Friday, August 26, 2011

Interview: Days' John and Marlena Return!

Drake Hogestyn and Deidre Hall
When we last saw John Black and Marlena Evans in Salem, they had just married and were immediately whisked away to Switzerland, which was the only place in the world where John could get the proper care he needed in order to recover from the toxic syringe that had left him paralyzed. That was in January 2009. And, as you know, in the soap world, a lot can happen in the meantime. Starting Sept. 26, John and Marlena are back — in a big way. They are helping to usher in what is being called “Days 2.0”: a return to family, romance and good old-fashioned storytelling. I spoke with Drake Hogestyn recently, and he is thrilled to be a part of this new “Days.”

Daytime Dial: Without getting yourself into trouble, you must tell me everything you can about John and Marlena’s return.

Drake Hogestyn: In the time they’ve been gone, John has been working on his recovery. There is an event in Salem, the opening of the Horton Town Square, in honor of Tom and Alice Horton, and John and Marlena make an appearance. John is just starting to get the full capacity of his extremities back. Another event unfolds, and that is that certain authorities have been waiting for John Black to land on American soil, because there are some issues that will create an umbrella story line that defines all the characters.

On Sept. 26, we’re turning a page of “Days of our Lives.” We’re bringing back a lot of fan favorites — when I walked on that show, it took me three hours to get from the parking spot to the dressing room, because I saw cameramen that I haven’t seen in forever; we’re laughing and scratching in the hallway. I walked down the hallway between Studio 2 and 4, and they are breaking for lunch, and out walks Matt Ashford and Christy Clark and Patrick Muldoon, and it’s just this warm, fuzzy feeling of throwback in the history of “Days.” We’re laughing and crying, and the energy that’s going through NBC right now, and “Days” in particular, is just amazing.

What we’re going to do is, we’re going to take the audience back to that period of time when our show was at the apex. When everybody was on board in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we had engaging stories and compelling actors and very well-defined, character-driven stories. And that’s what we’re doing now.

DD: That’s exactly when I started watching, around 1989 or 1990, and it was, without a doubt, the best soap on television. So I am thrilled you are going back to those roots.

DH: This is exactly what I’m talking about, Cindy. That’s when everybody was on board with the show. We had all that romance; we had action, adventure, intrigue and mystery that “Days” was famous for, and that’s what we’re going back to. With Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, they know the history of the show. They’ve been there. They came aboard with Jim Riley, even though Jim had some crazy story lines that came out of left field.

As long as the actors played the thread, played the grain of truth in there, the audience would always be on board. The stories are contemporary, and by that I mean they are torn right out of the headlines of the front page of every paper in the nation of what is going on with the economic times, and John is right in the center of all of that right now. These are topics people are going to relate to because it is affecting their lives, and how are we going to play that out on “Days of our Lives”? That is the interesting, organic part of it.

DD: With John Black back in town, I know one person who could really use his guidance: his son, Brady.

DH: We had one scene and almost everyone was there, and Marlena says, “Everybody’s here,” and I said, “Not everybody.” And she knew that I was looking for Brady. After the highlight of the night is over, I do approach him. It goes as John expected. There have been conversations between the two of them while John was away, and John has been disapproving of choices Brady has made in his life. But it looks as though Brady is starting to try to change his life around on his own. We’ll see, but I do think there are some great dynamics there.

DD: Are you looking forward to working with the newer actors, many of whom came aboard while you were gone?

DH: Definitely. I’m looking forward to working with Eric (Martsolf, who plays Brady). Our ships were passing in the night back then. He came on board at the very end of 2008 — I was anchoring my ship somewhere else, and he was setting sail. That’s a very interesting transformation too, and the same thing with Galen Gering. These actors came over from another show (“Passions”), and they were finding their shoes of the characters on “Days of Our Lives,” and it was very established at that time. Now, it’s like I’m entering their show, and you can see how comfortable they are with their characters and the relationship their characters have formed with other characters on the show. Now John and Marlena are entering that orbit. Now we’re finding how to work with these other actors who are now established on the show. This is a really nice dance that is going on. I’m enjoying it a lot.

DD: Are there some quintessential John Black-type scenes you are looking forward to playing?

DH: That’s a really good question. As you get older, you have to change also. You’re not going to be the swashbuckler. Every once in a while, they might throw me a bone like that. But what I wanted to do, what I think is cut out for Deidre (Hall) and myself, is to take that audience back and put them emotionally in that warm and fuzzy, safe place, especially in these troubling economic times where marriages are dissolving left and right over financial ruin. If you stay strong as a couple, and you are holding hands, and you love each other, and you believe that the power of two can get through anything. That is going to be our goal: to keep the audience on board, the ones who got us there for all those years.

And I don’t take anything for granted. You’re only as good as your last show. When I played professional baseball with the Yankees, you were only as good as your last game. So, every day you roll up your sleeves, and you can’t wait to show America what’s on the next page. And right now, with the engaging story we have, everybody is just bringing it with both barrels right now. I think the audience is really going to respond to this in the most favorable way. And when they turn the show back on, and they see some of these old fan favorites engaging again, it’s going to put that audience in that great place.