Eric Martsolf (Brady), who joined DAYS in 2008, shares memories of the late John Aniston, who played his on-screen grandfather, Victor.
Did you hit it off with John right away? “Yeah. There was no tension whatsoever. He didn’t look me up and down as the new guy or the new Brady. It was a handshake. John had these puppy dog eyes, these kind eyes. I think as you get a little older, you just get a vibe from someone right off the bat. We kind of vibed with each other. We realized this was a story that was going to perpetuate for a while. I wouldn’t say we were deep-rooted friends, but we were certainly two people who looked forward to working with each another, because we knew it was going to be an easy day.”
Victor always had the best lines on DAYS. What do you remember about John’s delivery of them? “You could see his eyes light up when he threw a zinger at you, when he knew he had a good one in his holster. I’d be like, ‘Oh, boy. He’s going to kill me on this one.’ Everyone in the cast always laughed about how we thought John had his own set of writers, that he had this crack writing team of like 30 people who was in there whipping out these zingers. But no, we all had the same writers and lines. He was just better at delivering them than most of us, and he made it seem so effortless. That’s what made us so envious of John Aniston.”
Any stories you can share about John? “I had one of those days where I was having a rough time here. I had all this dialogue. I said, ‘John, I have a lot to do today. A lot of lines.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Well, it beats working for a living. Doesn’t it?’ It just hit me like a thunderbolt. This man had just been in a playground for the last couple of decades. There hadn’t been an office or a cubicle that he had to begrudgingly go to on Monday mornings. He was coming to play and he did. That kind of youthful vitality never left him, even though his physical capabilities did. It was sad … hard to see that in someone you love who was still so sharp as a tack.”
Do you have a favorite memory of working with John over the years? “I just see him in that chair [in the Kiriakis living room] sitting there. It’s like when you watch GAME OF THRONES and you see the tentativeness of all the knights and all the people walking up to the iron throne. The king is sitting up there. That’s kind of the feeling you got when you walked into the Kiriakis mansion and saw John sitting there in his chair. It’s hardly a throne, but that chair and him were like one thing. It was a powerful little element that only he could really convey.”
What was the best thing about sharing scenes with him? “He was an open ping-pong table. When actors swap lines, I always say it’s like playing ping-pong. John was like a wall back there. You could hit any ball at him, and you knew that damn ball was coming back, probably harder than you hit it. You couldn’t shock him. You couldn’t freak him out, because he was one of those old-school thespians that actually listened to what you were saying, and then he responded. It seems like a simple thing to do, but when you’re an actor, you can go your whole career without really learning how to do that. It never felt like he was saying his next line. It felt like he was just responding to you. I never had to worry about going up to him prior and saying, ‘I just want you to know I’m going to do this, John.’ It was, ‘Whatever. Throw it at me, kid.’ He never came up to me after a scene and went, ‘What the heck was that all about?’ ”
What are your takeaways from your tenure as John’s co-star? “He was never a pain in the butt to producers or anyone who worked with him; that’s why he was around for so long. I think he looked at an acting career as something to go through gracefully, and he did. I tried to pattern myself after the way in which he did things. I don’t try to blow my trumpet too loudly. When I’m upset at a storyline, I let it go. I don’t dwell on it. You think to yourself, ‘How would John Aniston handle this?’ It definitely is a healthy way to look at things. He never sweat the small stuff, and I try not to, as well.”
Anything else you’d like people to know about John? “He always had a joke, particularly a joke that you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to most people. I’m kind of a jokester myself. I smile a lot more than my character. I love a great crack- up. I think he recognized my comfortability right off the bat. I would sit down. We’d be in the mansion on a break and I’d say, ‘Want to run these lines, John?’ He’d kind of slowly look over at me and say, ‘Did you hear the one about the priest and the lollipop?’ Or something like that. It was, ‘Okay, you don’t want to run lines. You want to throw some jokes at me.’ And he’d go into it. He would tell me jokes, and I would crack up. Cast members would be like, ‘What happened?’ I’d say, ‘Nothing. It was a personal joke.’ He also had a little giggle. He wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself. If he screwed up a line, he’d laugh about it. He wouldn’t get angry. He’d laugh at his own punchlines, too.”