Over the last few months, viewers of NBC’s Days of our Lives have witnessed several shockers! Chief among them: Hope (Kristian Alfonso) shooting the ultimate daytime soap opera villain, Stefano DiMera (Joe Mascolo), a young Chase (Jonathan McClendon) raping Hope’s teenaged daughter, Ciara (Vivian Jovanni), and Hope and Rafe (Galen Gering) pinning the murder of Stefano on his son, Andre (Thaao Penghlis)! Oh, and let’s not forget that moment where Andre brainwashed Chad (Billy Flynn).
All of these storylines cross paths with long time DAYS fan favorite Thaao Penghlis, who is currently finding his dark alter-ego going to prison for a crime he did not commit, and scheming by using a young Chase to do some of his dirty work to seek retribution and create havoc on Hope’s family. But has Andre finally gone too far … or is there even more in store for the poor citizens of Salem and in particular the Bradys?
On-Air On-Soaps caught up with Thaao to get his thoughts on life on DAYS post-Joe Mascolo, and what it was like to say goodbye to his longtime scene partner and on-screen father, who wrapped his run several months ago. As DAYS fans know, Joe was not able to continue performing at the level he was accustomed due to health reasons, and so sadly the show had to make a contingency plan. Ultimately that led to the murder of Stefano, and Andre taking over the reins as the master manipulator of the once DiMera dynasty.
Now Andre finds himself being caught in his own game and being set-up by the Salem PD. How long will they be able to keep Andre looking like the prime suspect in Stefano’s murder? What does Thaao think of the recent storylines on DAYS and their dark turns? (NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the breaking news late last week of Ryan Quan replacing Josh Griffith as DAYS new co-head writer) Here’s what Thaao shared about what has been happening on stage, backstage, and playing the dangerous DiMera!
Stefano was murdered on Days of our Lives, and for many years you shared a very special relationship with Joe Mascolo. How was Joe’s last day on the set?
THAAO: I actually finished shooting in the morning and the whole goodbye situation did not happen till later in the afternoon. They brought him a cake. When I came in, he was standing and taking photographs with the crew. I think he was enjoying himself, but I don’t think the realization had hit him yet that life as it was as Stefano had expired. It was interesting being with him and being affection with him, until we got in the hall and he started to ask, “Does that mean it’s over?” I did not know what to say. It’s just how many times do you get to come into this world, and play and share a character you have spent so many years with? Sometimes people stay with us and a character for many years, and it’s not so easy to give up I think it’s ironic. I have taken over Joe’s dressing room. He’s still there, even though he’s gone, but Joe played such a powerful character and he had such great longevity, so it’s not like I felt sorry for Joe, I would never do that. But there is a sadness. My relationship with Joe was great. There was something paternal about him, but there was also the friendship. In the old days we had more time together at the studio, but we are not going to come across the likes of Joe again.
Coming back this time to DAYS, and then seeing the challenges and struggles Joe was having, was that difficult for you to witness?
THAAO: It was harder to see how people on social media were responding to the way Joe was performing and making insensitive comments, and not realizing what the truth of the matter was. People are so quick to judge. They don’t understand that being with Joe, and the struggle he had in remembering things, and not being able to move, and we were in a small space, it kind of limited the experiences. I used to love the moves Joe and I would be able to do in a scene. In recent months that was gone. I would have to come join him since he was sitting down. I know it’s social media, but I cannot believe the insensitivity of people who just rush to judgment. There is so little understanding out there. Occasionally there was a smart person who said, “I think there is something wrong with that actor.” But others were just ridiculing him. If they knew what this man was going through and all of us, and the crew, because everybody loved Joe. You read those comments, you just want to reach out and slap them. I just came through now from set to where the extras are sitting and you can see these young people are all looking at their phones, and so everything is outside of themselves. People are not taking the time to understand one another, because they are not being compassionate.
Did you know from the beginning of your return to the show in 2015 that you were being brought back to fill the void in the DiMera family that would ultimately be apparent upon Joe’s exit?
