Interview: Soap Legend Louise Sorel Talks Her ‘Days of our Lives’ Return, Looks Back on ‘Santa Barbara’

Louise Sorel
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Louise Sorel is a one-of-a-kind star. With a career spanning five decades across various mediums – theater, film, soap operas and primetime – it can be overwhelming when trying to determine what to discuss for an interview. TV Source Magazine had the privilege of speaking with the soap legend discussing her latest stint on NBC’s Days of our Lives, as well as take a look back at her time on Santa Barbara.

Days of our Lives kicked 2018 off in style with the shocking return of your character Vivian Alamain when she introduced the residents of Salem, and viewers, to her son Stefan.O. DiMera. What was it like working with Tyler Christopher and were you happy that Ron [Carlivati] delved into Vivian’s history to bring in a son for her to interact with?

Well I was in shock, both that I had a son that I knew nothing about, as well as an affair with a man that I didn’t remember. He’s a very sweet man, Tyler – very low key, a very gentle guy. I don’t know him well, because we were thrown together as you are in soaps. So, I don’t know a lot about him. But he was perfectly fine to work with. Very professional, and a very thoughtful person.

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I thought it was pretty funny that since I’d been on the show so long that they chose Stefano DiMera.  I never remembered meeting him or having an affair with him, but it’s a soap and you can do anything writing one, and they did. Speaking of history there were so many wonderful things that occurred many years ago, when Jim Reilly was writing and as crazy as it was it was, it was fun, because to play a sort of villainous with humor was joyous. It was just so much fun.

One of our all-time favorite moments in Days of our Lives history happened this year on the April 30, 2018 episode when Vivian, Kate (Lauren Koslow] and Marlena (Deidre Hall) were locked in the secret room with nothing but a few bottles of wine to drink. What was it like to film those scenes?

Well, they were fun, they were four days of being locked in together. So, everyone gets on. We just did the best we could. It was a very small space. So, what we would’ve done with more room or things, we had to make it work in the limited space we were in. I have no objectivity – I don’t know how it turned out.

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Many fans were shocked and disappointed that your storyline ended abruptly with Vivian being “killed off” at the hands of Kate. What was your reaction when you found out that Vivian would be killed off? Was this the plan from the start?

She didn’t get punished for it. I resent that. How did she get away with that? I don’t understand.

As far as if I knew if it was the plan from the start? I don’t know, they don’t tell you those things. They wouldn’t even tell me who’d be shooting me, I’d keep saying “whose doing it” and of course I figured it out when she shot me, but they kept everything close to the belt.

I think part of it was I live in New York, and I was sort of out of sorts because I didn’t have a home out there, and I was moving from place to place and it was hard on me, so I don’t know. It was sort of like they wanted me to stay at one point, but that all changed, and they decided to do what they did.

Obviously, this is Salem, and as we saw from your final scenes, nobody in Salem ever truly stays dead, have there been any conversations about you returning to the show? Or would you even consider it?

No, there have not been any conversations. I don’t know. It’s hard because as I said I live in New York, and I was moving quite a bit while I was out there and that’s really hard when you’re trying to do your work. It’s costly and difficult so I don’t think I can… I just don’t know. I always say to never say never, but that’s all I can say about that.

Looking back on your time on the show, were there any stories you wished, now with hindsight, hadn’t been told?

No, I kinda just went with everything that was presented. I don’t know if the reversal of the [2010] buried alive [story] worked. I thought the first time around really worked well, because we committed to that with Carly (Crystal Chapell). People really liked that. We’re really good friends and it just worked. I don’t know if it worked quiet as well the second time around. It didn’t have the pay off as the first one did. Now I don’t know because I don’t go around asking what you thought about that. But I had fun doing it because I didn’t have to learn any blocking, I just got in the coffin and tried to make it funny. I took my shoes off and did anything I could think of as I was lying there to make it funny or whatever, but I tried.

You mentioned you enjoyed James E. Reilly’s work, did you ever have the opportunity to meet him or do you have any memories from that time?

He wasn’t that interested in meeting with actors. He did not want to engage with the actors, which a lot of writers feel that way. That’s the way he was. So, I never really knew him. At all. But I heard he was very funny and had a very bizarre since of humor. At times I thought I had a lobotomy. I kept asking, “What am I doing. Why am I doing these things?” But it just worked. It was so insane. He was fearless.

One day I came in, it was the end of the day and Richard, the wardrobe guy, came in and said, “Do you want to know what you’re doing next week?” I said, “No, I don’t, Richard” and then he said, “Okay.” So the next day I walk in and I see this huge box of French fries and I said, “What is that?” and he said, “That’s your costume!” and I said, “What?!?!” and I was with Ivan [G’Vera], whom I miss desperately, and we were selling French fries and hamburgers. When I look back on it I say, “what fun!” who gets to do that?

Prior to your time at Days of our Lives, you helped launch fellow NBC soap opera Santa Barbara as the amazingly manipulative and utterly captivating Augusta Wainwright-Lockridge. What was it like being on, what is arguably one of the best written soap dramas, from the beginning?

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I’d never done one or seen one, believe it or not, so I said I’m not doing a soap opera, there’s kind of a thing about soaps. Then I met the creators – the Dobsens – and they offered me the role. Then I realized I’m working with theater people. Dame Judith Anderson, and Nicolas Coster and Lane Davies – these were all theater people, so when we started working together it was like a play. That was our approach.

The writing was creative and interesting. I was like, “How much better can this get?” We were all integrated because we knew each other’s work and had a lot of respect for each other, and then of course there was Dame Judith Anderson and I was over the moon. I loved what they wrote for me. I left in the second year to come to New York and someone hired me to go onto another show [as One Life to Live’s Judith Russell Sanders], and then I quit that show. I was like, “What am I going to do?” and they called me back [to Santa Barbara].

