Last night the Television Academy in Los Angeles honored NBC soap opera, Days of our Lives, for being the longest-running scripted television series in the history of the peacock network. Having premiered on November 8 1965, Days of our Lives is coming up on a big anniversary in just a few weeks: it's forty-fifth! Over the years we have seen many births, many deaths, and many re-casts; we have watched people fall in lust, in love, in hate. There have been weddings, annulments, explosions, kidnappings, betrayal, scandal, and even a demon-possession. But at its core has always been one very important thing: family.
As executive producer Ken Corday explained as he kicked off the evening of clip reels and panel discussions last night, "Family is about the redemptive power of love." And at the DOOL core has always been three key families: the Bradys, the Hortons, and the DiMeras. True to the heart of the show, all three (and then some!) were represented on stage and in the audience at the TV Academy.
But more than that, the cast itself is like one big, extended family. Mary Beth Evans perhaps said it best when she explained that though many of the characters these days are only paraded in and out for big events like weddings and funerals, the actors will always jump at the chance to be in a script because it will mean a chance to play with their "cousins" again.
Everyone from the last surviving original castmember Maree Cheatham to supercouple Peter Reckell and Kristian Alfonso to beloved villain Joseph Mascolo to longtime castmember Alison Sweeney and long lost castmembers Drake Hogestyn and Bryan Dattilo took the stage to talk about their time on the show. But there was, of course, one presence who was sorely missed: Frances Reid, who portrayed matriarch Alice Horton ever since the show's debut passed away earlier this year. Her face and voice were all over the early evening clip packages, though, from family to great romances, which had quite a few of her co-stars tearing up and an audible "Awww" elicit from the audience.
Suzanne Rogers became choked up when discussing how in her first days on the show, Reid took her under her wing and became a mothering figure to her, just a young girl at the time who had moved out to California on her own and knew no one else out in La La Land.
But don't think the evening was all melodramatic reminiscing. Susan Seaforth Hayes had the crowd roaring with laughter over a story about how "back in the day" the stars could show up to work at six a.m. for rehearsal and blocking and then spend an hour or so "making love" (well, she married co-star Bill Hayes, so it's okay that she say that!) before cameras rolled. She thought it spiced up the on-screen chemistry. Dattilo, true to form, had the crowd (and his on-stage former co-stars) hysterical over his own tales of breaking beds during love scenes and he was fired from the show about three times. When he wasn't on stage, he was seated just off to the left of the front section of the audience, catcalling every once in awhile to those who were in the hot seats.
Louise Sorel defended Vivian's on-screen evil antics, saying she doesn't think she's really a psychopath, and even if she did, she wouldn't intentionally play it that way. It's all about the layers and the nuances! Lauren Koslow echoed the sentiment and explained that it's not pure evil when it comes from a place of wanting to protect and empower your family.
The executive team behind DOOL, including head writer Dena Higley and Gary Tomlinson discussed the ever-evolving nature of the business, including how they have had to speed up the production of each episode, shooting faster, and how the notes from the Powers That Be are always "bigger, faster, louder" these days. Gone are the scenes in which two Horton or Brady women just sit around, discussing their family over a cup of tea and one of Alice's famous donuts. In are more explosions (when they can afford them) and lots of big, emotional climaxes. Product integration has also become direly necessary in recent years as budgets have dwindled. Tomlinson even announced that an upcoming piece of product placement would be for the female version of Viagra. The audience half-chuckled/half-groaned, but he appeared to be deadly serious. Anyone want to guess about which character will be experimenting with that?
The evening could only last for so long. The stars started out by walking the red carpet and chatting with reporters before making their way into the main theater area to begin the panel discussions. After almost three hours, about thirty castmembers had appeared before their adoring fans on stage, but others-- like Kyle Lowder, Brandon Beemer, Shawn Christian, Jaime Lyn Bauer, Molly Burnett, Renee Jones, John Aniston, Mark Hapka, and Shelley Hennig had cheered on their extended "family" from the sidelines and then paraded on stage to take one big group photo. It is truly a testament to each other, their fearless leader, and the project in general that these hardworking actors used their personal time to come show their support even when they weren't going to be featured front and center!
My Life, Made Possible by Pop Culture's only complaint about the evening? Not nearly enough Jensen Ackles in the clip packages!!