Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interview (Days): Jack Is Back — And He Wants Jennifer!

As part of the rejuvenation and regeneration of “Days of Our Lives,” yet another familiar face has returned to Salem, and “Days” enthusiasts couldn’t be more excited. Matthew Ashford has returned to town, after being held prisoner in Afghanistan while working on a story, and plans to reclaim his life — ex-wife Jennifer and daughter Abigail included. Of course, it won’t be easy, as nothing is on soaps, but I’ve got my money on Jack Deveraux’s ability to charm his way back into his family’s life. I spoke with Matt recently about his return to Salem.

Daytime Dial: I know you’ve kept busy doing other projects and televisions series, so how did it come about that “Days” producers were able to lure you back to the show?

Matthew Ashford: I had gone in some years back and had a good conversation with the producers at that time, and they were very upfront. They told me, “We really like you, love your work,” and all that good stuff, but they didn’t have anything available for me at the time. They were actually trying to clear the deck a little bit anyway. I appreciated the honesty, because it’s better than them saying things they think you want to hear, but then nothing comes of it. I understood that, so I kind of moved on.

It started up not too long ago, Jack’s name had been coming up in dialogue — Jack’s doing this; Jack’s doing that — but still no call on my end. Then kind of out of the blue, I get a phone call and they ask: “Are you around? What’s your schedule? What’s your level of interest?” And I was interested. They said: “We have a story that we are interested in writing. We think there’s some really exciting things we can do with the character of Jack.”

DD: As an actor, that’s always good to know.

MA: Exactly! That’s what I’m looking to hear. They have written some really fun stuff, some very challenging things, and that’s what brought me back. There’s a lot of great stuff coming — they have definitely been true to their word. They are interested in the character of Jack. It’s a far more complicated playing field now with Jennifer and this Dr. Dan, and Abigail is now a grown young woman who has her own wants and needs. So coming to terms with that, and then there’s other people in town that I’m just starting to get to play with, which is all very, very cool.

DD: I never did buy the story that Jack was “on a walkabout” to find himself. I knew he had another, better reason for leaving his family. I’d say being held hostage is a good reason. Now that Jack is back, what does he hope to accomplish?

MA: He’s come back to regain his life. That’s the reason everybody comes back to Salem, to regain their life. He has always wanted Jennifer, and I think he’s honest and sincere when he says that. Melissa (Reeves, who plays Jennifer) just returned to the show with the passing of Alice, and I think the audience was like: “Yeah, we like this. We like seeing her again. She’s got roots here, and we like those roots.” I just think those characters are important. They are important to the story. They’re important as characters.

DD: Jack has a way of coming back into Jennifer’s life just when she has decided to start over and commit to another man …

MA: That’s kind of funny, isn’t it? How’d that work out? I would think that would be highly annoying to any girl. At least Jennifer has never used the word “stalker,” but I guess you could say in some way he’s a wife stalker.

But he’s back to find his life in Salem again. The writers want to dig into the who, what, when, why and where of everybody, and they’re not afraid to look at old story lines and go from there. But they also are bringing to it a new look, a fresh perspective and excitement and energy, and they are willing to look at things a little differently. I’m excited to say that there are things that will be brought up and you will say, “Oh wow, I didn’t think we’d get into that.” And we are, and it’s good.

DD: With this return to its roots, “Days” fans old and new are very excited to see what’s in store for them, and for their favorite characters.

MA: It’s very good because a longtime viewer will say: “Yes! I remember that!” And a younger viewer might say: “Well, that’s kind of weird. What’s that all about?” But hopefully it will be told in such a way that the younger viewer and the longtime viewer will be able to come together. And that is what I think is the smart thing to do: Let people enjoy their passion for the show together. When Ken Corday talks about how this is a family show, it’s every generation of people sitting down together saying, “Yeah! I like that,” or “That was really important when I was your age too.” It’s all very exciting.

DD: It also must be exciting, and complimentary to you as an actor, that “Days” wanted you to return to help roll out the new/old “Days of Our Lives.” Looking back, you’ve been involved in most of the more-fun and fan-favorite story lines.

MA: I just think we found a level of communication and trust, and that, for us, was paramount. Some of the other stuff was window dressing. Oh they (Jack and Jennifer) were on a cruise, or stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm, or in a train, or in a Wild West show, or wherever the heck we were. I think the important thing is the connection between these characters with all the roadblocks they threw up in between. So, yes, I’m eager to do that. I think we have had some wonderful scenes already. It doesn’t mean that they are happy. It doesn’t mean that the scenes are easy, but there is definitely a connection. I’ve had to rely on Missy very much as we’re jumping back into this, and she’s been wonderful in supporting me. Just jumping in, it takes two to tango, and fortunately she’s been very supportive and very helpful.

DD: Jack always seems to be getting himself into something — please tell me that won’t change.

MA: Oh yes, I hope he continues to get into something. I hope he never gives that up. He’s always trying something. Some people say you can’t be goofy and bumbling and also be taken seriously, but I hope we don’t have to make it a strong distinction between the two, because he’s overcoming obstacles. Like I said, I just hope that he gets into things seriously, really gets in the middle of it.