In 2010, 20-year-old Camila Banus joined the cast of NBC’s Days of our Lives, the long running soap opera that was infamous for its over the top plots including devil possession, alien twins and killing half its cast and placing them on a mysterious island. It was the second serialized drama the Banus would join coming off a one-year stint on the New York based One Life to Live. The Gabi Hernandez of 2010 is drastically different than the woman she would become.
12 years later, the Miami-born actress sits down with TV Source Magazine to discuss cementing her role as a series’ leading lady, ushering Gabi Hernandez-DiMera and the now streaming soap opera into the digital era on Peacock, celebrating her Hispanic heritage through her work and inspiring others to continue the story of Hispanic Heritage Month all year round.
TV Source: Congratulations, it’s been 12 years since debuting in the role of Gabi Hernandez on Days of our Lives! She’s been through a lot since you’ve last spoken with us. Tell us how the milestone feels and what that means to you as an actress, especially as an actress of color?
Camila Banus: First of all, thank you so much.
Second of all, it means the world to me to continue this journey of representation on such an iconic show, like Days of our Lives. I love Gabi so much.
She has been through so much but her essence and spirit always remains the same. There’s always aspects of her that involve her culture into storylines or into moments and that is so special to me that we get to portray that on camera for the fans to see.
What first inspired you to act – was it family, TV and movies?
Yeah, I think coming from a family that struggled so much to come to America, my mom provided a really amazing environment for me to dream very wildly. As young as maybe three years old, I remember watching television and seeing people inside of the TV and telling her, “I wanna be in that TV box. Asking her how people get in there.” That’s just something that I had always dreamed of.
My mom specifically always encouraged the arts for me and my sister because she came from a country where she couldn’t really explore a lot. She had limited resources and so she wanted us to learn and be part of as many creative things as we could. So at a very young age, she put us in dancing and even acting classes. I remember telling her that this is what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to stop. It just so happened that I was good at memorizing and so I kept getting jobs. It was this addicting feeling and it just made me feel so happy.
It was something that happened because she left a really open space for me to be able to do these kinds of things. A lot of times kids’ parents – especially from where I come from growing up in Little Havana, Miami – don’t have time to take them to auditions or to make it work for them. So for her to be able to even make that happen was amazing.
How would you say the character of Gabi evolved over the course of this time?
Gabi has definitely evolved quite a lot.
She started out as kind of a timid girl. She always had that fire inside of her. She just didn’t know how to let it all go and wasn’t comfortable with everybody around her. Gabi started off as this girl that was all about family that made every moment about it and that’s something that has transcended throughout her entire existence and evolved with her now as this ferocious passionate person.
It ties in so much to my Latino culture, my Latino heritage. Because one of the biggest things that is instilled in my family is that connection together. Staying true to us, spending time together is what is important and that is truly what we love.
That’s great, and honestly ties into our next question for you. How do you stay connected with your culture and your family on the opposite coast?
Well, you know, thank goodness for technology. We connect as often as we can on Facetime and on the phone. I try to call, and vice versa, as much as we can and stay involved in each other’s lives. But I think the most important thing is that when we do see each other, we make the time committed to creating memories, making sure that we take it all in and enjoy that time.
There are no phones anytime I’m with my family. I don’t ever see myself on the phone. We just are always talking and it is just such a nice, refreshing time with them. I think the time apart makes the time together so special.
You proudly represent your Cuban heritage and love to adlib in some Spanish in some of Gabi’s scenes on DAYS. Tell us one of your favorites and what that means to be able to add that personal touch to your character?
I think one of my favorite moments is anytime she’s cooking, particularly one time when she was making huaraches. I think it was with Rafe. It means to me that this is normal, it’s an everyday thing. This is just part of life, our tradition and our food. It’s so lovely to feel included and to feel represented in this way.
We have to say one of our favorite moments too. Was Gabi calling Gwen a puta in the original script or an adlib?
They have written that before, but I have also taken some liberties in getting to adlib some fun stuff. So that’s why it’s been so much fun for me to be her for so many years because she keeps me on my toes.
Gabi is in a love triangle with Stefan Dimera but also Li Shin, one of the few Asian-American characters in DAYS’ history. What does diversity in Salem mean to you, especially being the sole Latina in Salem?
It’s just wonderful, especially with the character of Li Shin. The character development the show has done for that character has been fantastic. The way that he was placed in a very inconspicuous way a very long time ago.He was initially in business meetings and nothing was played out that would remotely point to playing us being together. It has so beautifully evolved to where we are now, and where we are going and I think that having him and also Wendy, is fantastic.
It’s an amazing thing for the show – for representation, for diversity and for how life really is. We are a melting pot of people and it’s wonderful to see that on our show.
Would you like to see the Hernandez family expand?
Of course, anytime we have scenes with any family members – it doesn’t have to be all of them – just even having A Martinez, who plays our father come in for certain scenes, the fans blow up, they love it! They love to see our dynamic together. We just work so well together.
