Monday, September 26, 2011

Interview (Days): Doc and John Bring Back Family Values

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ve heard about all the recent changes over at “Days of Our Lives.” In a valiant attempt to return to its glory days of family, romance and just plain good storytelling, “Days” is pulling out all the stops, including luring back fan favorites such as Deidre Hall. Deidre has played Dr. Marlena Evans off and on for almost three decades, and she returns to much fanfare today, Sept. 26. I spoke with the “Days” star recently, and she told me all about her return to the show.

Daytime Dial: What made you decide to return to “Days”; how were they able to coax you back?

Deidre Hall: It was a combination of things. But mostly, it was two words: Greg Meng. Greg and I went on a book tour with both of our books. He wrote “Days of Our Lives 45 Years: A Celebration in Photos.” It’s a fabulous tabletop book. So, we traveled together for several months, and we would sit at a table autographing hundreds of books at a time. And people would come up to me and say, “When are you coming back to ‘Days’?” I would say, “I have no plans to come back to ‘Days.’” And Greg would say, “Oh, but we would love to have her back.” And we would both smile, and that would be the showbiz rap that we would do.

At one point, a woman came up to me and asked, “What would it take to get you back?” And I looked at Greg and I said, “Well, I would have to be invited.” And Greg looked at me and said: “Well, none of us had ever thought of that. You’re invited!” He set about a plan that didn’t just include bringing me back, but to bring “Days of Our Lives” back to its heyday — to the family core values we all loved many years ago and the audience has resonated to. And he’s done it!

DD: What are you allowed to tell me about the circumstances of Marlena’s return?

DH: John has almost completely recovered from this illness that had befallen him (and why we went off to Switzerland). And we return back to Salem to dedicate the Horton Square. Also, there has been a terrible crisis in Salem that is revealed in those first five or six episodes. And it affects every single person in Salem. And we are back because of it and we are integral to it, and it kicks into motion an incredible series of dramatic turns.

DD: I started watching “Days” back in about ’90-91, and I always thought it was the best soap on because of all the reasons: romance, family, drama. How excited are you to be able to explore these cornerstones? Because Marlena really embodies all of those as a character, as well.

DH: Exactly everything you just said — that is what the show is. You hit it right on the head. It’s so empowering and enriching to be able to play it now. Marlena is stronger, is more devoted to John than ever before, and has a fierceness that we haven’t seen in her before. She’s taking no prisoners. And when this drama starts to unfold, you will see her tested and tested and tested, and she steps up every time. It is so thrilling to play this sort of woman who is utterly empowered. And there is no room for doubt. No room for hesitation. She is solid, and she is there.

DD: Since we saw Marlena last in January 2009, what has Deidre been up to? Have you been doing other projects? Traveling? Charity work?

DH: I have done, oddly enough, all those things. During the break, I took my son David to Brazil on an Operation Smile mission, which is dealing with children with serious disfigurements. And that was life-altering for both of us. I took him to Washington, D.C., where we campaigned for the Child Nutrition Act, which passed! I wrote a book called “Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Closeup.” It’s a lifestyle book that answers the dreaded three words, “What’s for supper?” As a mom, I know that’s a continual struggle. But it’s a lifestyle book, too, so it’s got great helpful hints, and even if you don’t cook, it’s really funny. It’s a funny book. It’s available on

DD: What has it been like for you these past few weeks being back on “Days”?

DH: It is like coming back to your family, and stepping onto the stage or even stepping into the studio, and a sea of smiling faces coming toward us — arms flung open and “Oh my gosh!” I came back a few days early, and having the time to sit with your friends and catch up and: “How are the kids? Oh my gosh, they are in college now? And how is your mom?” Just friendships that have taken a little bit of a vacation, and they are right back in place.

DD: Of course we’re excited that you, Drake Hogestyn and Christie Clark are coming back. But I’m also excited to have Marlena interacting with Sami again, because she’s always been the problem child, but now she’s an adult, and she’s been through so much. Are you excited to explore that dynamic again?

DH: We haven’t seen that much play out yet, as that hasn’t been in the script. I know that a big crisis arises in Salem that puts her marriage with Rafe into play. I can’t say more than that, but Sami and EJ are deeply involved. Both for different reasons, and it affects their relationship.

DD: When you left back in 2009, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light” were still on the air, and now they are gone. Soon “One Life to Live” and “All My Children” are going to Internet platforms. That leaves what I call the Big Four. What are your thoughts on this turn that the daytime soaps have taken, and how do you think this return to the show’s roots will help?

DH: It will survive because it’s what we’re longing for right now, and the show will give the audience, old and new, what it’s always wanted now, when it means the most. Which is a return to core values, a place to find comfort and replenishment, and we are as good as our word. We are your family, and we are there for you. And they’ve figured out a way to produce the show on the budget required to do it without sacrificing what is on the screen. We’re in very healthy shape, so look for us to be around for a long time!

I am also hoping to extend that relationship with the fans through Facebook (search “Deidre Hall”) and Twitter ( I’m tweeting all about the show. I’m pretty good at it, and I’m finding a new relationship with the fans, which is closer and more intimate, and that’s nice for me.