Reunited and It Feels So Good

Soap Opera Weekly, October 17, 2006

By Janet Di Lauro

During their 1980s run as Days Of Our Lives’ Steve and Kayla, Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans forged a friendship that lasted through all those years they weren’t in Salem.  Now, 20 years later, they’re back at their old stomping grounds, working to re-create their supercouple magic.  Here the pair dishes their celebrated return, those rotten outfits, and hopes for the future under new head writer Hogan Sheffer.

Weekly:  What were your initial impressions of each other?

Mary Beth Evans:  Stephen was on DAYS before me.  When I arrived for the audition he came in with his leather jacket, the scar and the patch to read with me.

Stephen Nichols:  I always have to qualify this, because she tells this story and leaves out that I was working that day.  I didn’t just show up with the scar and the jacket on a day off.  (laughs)

Evans:  I did think, “This is quirky.”  Stephen was friendly, kind and generous.  Then we started working together and had this incredible trust in each other.  When I started having kids Stephen was so sweet with them.  He was always caring for me, too.  I had a few problems with my second one, and he took me to the doctor’s office once.  When my first child was born he came over, knelt on the floor and held this little baby.  He came to the hospital for the second one.  Not everybody sees the other side of him.

Nichols:  What other side?  There is no other side. 

Evans:  The side that is warm, loving, sweet and cute.

Weekly:  Stephen, what was your first impression of Mary Beth?

Evans:  He must have thought I was like Sandra Dee.  I was so wholesome.  I totally remember the dress I was wearing.  It was pink silk with a big square collar.

Nichols:  She did look very wholesome, but that didn’t throw me.  I didn’t have any impression except she was very sweet and pretty.  The thing that I loved was what she did at the end of the audition.  The moment she finished, she turned around, started to walk away and said, “Well, that was s***.”  I thought, “I really love this girl.”  Because no actor, if they thought they were bad, would ever say it.  I liked that she was willing to be honest about what she had done.  I knew right away we could work together.

Weekly:  And a fast friendship was born?

Evans:  Absolutely.

Nichols:  When you work with somebody and you want the work to be real, you have to get intimate with that person.  You have to find a way to get inside each other’s heads.

Evans:  And build a trust.  The trust thing is huge. 

Nichols:  If you don’t do that, the work will stay at one level.  Mary Beth and I had the desire to have our work be as deep as it could be.

Weekly:  Was it daunting coming back to DAYS having been such a big supercouple?

Nichols:  In the beginning, knowing we had a responsibility to get back to that magic.  We didn’t know or understand what that was all about when we were in it.  We were doing the work.

Evans:  Fans sent us some DVDs of old shows.  At first, I didn’t want to watch.  I thought, “We’re older now; it will freak me out to see how young I was.”  But actually it was great to see them.  It reminded us both of the vulnerability, the strength and connection that we had and to make sure that we incorporated those things into our performance.  The show was at such a funny time in May with the changing of the writers.

Nichols:  It wasn’t on track yet, and we were struggling with connecting behind the scripts we were working with, although (interim head writer) Beth Millstein did a great job making the existing scripts better.  She was there in the old days.  She gets the show and our characters.

Evans:  We did a lot of editing.  We tried to keep things simple, keep it about us and the moment.

Nichols:  It really clicked the day in the graveyard, when Steve found Kayla and she saw him for the first time.  After those first couple of scenes I said to the crew, “My baby is back in town.”  I was so happy, because we had that connection.

Weekly:  You characters are currently estranged.  What are your thoughts on that?

Evans:  I didn’t think it would be a good idea if they put us together right away, because then what do you do?  It’s interesting to keep Steve with no memory for a while and let him and Kayla find a way to fall in love again.

Nichols:  It’s the only way they can retell the story of Patch and Kayla.

Weekly:  The show has been airing flashbacks pretty heavily.  What’s it like seeing those?

Evans:  My hair didn’t even have a part.  It was like a mullet with this swoop-around thing.  But I’m fine with it.  The flashbacks are sweet. There was a scene recently where Kayla was taking Steve’s patch off.  What a great scene!

Nichols:  It gives the fans a chance to revisit that time.

Evans:  I laugh at the fashion, like the big shoulder pads, and the hairdos and my big acrylic nails.

Nichols:  My hair was bigger than anything.

Evans:  Like Billy Ray Cyrus.

Nichols:  Man, I had such a mullet.

Weekly:  Although your characters have been back for months, would you agree your story has been pretty stagnant?

Nichols:  We’ve been treading water.

Evans:  I felt like we’ve been lying low so that nothing bad would happen.  They were keeping our characters in limbo until Hogan got going, so he could take the story in the direction he wanted to.

Weekly:  Has that been frustrating?

Nichols:  Well, it was really their fault.  There was a big transition going on at the show.  A lot of things were up in the air.  It’s just the way it played out.  When I heard that Hogan Sheffer was coming in, I said, “Hallelujah!”

Evans:  I’m excited to see where this goes.  Now, I can trust it, because somebody is at the helm who’s going to write good stuff.

Weekly:  Do any of your children watch the show?

Evans:  When I returned my daughter Katie started to tune in to see what it was all about.  She also came to the set and fell madly in love with Darin Brooks (Max) and James Scott (EJ).  She was like, “Oh, my God.  These guys are so cute.”  She started watching the show and said, “This is really fun.”

Nichols:  My 14-year old, Dylan, got hold of a DVD of the old clips that the fans had sent us.  She sat down one afternoon and could not stop watching.  She was laughing, crying.  She was thrilled.  She hadn’t been born yet when we were on in the 80s.  It was amazing to see how she connected with it.  She’s seen me do everything – stage, films—but this was something that knocked her socks off.  She turned to me and said, “Papa, you’re really a good actor.”  I just broke down and cried.  That meant more to me than any comment any director, actor or anyone has ever given me.  Now she’s a big fans of the show.

Weekly:  Why do you think your General Hospital characters, Stefan and Katherine, never caught on?

Evans:  GH is a different show.  They don’t do supercouples.  I don’t think they cared that we were there.  They tried pairing us once.  Then [a new writer] came in and all of a sudden we were brother and sister.  It got weird.

Nichols:  Mary Beth’s character wasn’t that well-developed.  Stefan was a different guy.  It didn’t work.

Evans:  Stefan didn’t have the humor Patch does, and Katherine certainly didn’t have all the things that Kayla has.

Weekly:  How is it having a grown daughter on DAYS?

Evans:  Stephen and I have kids that are older.  We understand that relationship.

Weekly:  What was it like playing the scene where Steve meets Stephanie for the first time?

Nichols:  The day I was to meet my on-screen daughter my own daughter, Dylan, came to the set with me.  I have to confess:  I planned it.  I always use my kid shamelessly in my work.  Dylan was sitting out there on the set.  I had pictures of her as a baby….I had everything I needed to play the scenes where I was meeting my grown daughter whose life I had missed entirely.  When the scenes were done, there was my own little girl on-stage giving me the thumbs-up.

Weekly:  So all’s well in Salem?

Nichols:  The camaraderie with the crew my first day was incredible.  They made me feel like I’d never gone away.

Evans:  I haven’t seen anybody in a long time, but the same sweetness was there – like and old cousin you haven’t seen in a while.  Soap operas are like that.