with he cracks me up! He is funny and sweet and so talented. I can’t wait to see what happens when they finally give us some drama. I am having a blast right now! I do not feel my guard go up when I am with him. And that is part of having good chemistry. If you have a strong woman paired with a strong man as well, but there is a delicate balance, well that is all I want to say. (Laughs) It’s beautiful with Eric and I. You are going to love it!
With Madison, since you had a major influence in constructing the role, did you come in with the idea of making her a CEO of a cosmetic company… Mad World Cosmetics?
SARAH: I did have input on Madison from the ground up, but not with the idea of her company. With her company, she is the CEO and I came in and that was that. It was, “Here is this woman, and here is her name. And she is going to be the CEO of a cosmetic company. Do you like that?” And I said, “Yes, I like that.” And then I was told, “This is what we know about her.” But from then on it was all very open. She does have a past with Sami Brady. They were best friends as kids. So, I can relate to that because I have a best friend from when I was a little kid. It will be interesting to see where that relationship goes.
So many times viewers read interviews with all the hype from the actors and the producers, who all talk a great PR game to get viewers to tune-in to something new or revised. What do you think it will take in the long run, after the first promotional push, to keep things moving in a forward direction for DAYS and in soaps in general?
SARAH: We don’t have more money and we don’t have more time in soaps anymore. So we have to do better. Everyone needs to be more conscience. We need people on the set who are making decisions who are very keenly watching and are very highly creative. People who see all the primetime shows, and the plays and the movies, and they watch everything that is out there, so they actually have their finger on the pulse of what is working in America.
Viewers have loved watching you in roles where you have been deliciously evil and bad, and tormented and complex. In Madison, can viewers expect to see Sarah Brown good? Or, Sarah Brown bad?
SARAH: Both! (Laughs) There is no Sarah Brown only good or bad. There is only Sarah Brown (Laughs). Will she have teeth? Yes! But I can tell you from the get-go this is the kind of woman who likes you, until you give her reason not to. Whereas on GH, Claudia did not like anyone, until you gave her a reason to like them. Claudia did not trust anyone and Madison trusts. She is much more open and trusting, and she is softer, but that does in no way mean she is softer when it comes to what she wants. We have even seen a little hint of that when something ticked her off. That is where you will see her go, “Do not mess with me!”
In closing, what would you say is the overall goal for yourself in coming to DAYS, and what you want your legions of fans to watch for?
SARAH: I want to bring joy to my audience. I am having fun. And if its drama and it’s good and well-written, and people who are writing it are watching what is going on out there, this could be amazing. I know what kind of show in the daytime would get my daughter, my mother, and me all running to the TV set. So I am really exciting about this and I think Greg Meng knows that too.