THAAO: When I came back this time they really didn’t tell me the reason, and they didn’t really tell me I was coming in to head the family, but you did just get that from the writing. So in many ways, Joe never said anything to me about usurping the situation, but how many actors in their 80’s can say they have worked their whole lives? Joe has been very blessed. You know, a lot of people retire, but with Joe he was bigger than life and he had that gusto!
When he left the DAYS set on his final tape day, do you think Joe was OK with this being the end of his run?
THAAO: Knowing Joe, no, I don’t think so. He was Stefano. I think there was a part of him that believed it too. How could he not? Joe had all those years being left in charge. He was part of the longevity of the show and now that he is gone, you have to take your own position within the show. I am discovering what that is. I’m working with actors like Billy Flynn, who was not part of my world before. The last time I was here I worked with James Scott as EJ, but things change.
Now on Days of our Lives, Andre wants to destroy Hope for murdering his father!
THAAO: One thing you have to say about a family as powerful as the DiMeras and the longevity they have had; is that for many years they have gotten their way. For Stefano’s body to be disposed that way is shocking – dumped in a building that is about to collapse. It was like he was going to be buried in cement. It looked like an inside mafia job.
So, do you believe that the body that Andre found was the real body of Stefano DiMera, or do you think there is a possible twist there?
THAAO: It’s the real body. Andre sees the ring and Andre discovers, off-screen, he has been shot many times in the chest and he brings that up. But what takes place is Andre finds the gun and is sent to prison. Hope and Rafe turn against Andre, and make him become the killer, which I think is interesting, and it’s not something in the story one would have expected. People are on Twitter going, “Why didn’t Andre call the police?” Well, because the police are the ones who set this all up! Then they asked, “Well, how did you get out of it?” I responded, “I hailed a cab!” (Laughs) People want to know every single detail. I think it’s just they are trying to find mistakes that the show makes, or something.
What do you think of the frame job Hope and Rafe have perpetrated on Andre … making it appear that he murdered his own father?
THAAO: Well, because he has got the gun and discovered it, and how they found it in Andre’s house is what turns them into thinking he is the killer. Of course, Chad doesn’t believe Andre at all, either! He believes Andre’s bad publicity from the Salem PCPD. (Laughs)
Do you see Andre becoming even more diabolical in his revenge plans?
THAAO: Part of the reason I have liked this story is our heroes are exposing their shadows. Suddenly, we are looking at them going that’s normal, and we all have those qualities in us. As far as the story is concerned, Andre has time to reflect and time to plan while he is in prison. What we are seeing now is how Andre gets out of prison and legally. I don’t think of Andre as diabolical. I just can’t think that way. I just think that these are the circumstances in my life and I have to survive. Excuse me for bringing this up, but I don’t think Donald Trump goes around thinking, “Oh, I was not good today. I was a bad boy.” I think he says, “I’m going to kick their asses!”
Chase now has raped Ciara. Andre gave him some advice that appears that Chase took literally – to go after what he wants, and to be the strong man, because women like that. Meanwhile, Andre wants to use this guy as weapon of destruction against Hope and her family, and then the teenager does the unimaginable.
THAAO: Andre was looking for a source. I think it happened when he was playing the music of Stefano’s operas, and then suddenly Chase is spying on Andre. He sees Chase and he now has his hook, and it’s through him he makes the different changes. I think in many ways, Andre sees in this kid as part of himself, and it’s almost like Chase becomes Andre’s protégé. I think Andre looks at this situation with Chase as an advantage for him without the others knowing about it, except he makes a mistake with what this kid ultimately does, but it’s a way of infiltrating the Brady house, plus being able to spy on them. And by the way, it’s not like the kid is that gullible. I remember our producer Albert Alaar coming to me, and here I was with all of my scars and the blood and everything. I am also wearing my best suit with the tie, and a handkerchief in the pocket. Albert goes, “I just love Andre. It does not matter if he has cuts on his face. He always makes sure he is wearing his best clothing.” I like contrast. Andre thinks, “I am not going to let them think I’m suffering.” It would be so easy to come in and look like you are downtrodden, but not Andre. So the clothes to me are parallel to his survival, and now he is using Chase for that as well.
Chase has been having difficulties since the death of his father, Aiden (Daniel Cosgrove). He clearly has a bad seed side to him, and Andre plays upon that. So, Andre sees this relationship with Chase as a good chess move for him?
