After getting kidnapped and sleeping with her boyfriend’s father as Esme, Avery Pohl gets to check another classic soap trope off her bucket list this week when her character returns from the not-so-dead. “If we’re playing soap opera bingo, that’s definitely a good one!” chuckles the actress.
Pohl got a heads-up “fairly far in advance” that she would be written off the show, but only temporarily. She explains, “Our executive producer, Frank Valentini, was like, ‘Hey, by the way, I don’t want you to freak out, but we’re writing you off the canvas for a little bit.’ I had no other context for a while. Then, later, he told me, ‘You’re being shoved off the parapet.’ And then later he told me Ava was going to be the one who did it. From there, it was just sort of me always trying to find out new information because your brain sort of spins and scrambles when you hear something like that. You’re like, ‘Well, how long will it be until I come back?’ There are a lot of questions that come to mind.”
She filmed Esme’s apparent demise back in mid-June, and enthuses of her confrontation scenes with Maura West’s Ava, “They were really fun! There is a bit more pressure with a death scene, because you’re thinking, ‘The audience has to believe that this is Esme’s last hurrah!’ Maura is absolutely fantastic and I’m truly grateful any time I get to share scenes with her, and I learned a lot from her in those scenes. Having stunt doubles was so fun because I used to do stunts as a kid. It was so fun to watch someone dressed exactly like me with a wig on and everything. It was a whole process trying to find a wig that matched my hair but they did a fantastic job.”
After that, says Pohl, “I shot the one random episode where Esme is in Spencer’s dream in August, and then I didn’t come back until the first week of September, so I pretty much had two-and-a-half months off from taping. I was so fortunate to have that extra time on top of the hiatus the show took in July, and I was able to go to Europe and travel around a bit. Then I went to see family that I hadn’t seen since December. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to do that because I can safely say, never in my life have I had two months off! I tried to make the most of it, not just with travel but I took acting classes, I saw friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. I got to have so many new experiences, so [Esme’s presumed death] was a bit of a blessing in disguise.”
Because she was out of practice when it came to script memorization, Pohl says that when she returned to the studio for Esme’s cameo in Spencer’s nightmare, “I was so obsessed with making sure that I knew all of my lines. It was, oddly, a very long scene, and I was like, ‘Oh, lord, it’s mostly me talking! Why is my brain not retaining dialogue the same way?! Oh, because you had two months off.’ I was definitely a little nervous about dropping a line. I was like, ‘If I can go 200 pages straight without dropping a line, I have no excuse to drop it when I have two scenes!’ So I put a lot of pressure on myself, but that day ended up being a blast. I actually said to Nicholas [Chavez, Spencer], ‘If there’s any particular thing you want me to give you performance-wise, let me know, because this is Spencer’s version of Esme, not Esme’s version of Esme. This is how he perceives her.’ We had a good conversation about that with Phideaux [Xavier], our director, and we really just got to have fun because in a dream sequence, you can take liberties and go to extremes. It was such a fun dynamic to play with.”
When she came back to work a few weeks later to play an in-the-flesh Esme, “I definitely still felt rusty,” Pohl admits. “But by the time I had shot a few episodes, I felt way more back into the groove. There was really just one day where I was like, ‘Ugh, I could have done that better.’ ”
Some of her co-workers were surprised to see her upon her return, since they thought Esme’s fate was truly sealed. “Not everyone knew that I was coming back. I didn’t tell most people. The producers and directors knew, and a couple of cast members knew because they are in the same storyline, but there were several people on the crew who came up to me and were like, ‘Wait, you just got pushed over the parapet? Are you dead?!’ And I was like, ‘Uh, I don’t know.’ And then I was gone for months. And now that I’m back, I think there’s an even bigger question at work about what’s going on, and my lips are sealed on that one [laughs].”
To the fans that missed the troublemaking energy Esme brings to the canvas, Pohl says, “Thank you so much! I mean, whether you love her or hate her, I think no one can deny that the character definitely stirs the pot and can push storylines in so many different directions. For me, it is so fun to get to play her and understand her and I truly, truly love getting to work with everyone at work and to get to do this insane thing, which is play pretend for a living. So, thank you for helping me have my job and I hope Esme continues to keep you on your toes! And I look forward to seeing what new nicknames everyone comes up with for her on Twitter. I’m always gung-ho for new nicknames!”