Sarah Brown (Madison, DAYS) discusses the excitement of the Days of our Lives reboot, working with Eric Martsolf and her love of the soap genre.
Sarah Brown made her much anticipated debut as cosmetics magnate Madison James this past Tuesday on Days of our Lives. Madison is the first character created by new head writers Marlene McPherson and Darrell Ray Thomas, and she’s expected to play heavily into fall storylines involving the Brady Black, Victor Kiriakis, Sami Brady and Kate Roberts-DiMera. TVSource Magazine chatted with the two-time Emmy winner last week about her character, gaining some insight into what makes Madison tick, how she compares to Brown’s previous roles and more.
TVSource Magazine: What was it that brought you to Days of our Lives?
Sarah Brown: The excitement! [Executive producer] Greg [Meng] was so excited about this re-launch and gave me all the details about what they were going to be doing. It sounded amazing. It sounded like my vision for what would help soaps stay on the air as well.
TVSource Magazine: What did you think of Madison when you were first told about your character?
Brown: I loved the character that Marlene and Darrell created; I loved everything that they told me about her. I was very intrigued by who Madison was and who she had become. I really got behind the ideas that they were giving me about what they are going to do going forward to bring our viewers back.
TVSource Magazine: What’s the atmosphere like at DAYS with the reboot in full effect?
Brown: I feel a lot of us have worked with each other regardless of what show we’re on. And if we haven’t [worked with each other], we worked with each other’s friends. It’s a really pleasant, fun place to be even at 6:30 in the morning. [I come in] and everyone’s happy and smiling and running lines. It’s a great place to be. I’ve had wonderful experiences at other jobs as well.
TVSource Magazine: How was your first day on set?
Brown: My first day on the set I had memorized the wrong episode. I then had to learn two episodes in an hour or so, so that was interesting [Laughs]. It was a little nerve wracking to have to be the first day and have so much dialogue to memorize so quickly. It went well after that.
TVSource Magazine: Tell me about Madison’s backstory and the company she runs.
Brown: Madison is coming from a working class family. Her father abandoned their family when she was quite young. Her mother fell into a deep depression and ended up getting cancer. Madison had four younger siblings to take care of while her mother struggled through cancer and eventually passed away. Madison was left to raise her brothers and sister and try to make something out of herself. So she built this company, Mad World Cosmetics, out of the trunk of her car while she’s studying and working, supporting her family. It becomes a worldwide name. The brand is synonymous with sheek, classy, beautiful, feminine women. So that’s where she’s coming from.
TVSource Magazine: What, if any, are the similarities between you and Madison?
Brown: The character is still pretty new. I just took the blueprint that Marlene and Darrell and Greg put together. This is the first character that they’ve created for the show so they put a lot of time and effort into developing her, creating who she is. Nonetheless, we have some similarities between our personality types and also our backstories. They’re not completely different. Her upbringing is not completely different from mine. My mom got sick when I was a young girl. [When I was] 12 my mom came down with epilepsy. So I can relate to those struggles – watching your parent be ill all of your life –what it can do to someone, it’s not an easy thing.
[Madison] is a character I’m playing so I’m trying not to blur the lines so much. The pace of soaps is so much – there’s so much to do every day. It’s different from a movie or a nighttime series where you’re filming eight pages a day or three depending on the budget [laughs]. You have a lot more time generally to develop and work on the character. You have a clearer understanding of a beginning, middle and end of your stories when you work in those genres. In soaps I think you have to bring some part of yourself to the role out of necessity.
TVSource Magazine: The initial meeting between Brady and Madison doesn’t go too well does it?
Brown: No it doesn’t. Initially Brady and Madison don’t get off on the right foot; they get off on the left foot [Laughs]. And yet he’s very charming and handsome. So I think when she first meets him there’s that attraction, that spark between the two characters. She’s definitely attracted to him but he doesn’t necessarily treat her with a tremendous amount of respect, we’ll just tease it that way [laughs]. She makes him squirm. And then they quickly get over that and there’s the attraction between them. He’s super smart obviously. He’s not a spoiled brat by any means. Although he may be a brat, he’s worked really hard for everything he has and Madison really admires that. It just builds from there. Once they get to know each other a little more and she gets to know who he is and some things about his childhood, how he grew up, I think they relate to each other on another level.
TVSource Magazine: I interviewed Eric Martsolf a few weeks ago. He had nothing but kind things to say about you.
Brown: Eric and I get along really well. It’s such a bonus to come into work every day and have someone I laugh with all day long and have such fun with. And really enjoy not only his work but his personality and his sense of humor. We get along great. I feel really blessed to work with him.
TVSource Magazine: You’ve played a lot of interesting, damaged and at times self-destructive characters over the years. How does Madison differ from Carly, or Julia or Claudia?
Brown: I think that the base starting point for each of those characters was completely different so there are going to be some similarities between the personalities. Madison is a self-made millionaire. Nothing was given to her, nothing was handed to her. She’s worked really hard for everything she has and I think that’s very different from Claudia for instance, who was sort of grandfathered into the mafia and all the businesses she’s involved in. I think that the other characters I played all had this very strong backbone and were very self-protected and self-serving in some ways. I just think that Madison is perhaps a little less selfish than a Carly, a little more of a fashionista than a Julia and a lot less of a wallflower than Agnes.
TVSource Magazine: Greg Meng and others have spoken about a “return to basics” at Days of our Lives. In your opinion, what is it about soap operas that them so appealing to the viewer? Do you feel more soaps should go back to the basics the way DAYS is?
Brown: I really do. I’ve felt that for so many years. I think that soaps in a way are almost like getting a new romance novel in the daytime every day. If I were not acting and just strictly a viewer, I’d be so excited about the personal relationships, the family relationships. The things that make people watch reality television are based in drama that has to do with your home life, your family life and your work life. That’s where soaps started from and branched out into all sorts of other things. I think the drama that people at home can relate to is what keeps them watching in addition to all of the romance. I think that the people who watch soaps are fans of romance; it’s why they tune in. It’s important to make sure that we keep that [romance] in the forefront. If you’re passing by and you see soap, you’re going to get some romance in the daytime even if you’re husband’s not home, or your wife’s not home. You’ll get your own slice of romance. Soaps are not made for five year old you know? It’s not appropriate for that age group [Laughs].
TVSource Magazine: Soaps have drifted towards more plot driven storylines over the years as opposed to the character driven ones that used to be prevalent throughout the industry. Having been in soaps for so long, which do you prefer?
Brown: Definitely a character driven story. I’ve always considered myself a character actor. I used to fight with my agents all of the time. “I’m a character actor damn it!” is what I’d tell them [Laughs]. I definitely relate to the character driven stories more. That’s not to say that a fun action flick doesn’t have its place, but I would definitely relate more to the character driven stories.
TVSource Magazine: One of the things I’ve always respected about you is your love of daytime. You’ve had multiple opportunities to work in primetime and film, but at the end of the day you come back “home”. What is it about daytime that keeps you coming back?
Brown: I appreciate the genre. We all as actors want to work, there’s nothing worse than sitting around twirling your thumbs. That’s what is important to me – making sure that I’m doing something that I enjoy. Doing something that keeps me challenged. I like to do all of the genres at the same time. I’m kind of an ADD personality type [Laughs]. I like to have the challenge of doing it all. So if I were stuck in one genre I would not be happy. But I like to be able to do it all and all at once. I want it all and I want it all now damn it [Laughs]. I believe [this genre] can survive and I just want to help.