These Days of Our Lives Facts are Crazier than the Soap Opera’s Plot Twists
Longtime fans of the classic soap opera Days of Our Lives still wait every day with bated breath to hear the trademark opening line “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” It’s no secret that this daytime series has been filled with countless plot twists, love triangles, tragedy, super couples, and even the supernatural since it premiered in 1965. However, sometimes reality is stranger than fiction, and some of the behind-the-scenes facts and trivia about the actors are even more fascinating than the plot twists themselves. So, if you think you already know everything about the longest-running daytime soap opera on NBC, then you’ll be surprised when reading the following intriguing facts about the beloved show.
1. Hours of Drama and Plot Twists
Imagine only getting 30 minutes a day of your favorite daytime soap opera? Well, that was the case when Days of Our Lives premiered in 1965 with only 30-minute-long episodes. However, after a hugely successful run for 10 years on NBC, the episodes were extended to one hour in 1975.
On January 20, 1992 at 8p.m., the show was even aired during primetime in the form of a TV movie. It was a reboot including the debut of the Brady Pub and the inclusion of new characters to appeal to a younger audience as well. The one-hour special called “One Stormy Night” was about three couples weathering a stormy night together in the fictional town of Salem. Sounds steamy to us!
2. Double Trouble
Did you know that Deidre Hall, who plays Dr. Marlena Evans, has a twin sister in real life named Andrea Hall? If you watched the show in the late ’70s, then you’ll remember Marlena’s jealous and calculating twin Samantha Evans who briefly steals her sister’s identity and stirs up trouble in Salem. Andrea left the show in 1980, but she did make a fleeting reprisal in 1982 when the onscreen twins make amends when she falls victim to the mysterious Salem Strangler killer.
Marlena took her sister’s death very hard and therefore named her own daughter Samantha Gene Brady. Andrea returned again in 2000 to play another character, Hattie Adams, Marlena’s lookalike used as a pawn by villain Stefano DiMera’s henchmen Wilhelm Rolf and Bart Biederbeck. Deidre then took on the role of her twin sister’s ghost in 2008, the apparition who appears to Marlena to help her sister out of her catatonic demonic state that DiMera put her in.
3. Onscreen to Off-Screen Wedding Bells
Longtime fans of Days of Our Lives all know and love the adorable couple Doug and Julie Olson Williams, played by actros Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth Hayes. Wondering why they share the same surname both on and off-screen? Well, that’s because the pair tied the knot in secret in 1974.
Two years later, their characters get married on the soap, making Doug and Julie the first super couple in the history of daytime TV history. They hit another first when the cover of Time magazine featured the lovers on the January 12, 1976 issue. No other daytime TV actors have appeared on the cover since. Susan Hayes is also the only cast member to appear on the soap opera for all five decades.
4. High-Profile Fans
If Julia Roberts is a fan of Days of Our Lives, it has to be good, right? At the 2002 People’s Choice Awards, Roberts admitted that she was a huge fan of the soap when she accepted her award for Favorite Motion Picture Actress saying, “I’m very nervous because the cast of Days of Our Lives is here.” She also requested to be seated next to them, and when Deidre Hall went up to accept the Favorite Daytime Dramatic Television Series award, she thanks Roberts for voting six times for the show.
In 1976, Time magazine reported that Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall was also a huge fan of the show, who would call recess at around 1 p.m. to watch the soap opera. Other high-profile fans include Monica Lewinsky, who wrote a poem about the series in her high school yearbook, and best-selling novelist Brian Keene, who’d pause from writing every day for an hour when he started watching in 1983.
5. A Vintage Set
Out of all the Days of Our Lives sets, the only one to stay intact since the beginning of the show is the Horton foyer and living room. For a show that has rapidly evolved over the last five decades, that is quite an incredible feat.
The only thing the production team had to change about this part of the set has been the paint on the walls. Today, the walls have been colored in a mint-green hue. There is something special about keeping things vintage!
6. First Outdoor Set
Talking about soap opera sets, Days of Our Lives was the first of its kind to use a real outdoor set for outdoor scenes. Dubbed “Salem Place”, it was introduced in 1992, fully decked out with a café, moving theater, and clothing store, and totally revolutionizing daytime drama.
The best thing about this outdoor set is its prime location at NBC’s Burbank Studios in California, allowing all the characters to interact in the open in their own permanent filming spot. It’s the spot where a lot of the adventure, romance, comedy, mystery, and drama take place.
