Interview: Days of our Lives star Camila Banus Knows Who She Is, and What She Wants

Camila Banus
DAYS OF OUR LIVES -- Season: 51 -- Pictured: Camila Banus as Gabi Hernandez -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)

In an industry where a woman’s passion can be a perceived as a negative, soap star Camila Banus is shattering that trope by staying true to who she is and standing up for what she wants. Fearless and assertive, she embodies what it means to be a bold type millennial — strong, assertive, confident, outspoken. Banus is a star on the rise with a growing platform and voice she isn’t afraid to utilize.

For the last eight years Camila Banus been a main fixture on the long running NBC soap opera Days of our Lives as Gabriela “Gabi” Hernandez, while moonlighting in primetime on series such as ABC’s Mistresses and most recently Fox’s Star. With success also comes setbacks — in 2015 she was cast in the pilot for FX’s Snowfall only for the role to be recast during redevelopment. Others might be discouraged or disappointed, but moments like that only fuel her drive. She’s a forward thinker, always looking for the next project to sink her teeth into while maintaining her “home” as she calls it at Days of our Lives.

When a then-twenty year old Camila Banus was cast on Days of our Lives in 2010, there was no way for the Miami born star to know how pivotal the character would become to major stories over the years. Coming off a short stint on One Life to Live, the opportunity to join the Los Angeles based drama was a chance for a fresh start.

Initially a doe eyed heroine who fell for boys who weren’t quite into her despite their protests (looking at you Will Horton), then for those who were too into her (hello Nick Fallon), Gabi’s transformation from ingénue to the woman she is today hasn’t been without its ups and downs. In 2014, Camila exited the series when her character was sent to prison for murdering her abusive ex-husband Nick during an attempted sexual assault. Though Gabi paid her dues for her (justified) killing of Nick and tried to rebuild her life, it’s something Nick’s family – the famed Hortons – reminds her of regularly. Soap operas are rooted in romance and conflict, something that has worked to Camila Banus’ benefits since her return in 2015.

Her character not only has a child, a daughter Arianna, with a core character Will Horton, but her rivalries with Julie Williams (also a Horton) and Abigail Deveraux DiMera (another Horton) drove major story in 2018. Framed for a murder she didn’t commit by Abigail’s alternate personality Gaby and her lover Stefan DiMera, Gabi would suffer a vicious attack that severely compromised her future ability to have children. Though she was later exonerated, the damage to Gabi’s personal and professional life was already done. Her relationship with her daughter was strained, she carried anger towards the woman she believed to be her friend for hurting her. Gabi transformed into a villain, gas lighting her former friend into a mental institution and plotting the downfall of the man responsible.

As the portrayers grow and evolve, in theory, so should their characters. This turn allowed Camila Banus to play material different than previous years, allowing her to tackle a range of different emotions, and gain new fans in the process.  Last fall she had a multi-episode arc on the hit Fox series Star, playing Nina Ferrera.

Receiving the opportunity to interview someone I’ve respected and admired for years was something I almost couldn’t wrap my head around. My goal for this was for you to walk away feeling like you not only learned something new about Camila Banus, but gain insight into what fuels her in life, love and work.

What is it that motivates you to do what it is you do?

Okay. I would say the main motivating factor in my life would have to be just the constant love for this particular craft and medium of entertainment. I pretty much became obsessed with the TV, or moving images, since I can remember and I’ve … my eyes … You know, I am a millennial, I come from that generation, but for me it was something … TV was like, a religion, you know, it was such a big deal that it changed my life completely. And it inspired me so much that that inspiration’s never left me; that love is never left me.

What are you most passionate about in your career?

I guess I would say I’m most passionate about two things. So, I have to say one thing is the craft itself. I personally love theater history, and learning about dramaturge and playwrights, and, you know, everything that kind of was a foundation for what we create now. And I would say the other passion is ….and this is gonna sound a little bit weird, but it’s kind of, my own acting. So basically, I feel like I have a style of acting that is my own and I feel like everybody has their own kind of thing. And I think one of the things that that makes me really passionate about acting is that I love the way that I portray characters. I love that I am a little bit different. I’m not necessarily going for the stillness all the time. You know, like, there are different types of people in this world. So for me, I’m very passionate about expressing a lot of different types of emotions and people.

Do you ever like re-watch your scenes and critique yourself? Would you say that you are you’re hardest critic?

