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Daytime Emmy Nominee Q&A: Emily O’Brien (Gwen, Days of our Lives)

The 51st Annual Daytime Emmy Awards will be held on Friday, June 7, with the ceremony airing live on CBS starting at 8 p.m. ET. Soap Opera Digest chatted with the nominees to get the scoop on how they found out, what episodes they submitted, and more as we count down to daytime’s biggest night!

Emily O’Brien

Chris Haston/NBC

Outstanding Supporting Actress

Emily O’Brien (Gwen, Days of our Lives)

What was it like getting nominated for Gwen, when you’re now playing Theresa?

“It’s almost like validation for Gwen, if that makes sense. I just feel like there’s so many people who didn’t like her and support her, and I always loved that character. I loved playing her. I felt so comfortable playing her. So to know that I’m being honored and that this character is being honored too feels really good. It feels great to shine a spotlight on who she is, because she resonates with me so much.”

This is your fourth nomination. The previous three were for younger actress, when you were playing Jana on Young and Restless. What does it mean to have cracked into the highly competitive supporting actress category all these years later?

“That was like [13] years ago when I was nominated as younger actress for The Young and The Restless. After I left daytime in [2011], I went back to Europe. I went to England. I thought daytime was behind me… [that it wasn’t] accessible to me anymore. When they brought me in [to DAYS], my whole life kind of changed. I never thought a Daytime Emmy nomination would be in my future ever again. And now for supporting, as an adult, as a grownup and not a younger actress…it feels weird and incredible. I’m honestly still kind of in shock over the whole thing. I was not expecting it at all. I submitted myself just because I thought, ‘Oh, why not?’ I don’t think I have really strong material this year, but if I don’t submit, I’ll go, ‘What if?’ So I just put something together and I did it.”

What scenes did you submit?

“I submitted scenes that I had with Paul [Telfer, Xander] in The Spectator office. It was where Xander says, ‘I don’t think I can be with you. I still love Sarah, and I just want to be your friend.’ Gwen looks at him and says, ‘I don’t want to be your friend. In fact, I don’t even know if I could work with you. I don’t know how I’m going to be able to look at you every time you walk through that door.” Then she sort of breaks down to Xander, and he leaves her. The other scene I submitted was Leo [Greg Rikaart] confessing about Dimitri [Peter Porte]. Both of the scenes have the same throughline where Gwen is being left behind essentially by someone she loves. She’s always being hurt by those around her and kind of left in the dust. I felt those were the strongest scenes I had last year, and I was working with two of my favorite people [Telfer and Rikaart]. So I thought they would be great to submit.”

How did you find out you were nominated?

“I was doing back-to-back video games, and on my break, I turned my phone on and I had 50 messages. I thought something bad had happened. I thought there had been some sort of family emergency or something. But then I saw names from the show popping up with balloons and things. I thought, ‘There’s no way.’ I’m really blown away by it because I thought someone like Stacy [Haiduk, Kristen], who’s a powerhouse, would be nominated over me. I just sort of left it and forgot about it. I’m still in shock over it. It hasn’t quite sunk in.”

Did you get any congratulatory messages that stood out to you?

“Our casting director, Marnie [Saitta] wrote me something really lovely. She knows that this past year has been a lot; being let go and then being brought back as Theresa and what I went through. And a lot of the fans came down on me and hated me, because they wanted Jen [Lilley] in the role. I got a lot of backlash and a lot of vitriol from the fans. Her message to me was sort of profound and made me feel really vindicated that I’d made a good decision and was being heard and recognized. It was really nice. That was the main one that stood out to me.”

Did you do anything to celebrate that evening?

“Oh God, no. I was working. I was doing two games, so I didn’t get home until 7 p.m. from Culver [Studios]. Then I had an audition for a Netflix show. So I had to drop everything and start looking at lines and get myself on tape. So by the time I was actually free to have dinner and do something, it was like 9:30, 10. I just wanted to have a glass of wine and go to bed.”

Will you be bringing anyone to the ceremony with you?

“It depends on how many people I can bring. I’ll probably bring Ken, who’s my partner of 10 years. Maybe my parents. I don’t know. I don’t know who I’m allowed to bring.”

What are your thoughts on your fellow nominees in the category?

“I would love to be able to meet them and familiarize myself with who they are. I’m really not familiar with them. I feel the giddiest knowing that I get to sit next to Linsey [Godfrey, Sarah] and enjoy this with someone that I respect and admire so much. Linsey and I are honestly so lucky that we get to work together and are friends. Our little circle that we have – me, Linsey, Paul. We’re great friends. We hang out outside of work, and knowing that she and I are both nominated is such a dream. It’s like we can celebrate this together. We’re celebrating each other.”

And your thoughts about your fellow Day of our Lives actors’ nominations?

“Just incredibly deserved. I love working with Wally [Kurth, Justin]. He’s so true to who he is. He’s so comfortable with who he is, and he’s so easy to be around and work with. And his work this year, all the storyline with Rob [Scott Wilson, Alex] that he had, was just tremendous. Eric [Martsolf, Brady] always delivers every single time. He’ll say things like, ‘I don’t know my lines. I’m not prepared.’ Then we’ll be on stage and he’s in tears and making me go up on my lines because I’m so enthralled by what he’s doing. Tamara [Braun, Ava] is another one. She and I are friends outside of the show as well. I always watch her work. She’s someone who’s so fully invested in what she does and her work. And then I already told you my thoughts on Linsey. So absolutely well deserved all around. This year, we got so many nominations for Days of our Lives, and it’s a wonderful feeling. We’re just putting ourselves out there and being seen, and it feels really nice to be recognized together.”

Are you somebody who’ll prepare some notes or just wing it regarding an acceptance speech should you win?

“I’ll have to think of people that I definitely have to thank if that happens. I don’t want it to happen. I’ll get too nervous if I have to go up there. I don’t know what would happen if they called my name. It’s too much for me to think about just yet. But, yeah, I should maybe start thinking about if that happens, who I would thank and what I would say. Or if I would just vomit all over myself. Who knows? [Laughs] Let’s hope that that doesn’t happen.”