Days of our Lives’ co-executive producer Greg Meng was in Toronto this week along with cast members Deidre Hall (Marlena Evans), Drake Hogestyn (John Black), Lauren Koslow (Kate Roberts), Bryan Dattilo (Lucas Horton), Galen Gering (Rafe Hernandez) and Kate Mansi (Abigail Deveraux) to promote the book, Days of our Lives Better Living: Cast Secrets for a Healthier Balanced Life.
I had the opportunity to sit down with them to discuss the book, Marlena broadcasting an X-rated video at Brady and Kristen wedding, Alison Sweeney’s upcoming exit, the scandalous EJ & Abby affair, as well as the show’s upcoming 50th anniversary.
I read that the idea do to Days of our Lives Better Living came about when you were putting together the 45th anniversary book.
Greg Meng: Partly, yes. It came around after we got to know the cast a big more intimately. Seeing not only how attractive and together they seemed to be, but they were really well put together. They were happy and well rounded – they had a lot going on in their lives, so I wanted to find out what their secret was. They’re not only good looking and happy, they’re really happy! So we delved into it and found out that it came down to five areas, which became the chapters of our book: nutrition, exercise, style, inspiration and balance. We found out that the real secret is balance.
The book is filled with contributions from the cast members. Were there any similar contributions from different people, for instance, did a recipe overlap?
Meng: Yes, there were a lot of common denominators with many people, including water. It was kind of a surprise to me how important hydrating is, as well as cleansing. So water was a big thing. One of the actors even commented and said that it was his new addiction. We actually had a conversation this morning about how you may overdue water, even drown on it! [Laughs]
Drake Hogestyn: Well, he sent an actor out to the desert for three days, so he became very fond of water!
So that’s where you’ve been all this time? That’s why John’s been MIA.
Meng: [Laughs] It wasn’t!
But yeah, there were a lot of common things. As well as age, it was 18 to 80-something. Peggy McKay, who plays Caroline, has some amazing exercises. I just had some knee surgery and my physical therapist is having me do the same exercises that Peggy does daily.
There are a few contributors who aren’t on the show anymore. How long was the process of curating all this content?
Meng: Well, once you are on the show, you’re family. Family members come and go.
It was really nice to see some stars like Sarah Brown (ex-Madison), Nadia Bjorlin (ex-Chloe) and Christie Clark (ex-Carrie) in the book while they are no longer on the show.
Meng: Sarah Brown had a very interesting part of the book because of her gluten-free recipe and the challenges that she has in her life. So, that’s the thing too, everybody has their challenges. It’s not like everybody is born perfect. It’s how to overcome these challenges.
The show has been amazing this past year, creatively and ratings-wise. Greg, what was it like taking over the show in 2011
Meng: Well, it was about being passionate about it. It wasn’t about taking power or control – nothing like that. It was about bringing back the show to an anchor again, with the iconic characters, families, couples and Salem. It all starts at home – which is Salem and honouring the legacy of Tom and Alice Horton.
The storylines this past year have also had very buzz worthy. There have been some very big moments that got people talking, like Kristen (Eileen Davidson) raping a priest and then Marlena broadcasting that video at a wedding.
Deidre Hall: Terrible moment! [Laughs]
Kate Mansi: I loved it!
Bryan Dattilo: You had to do it, but then you felt bad about doing it.
We also had Stefano (Joseph Mascolo) trying to dismember Rafe.
Lauren Koslow: So to speak…
Galen Gering: That was one of my favourites!
Dattilo: My personal favourite.
And now we have the EJ (James Scott) and Abby affair!
Mansi: Yes, there was that!
That shower scene! An affair is one thing, but these two took it to the shower.
Mansi: It was interesting for sure! The key to that story is that we all just had to be a team and we had to be willing to explore things that were uncomfortable. I mean, I was quite frankly a fan of Sami (played by Alison Sweeney) and EJ. When I found out [about the affair], I was like “Oh my god! I feel like my parents are getting divorced!” It’s been great, I love working with both of them and the story was a lot of fun.
There has been a lot of fan reaction to that – how have you been dealing with the haters and those who have loved this twist?
Mansi: I think that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, it shows that they are so passionate about the show and it means that we’re all doing our job and I love that they are so engaged. I wish that people would sometimes have a little bit of a conscience, though. But at the end of the day, it has really toughened up my skin, which is great.
It’s definitely got people talking and tweeting.
Gering: You have to worry when they’re not talking.