THAAO: Right, but at one point the character realizes he doesn’t have anybody on his side. The reason Andre can get the kid is that in many ways he wants to create a team. Let’s face it: Andre came out of a mental institution and was so alone and nobody trusts him, or likes him. So he has to find people who think like him, even if it’s going to be a protégé that he can influence.
Hope shot and killed Stefano. What did you think of that story decision?
THAAO: They knew it was only a matter of time before Joe had to go. The way they did it was like Greek Theater. In the 80’ and the 90’s, the Hortons and the others are always lovely people. They always smelled like a rose. When (former DAYS co head writers) Josh Griffith comes along, he says, “No, let’s make these characters human.” So the way Hope shoots Stefano brings in shock value. I think the audience couldn’t believe it when it happened. Then of course, it’s about Andre discovering the body and him coming in with all of those scars and surviving. I think all and all it added to great drama for the show.
When you teased in a tweet late last year “You Won’t Believe What Happens In Jan-Feb. Great Scenes, But Tragedy Is Part Of The DiMera Life.” Is this the storyline and events we are now seeing playing out that you were referencing?
THAAO: Yes, I was referring to the result of Stefano being shot to death, and Andre discovering the body and the whole building collapsing and surviving, but also what is does to Andre’s spirit and faith, because it was shocking.
You are months ahead in story that has already been filmed. What can you tease for DAYS viewers to look forward to in the future in regards to Andre?
THAAO: Someone beats him at his game, for once, and we find out Andre has a heart. But I think how he manipulates the situation from prison and how he gets out, and what happens after that is powerful, and there might even be the possibility of romance.
That would be lovely; you have not had a romance in … I don’t know how long! (Laughs)
THAAO: Yes. I’m the “Phantom of the Opera” of Days of our Lives. (Laughs) But really, I think the DiMeras are survivors, and the DiMeras are here to stay.
If the show decided to resurrect Stefano, could you see them recasting the part, and having another actor taking over the role from Joe?
THAAO: I don’t think that would work. I think there are certain characters like Victor on Y&R, as played by Eric Braeden that you can never replace. We are the kind of actors and characters who have experienced a lot where the writers like us, because of the way we express things, and the way we have lived through these stories, and that we all project power on-screen. I always say to actors, “Always be happy with what it is you have been given, and make sure they regret when they kill you!” If they were going to bring in another actor to play Stefano there would have been no reason for my character coming back, because you have to pass on things … like passing the torch.
How do you feel DAYS is now as opposed to its 50th anniversary run back in November?
THAAO: I know there is darkness, but I think writers parallel what is going on in the world. This is not a happy time, and there is a struggle for people. I think in a way the show represents that in the way the characters survive those struggles. That is why people watch us where they go, “Whoa! My life is so much better than theirs!” I have enjoyed this run, because I have not found it to be cartoonish. When the late James Reilly (Ex-DAYS head writer) was writing the show I found it to be more cartoonish. I think now playing Andre is certainly challenging, especially with some of the dialog.
You have been busy promoting your latest book,Seducing Celebrities One Meal at a Time, and you recently shared on social media a few pictures from a dinner party where you cooked some recipes from the book for some of the DAYS cast. How did that go?
THAAO: I have known Kristian Alfonso and Lauren Koslow (Kate) for a long time and I said I would cook for them. To get everybody to be available on the same evening is difficult, but I booked it two weeks ahead with them. I made some food from the book, and it was a great success. It’s a great pleasure for me. How do we give to people? That is what cooking is about to me. You are putting your own love on the table for people to share. We had a great time. It’s kind of nice in a way, because we don’t socialize with one another. When we are on set, we spend a lot of time with each other and then everybody goes home to their families. But it was kind of nice to do it this way, and we will do it again!
So, what do you think about Andre being framed for Stefano’s murder? His unholly alliance with Chase, and what has transpired with the rape and the fire at Hope’s house? What did you think of Thaao’s comments on the end of the iconic Joseph Mascolo’s run as Stefano DiMera on DAYS? Who do you think could end up being a potential love interest for Andre as teased down the line by Thaao? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!