In Salem: Deidre Hall & Drake Hogestyn
This is the first in a series of exclusive posts featuring on-set interviews with Days stars and photographs of the newest sets in Salem!
Thanks to Out on the Town magazine, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Days of Our Lives set for a press reception and junket. In one of the biggest “OMG my head is going to explode from sheer excitement!” moments of my life, I was able to spend time with returning stars Deidre Hall (Marlena) and Drake Hogestyn (John). They were gracious, inviting, and very happy to be back in Salem.
Behind the cut: Dee and Drake on their return to Days, Marlena’s status as a gay icon, and more. Plus: a first look at John and Marlena’s brand-new living room set!
Asked whether they enjoyed their time off, Hall exclaimed, “I did!” She talked about spending time with her family and how she and friend Lynne Parmiter Bowman finally had the opportunity to delve into a project they’d long wanted to tackle: “We always get together and sit in the kitchen and solve the world’s problems while we make recipes. We always said, ‘We need to write this stuff down,’ and one day, I said, ‘Wait, I don’t have to wake up with a script in my hand!’ So we did. And it’s been wonderful.” The fruit of that labor, Deidre Hall’s Kitchen Closeup, is now available.
Hogestyn, on the other hand, was less thrilled with the time away from Days. “I didn’t like it,” he said plainly. “I like to work, like to be productive. I wore a lot of different hats when I was gone. Tried things that I always thought I was gonna be emotionally attached to, and you know what? Nope. Did writing, did plays, created some different projects and got really close on some of them… but there’s nothing like this.”
On the plus side, he and his family recently celebrated the arrival of a second grandchild.
“A lot of changes were taking place that made it really thrilling to be back,” Hall said about new co-executive producer Greg Meng’s invitation to rejoin the show. “The silliness has been taken out of the show, and the creative part has really been heightened. A lot of respect, a lot of mutual creative forces going on. It’s lovely to step back into.”
When I mentioned — perhaps a little boldly — that some of the “silly” plots (Satanic possession, the Salem Serial Killer, the Queen of the Night) are what have made Marlena and John’s story so legendary, she fell quiet. It was clear that much of the enthusiasm for the reinvigorated Days that premieres in September has to do with a return to more family- and romance-based storytelling. I heard the phrases “more modern” and “21st century” bandied about a lot that day. If the actors’ attitudes about it are any indication, we’re in for a very different Days, and perhaps one that stands a real chance of surviving beyond the next few years.
Hall also added that Marlena is going to be seen in a professional capacity as a psychiatrist again, which is a good sign that the focus is shifting away from the campy damsel-in-distress plots. Hogestyn explained, without giving away many details at all, that they arrive in Salem for the dedication of the new Horton Town Square, but there’s great intrigue about their arrival (FYI: John is still in the wheelchair when they show up… but perhaps not for long) and it’s going to involve both Sami & Rafe and Carrie & Austin in ways that might put those couples at odds.
Since I was there on behalf of an LGBT magazine, I asked Hall if she was aware of both her and Marlena’s status as gay icons.
“I am,” she said. “I used to live in West Hollywood, and I was embraced.” Asked for her thoughts on how she and her character achieved this standing, though, she looked to me. “I hadn’t ever tried to dissect that. Help me.”
I filled in that Marlena Evans has been through such an absurd amount of adversity, both realistic and dramatically over-the-top. The sum of those struggles, coupled with the fact that she has, at times, been a very campy character — played to the hilt by Hall — makes her very appealing to a gay audience, who tend to gravitate toward glamorous, larger-than-life characters and situations. And her quest with John truly represents the romantic ideal, the notion of never, ever giving up on love, no matter the cost.
“I think you got it for her!” Hogestyn said with a laugh, as Hall agreed.
Then I asked what I had a feeling would be a ballsy question: “Now that you’re back, do you feel that it might have been a good thing for the characters to have a rest?” (For the record, I do. I wasn’t sure Days would survive without them, but it did, and it served to get John and Marlena out of the endless loop of presumed deaths, amnesia, separations, and reunions that several consecutive writing regimes could not seem to shake.)
Hall looked thoughtfully at me and, with a knowing smile, said, “I think if you don’t go away, they can’t be thrilled to have you back.”
As I concluded my interview, Hogestyn jumped to his feet and asked if, in addition to the pictures I’d snapped, I also wanted a photo with the two of them. No joke, this photo might be one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
Behind us, you can see the set that is going to serve as John and Marlena’s home once they decide to remain in Salem. I snapped some additional pics of it:
No one was clear on whether it was supposed to be that townhouse Marlena was living in after John’s “death” (the one Sami inhabited until she moved into the DiMera mansion) or a brand-new place, but I’m pretty sure those are the French doors from the old penthouse set. It’s small — the entirety of it is what you can see in the pic — but it’s nicely decorated, and it feels very consistent with Marlena’s past residences. There were pictures of Sami and Carrie on the set, so I don’t think it’s supposed to be a hotel, but who really knows with this show? Guess we’ll find out when they hit Salem on September 26th!