During her DAYS OF OUR LIVES tenure, Renee Jones (Lexie Carver) has played best friend, cop, doc, bad girl, and, in recent years, Salem’s No. 1 adulteress. But her latest storyline, a mother coping with her son’s battle with autism, has been by far her most challenging assignment. Soap Opera Weekly: What was your reaction when you heard you and James Reynolds (Abe) were the actors chosen to have an autistic child?
Renee Jones: I was blown away. I never thought they would give Abe and Lexie this kind of a storyline.
Weekly: Were you surprised the story wasn’t given to a more high- profile couple, like Bo and Hope?
Jones: Yes, because their little girl is the same age as Theo. So it could have easily been them.
Weekly: Did you do any research or anything to prepare for this?
Jones: I spoke to our head writer, Dena Higley, whose son has autism, and the show immediately connected me with Autism Speaks so I could learn about it. Autism Speaks connected me with a mother and her little boy. I got to go to his speech therapy class and his occupational therapy, and I [observed] them. Oh, my gosh! Seeing that mother — she was so excited over any little tiny achievement her son made. I was watching her more than him.
Weekly: So you really embraced this challenge head on?
Jones: Oh, yes. I also got the DVD Austism: The Musical. It’s so amazing. It’s five or six families. Each one has a child, who has a different level of autism. The kids are putting a musical together, because they found out that these children respond really well to music. It follows the parents in their real lives, too. Each family responds differently to their child’s autism. Some are in denial. Some mothers are way overbearing. Some are angry at the situation. Some are angry at their kid. I took a little from each of the parents for myself.
Weekly: What’s it like working with your TV son, Terrell Ransom Jr., who plays Theo?
Jones: Terrell is so precocious, and a great little actor. When he hasn’t been in for a while, he’ll come over, see Jim and me, and go, “I missed you.” Your heart just melts. When we’re doing a scene and it’s over, he’ll tell us, “Good scene.” He is a very sweet little boy.