I loved working on that show. We got to work like we were on a play and I’d never done that before. I was used to doing theater and having rehearsals and we worked that way. It was also a new show, so a lot of people who were involved were not soap people – like the original producer was the husband of Eva St. Marie who was in theater, Jeffery Hayden, so we worked, and we were able to rehearse and we had more time, and we had time to fix things and everyone was very committed, and of course Robin Wright was on that show.

What do you think it was about Santa Barbara that captivated the audience and continues to have such a dominating presence both online and abroad?

I went to Moscow for it, Finland, and [in] France we were mobbed. Santa Barbara is the land of the rich. People could relate because it wasn’t a made-up town [and] it was filled with rich people. Not all, but most. There was a style to the writing, an elegance about it – there was a wit the Dobsons had. I think Nic [Coster, Lionel]and I were the spin-offs of the Dobsons, we were them. Bridget was a very good artist, her family created General Hospital, so she was out there to do something like that. She’s visually creative and their kind of a wacky, wonderful couple, and their sensibility is very different, so they were writing from what they knew and extending into all the crazy stuff that went on and it had a style. I think — I’d never seen it [the show]. But from traveling and we would study and be mobbed I think it was like the Santa Barbara romance of it all. It was the ‘real’ place instead of the made-up town, and it was witty.

What is the biggest difference, in your opinion, on the way soaps are produced today as opposed to how they were produced?

There’s no time, there’s no rehearsal period. It’s point-and-shoot, block-and-shoot. Nobody has time to block things, nobody has time to hone things, it has to do with finances. They just don’t have the money anymore. We’d used to start at six in the morning and go until midnight or two AM if necessary. Now it’s you come in maybe at six and your shooting at nine and you’re out of there by noon. Whereas before, you’d be in at six, you’d have a rehearsal at nine, you’d then have a camera block at 11 then have a costume rehearsal and then shoot at four in the afternoon. Now they shoot at nine period. You go in and shoot it and you’re out. So, there’s no time. It’s all about finance and everybody is rushed and everybody is panicked. Whereas back then it was a whole day of creating and changes. It’s not anyone’s fault – it’s a financial situation and the fact that there’s only four left and they’re hanging on and they have to get it out. The fact that Days of our Lives is six months in advance now – they’re six months ahead – it’s a whole different way of working for everyone – the directors, the actors, the writers. I don’t know how they do it. I give them credit to even get it on, because its madness. The pressure to get out there and without really a rehearsal for the actors and the director, they have no chance to fix stuff and its basically all about the money.

In previous interviews you discussed how you’d begun writing and had been having a rather fun time with the process working on your memoirs, have you continued to write and is there any chance fans might one day be able to pick up a copy?

I am a bit, but I procrastinate because writing is such a lonely world. I have a ton of stuff here, I’ve been yelled at to put it together by a couple of friends who are writers, but I’ve been delinquent. I’ve started going through all of my stuff and figured out how to put it together. It’s kind of memoir writing, everyone writes a book, and that’s okay because everyone has a story and I definitely have one. People always say you need to write this down, when I think about my life it seems like 20 different people lived it. Like everybody we have our stories. So hopefully I’ll finish it soon. I’m fascinated, because people will say “that reminds me” and I’m like “was that me?” and we start reflecting and it’s amazing.

Do you have any other projects in the works at the moment?

Not at the moment, I wish I did but I don’t. Coming back to New York, where the theater is my great love, it’s very difficult to break back in when you’ve been on the west coast for so long, so hopefully someday it will. I did a wonderful production a couple of years ago of I Remember Mama which was a huge hit here, with all women – ten women, doing all of the roles. It got rave reviews from the New Yorker magazine and we sold out and it was thrilling so that’s the sort of thing that is a gift and the sort of thing I really want to do.

Johnathon K.
Johnathon K. is a staff writer for TV Source Magazine. With a love of soaps, the Super Sentai Series and gaming, John's passion comes through in his writing and as a featured host of the TV Source Podcast, where he also serves as producer. In 2019, John launched his own podcast series "Our Take Media" which gives his take on various things in TV from soaps to reality television.

Soap Opera Pulse Poll: September 24-28, 2018

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  1. I always love interviews with Louise. She is the Tallulah Bankhead of daytime, which is so ironic considering she worked with Dame Judith Anderson on “Santa Barbara” who was a contemporary of Tallulah’s and had a very similar voice. I’ve followed her to every soap she ever worked on, and really liked her as Judith Sanders on “One Life to Live” in spite of the fact that Louise thought her to be a boring character. (She was not a villainess.) Louise’s mother-in-law on that show was the regal Lois Kibbee who had many elements of theatricality that Louise and Dame Judith did, and their sparring was as delightful as Louise’s and Dame Judith’s on “Santa Barbara”. Too bad there are not any New York based soaps anymore; She would be great as an Alexandra Spaulding/Phoebe Tyler like matriarch who has a finger in every storyline and keeps her thumb over her town like she owned it and everybody in it.

  2. I started watching Santa Barbara on YouTube before it was unfortunately taken down, and Louise was riveting as Augusta. It’s a shame the soap did not last, honestly. She is daytime royalty, and I hope she’s able to return as Vivian to Days of Our Lives, because this past visit was juicy AF!

  3. Vivian was shot but she didn’t die. The last time we saw her she was on a table or hospital bed alive. Also she was married to Stefano DiMera at one point so Louise did work with him. How could she forget that?

  4. Louise forgot working with Joe. That’s sad as hell.

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