DAYS GONE BY

Soap Opera Digest, April 21, 2009

By Stephanie Sloane

February 17 marked the last day Steve and Kayla appeared in Salem.  Actors Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans, who returned to the show in 2006, were notified of their characters’ departures by Executive Producer Ken Corday, who also told them that they had already taped their last episode.  Since then, the Digest offices have been inundated with flowers, fruit baskets, cookies, candy, stuffed animals and balloons from fans in support of their favorite duo.  Here, the actors talk about leaving the show the second time around.

Digest: Were you surprised to hear the characters were being written off?

Stephen: Yes and no. Yes, because I was surprised that they allowed two of the most beloved characters in the history of the show to just fade into the background and then eventually away. No, because the support and story had not been there since Ed Scott [former co-executive producer] was let go which, by the way, was a huge mistake. Ed’s departure sent morale on the set on a downward spiral.

Mary Beth: I don’t think I was surprised, I was kind of disappointed because I really love that show and I have always been very sentimental about Kayla and the Brady’s and Patch, so that part I didn’t necessarily want to lose. But I wasn’t surprised because things are just changing so rapidly there, and they were making so many big cuts and I know they had huge financial constraints and they had a bottom line that they had to do, and I think the people who are running it now have an idea of how they want it to be, so that’s what they did. I don’t think it mattered who was popular or who wasn’t or whatever, obviously, so I wasn’t surprised.

Digest: How did you feel when you were told there wouldn’t be an official exit scene and that you had already shot your last show?

Stephen: Mary Beth and I were surprised by that, but then it was indicative of a writer who really does not want to write anything for you and a “cut-and-run” attitude that prevails. When they decide they are done with you, they don’t bother to give the characters the respect of resolving story. I also think it was a strategy of sorts…their Band-Aid to appease the fans by pretending the characters were still in Salem. Though I suppose it leaves the door open for a return.

Mary Beth: At first when Ken told me, I said: “You’re going to leave her in the hospital? That’s so sad!” It’s just my compassion for Kayla. But I didn’t need to get into a whole good-bye deal, either. It’s fine. It just seemed to go with the way everything went during that time, with people being fired right and left, so I was like, “Okay, whatever.”

Digest: How would you characterize your return in DAYS? 

Stephen: We had our moments and Hogan Sheffer [former head writer] was putting a lot of energy into us. Hogan did research and watched the early shows from out first run. He told Mary Beth and I that, to his eye, it was the best stuff ever on daytime. The trouble was, he was the only one doing the research. Writer’s assistants were frequently coming to me and Mary Beth, asking us the history of the characters. You would think the show would have these things written down somewhere. Finally, I handed everyone beautifully packages DVDs that our fans had put together of every episode we were ever in. I must say that the first story (the Ava story) Dena Higley [head writer] was responsible for overseeing was great. After that, we were dropped like hot potatoes, and once Ed Scott was out of the picture, we were in trouble. He fought for us. I know that much.

Mary Beth: I said to Ken, when it finally came down that we were going to let go, I said, “Thank you. I always wanted to come back. I always to play the second chapter of these characters and I had a great time.” I feel like it was a real win; I didn’t leave there feeling like, “Oh God.” Other times when I’ve left shows, I have felt so sad or anxious, but I didn’t feel any of those feelings. It’s been such a spin there for a while, with just so many people getting fired, and there was just so much going on that it was pretty stressful. Everybody cares about everybody there, it’s like a family and to watch all your friends get laid off, it’s really hard.

Digest: Do you feel there were missed opportunities with your characters?

Stephen: Yes, but isn’t that always the case? However, because the history of Patch and Kayla was so rich, I hoped there would be someone with a true vision for our return based on that history.  Unfortunately, that was not to be. That was a big disappointment. When I returned, we could see immediately how much the show itself and the way it was produced had deteriorated.  Early on, a producer told Mary Beth and me that there would be no more second takes for acting. One day, I stood in the booth soon after that and watched two actors in a highly emotional scene do five takes because the producer thought he saw a boom shadow, which no one could identify. Five takes for a phantom boom shadow! If the acting had been off, they would have moved on. Another actor reported that this same producer had told him that he did not care so much about the acting and that the audience would understand enough about the story by simply hearing the words. Can you imagine? Yet the crew and any actor who cared about what they were doing felt a renewed energy and expressed that to us both. It turned out to be an uphill battle all the way.

Mary Beth: I wished it could have gone in a different direction, but I wasn’t really all that surprised.  I thought that Stephen and I brought value to the show, and I certainly know there was a fan base, and I thought we brought things to the canvas that other people didn’t, but it just didn’t seem to matter when it all came down. They had to make their bottom line.

Digest: What will you do next?

Stephen: I will be directing and acting in a beautiful series of One Acts written by my wife, Lisa Nichols, and directing another film.

Mary Beth: I’m a hustler by nature; I hit the ground running. I’ve been on some great auditions — I went out for a GOSSIP GIRL spin-off and I got a new agent, things I haven’t done in forever. I would love to go to Y&R, where Hogan is writing. I love Hogan Sheffer and AS THE WORLD TURNS was a great experience for me [as Sierra]; I’d love to go back and hang out with those people. I met with a guy who wants to do a pie of the month club thing and I’m going to sell my pies [marybethsapplepie.com] through Williams-Sonoma in the fall. I’m meeting with a Whole Foods distributor about other little pies I do. I’m a monthly contributor to hybridmom.com. I wrote a piece in the spring issue of Hybrid Mom magazine [http://www.hybridmom.com/play/entertainment/easy-entertainment.html]. I feel very positive. I don’t know what the next thing is. I would love to do another daytime show, but if not, then it will be something else. I just kind of feel unstoppable. I don’t know what the future holds, but I feel really happy and optimistic about it.

FAN-TASTIC!!!

“The Fans have been so fantastic to us through the years,” smiles Evans.

Adds Nichols, “Since Mary Beth and I first appeared on DAYS and then on GENERAL HOSPITAL [as Stefan and Katherine], the fan support has not waned. For the past three years, our fans have worked so hard against very tough odds to support us and still have not stopped even after we left DAYS again. I, for one, know how much they have meant to my career as an actor and to my spirit when I do the work. Their intelligence and good humor has always given me a lift and I could not say anything without mentioning Linda Pidutti, Kathy Jarvis, Sherry McCutcheon and Sandra McHale.  These ladies and the members of the SKORKS, The Crystal Trees, and The Lakesiders have been the driving force behind both Mary Beth’s and my army of fans. I am grateful to you all and I love you all very much.”