Mansi: Honestly, we’ve got people talking about so many things. That was just a nice little shocker!
Fans love that Drake is back. Are you allowed to comment on the length of your return? Are you on contract?
Meng: He is under contract! I’ll just say that right now.
Hogestyn: As long as Greg wants me back.
Meng: He’s family. Forever.
Will we be seeing a reunion between John and Marlena?
Hall: I can’t imagine brining Drake back and not having some sort of reconciliation.
Will we finally find out who John Black’s real parents are? The show recently retconned some stuff.
Meng: There will be some twists and turns with John Black, and that’s all that I can say.
Eileen Davidson will soon be back as Kristen.
Meng: She’s coming back for an arc. We’re telling stories now in arcs because the show has so many family members. We’re going to be hitting 50 next year, so we’re telling stories in arcs and bringing people back.
I’ve got to ask, is Kristen coming back with a baby? Either Eric’s (Greg Vaughan) or Brady’s (Eric Martsolf)?
Meng: That’s not a question I can answer!
Hall: Don’t look at me, I can’t answer it either!
Meng: You’ll just have to see.
Hogestyn: Can Kristen even have a child?
Well, it’s a soap…
Mansi: …Anything can happen!
Some sad news with Alison Sweeney leaving. Her character is connected to all of your characters.
Hall: I’m devastated.
Mansi: So sad.
Hall: So hard. She joined the show when she was about 14 or 15… She was just a child and I’ve been her mother that whole time! I’ve watched her grow into the most extraordinary woman with a family of her own, lot’s of projects and integrity. It’s heartbreaking to see her go.
Lauren, your character ha been sparring with her this entire time.
Koslow: I know! It’s hard for me to even think about it.
Dattilo: And they just made up!
Koslow: [Laughs] I know. I can’t tell you the story we’re doing (filming) right now but the two of us have probably fantasized about it for decades! So, something’s happening that we’ve always wanted to be able to play and we’re having so much fun. Probably the best time ever! It’s my favourite story ever. I’m going to tease that it’s huge. I’m so sad that she’s leaving, but I’m happy for her and that she’s doing what she wants to do but it’s so bittersweet because it’s the best story, ever.
Still with so many “Safe” and “Lumi” fans around…
Gering: Yeah, it’s devastating. When I came on the show, my character was centered around her and [the characters]got married. I adore her and love working with her. She’s been such a tremendous asset to the show. She’s uber-professional and just an all-around great person. I don’t think that anyone here could argue with that, or would want to. But, the show goes on! I have a feeling that even though she’s leaving, that hopefully she’ll come back or make some cameo appearances.
Koslow: We still have some great stories coming up with her.
Meng: She’ll be airing through the year. She’s airing for a long time. And again, the key is that you never know when someone might come back!
Days of our Lives has been renewed by NBC through September 2016, so there will be a 50th anniversary in November 2015. General Hospital celebrated their 50th anniversary last year, did you look at what they did? Have you started planning this big event?
Meng: I loved what GH did. Ron Carlivati, who is the head writer there, is a friend of mine and I think that they did a brilliant job with bringing back some iconic characters who hadn’t been on the show for awhile. All while having new characters and generations on the show, I think that they’ve done it well, so kudos to them. Damn right, were’ looking at what they did!
Lucas has finally gotten himself a girlfriend, Sheryl (Jade Harlow).
Hall: Aw! Honey, really? That’s so cute.
Mansi: Uncle Lucas!
Koslow: I’m trying to be supportive!
Will fans get to see more of this favourite character?
Meng: We love him! Everybody loves him. We would like to have everybody on five days a week, but certain stories happen slower while heavier stories happen at other times.
What has it been like meeting the fans here in Canada?
Dattilo: It’s pretty similar to meeting the American fans… Once you’re a fan of Days of our Lives, there are no boundaries or countries. We transcend!
Meng: We know that there’s support here in Canada and that’s why we’re opening the door to visits here. We’ve come here to support the book, but we want to leave here supporting our relationship with Canada.
Any plans for another book?
Meng: We’re working on a major 50th anniversary project. Much bigger… interactive, all kinds of stuff!
To find out more about book, which is filled with cast secrets on how they achieve balance while inspiring readers to do the same, check out the official website here or on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to check out photos of the cast’s Toronto appearance.
Days of our Lives airs weekdays at 1 p.m. on Global and NBC. Canadian fans can catch up with the show on globaltv.com, on the Global Go app and on demand.