7. Role Reversal
It seems like Days of Our Lives is renowned for being the soap opera of many firsts like when Alison Sweeney’s character Samantha Brady was replaced with a male actor. Does the name Stan ring a bell? Well, when Sweeney had to go on maternity leave for six months in 2005, the writers had to play with the plot line to adjust to the circumstances.
So what did they do? Instead of replacing her with a female character or having Samantha briefly disappear for a while, they cast a man in a woman’s role. This was when Sami actually went undercover as Stan out of vengeance. Actor Dan Wells took over the role and stirred up some trouble in the world of Salem. And there you have it – Stan’s story line made soap opera history!
8. Hanging by a Thread
When a show airs for over 50 years, it will definitely run into some dead ends eventually. For Days of Our Lives, the end seemed to arrive in 2008 when the show was to slated to be canceled because of declining ratings, with the last episodes supposed to broadcast in 2009. With so many new series being released in the last decade, soap operas took a knock and had trouble keeping up.
Fortunately for fans, the soap is still alive and kicking, but it’s not out of the woods yet. Back in the day, the daytime series was renewed for long periods of time, but now the renewals are for shorter periods of time — only a year or so — until further decisions can be made. As of late, NBC renewed the series through Fall 2019.
9. Keeping up Appearances
Lucas Horton has always been one of the audience’s faves with his dashing smile and charm. We bet you didn’t know that behind that smile lies a lot of work. When Bryan Dattilo was cast for the role in 1993, he was asked to undergo two changes to enhance his appearance.
He first had to get braces to straighten his teeth and he was also given lifts or risers in his shoes during filming to make him appear taller. The effects are great on screen, but Dattilo developed bunions after having to walk with them during his scenes.
10. “Friends” like These
Days of Our Lives is referenced in several other films and TV shows, but the popular sitcom Friends takes the cake for the best enactment of the daytime soap opera when Joey gets a part as fictional character Dr. Drake Ramoray on a spoof version of Days of Our Lives, invented for the sitcom.
Joey decides to take the role even though he lives in New York and the show is filmed in California. His character is killed off after Joey angers the writers who make him fall down an elevator shaft, but is brought back to life after the character Jessica Lockhart, played by Susan Saradon, gives him a brain transplant. Other episodes featured real-life cast members from the soap such as Alison Sweeney, Kristian Alfonso, and Roark Critchlow.
11. Frances Reid Wasn’t the First Alice Horton
The matriarch of Days of Our Lives has and will always be Alice Horton, played by actress Frances Reid, even thought the character “passed away” in 2007. But did you know that she wasn’t the original Alice?
Mary Jackson, renowned for her role as Emily Baldwin in The Waltons, played Alice in the unaired pilot. By the time the soap opera was broadcast, Frances had already over the role and remained the only actress to play the central female figure of the series. Who would’ve thought?!
12. Where is Salem?
Where exactly is this fictional town situated you may ask? It has never been formally confirmed where the land of Salem lies within the United States, but certain references throughout the show kind of gave it away, like when the itinerary of the episode that aired on May 23, 2013 stated “Salem, MN.”
Days of Our Lives characters have often made reference to Chicago being nearby. The 312 Area Code or the plates on the cars also suggest it could be in Illinois. In the past, some of the characters have also noted they are Cubs or Bear fans, meaning that the town is probably situated in a fictional place near Illinois. It’s also referenced as being a town, even though it could probably be a city seeing that it is home to large corporations like Titan Industries, DiMera Enterprises, and Basic Black.
13. “Like Sands through the Hour Glass”
Everyone knows the iconic opening line for every episode “Like the sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives,” but not everyone knows who voiced the famous catchphrase. Radio actor Ed Prentiss originally voiced the line from 1965 to 1966, but then Macdonald Carey, who played Dr. Tom Horton, took over.
Since the debut of the show, the title sequence with the trademark voice over and hourglass with the sand that slowly seeps to the bottom has remained almost unmodified. For the first voice over, Prentiss added the phrase “Days of Our Lives, a new dramatic serial starring Macdonald Carey.” When Carey took over he said “This is Macdonald Carey, and these are the Days of Our Lives.” However, since he passed away in 1994, that part was removed out of respect.
14. The Phoenix
Fans absolutely loved Salem’s biggest villain Stefano DiMera, played by Joseph Mascolo, and after every episode they wanted more. After all, he provided lots of the drama such as coming back from the dead multiple times – which is why he was dubbed “The Phoenix.”
