In 1977, when I was 9 years-old, I was flipping through the channels one weekday afternoon and happened upon a scene on Days Of Our Lives where two teens were about to engage in first time sex. The house could have caught fire and you would have had to pull me away from the TV. I was hooked and thus began my twenty plus year relationship with the show. Ironic that thirty some years later, I wrote a book about first time sex.
In high school, I would watch it when I was home sick and on holidays. I turned many of my friends on to the show too. When we got a VCR, I got to record it and was back to watching it every day.
As with most soaps, many of the characters remained the same for decades. As a viewer, you feel as if these characters are part of your family. It doesn’t matter that some of the plot lines are completely insane or implausible. It doesn’t matter that continuity is often only a theory. Bo, Marlena, John and Maggie were my family. I cared about them and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
When I was 20, I worked in a department store selling perfume near the NBC studios in Burbank where the show was taped. Many of the Days actors would come in. There were also a number of fragrance models I worked with who were also actors and they worked on Days. My mother worked as an extra on the show a few times before landing her role as Eliana, maid to the evil Stefano DiMera.
When I was 21, I decided to pursue an acting career. I studied the Meisner Technique with Wayne Dvorak in Los Angeles. It was important to me that I understood what I was doing before I stood in front of a casting director. If I was horrible, I would surely only be remembered as the six foot blonde who didn’t know what the hell she was doing. So, for two and a half years, I concentrated on honing my craft. When I graduated, my coach decided to create The Professional Level. Actors had to be voted in and we would continue to study as well as meet with casting directors and agents.
My mother, Ann Werner, also studied at Dvorak & Company. She graduated about a year before I did. We were both in the professional class when we heard Wayne knew Fran Bascom, the casting director for Days. We both hounded him to get her into the studio. We finally wore him down and Fran came to the studio with her assistant Ron Sperber. They hired pretty much everyone. I knew the entire back-story to my audition scene and felt like I had a leg up. I could tell they were impressed and they booked me. I was so excited. Not only had I booked my first national television show, it was DAYS! And to make it even better, two of my other classmates, Maria Kress and Kevin Molloy appeared in the scene with me. I played Marsha, a bitchy model. Maria was also a model and we were doing a photo shoot with Sami, Will, Carrie and Austin. I had several lines but the one I remember (and my favorite line of all time) was in reference to Will, Sami’s son. I said “Life is hard enough without being born illegitimate.”
It was December, 1995 when I first walked on to the set, I felt immediately comfortable. Even though everyone was a stranger to me, I felt like I knew these people. Everyone was friendly and I got to see the sets. I was so surprised at how much smaller everything looks in person Including the stars. Keep in mind, I am six feet tall, so I am usually the tallest person in any given situation but in the acting world, female height is rare, especially in soaps.
When my episode aired, I was happy with my performance. A few months later, they called me back. This time, I didn’t have the safety net of my classmates and got very nervous. It showed on camera and to make matters worse, I looked directly at the camera while they were taping. They aired it. They are on such a strict schedule that things like that slip in. I am sure if I were one of the stars, it would have been re-taped. I was humiliated.
Time passed and lo and behold, they called me back to play a reporter. Once again, I worked with Sami and Carrie. My acting buddy Maria and I did the scene together. Once again, I had a great line and pointed to Sami and yelled to the newspaper photographer “Get a shot of her crying!”
About a year and a half after the first time I worked on the show, they called me in again to play a police officer and that was my character until my last day in late 2002. I worked more frequently and had the opportunity to really feel like I was a real part of the show, even if the role I played was a small one. I was part of the Salem PD. There were jokes made about the lack of intelligence of the Salem Police Department, primarily by the actors playing the cops. We called ourselves The Keystone Cops and laughed a lot. On one episode, we were searching for the all important murder weapon. One of the officer’s lines to the head of police after being instructed to keep the search going into the wee hours of the night was something like “But it’s dark.” Oh, how I loved being a part of that show!
One of the other more memorable experiences I had was a day that we were shooting a Gala. I was an under-cover cop and got to wear a gown. The day was long and grueling, We were all on set early and taping until midnight. Deidre Hall aka Marlena (The Diva of Days) was in the scene and after rehearsal, we took a quick break. She pulled me to the side and gave me pointers on how to stand to get the most flattering light. She made an effort to help me even though she and I really didn’t know each other. I was so touched. Everyone’s moods were wearing quite thin and people started to get punchy. She, like the rest of us, wanted to go home and this was not the time to get sloppy, She scolded the naughty ones, I was grateful that someone took control. We all were very tired. I will never forget the kindness she showed me.
For the most part, I had a wonderful time on the show. Of course there were some people who were not so friendly and I will not name names. As with any line of work, some people are nice, some aren’t. There was only one person on the show who was quite nasty and said things about me behind my back. I was alerted by someone in the make-up crew. I was not surprised by this because I’d overheard this person talking poorly about another actor on the show. But that is what happens with human beings. It didn’t have a negative effect on my experience. Now, I can say that a soap star talked shit about me!
The last little story I will include is about my police uniform and my hair & make-up. The uniforms were designed for men and never quite fit me properly, especially in the hips. Men tend to have slimmer hips than women and with the holster I wore, the pain would often be intense. Add to that the pants were always too short and on the day I complained and asked for longer ones, I was told they wouldn’t shoot my whole body. Well, guess what? That was one of the episodes that my high-water pants were glaring. On top of all of that my hair and make-up were insane! They would often put my hair in a french twist and it felt as if I wore a pound of make-up. I certainly didn’t look like your average female police officer. Though I did almost fool Ken Shocknek, an NBC news anchor. We were both having lunch at the NBC commissary and he was sitting by me. He kept staring and eventually asked me if I was a real cop to which I responded, “I’m not a cop but I play one on TV.”