It’s just a really fantastic set of really seasoned Latino actors and so it’s just fun when we get together. So I am super game and open to any scenes with more family – and new family.
Gabi has been portrayed as a hero, villain, a fashionista and everything in between. You’ve mentioned before that you like playing her bad side but now she’s a bit more in the middle. Where do you hope to see the multi-faceted Gabi end up next? What can you tease?
I said one time as a joke in an interview that she wouldn’t stop until world domination and I might just see that. Because she’s ready to go to the top and is willing to do whatever it takes and however she needs to get there. We know how passionate she can be and she’s moved a lot of that passion into her business side.
Fans are enjoying the series’ move to Peacock and you’ve been in two digital spin-offs so far. How has the move to Peacock been and what’s it like behind the scenes now?
Yeah, it’s been amazing. I will have to be honest and tell you there’s really been no change. Our Executive Producer, Ken Corday, told us it’s the same show, same way we shoot, nothing’s gonna change and that’s exactly how it’s been.
We are the same exact show, we just have a new home and I think fans like it. I’ve been seeing a lot of memes of people saying like they’ve been waiting in the morning for an episode to come out and just being able to have all the episodes there to be able to watch however you want, whenever you want is fantastic. I think fans are loving it.
Behind the scenes, it’s awesome. We get to also create cool content and spin off shows now. it’s amazing to be able to explore the world of Salem.
This past September 15th to October 15th, we celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month. What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you and how do you hope to continue the importance of this month throughout the year through your work?
Every year, as much as I can, I try to post amazing Hispanic people in history throughout the month. Because Hispanic Heritage Month to me represents a celebration of past, present and future Hispanic people.
This is the time to put them up, celebrate and remember them and that’s what I try to do. I post poets, artists, singers, musicians and all types of people that I think have been doing or have done amazing things for our community to have transitioned us to where we are today.
People that are doing things now to hopefully help us get to where we are tomorrow.
What do you hope people take away from Hispanic Heritage Month whether they’re Hispanic or not?
Even if they take away learning any small thing about any Hispanic country, custom, maybe they meet somebody from a country that they’ve never heard of. Just learning and expanding your mind about all the different types of people that exist in this world and celebrating them. I think that is what is important about this month.
October also means Spooky Season, so we have to ask you about your upcoming slasher film, Bad Connection. What do fans have to look forward to from your character, Eva?
First of all, I love scary movies. And people are going to be seeing a really edgy side of me, I have never played a character like this.
Eva is a different type of bad girl. It’s just fun to play, she just says a lot of wild things. It’s a really great film and it was made with a lot of love. Everybody had fun, you can tell. Anybody that watches, they’re gonna have a blast.
The trailer for your upcoming Christmas movie, Sweet Navidad recently dropped and is full of surprises for soap fans. What was the experience like reuniting with former One Life to Live co-stars David Fumero and making her directorial debut, Brittany Underwood?
This was very wholesome, definitely not the same as Bad Connection. But that’s also something that people haven’t seen of me, this very wholesome character. What I love most is that if you really look and think about it, there aren’t a lot of Latino-based stories about Christmas.This one is so special. It just shows so many wonderful traditions because so much of the holidays is food. The movie showcases such an amazing array of Puerto Rican desserts and dishes. It’s this feel-good movie that makes you wanna snuggle up with a blanket, a cupcake and enjoy. It’s so much fun.
That’s how it was to shoot the movie as well. Getting to see David and having Brittany as my director was the most amazing experience of my life. I have never felt so comfortable with a director. I could speak to her with no reservations because she’s my friend and so it was a wonderful experience. Having Mark Hapka, who I worked with on DAYS was amazing too. It is just such a fun group of people and it focuses on Latino stories, traditions, cultures, food and music, that’s why it’s a blast.
What kind of character or type of story do you want to play in the future, is there a superhero movie in your future?
I would love that. Yeah, I definitely was going to say something action. I think there’s a space in there to show even more badassness. I think there’s still a moment in time for that and hopefully a production company out there needs a Latina for an action movie. Let me know, I’m your girl.
What advice would you give to a young Camila Banus just beginning her acting journey?
It’s easier said than done, but I would definitely say, “Don’t be scared. You got this.”
In the moment, it’s hard to recognize because you’re going through it but know we’ve got this.
Peacock is now the new exclusive home of the fan-favorite drama series Days of our Lives. The 61-time Emmy Award-winning daytime drama began streaming daily ONLY on Peacock in September. In addition to new episodes streaming daily, the past season will also be available exclusively to Peacock Premium customers.
Peacock is also home to the Peacock’s Original limited drama series Days of our Lives: Beyond Salem and the holiday film Days of our Lives: A Very Salem Christmas.
Camila Banus’ Christmas movie Sweet Navidad airs Thursday, November 17th at 8 PM on Lifetime.