Owing to DiMera’s ruthless ability to rise again from the ashes after many explosions and accidents, he quite fittingly earned that title. Another crazy fact about this character is that the character has 13 letters in his name, matching the number of letters in the actor’s real name. And he was also born on the 13th of March. You know what they say about the number 13, right?!
15. When You Have Seven Different Personas
Actor Drake Hogestyn, better known as John Black on Days of Our Lives, has portrayed seven different characters on the soap opera since 1986. Come to think of it, it’s just seven versions of the same character, which is no surprise given the twisted plots of the series.
Having to get his character “retconned” into an entirely new one, then having to assume and switch between different identities, was the norm. Hogestyn has played Roman Brady, The Pawn, John Stevens, Forrest Alamain, Father John, Ryan Brady DiMera and John Black – his most famous and favorable character and the second half of the super couple with Marlena Evans. This makes him the actor to have portrayed the most characters in a single soap opera.
16. A Double Take
Alison Sweeney is famous for playing Samantha Brady on Days of Our Lives, but did you know that she didn’t start out as this character when she first appeared on the show? Yep, she originally played a younger Adrienne Johnson Kiriakis during a flashback scene six years before accepting her iconic role.
Die-hard fans definitely recognized Sweeney when she appeared on the soap in 1993 as character Sami Brady with onscreen twin brother Eric Brady. Turns out her new role was the best fit for her, as she earned four Soap Opera Digest Awards, a fan-voted Daytime Emmy Award, as well as four Daytime Emmy Award nominations for her excellent portrayal of the role.
17. Happy Birthday to You!
Christie Clark, otherwise known as Carrie Brady on Days of Our Lives, was actually fired from the show on her 17th birthday and replaced by Tracy Middendorf. However, two years later she made a comeback on the soap opera as a mature version of herself.
Turns out the writers wanted Clark back because of the incredible chemistry she shared with actor Patrick Muldoon, who played her onscreen lover Austin Reed. They rehired her to play out the show’s romantic storyline. Good call, we say!
18. Intense Schedules
Whether you’re a fan of soap operas or not, you have to give it to the actors for their dedication. The Days of Our Lives crew have to produce five hours of television a week, so the scheduling and back-to-back filming can get quite crazy for the actors.
The actors have to memorize all their lines in one night, or sometimes in a few hours, for shooting without the help of any cue cards. Actress Lauren Koslow, who plays Kate Roberts, once left the set early when she first started her tenure on the show in 1996. Not quite acclimated to the work methods of daytime television, she didn’t realize she’d need to stick around, and therefore she got a call saying she was required back on set.
19. Signature Looks and Wardrobe Changes
Days of Our Lives is notorious for switching things around to confuse its viewers. Steve Johnson was known for wearing his trademark eye patch, but then it was replaced with a glass eye. In order to make the eye look like glass, Stephen Nichols wore a contact lens. This physical change seemed to encourage the plot line of Johnson going undercover.
How about when Peter Reckell, better known as his character Bo Brady, shaved off his notorious bold beard? When Bo made an appearance without his signature facial feature, it got twisted into the plot of clearing his name in Stockholm for identity theft.
20. Re-Cast Again and Again
Ever wonder why Dr. Mike Horton never seemed to really age? That’s because his character was replaced about 13 times over the years. That’s a whole lot of different versions of the same character we’d say!
Some of the big names who took on the role of our poor Mike over here are Brian Andrews, Wesley Eure, Michael T. Weiss, and Roark Critchlow. His character was taken off the soap for good in 2010, but not before rendering him the most recast character in the history of Days of Our Lives and possibly television altogether.
21. Sticky Fingers
Bryan Dattilo has confessed to helping himself to a few pieces of memorabilia from the set during his time on Days of Our Lives. According to the actor, the items remind him of all the wonderful times he’s had on set.
How about that one time he snatched Sami Brady’s bra. The props department eventually caught on to some of the items going missing, and have since made sure to keep track of every single item they use on the soap opera.
22. The Brits Aren’t Fans
Not all shows will be popular all over the world due to cultural differences. Such was the case with Days of Our Lives in the UK. The trials and tribulations of the Horton, Brady, Kiriakis, and DiMera families, and everyone in between, didn’t quite interest audiences in the United Kingdom.
The soap has been on UK television three times, but in all cases, it was taken off air because of low ratings. Must be something about the plot twists in Salem that didn’t quite work with the viewers across the pond.
