Though Ciara left town with Theo on today’s episode of DAYS, actress Victoria Konefal will be back to reprise the role this summer, and we have the inside scoop from Head Writer Ron Carlivati.
Soap Opera Digest: Let’s go back a little. What was your reaction when you found out Victoria made the decision to go recurring?
Ron Carlivati: I’m always happy for any of our actors to explore something new and something different and so I have to respect it, but it’s always a challenge for us when we lose somebody. So when we found out that Victoria was leaving, obviously it was a blow for us because the pairing of Ben and Ciara had become so popular and was an important part of the canvas for us, so it becomes a struggle and a decision about how are you going to write this character out? You debate a lot of different things, including, should Ben and Ciara go of into the sunset together to make everybody happy? Well, that’s not entirely fair to Rob [Scott Wilson, Ben], who is not leaving the show. So the struggle becomes, how do you split them up? What then becomes of Ben? How does Ben move on? Originally, we felt that Ciara had to “die” so Ben could at least attempt to move with his life, but as we were telling that story, it felt unfinished. And because her body wasn’t found, the audience knows we didn’t intend for her to be dead, dead. So we thought, “Could we bring Ciara back for the next chapter of Ben and Ciara?” Then we pursued that avenue, and going into it, when Victoria expressed interest, we didn’t really know how much time she was going to give us or how long we’d be able to tell that story, so that’s another challenge because you’re thrilled to have the actor back, but once you realize it has an end point, you realize you’re going to be in the same position again. So okay, yes, we want to bring Ciara back, Ben is going to find her, she’s alive, and then we’re hoping for this big, romantic reunion, but then we’re right back where we started because she’s leaving again and you’re right back in that vicious circle where you’re like, “Does Ben leave with her? What happens?” So, once we committed to going down that road, there’s that option of just saying, “No, he’s going to move on. We’re not going to revisit the Ciara story,” but that’s not the route we decided to go. We felt there was more juice in telling the next chapter of Ben and Ciara’s story.
Digest: What were your next steps?
Carlivati: I came up with this idea of, what if she doesn’t remember him? What if she remembers every other part of her life, but from the moment of her motorcycle accident, the Ben/Ciara love story is the only piece of her life she’s missing? What If she doesn’t remember him and we play some totally different reaction of, “Oh, my God, you’re telling me I was married to a serial killer? Why didn’t anybody stop me?” Questions that some people in our audience asked at the time when we decided to pair Ben and Ciara, so we actually got to explore that. What if she’s horrified by the idea of a romance with the Necktie Killer? But that obviously was going to disappoint our fans, in that they were hoping and waiting for a romantic reunion that didn’t pay off, so from the moment we were coming to that point and we knew Ciara was going to exit town with Theo, we were immediately pursuing the next chapter with Victoria: When would she be available or willing to come back, and when could we tell the next chapter because I knew that would feel unfinished and be unsatisfying to a lot of people. So that’s why I’m happy to announce here that Ciara is coming back and we are going to tell that next chapter of the story and hopefully, this time, the audience will get the payoff that they’re looking for and hoping for.
Digest: How long is she back for?
Carlivati: At this point, and I can’t speak for Victoria and I can’t speak for the show, and this is not an official announcement in any capacity, but I will say at this point, there is not an end date. We are working with Victoria to keep the story going and keep Ben and Ciara’s love story alive.
Digest: How important do you feel Ben and Ciara are to the canvas?
Carlivati: I think they’re very important. It’s a young couple that caught fire right away. It was a pairing that I had a hunch would work but didn’t know it would pay off in the way that it did. I think on a soap opera, having that young couple to root for is always an important element of your show. At heart, our whole show is about family and love stories. We have amazing couples on our show, couples that you’ve watched go through every facet of their life: Children, marriages, separations, death, grandchildren etc. That’s why to have a new couple come together for the first time, there’s an excitement and an energy there, and Ben and Ciara have a ways to go in their lives together. There are milestones other than marriage that these two have not experienced yet.
Digest: What do you say to the fans who are disappointed that Ciara has amnesia?
Carlivati: I would say it was a challenge for the writers. I knew that people would be disappointed, but I ask people to question the alternative: If we had put them together and she didn’t have amnesia and he rescues her from that room and they’re happier than they could ever be, why does she leave and why does he stay? What happens next? Should Rob have lost his job? Should the character of Ben’s story ended because one actor made one choice and another actor made another choice? And I’m not putting the responsibility on Victoria at all. Like I said, I encourage our actors to pursue their dreams and their careers in any way that they see fit, so to me, there is no blame to be put on anyone; this is just the way it happened to play out and we are left with, what’s the best outcome of that situation? Was I thrilled to have Ciara leave and Ben heartbroken at the end of it? No, but when we were writing it, we were already plotting and scheming her return and the next chapter. So it’s hard for me to see people’s upset when I know that there’s more coming, and I don’t want to spoil it but I want to say, “Hold on, this is just the next bump in the road for these two.” So I do again say, what would the alternative have been?
Digest: What about recasting?
Carlivati: One possibility that would keep them both on the canvas is a recast — and that’s a viable option — but it was one that we didn’t choose to make. I feel that while a recast can work, it could also fail, and there’s a magic between Ben and Ciara, and there’s a magic between Victoria and Rob, and you may lose some of that magic with a recast. That’s not to say that that’s not something that could never happen, but I wanted to preserve not just Ben and Ciara, but Rob and Victoria in any way we could, and if there was no other option, then we could talk about a recast down the road. But right now there was an option and we figured it out with Victoria.
Digest: When will we see her again?
Carlivati: I don’t have the exact date in front of me but she’s coming back this summer. I would encourage the audience to remember that they have an important anniversary coming up this summer that may figure into their story, so she will be back sooner than you know.
Digest: What can you tease?
Carlivati: I think in the meantime, what people seem to be be assuming is that Ben and Claire might get together during this point while Ciara is off camera with Theo, and while that’s always a possibility, I would encourage people to just watch how the story unfolds. Ben and Claire have a really nice friendship that we’ve built and it’s not necessarily going to turn romantic.
Digest: Anything else you want to say?
Carlivati: I understand the audience’s frustration, but I am very excited about Victoria’s return and about Ciara’s return, and I think that this time, they may be getting the payoff that they’re looking for.