Days of Our Lives star Deidre Hall (Marlena) talks her return to the soap she left two years ago, the changes at DAYS and why fans should return.
On January 3, 2009, long time stars Deidre Hall and Drake Hogestyn were written out of Days of Our Lives, sending to two of the series’ most beloved characters away in a rushed exit with no real closure. On May 19, 2011, executive producer Ken Corday cleaned house at DAYS, bringing in new head writers, Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, and new co-executive producers Greg Meng and Noel Maxam, to “reboot” the long running soap. With plans to refocus the canvas on the characters fans have loved for decades, the decision was made to bring back fan favorites John and Marlena (and many others) to kick off the “new” Days of Our Lives. TVSource Magazine spoke with Hall about her return, reuniting with Drake Hogestyn, DAYS 2.0 and the reasons why fans should return to DAYS. “Watch Now to See How We Change” is the theme for DAYS leading into the fall. Will you watch?
TVSource Magazine: When did the talk of your return begin?
Deidre Hall: It was a gradual flirtation with Greg Meng. I wrote a book called Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Closeups and Greg wrote a book called Days of Our Lives: 45 Years of Celebration in Photos. He said to me, “Do you want to go on a book to tour together?” And I said, “Sure, ’cause you know, I’m not working, this is great.” And we traveled the country for about three months together and although I had known him quite casually when I was there and he was at DAYS, we had not had much time together and what I got to meet was a man of enormous intelligence and integrity. I really developed a great fondness for him. And of course signing all our books, people would come up and say, “Hey when are you coming back to the show?” And I would say “I have no plans to come back to the show,” and that was how it kept on going. [Laughs] And at one point Greg would say, “Oh we wish she would, we wish that she would.” Somebody came up and said “What would it take to have you come back?” I thought long and hard about this man that I met and his fantasy about what DAYS should be, could be and would be again and how appealing that idea was to me. And I just said, “I’d have to be invited.” And then Greg turned to me and said, “Oh my goodness, you’re invited.”
Normally that would be kind of Hollywood banter, but for Greg Meng it was a marching order. He set about putting in place all the changes that he thought were critical to the show and he was completely right. DAYS this September is what we’re calling “DAYS 2.0.” It’s all the things that we had come to love and miss about our old show – the family values, the core family traditions, real reality based storylines; people that are true to their word and true to themselves. That’s what he and Noel Maxam are creating. That’s what our new head writers Marlene [McPhereson] and Darrell [Ray Thomas, Jr.] are writing and it’s just riveting television.
TVSource Magazine: How did you know you were making the right decision to come back?
Hall: It was what I heard what I was coming back to was when I knew. I spent two and a half years really replenishing myself, spending time with my children. My son was about to begin applying to colleges, my youngest son was going into high school. It was a really good time to be home so that was a gift that was granted by the surprise of being let go from the show.
TVSource Magazine: What brings Marlena back to Salem after such a long time away?
Hall: Marlena and John have returned to dedicate the Horton Center, which is our new set, a phenomenal set. And also they have come back to address a crisis that has happened in Salem. And it’s a crisis that affects every single person in town. John and Marlena are at the heart of it. It’s a storyline that is so clever, so topical and will propel everybody into a different place in their lives and in their relationships. It’s daytime storytelling at its best that involves everybody in serious and profound ways.
TVSource Magazine: How has Marlena changed since she left Salem? How has she grown over the last two years?
Hall: She’s spent the last two and the half years saving her husband’s life. She’s had to be bold and tenacious and fearless. And that’s who she is when she comes back and you’ll see that in a lot of her scenes. Her determination to have her husband be who he was years earlier and her determination to see everybody including her own family survive this crisis. It’s sort of an unshakable and ground feel to it. She’s ferocious.
TVSource Magazine: What’s it like reuniting with Drake [Hogestyn]?
Hall: It’s just the same! [Laughs] It’s just the same! We were laughing about it because when you do a thing so many times you form a synapse in your brain. It’s as though, “Oh, didn’t I just see you yesterday?” Nothing was changed. We work without a net, we take care of each other, we can read each other’s minds. There’s still enormous chemistry.
TVSource Magazine: That makes me so happy. As a card carrying member of the John & Marlena club I’m very pleased that it’s like nothing has changed.
Hall: It’s not that it hasn’t changed. It’s that it’s gotten better.
TVSource Magazine: Better? I like that.
Hall: Their devotion to each other and the way they interact with themselves and their community is something to be admired and envied.
TVSource Magazine: Is there anyone you requested to work with since you’ve been back?
Hall: You’re so sweet to ask. No I don’t generally enter the arena of storytelling or writing and that’s being brilliantly handled by Darrell and Marlene and they surprise me every day.
TVSource Magazine: What is it about Days of Our Lives that the fans love so much? Why do you think fans have demanded the return of fan favorites like yourself, Drake and so many others?
Hall: I think they love the multi-generational stories. I think there was a belief for a while that teenagers would want to watch other teenagers and I don’t think it’s true. I think we’re looking to all segments of our community, of all demographic, to see how they’re handling their lives – Who we want to be when we grow up and who are children are and that fascinates them. To be able to see family across the entire spectrum is a great lesson for people. We’re returning to those traditional values. We’re returning to Alice’s kitchen although it isn’t Alice anymore. We’re returning to families who have got to hang together just to survive now and there are tremendous organic conflicts that come out of the storyline we’re telling. You get to see how we survive, how some of us don’t survive. Some people leave town and some people come back. As I said, it’s a surprise every single day.
TVSource Magazine: What would you say to the fans that have stopped watching? Why should they return to the show now?
Hall: Come on back it will not disappoint. The reasons you’ve left are gone and the reasons that you loved the show are back. You have only to give it two or three episodes to know that you’ve come home and it’s the same old place you’ve loved.
Look for our interview with Drake Hogestyn (John, DAYS) later today…