23. Longest-Running Soap Opera
After Another World was canceled in 1999 after 35 years, Days of Our Lives took over the record for being the longest-running soap opera on NBC. The first episode premiered on November 8, 1965, and it seems to be going strong.
The soap is also the most widely distributed series in the United States, with the episodes broadcast via NBC, as well as on cable network SOAPnet. It also became available on iTunes in June 2007. The beloved soap’s 10,000th episode aired on February 21, 2005 while the 12,000th episode aired on January 11, 2013.
24. Something’s Baking in the Oven
The Days of Our Lives crew has had to come up with innovative ways to hide signs that an actress was pregnant. When actress Mary Beth Evans was pregnant on the show both in 1987 and 1990, her stomach had to be concealed for shooting her scenes.
When she was about six months pregnant, she had to film a steamy love scene with Steve Johnson, but they used a body double to capture the shots because her character Kayla Brady Johnson was not pregnant on the show at the time and they weren’t about to write it into the plot line at that point.
25. Casting Shakeup
For a soap opera that’s been on air for more than 50 years, there is bound to be at least one casting shakeup. The most interesting one from Days of Our Lives surrounds the character Roman Brady and the actors Wayne Northrop and Josh Taylor. Northrop was originally cast to play the retired police commissioner and did so from 1981 to 1984, with a brief hiatus in the middle when his character was portrayed by Drake Hogestyn as part of a twisted plot.
Northrop returned from 1991 to 1994, and then Taylor came to fill his shoes in 1997 until now. Things got a bit crazy when Northrop eventually returned to the soap. He was given a different character to play, namely Alex North. This reshuffle didn’t go unnoticed by fans, and after some backlash, North was killed off. What’s even more crazy is that Taylor played the good-natured bartender Chris Kositchek from 1977-87.
26. Up Close and Personal
Fans love to see the chemistry between their favorite onscreen lovers, but Bryan Dattilo and Christie Clark took it to the extreme during his audition. He was required to demonstrate that he’d make a good match for Days of Our Lives, and boy did he prove that!
He had to kiss his audition partner Clark, but things got pretty intense when they started French kissing as if they were longtime lovers. Let’s just say the other people at the auditions had to break up the couple from their passionate embrace. Now that’s how you get into character!
27. Too Outlandish
Longtime fans have grown accustomed to the crazy twists and turns of Days of Our Lives, but what about the actors who have to act it all out? Sometimes the twists are so ridiculous the actors get fed up. Such was the case with Melissa Reeves who wanted to leave the show.
Known for playing the sweet and beautiful Jennifer Horton Deveraux, Reeves got seriously peeved with the writers for constantly killing and then reviving her husband Jack Deveraux. It was the main reason she left the show in 2006 after starring in it since 1985. She did eventually return to the daytime series in 2010 and still appears in episodes. Matthew Ashford, who plays Jack, sympathized with her saying “It is hard to play that because at a certain point it becomes too unreal … actors look at that and think, ‘What is this – the Cartoon Network?”
28. Quadrupling Up
Days of Our Lives saw a lot of the actress Eileen Davidson from 1993 to 1994. Not only did she play Kristen DiMera, who suffers a miscarriage in secret and then pretends to still be pregnant to keep John Black away from Marlena Evans; she also played four other characters.
Davidson also played Susan Banks, Kristen’s doppelgänger hired by Stefano DiMera to conceive and bear a child for Kristen – which results in the birth of EJ DiMera. Davidson portrayed the whole Banks clan at certain points, consisting of Susan, Mary, and Thomas – a male character.
29. Off the Air
Days of Our Lives first aired in 1965 and has experienced about 330 scheduling disruptions during that time. Fans get used to the usual schedule time and wait in anticipation to see a new episode, but even the biggest TV shows get delayed at times.
When something goes wrong in the world (which happens a lot) or a big event takes places, an episode or two ends up getting put off until scheduling resumes as normal. Since the show has been going on forever, we think this sounds pretty normal.
30. Happily Married Couple
Days of Our Lives was created by a married couple, Ted and Betty Corday, who both served as executive producers of the daytime series. Ted was lured in by NBC to create three new soap operas, but this third serial was the only one to become a hit. Surprise, surprise! The other two shows were Paradise Bay and Morning Star.
Betty was a Broadway actress and TV producer, and served as the executive producer of the show until her death in 1987. They also kept things in the family, with their son Ken Corday serving as executive producer from 1987 until today.
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