I don’t watch my scenes because if I do watch my scenes I start, like, really criticizing a lot of things, and I am my worst critic. Basically, I start doubting the decisions that I’ve made for my character because I start implementing what I think society wants to see as far as what is entertaining. And, um, and so then like a lot of different things coming to my mind. Instead of just me actually watching the scene, I’m just thinking about how it could be better, or how I think all of a sudden it’s wrong, when before, not seeing it, I thought it was fine.

Do you think doing that has better prepared you for when you do get on set, that you know like “I have my own things that I know I kind of need to work on” without being able to look at tape after?

Yeah, I definitely think there should be a good, happy medium, as far as, like, there should be moments where you should be able to do your work and, and understand that you can grow from seeing your work and, you know, all of that. But I think there also is a level of comfort when you have confidence. When you feel good about what you’re doing because, no matter what somebody says or whatever criticism, you know that it’s right and it’s something that feels good inside. There’s a level of, like, confidence when you walk into the set, and no one can tell you otherwise because it’s the character that you’ve created, and it feels right in your bones, you know?

How many key mentors, or people who deeply influenced who you are, and what you believe in? Who inspired what you’re committed to in your work in life?

One of the people that I identify a lot with is artist Salvador Dali. I think one of the reasons I identify with him so much is because he was able to, in his art, create so freely. There are no boundaries when it comes to surrealists, or surrealism, and, so, to me, that’s one of the most beautiful mediums, is just being able to express however you want, without any judgments. And so, he has been somebody that, his quotations, the way … things that he has said, you know. “I’m not”, “I’m not a madman. I don’t do drugs; I am drugs.”

All these things that are just like … he inspired so many different artists to be able to create without being censored. And so, for me, that’s somebody that I definitely emulate, and I have, I’ve always wanted to express in my craft and acting, freely, without censorship, without being judged, and it’s really hard because in our industry, it’s about opinions. It’s about “I like that; I don’t like that.” And so being able to like not give a fuck … sorry about my, my language. [Laughs]

No, no, it’s awesome [laughs].

But it’s really like not giving a fuck. And having artists, other artists like Michael Jackson, like Madonna, like Prince – these people that weren’t necessarily understood by everybody and still were committed to not giving a fuck. That everybody can understand them. You know, that, to me, is what makes them, them, and makes them so special and one-of-a-kind.

Did it take you a while to get to this point where you’re able to not give a fuck about the outside things and be in your own zone?

A little bit. I will tell you, I’m very blessed and very lucky that my mom was really …um, maybe she wasn’t as confident as I thought, but she definitely projected confidence to us. And I had such an amazing example of what a strong, confident woman is, that at a really young age I was able to kind of mirror her and understand that, that, that there was no way that I was going to feel less-than, at least this that I’m seeing, which is a really confident strong woman, you know? And I never saw less than that, and, so, yes of course, life, and time, and just, you know, growth and age allows you to kind of not give a fuck, you know, more and more and more as you grow with age. But, I’ve kind of been like that a little bit my whole life.

You know, if I see an injustice, it’s really hard for me to just stay quiet. It’s really hard for me to stand up for somebody, even if it’s a stranger, just because I have something inside of me that kind of alerts me and doesn’t let me to not just, like, look away.

As one of the few Latina women in daytime, what are your thoughts on the importance of representation for women of color, and how Gabi plays into that as the only Latina character on Days of our Lives?

I think with there’s a very big, um, degree of hype with the housewife. Um, the privileged housewife that gets to stay home, and not have to go to work, being one particular race. And I am so freaking honored to portray a Latina and to be viewed by so many different ethnicities and races that watch the show that aren’t just the ones that are the supposedly the privileged few. Because, let me tell you, there are so many people on social media, in person, of color that come up to me that appreciate that I have been pretty much full representation of the Latino culture on our show for the last ten years.

You know, for me it’s, it’s absolutely overwhelmingly exciting to, to be Gabi, to present her as somebody that is strong, doesn’t allowed life to just pass by. She takes life and grabs it by the horns, and does what she wants with life. And so, to me, it’s been wonderful. See, I wish they could have more. I wish we could see more other ethnicities, and other cultures, and other traditions, and things that people would not understand, but because they’re being exposed to it, they might be able to understand. So for me, it’s overwhelming. For me, it’s wonderful. For me it’s everything. But of course, I wish it could be more, always.

Ryan White-Nobles
Ryan White-Nobles is Editor-in-Chief of TV Source Magazine. He's began covering entertainment and soap operas in 2005. In 2009 he co-launched Soap Opera Source, and led the TV Source rebrand in 2012. He's a natural #Heel who loves a spirited debate and probably watches too much TV. Follow him on Twitter at @SourceRyan to discuss all things TV, soaps, sports, wrestling and pop culture.

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