Interviews from the Set of NBC’s ‘Days of our Lives’

Mark Hapka, whom you all know as Nathan Horton on “Days of our Lives,” was born and raised in upstate New York and attended college in Syracuse, where he studied music education and was a vocal major. After building a strong foundation in theater, his passion for film brought him to Los Angeles in the summer of 2005 to begin his journey in the entertainment industry, primarily in acting. Being new to the city, never having visited prior and not knowing a single soul, he moved into a hotel downtown where he contemplated his next move. He decided to enroll in acting classes at Playhouse West where he studied under Jeff Goldblum, Robert Carnegie, Mark Pellegrino, and Sean Barnes.

Mark landed his first job working on James Franco’s film “Good Time Max.” After that, he starred in a variety of short films and independent projects. His first starring role in a feature independent film was when he portrayed Danny McKay in “The Danny McKay Project,” where he took on the role of a young man struggling to accept his fate while battling a terminal brain tumor. The second audition he ever went on landed him the starring role in the hit TV series’ web-spin off, “Ghost Whisperer-The Other Side” where he played a ghost who crosses over into the television series to seek the help of Melinda Gordon (Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Mark has gone on to guest star on other hit TV shows such as “Greek,” “Hannah Montana,” and “Cold Case,” to name a few. He recently wrapped two films due out next year. In the high school wrestling drama “Near Fall,” he plays a high school student struggling to make adolescent decisions while finding his place in the world of wrestling. In “Midgets vs. Mascots,” which took third place this year at the Tribeca Film Festival, he stars as the preppy antagonist in this mockumentary alongside Jason Mewes, Ron Jeremy, Scottie Pippen and Gary Coleman. Keep an eye out for Mark in his most recent project, a “High School Musical” spoof titled “Private High Musical,” set to be released by the end of 2009. –Bio Courtesy

What your take on Nathan’s relationship with both Melanie & Stephanie?

Well, when he was first introduced to Salem, he didn’t know quite what he wanted. He was keeping his options open. He was very nice about it. He wasn’t hooking up with either of them. It was going back and fourth. And I think his actions are more reactions to the other two. Yeah, he cares for both of them, but if Melanie is not showing the interest that she is supposed to be showing, then it’s not bad if he goes on to talk to Stephanie.

When you first joined the show did you feel any pressure being the new, young Horton doctor?

Of course. Just knowing I’m joining a legacy of a show that’s been around for decades, and then taking on the name of somebody like Tom Horton who pretty much is Days of our Lives. Also just knowing I came on shortly after John & Marlena left and, its just like you have these fans who are so into these characters and they are taken away from them and then they are given this new guy that they don’t know or are invested in. There is a little pressure there that people won’t hate you.

Can you tell us about your audition? I hear it’s an interesting story.

It is an interesting story. Two years ago I actually played a different character on Days, I was a young Johnny DiMera at age 15 in a series of Sami’s flash forwards and I had played the role twice. Once one year, and then I came back and played it again. I had a scene that was like eight pages long and this was before I knew they did it all in one take and I go through those eight pages with the blocking and everything perfectly. And they were like, “This kid is pretty good, we should see if we can get him in a contract role.” And the role of Will, who was Bobby at the time, came up and I tested. We waited and the feedback was that they really liked me but they ended up casting Taylor [as Mia] who is much younger and the match up wouldn’t have worked. They went back and recasted and got Dylan Patton, who is doing a great job. Then the role of Nathan came around.

New Orleans native Shelley Hennig is widely recognized for her status as Miss Teen USA 2004. Her prize was a scholarship to attend The School for Film & Television, which inspired Shelley’s undying love for acting. This led to her landing the role of ‘Stephanie Johnson’ on “Days of our Lives” two months before graduation from SFT. Having lost her brother in an accident with a drunk driver, Shelley has campaigned vigorously in schools across the U.S. against drinking and driving and worked with the organization Buzz Free Prom to encourage students to stay sober for prom. –Bio Courtesy

What is like playing a young member of a legendary daytime family?

Well at first, I did not know. I knew nothing of the soap opera world. But I found out soon after! The thing about me is things never really set in. I mean, I had to relocate. I was in New York and my first audition, I book a contract, so all these crazy things happened, along with Miss Teen USA back in 2004 – I never expected to win that thing. I knew nothing about that world – and it never really set in. I kind of just adapt so I think that’s what I did with Steve and Mary Beth, I just adapted. I didn’t have all this pressure. I just adapt to things. I never had that moment where, “Oh my god, this just happened to me,” and I almost wish I did because then I would know how cool it was.

What’s it like working with someone like Peggy McCay?

Oh, I love Peggy! She is phenomenal and she is so 100%. Even in the scenes that are not our favorite and when a lot of people are involved and we get a little playful on set she just is there, and ready, emotionally and so focused. I look up to her a lot for that.

How do you feel about Melanie’s relationship with both Nathan and Philip?

I hate it. I mean, Stephanie hates it [laughing]. No, I think it’s great. I love the whole fighting back and forth. Stephanie usually gets what she wants and things go sour and she tries again. I think currently she’s going to try whatever she can to get what she wants whether that’s Nathan or Philip, we don’t know.

Right now Stephanie seems to be on the outside looking in on this triangle.

Yeah, because both of them are both going hard for Melanie, but I think she’s really pulling Nathan. And I think maybe it’s because she doesn’t want Melanie to get what she wants.